*McCumbee Has Right 'Feel' For Intermediate Tracks *With Busch Out, Driver Points Will Change -- Owners' Perhaps Not *Kansas Speedway Winners Tend To Prosper In Point Standings O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 Could Be Break-Out Race For ...
*McCumbee Has Right 'Feel' For Intermediate Tracks
*With Busch Out, Driver Points Will Change -- Owners' Perhaps Not
*Kansas Speedway Winners Tend To Prosper In Point Standings
O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 Could Be Break-Out Race For McCumbee
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 21, 2008) -- Will Chad McCumbee (No. 8 MRD Motorsports Chevrolet) became the fifth under-25 winner of Saturday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway?
If the 23-year-old McCumbee's recent performances on intermediate tracks are any indication, the answer could be yes.
He nearly won last fall in Texas before contact with Jack Sprague (No. 2 American Commercial Lines Chevrolet) knocked McCumbee from the lead on a green-white-checker restart.
McCumbee has led two of the three most recent races on 1.5-mile speedways including last month's stop at Atlanta Motor Speedway where the Supply, N.C., native finished a career-best fifth.
He qualified on the front row at Texas Motor Speedway and Atlanta.
"The intermediates always have been a strength of mine," said McCumbee, whose first top-10 finish in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series came in June 2006 at 1.5-mile Texas. "They suit my driving style."
McCumbee has a sense of "feel" greater than his NASCAR Craftsman Truck experience. He agrees that was key to helping crew chief Randy Dean make the aero adjustments that nearly put the team in Victory Lane at Atlanta.
"We definitely were able to find the right balance that the truck wanted," he said.
McCumbee's best finish at Kansas is 13th, but the driver has run well there in other series.
Kansas Win Sets The Table For Successful Season
Win the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 and odds are excellent you'll finish high in the final standings.
The Kansas Speedway winner has gone on to log a top-10 finish in six of the seven seasons the 1.5-mile track has been a part of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck schedule.
Mike Bliss also won the 2002 championship; four other Kansas winners -- including 2006 champion Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) -- finished among the final top five.
Bliss, currently a NASCAR Nationwide Series competitor, is the only driver to win multiple times in Kansas. He captured the final of five races at nearby Heartland Park Topeka, a 2.1-mile road course, in 1999.
Ironically, 2007 broke the Kansas Speedway/top-10 streak. It was good news and bad for Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford).
Darnell became the track's third, first-time winner joining Ricky Hendrick and Jon Wood.
Unfortunately for Darnell, the season didn't end quite so successfully. He won the Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award, but finished 14th overall.
Kansas Speedway Winners: How They Finished
The O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 winner has finished among the top 10 in six of seven seasons.
Standings Leader Kyle Busch Out; Shane Sieg In At Kansas
One set of standings will change. The other -- perhaps not.
Kyle Busch, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series standings leader since his February victory at Auto Club Speedway, will not drive the No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts Toyota at Kansas Speedway.
With four drivers within 69 points of Busch, it's a certainty someone else will be the leader when Saturday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 concludes.
Georgia native Shane Sieg, 25, will take the wheel of the Tundra -- a move Ballew hopes will allow him to retain the owner standings lead. Busch is expected to return May 16 at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
Sieg has competed in 27 races since 2003 with a best finish of eighth at The Milwaukee Mile. He drove Ballew's No. 15 truck three times last season, finishing 10th at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
"With Kyle's schedule at Joe Gibbs Racing this weekend, there was no way he could make the race in Kansas," Ballew said. "We looked at all the scenarios but it just wasn't feasible. Shane has driven for us before and is familiar with the equipment.
"We hope to leave Kansas still leading the owners' points and know Kyle can make up some ground in the drivers' points when we race at Lowe's.
Sieg ran as Busch's teammate in 2007, but as Billy Ballew Motorsports' No. 1, knows the pressure is on.
"It's a great opportunity to get back behind the wheel," Sieg said. "I know I have big shoes to fill but I just want to bring a good finish home to keep Billy as the team owner point leader."
Etc. and Quotable
Two Teams Change Crew Chiefs: John Quinn has succeeded George Church at Wyler Racing while Lance Hooper -- formerly with Thorsport Racing -- replaces Gary Showalter at Key Motorsports. "Let's just say John and I are both working on a Windows computer," said Terry Cook (No. 60 Wyler.com Toyota). "We're on the same page and speaking the same language." Curtis Key, owner of the No. 40 Chevrolet driven by Chad Chaffin, said the move was performance-related.
Speed In No. 22 Toyota: Scott Speed will drive the Red Bull Tundra for Bill Davis Racing in Kansas. Phillip McGilton has left the organization. New Faces: Mario Gosselin (No. 212 Chevrolet) and Michelle Theriault (No. 73 Dodge) will debut at Kansas. Gosselin is a former USAR Pro Cup champion. Theriault was 13th in NASCAR Camping World Series East competition last year.
Germain's Kyle Davis Kansas City-Area Native
Kyle Davis, truck chief on the No. 9 Toyota driven by Justin Marks, grew up in Savannah, Mo., a small town 45 minutes from Kansas Speedway.
When he moved to the southeast hoping to break into NASCAR racing by offering his services free of charge, little did Davis know he would become a key part of one of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' top teams.
"I laid brick to pay the bills," said the Savannah High School graduate, former go-kart racer and Savannah Speedway champion.
