Charlotte: Toyota preview

THIS RACE: This will be the third NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. There will be nine Toyota Tundras in the field at the Charlotte track. LAST RACE: In the most recent NCTS race at Mansfield Motorsports...

THIS RACE: This will be the third NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. There will be nine Toyota Tundras in the field at the Charlotte track.

LAST RACE: In the most recent NCTS race at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway (May 15), Tundra drivers Todd Bodine and Bill Lester recorded top-20 finishes at the Ohio short ttrack. Bodine, driver of the No.66 Fiddle Back Racing Tundra, crossed the finish line 16th and Lester finished 18 h in his No.22 Combos Tundra.

BRANDON BIG IN OH: Brandon Whitt, driver of the No.38 McMillin Homes/Cure Autism Now Tundra, had a strong run going at Mansfield, before his day ended just before the finish. Whitt was running among the race leaders with about 25 laps remaining when he ran over some debris on the track, which cut his right front tire and sent him crashing into the wall. "Despite the finish, it was a great race for us," said Whitt, after the race. "We planned our pit strategy before and stuck to it -- pitting early and staying out so we could get track position. Once we got up there with the top-three or four we could stay there. We were hoping to finish up front, but unfortunately we cut a right front tire and that ended our day."

POINTS PACE: After the first six races of the 2005 season, two Toyota drivers are among the top-10 in the NCTS championship standings. Todd Bodine is seventh with 793 points, 175 points behind leader Bobby Hamilton, and Johnny Benson (737 points) is in 10th-place.

LAST YEAR AT LOWE'S: Last season, Travis Kvapil wasth first Tundra driver to the finish line at Lowe's the Motor Speedway when he ended up eighth. Mike Skinner (15 ) was the only other Toyota driver among the top-15.

LESTER LIKES LOWE'S: Bill Lester, driver of the No.22 Bill Davis Racing Tundra, enjoys competing at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Lester captured his first career NCTS pole position at the track in 2003, and he still holds the NCTS qualifying record at the Charlotte track (175.593 MPH/30.753 seconds). "I love racing at that track," says Lester. "I've always said the faster the better. Everyone at Bill Davis Racing is excited about heading to Charlotte."

NEW REVIEW: Lowe's Motor Speedway has a new track surface and Bill Lester was able to take his Tundra out on the new surface during an April 26 test session. What does Lester think of the track's new surface? "It's deceiving because when you see the middle of Turns 3 and 4 you see a lighter patch and think the `Humpy Bump' is still there," explains Lester. "Now you can go right over that part of the track -- and it doesn't upset the truck anymore. I think that if there's enough down force in the rear of these Craftsman Trucks -- we should be able to go two wide through that corner -- which is something we couldn't do before."

TEST TALK: "I'm happy we could take our Tundra to Lowe's and get a good look at the new surface," says Lester. "We had a good test and my Tundra was very consistent over 20-lap runs. We went out for about 22 laps -- camehs in and looked everything over -- and then went out for another 16 laps. Our times and never fell off more than 2/10t ."

FIRST WITH FIDDLE BACK: Before he joined the Fiddle Back Racing team for the 2005 NCTS season, Todd Bodine made one NCTS start forththe team a year ago. Last year, Bodine drove a Fiddle Back Racing entry in the race at Lowe's, starting 16 and finishing 20th. "The team was struggling a little bit," explains Bodine. "They had some younger guys driving their truck and they asked me to drive it to help them evaluate their equipment and program. Basically, it was a chance for me to help them improve."

TRACK TALK WITH TODD: Although he has not driven on the new Lowe's surface, Todd Bodine recently visited the Charlotte track. "I went over to the recent Busch test (May 9-10) at the track to check it out," says Bodine. "I just wanted to see what they did to the track. I took a look from every corner while cars were running and talked to a bunch of the drivers, including Ryan Newman. Basically, they ground the track down and it now has multiple grooves -- and I think it will be a lot faster for the Craftsman Trucks."

MEMORY LANE: With close to 40 starts at Lowe's in the NASCAR Cup and Busch Series, along with one NCTS race, Todd Bodine has many racing memories at the track. "I won the `Winston Open' a couple of times at Charlotte, which is a pretty good memory," says Bodine. "But, I think my best memory of Charlotte happened in my third year in the Busch Series in 1993. I was leading the race with about 20 laps to go and Dale (Earnhardt) was running right behind me. Dale bumped me to move into the lead, and then on the very next lap I tapped him and took the lead right back. When I did that though, I knocked my grill in and I struggled to hang onto the lead. I ended up finishing fifth -- just a couple spots behind Dale who ended up third."

NEW FOR TWO: Two Tundra drivers -- Johnny Benson and Shige Hattori -- will be making their first NCTS starts at Lowe's Motor Speedway.

HAS BEEN HERE: Although this will be Johnny Benson's first NCTS race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, the Grand Rapids, MI-native has plenty of experience at the race track. Benson has competed in 15 NASCAR Cup and 7 Busch Series events at the Charlotte track. He also has ran one IROC race at Lowe's, finishing second in an IROC car in 1996.

HUFFMAN HAS TWO: Robert Huffman, driver of the No.12 Darrell Waltrip Motorsports Toyota Tundra, made his NCTS debut at Lowe's last year. However, the Claremont, NC-driver has been to `Victory Lane' at the Charlotte track. Huffman won the NASCAR Dash Series race at Lowe's in 2002 driving a Toyota Celica, and then scored a second win at the track the following season. "Winning that race in 2002 is something I'll never forget," says Huffman. "The year before, in my first season with Toyota, we were leading the Dash race at Charlotte with just a few laps left. I felt we had the race pretty much won. Then, we had a problem with the steering arm and weren't able to get the job done. So, to come back the following year and win that race was pretty special."

-toyota-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Darrell Waltrip , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Ryan Newman , Johnny Benson , Bill Lester , Brandon Whitt , Robert Huffman , Travis Kvapil
Teams Bill Davis Racing