Daytona Preseason Thunder, day 1 report

New Trucks At Daytona: So Far, They Pass The Test *Fans Need A Program To ID Their Favorite NASCAR Craftsman Truck Team *Testing Is Good Medicine For Bobby Hamilton Racing Teams *Roush Racing Teammates Top Morning Single Truck...

New Trucks At Daytona: So Far, They Pass The Test

*Fans Need A Program To ID Their Favorite NASCAR Craftsman Truck Team

*Testing Is Good Medicine For Bobby Hamilton Racing Teams

*Roush Racing Teammates Top Morning Single Truck Laps

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 12, 2007) -- New year, new trucks.

All four NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series manufacturers -- Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota -- will debut revised versions of their popular vehicles when the 2007 season begins with the Chevrolet Silverado HD 250 on Feb. 16 at Daytona International Speedway.

The new models got their first workouts Friday as NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder testing continued at the 2.5-mile tri-oval.

So far, it appears the new trucks are passing the test.

"On the track today, things are looking pretty good as far as parity," said Wayne Auton, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series director, who explained that "the aerodynamics are closer, and the down force is closer which will make for better competition on the race track."

All four models are identical from the windshield back, enabling NASCAR inspectors to use a single template to measure each one. Each manufacturer submitted a revised nose piece which is 1-1/2 inches higher than a year ago.

Several crew chiefs applauded the changes.

"I think that everybody's improved on it," said Mike Beam, crew chief of the No. 6 Roush Racing Ford that will be driven this season by 2003 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Travis Kvapil. "I think this is the first year I've seen NASCAR really work hard to make the trucks equal and put it back on the team for hard work (and) get rewarded for it."

Beam will build on last year's success that included six victories by Mark Martin -- one in a Chevrolet Silverado HD 250.

Rick Ren, newly appointed crew chief for Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 AES HR Solutions Chevrolet), likes the truck's potential. He was a five-time winner in 2006 with Johnny Benson (No. 23 Exide Battery/Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota).

"You're going to have to do some chassis tuning for the aero package," said Ren, a winner in the series with four different drivers. "This package is quite different on the front aero than what any of us are used to. This is a deal where I think whoever strikes up on a combination the quickest is going to get a jump on the field."

The new trucks appear quicker.

"So far we're faster this year than we were last year at the same time," said Jeff Hensley, crew chief for Mike Skinner's No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota. "Things seem to react real good out there, too. It's different but it's different for everybody. I think we should be fine."

***

You Can't Tell The Players Without A Program ... Many teams will be the same as a year ago but in several cases their numbers won't. Red Horse Racing will make its third switch in three seasons as series rookie Aaron Fike will carry the No. 1. The team's Toyota was No. 11 in 2006 and No. 38 in 2005. Other number changes include Darrell Waltrip Motorsports, from No. 17 to 00; Wood Brothers/JTG, from No. 20 to 09; Bill Davis Racing, from No. 22 to 36; Morgan-Dollar Motorsports, from No. 85 to 47 and MRD Motorsports, from No. 06 to 8.

***

Bobby Hamilton Racing Down But Not Out ... Shortly before he died on Jan. 7, the 2004 series champion Bobby Hamilton told his race teams they should move forward regardless of the outcome of his battle with cancer. Both Chase Miller (No. 4 Dodge) and Ken Schrader (No. 18 Fastenal Dodge) were among the first drivers on the track Friday. Schrader's crew chief, Jeff White, said the past few days have been tough and coming to the track "is the best medicine we could have asked for. He would want us to be here and be competitive. I think several of us felt him kicking us in the rear during the first practice. It's our job to carry on the dream he built for us."

Said Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota), "There's definitely an empty spot in the garage but he was one of those racers that would kick us all in the butt if we didn't come down here and have fun and go racing -- and go to the bar and just raise a toast for him one more time. That's what we're going to do."

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Former Champ Kvapil Glad To Be Back ... Kvapil's fast lap of morning single-truck runs of 50.369 seconds/178.681 mph proves the 2003 champion hasn't missed a beat since last competing in the series in November 2004. Kvapil said a making a few laps -- and watching races on SPEED -- convinced him there will be no "gimmes."

"The competition is ever-increasing, like any series does," he said but added the belief that he and teammate Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford) have as good a truck as any in the garage.

"In my opinion, Roush Racing's the best team out there in the series," said the Wisconsin native. "We've got strong trucks and good veteran crew chiefs now. Erik and I come from similar backgrounds so I think we're going to become good crew chiefs and help each other."

***

What I Did During My Winter 'Vacation' ... Bodine, the 2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, spent just 16 days at home after clinching the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway in mid-November. A week ago, he was among participants in his brother Geoff's bobsled competition in upstate New York. A longtime Notre Dame football fan and admirer of the team's coach, Charlie Weis, Bodine found himself rooting for another team -- Ohio State -- at Monday's BCS championship game. His team owners, the Germain family, hail from Columbus, Ohio. "They're actually Ohio State alumni so you've got to go with the home team on that one," said Bodine.

FAST FACTS

Session 2: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series

What: NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder testing for the 2007 Chevrolet Silverado HD 250

Where: Daytona International Speedway

Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval.

TV: SPEED, Sunday, Jan. 14, 6:30 p.m. ET.

When: Friday, Jan. 12 through Sunday, Jan. 14.

Times: 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

When: Friday, Jan. 12 through Sunday, Jan. 14.

Times: 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Who: Drivers include former series champions Todd Bodine, Ron Hornaday Jr., Travis Kvapil, Ted Musgrave, Mike Skinner and Jack Sprague. Previous Daytona 250 winners expected include Rick Crawford. Daytona Budweiser Pole winners Musgrave and Terry Cook also will test.

-credit: nascar

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