As truck chief, Davis is the right arm of crew chief Jason Overstreet. "Jason decides on which chassis we will run and what he wants to do with it. I just make sure the truck setup matches up with the calls he's made."
Noted: J. B. Fiske, Mike Skinner's coach driver/ fuel runner, hails from Solomon, Kan.
Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford), had a productive off-week, winning the Coors Light Pole for last Sunday's Corona Mexico 200 presented by Banamex. Braun won the coveted No. 1 starting position in just his third NASCAR Nationwide Series appearance.
Braun ran near the front of the field for much of the race before finishing 33rd.
Now, he has some work to do to catch current NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Rookie of the Year co-leader Justin Marks (No. 9 V Foundation/Germain Racing Toyota). Marks won the pole for last year's ARCA RE/MAX Series race at Kansas before finishing sixth.
"It is an honor to represent The V Foundation on our Tundra this weekend in Kansas," Marks said. "They have made an incredible impression in the fight against cancer in professional sports and we look forward to playing a small part in spreading their message. Having The V Foundation for Cancer Research on our truck this week gives us purpose beyond on-track results."
At last: A home game.
Virtually all of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams call the Charlotte, N.C., area home, so a trip to Lowe's Motor Speedway takes just a few minutes.
The May 16 North Carolina Lottery 200 marks the sixth time the series has competed at the 1.5-mile facility.
Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet) is the defending race winner. Kyle Busch, the 2005-06 winner, also is expected to compete.
In The Loop:
As the days since the race at Martinsville clicked off Mike Skinner's calendar, the race at Kansas Speedway got closer and closer. And all of a sudden, Skinner's outlook got brighter and brighter.
A former series champion, Skinner has encountered uncharacteristic troubles. After four NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races, he's just 14th in the standings. Two poor finishes of 29th sandwich two strong results of eighth and third.
But Kansas acts as an opportunity for Skinner to vault back into the top 10 and get his season back on track.
In four Kansas races, Skinner's worst finish is 12th, and he's finished inside the top five in each of the last three races.
Over that three-race span, Skinner has series-best numbers in Driver Rating (122.9), Average Running Position (5.5) and Laps in the Top 15 (468), and is second only to Todd Bodine in Fastest Laps Run with 65.
One other stat Skinner has going for him -- he has yet to win at Kansas.
Oddly, that might help his cause. No driver has repeated at Kansas.
Another driver who has yet to visit Kansas' Victory Lane is Jack Sprague, who finished third there last season. Over his past three Kansas races, Sprague has a Driver Rating of 102.7 and an Average Running Position of 13.5.
Last season, Erik Darnell was not only a first- time Kansas winner, he was a first-time winner -- period. Watch for another strong performance. Darnell has a Kansas Driver Rating of 105.0, an Average Running Position of 11.1 and 50 Fastest Laps Run.
"Kansas Speedway, by virtue of the way the track was built, makes this week's O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 a wide-open affair.
"The track consistently produces new winners -- three in seven races -- and sends up-and-coming drivers as well as veterans to Victory Lane. It's anyone's guess who might end up driving a victory lap holding the checkered flag this Saturday.
"What makes Kansas Speedway so interesting and unpredictable? Unlike some of the intermediate tracks where hitting the exact racing line is critical, Kansas Speedway allows a driver to select multiple grooves in order to find out where the truck works the best.
"That's one good reason why a newer driver can get up to speed in short order.
"Finally, the sweeping nature of the turns, banked less than some tracks on which we compete, allows competitors to enter side-by-side, easily pick up the throttle and keep right on racing.
"Based on what we saw in Atlanta, another intermediate track, reducing horsepower increased the level of competition. That has put the outcome more in the hands of the drivers and has created the kind of race, from start to finish, that our NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series fans and competitors have come to enjoy." -- Wayne Auton, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director
"We've gotten to that point a few times, but we've just never had the perfect day that it takes to win a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race (at Kansas). You never say a track owes you one, but it'd sure be nice to put our Ford F-150 in Victory Lane at Kansas and erase all those memories of finishing second there." -- Rick Crawford, No. 14 Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford, the runner-up finisher at Kansas in 2006-07.
Skinner Defends Pro/Celebrity Title ... Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) won the Professional division of Saturday's Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race at the Long Beach (Calif.) Grand Prix. He finished .324 second behind ESPN pit reporter Jamie Little. The race featured a split start with celebrity drivers getting a 30-second handicap. "That was fun," said Skinner. "Knocked a little paint off my car and had a blast."
Cancer Week To Be Observed ... Lori Hamilton, co-owner of BHR-VA, and Yahoo Sports reporter Bob Margolis were in Atlanta Monday as part of Head and Neck Cancer Awareness Week. They spoke with current cancer patients and conducted several media interviews with CNN and Fox. Kansas Speedway will offer free Head and Neck Cancer screenings throughout the race weekend.
The Race:O'Reilly Auto Parts 250
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: April 26, 2008
The Time: 6 p.m. ET
TV: SPEED 5:30 p.m. ET
Race Distance: 250.5 miles/167 laps
Track Layout: 1.5-mile paved
2007 Winner: Erik Darnell
2007 Pole: Mike Skinner
Schedule: Friday: Practice, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 2:30-3:30 p.m.
Saturday: Qualifying, 12:40 p.m.