Green Flag Ahead: 2008 NASCAR Preseason Thunder At Daytona * NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Preps For 14th Season * Three-day Test Showcases New Faces, Veterans In New Rides DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 10, 2008) -- Ron Hornaday Jr. had 55 days...
Green Flag Ahead: 2008 NASCAR Preseason Thunder At Daytona
* NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Preps For 14th Season
* Three-day Test Showcases New Faces, Veterans In New Rides
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 10, 2008) -- Ron Hornaday Jr. had 55 days to savor his third NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship but Friday it's back to work for the Kevin Harvick Inc. No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet team along with Hornaday's fellow competitors.
The 2008 NASCAR Craftsman Truck's 14th campaign "unofficially" begins with NASCAR Preseason Thunder at Daytona. Three days of testing -- Friday through Sunday -- will lay the groundwork for the Feb. 15 Chevrolet Silverado 250, first on the year's schedule of 25 races.
The series opens its season at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway for the eighth consecutive year. The track, which has yet to see a repeat series winner, celebrates its 50th Daytona 500 on Feb. 17 while NASCAR heralds its 60th season.
If fans enjoyed last year's championship battle, which saw the lead see-saw a record seven times over the final nine races, it's possible 2008 will provide more of the same.
Last year's top five finishing teams return with driver and crew chief combinations intact. Hornaday, who became just the third driver to win a championship without the holding the lead entering the season's final race, will have a fulltime teammate for the first time in his 10 seasons in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
Three-time champion Jack Sprague (No. 2 Chevrolet) joins Hornaday to pair two of the series' iconic names under one banner.
"I have raced against Jack for many years," said Hornaday. "He is a very intense driver and having him as a teammate is a big plus for the whole KHI team.
"Our truck program was strong last year but now running two fulltime teams and having the extra support will make it that much stronger."
Rick Ren, Hornaday's crew chief, agreed. "We had a great year last year by being consistent," said Ren. "Another thing is team chemistry. Everybody has to be on the same page and work together."
Ernie Cope, a former series driver, will oversee Sprague's Chevrolet.
KHI's two drivers have won a combined six championships, 61 races, 45 poles and more than $12 million. Sprague won last year's Chevrolet Silverado 250 in a three-wide finish over Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles/Exide Toyota) and Travis Kvapil.
Benson finished third in the 2007 standings with four victories and returns with Bill Davis Racing teammate Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota). Skinner was the season runnerup and bids to improve on a five-win, 11-pole campaign during which the 1995 champion led the standings a record 18 times.
Also ready to challenge for this year's crown is 2006 champion Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) and Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar Racing Ford). Bodine finished fourth in 2007 standings with a pair of victories. Crawford grabbed the final spot in the top five with a third-place finish in the season-ending Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Crawford is the 2003 Daytona winner. He and Sprague are the track's only previous winners expected to compete in this year's race.
The off-season also saw significant driver shifts. At least four veteran competitors enter this week's test with teams different from those of 2007.
They include Sprague; Terry Cook, who takes over the No. 60 Wyler Racing Toyota, last year's Daytona winner; Brendan Gaughan (No. 10 International MAXX FORCE Diesel Ford), Crawford's new teammate; and David Starr, who returns to the No. 11 Red Horse Racing Toyota in which he competed in 2006.
The 2006 Raybestos Rookie of the Year class remains in its formative stages, however, Colin Braun, a 19-year-old Texas road racer, will attempt to become owner Jack Roush's unprecedented sixth top freshman. Braun will drive the No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford in which Kvapil won four times last year.
Practices will be held from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 to 5 p.m. on all three days. Fans can watch all of the January testing sessions free from the Oldfield Grandstands located just outside of the Daytona 500 Experience. Tickets for any race events at Daytona International Speedway are available online at www.racetickets.com or by calling 1-800-PITSHOP.
Fan Fest Offers Driver Q&As, Entertainment ... Along with the opportunity to watch NASCAR Preseason Thunder, fans can enjoy an afternoon and evening at Daytona's Sprint FANZONE once each session. Among the Fan Fest activities: Driver question-and-answer sessions, show cars, bands, a silent auction, displays and pit-stop demonstrations. Cost is $15 per session. Fans can watch each day's test at no cost, beginning at 9 a.m.
* Jan 12: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Fan Fest
* Jan. 15: NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Fan Fest #* Jan. 19: NASCAR Nationwide Series Fan Fest