NASCAR JACKSON HEWITT PRESEASON THUNDER AT DAYTONA -- DAY SIX *Skinner and Gaughan agree it's hard to win in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series *Ford tops overall speed chart in testing sessions *Stacy Compton returns to series for a few...
NASCAR JACKSON HEWITT PRESEASON THUNDER AT DAYTONA -- DAY SIX
*Skinner and Gaughan agree it's hard to win in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
*Ford tops overall speed chart in testing sessions
*Stacy Compton returns to series for a few races with Wood Brothers/JTG Racing
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 15, 2006) -- Former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) has noticed several changes since his return to the series and not just all of the former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers who are currently making a home for themselves in the series.
"When I ran in the series in 1995 and 1996, I could start in the back and get to the top 10 really easily," said Skinner, who will also attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500. "Now, if you start 25th, it takes a while to get to the top 15.
"It used to be drivers would use the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series as a stepping stone to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series; now it seems like it's reversed."
Skinner isn't the only driver to notice the changes. Brendan Gaughan (No. 77 Dodge), who was leading the championship point standings in 2003 heading into the last race of the season and finished the year in fourth, has also noticed how much more competitive the series has become in just a couple of years.
"If you look at Martinsville the last couple of years, Dennis Setzer has been able to start in the back of the field and ended up winning the race," said Gaughan. "This year, he started in the back and finished in the top 10.
"Toyota has added a lot to the series with everything they've brought to the table."
This year for testing, a change was made to allow teams to spend the afternoon sessions drafting. Both drivers agree that this change will help the Raybestos Rookie of the Year class.
"This is a tough track for rookies, and you have to have confidence in them to draft with them on race day," said Gaughan.
Another change for the test has been the addition of a .990-inch spacer between the intake manifold and carburetor.
"The new aero stuff will bring everybody together," said Skinner. "It means you don't have to be fast to run up front. NASCAR didn't have a choice; they needed to slow us down a little. The new (right) side window is helping too, it's keeping things tighter."
NASCAR will evaluate test results before determining a final package of specifications for the Daytona 250.
Skinner noticed one more change in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
"It's become really hard to win in this series," said Skinner.
NEWS AND NOTES, PART II
* And the winner is ... Mark Martin (No. 6 Roush Racing Ford) topped the test's single-truck speed charts with a lap of 180.610 mph. David Ragan drove the same truck to a lap speed of 180.032, making the Roush tandem the only drivers at or above 180 mph. The next four quickest competitors were Terry Cook (No. 10 Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford), 179.058; Erik Darnell (No. 99 Roush Ford), 178.951; Jon Wood (No. 20 Wood Brothers-JTG Ford), 178.377.
* Compton returns to series after three-year absence ...Virginia native Stacy Compton (No. 21 Edy's Ice Cream/State Fair Corndogs Ford) will make his first series start since moving fulltime to the NASCAR Busch Series in 2003. Compton, a two-time series winner, will be subbing for the Wood Brothers-JTG Racing's Bobby East, who isn't approved to compete at Daytona. The team's No. 20 Ford will be driven by Wood until Australian Marcos Ambrose joins the organization later this spring. Compton is pleased to be back -- if only for a few races. "It's still the most fun you can have in a stock car," he said of NASCAR Craftsman Truck competition. Compton was among the top-10 quickest drivers in two of the weekend's three single-truck sessions with a fast lap of 175.524 mph.
* ETC. ... As many as a dozen competitors are expected to apply for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year program, making this season's overall crop of freshman drivers arguably the strongest in the 11-year history of the award. "It's going to be one of most interesting rookie races in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series," said rookie Aric Almirola (No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet). Kraig Kinser (No. 47 Morgan-Dollar Chevrolet) agrees. "It's going to be tough with the big rookie class we have," he said. ...Dennis Setzer's (No. 85 E85 Chevrolet) take on finishing runnerup in series points the last three years: "Second isn't bad. It isn't winning but it isn't bad." ... Joey Miller (No. 12 Darrell Waltrip Motorsports Toyota) pointed to the Media Center entrance when asked the difference between driving a car and a truck. He said, "You think of a car as the door over there. A truck is like a garage door." Miller hopes to give the Waltrip organization its second rookie trophy in two years as he's teamed with 2004 Raybestos Rookie of the Year David Reutimann (No. 17 Darrell Waltrip Motorsports Toyota). ... Chad McCumbee, who played Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the ESPN movie "3", is testing the No. 06 MRD Motorsports Chevrolet. McCumbee competed in the ARCA RE/MAX Series in 2005.
* Fan Fest offers fans Q&As with drivers, entertainment ... Each Tuesday during NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona, fans have the opportunity for an afternoon and evening of fun at Daytona International Speedway's NEXTEL FANZONE. Fan Fest will feature driver question and answer sessions, bands, show cars, pit-stop demonstrations, a silent auction and displays. The cost is $15 for each Fan Fest. Fans also can watch each day's test session for free, beginning at 9 a.m.
Jan. 17: NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Fan Fest
Jan. 21: NASCAR Busch Series Fan Fest
* Preseason testing continues ... NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series testing continues at Daytona Jan. 16-18, with the even-ranked teams in the 2005 car owner point standings. The NASCAR Busch Series tests from Jan. 20- 22.
Session 3: All NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams in even positions in car owner point standings as of July 13, 2005
What: NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder testing for the 2006 Daytona 500
Where: Daytona International Speedway.
Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval superspeedway.
When: Monday, Jan. 16 through Wednesday, Jan. 18.
Times: 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Includes one-hour lunch break from noon until 1 p.m.
Who: Mark Martin, Carl Edwards, Sterling Marlin, Joe Nemechek, Greg Biffle, Dale Jarrett, Clint Bowyer, Denny Hamlin, J.J. Yeley, Brent Sherman, Kyle Busch, Kurt Busch, Jamie McMurray