When the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Pocono (Pa.) Raceway for Saturday's Pocono Mountains 125, one team in particular will be on a mission. Kyle Busch Motorsports, which fields the No. 18 Toyota, isn't used to being shut out of victory lane, but that's the predicament the team finds itself heading into Pocono.
KBM claimed the series owner's championship in just its first year of competition in the Truck Series -- 2010. That title was won with truck owner Kyle Busch primarily behind the wheel. But Busch has looked to other drivers to occupy the driver's seat in the No. 18 as he focuses on his duties as a Sprint Cup Series driver for Joe Gibbs Racing and getting his Nationwide Series program off the ground. He sharing driving duties in that series with brother, Kurt Busch.
As Busch's truck team has been without its owner in the truck this year, the No. 18 team has struggled to find victory lane; something that the team isn't used to, despite only being in its third year of competition in the Camping World Truck Series. After all, KBM won 16 races between the 2010 and 2011 race seasons.
But the No. 18 has the perfect driver to get into victory lane this weekend -- Denny Hamlin. No, Hamlin doesn't have a wealth of Truck Series experience, and he only has one truck win under his belt, coming last year at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
That win did come in a KBM entry. He's made two truck starts for Kyle Busch Motorsports, so he's one for two in the win column when it comes to climbing into a KBM Toyota and driving it into victory lane. Also worth noting -- he almost won that other truck race he competed in for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
"I really enjoyed driving the No. 18 Tundra for KBM the couple of races I did last year, and I'm looking forward to working with Rick, Eric and all the guys over there again. I had been trying to get my name in the record books as one of the drivers to win in all three series, doing one or two races a year, and I was finally able to achieve that goal with KBM."
And this is Pocono. It's a track where Hamlin is a four-time winner at the Sprint Cup level.
"Pocono is, obviously, one of my better tracks, so I think that we'll have a good shot at adding another banner to the rafters at Kyle's shop," Hamlin said.
Hamlin did compete in the inaugural Truck Series race at Pocono in 2010 and posted a top-10 finish, finishing ninth.
The race on Saturday will be only the third time the trucks have taken on Pocono, and neither of the two previous winners -- Elliott Sadler and Kevin Harvick -- are slated to take the green flag on Saturday. Notice that both of those previous winners are either Sprint Cup drivers or are drivers with significant Sprint Cup experience.
While most of the Truck Series regulars have raced at Pocono, this is a new Pocono. The track has been repaved since the trucks visited a year ago. But the Sprint Cup Series has raced there since the repave, giving Hamlin a familiarity with the track many of his competitors don't have.
One of his competitors does have that same familiarity, though -- Brad Keselowski. Keselowski is slated to drive his own Brad Keselowski Racing No. 19 Ram entry. Keselowski doesn't have the Pocono numbers of Hamlin, but he did win the Sprint Cup Series race there last year. And like Hamlin, Keselowski is looking to snap a Truck Series winless streak, but of a different kind -- his own. Keselowski has never won in the Truck Series, and he's on a mission to join Hamlin and become the 24th driver in NASCAR history to claim race wins in all three of NASCAR's national series.
A Camping World Truck Series championship-eligible driver has yet to win in the series' short history at Pocono Raceway. That trend may continue, that is if Hamlin and Keselowski have anything to say about it.