Kansas: Series round five preview

Kansas Speedway Kicks Off Busy Month Of May NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams hopefully enjoyed their month away from the track, because the tempo definitely picks up beginning with this Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas ...

Kansas Speedway Kicks Off Busy Month Of May

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams hopefully enjoyed their month away from the track, because the tempo definitely picks up beginning with this Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway.

The race is the first of three in May and five over a seven-week period stretching into mid-June.

How drivers and teams perform in Kansas, North Carolina, Delaware, Texas and Michigan will go a long way toward identifying this year's true championship contenders.

Kansas Speedway's event also is significant in that NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stars Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch -- winners of three of the season's first four races -- won't be part of the action.

Harvick's replacement in the No. 2 Chevrolet is veteran Ken Schrader while Brian Ickler, a rising star who finished third at Martinsville Speedway, backs up Busch in the No. 18 Toyota Tundra Toyota.

Mike Skinner (No. 5 International Trucks/Monaco RV Toyota) is the defending winner of the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250, a race that was postponed and flagged short of its scheduled, 167-lap distance due to weather.

Skinner, the series' 1995 champion, is one of nine different drivers to visit Victory Lane in as many races at the 1.5-mile speedway.

"Last year's race meant so much for the entire Randy Moss Motorsports organization," said Skinner. "For me, it was exciting to win with a new group of guys and to be in a position where we were capable of winning races after being at another organization for such a long time."

The 1 p.m. ET race offers Skinner the opportunity to return to the top 10 in the championship standings. He currently ranks 13th, but is just 17 points out of 10th.

Only Todd Bodine (No. 30 Toyota) and Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Chevrolet), among drivers currently ranked among the top 10, have won at Kansas Speedway.

Rookie Cobb Believes Kansas True Test Of Team's Potential

It's not easy being a rookie in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series where frequently the only experience a driver gets at a given track is the couple of hours before the race itself.

Jennifer Jo Cobb (No. 10 DrivenMale.com/DriverBoutique.com Ford) knows that feeling, never having been to either Martinsville or Atlanta before competing there last month.

Kansas Speedway, where she made her NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut, should be a welcome change for the Kansas City, Kan. resident, who agrees, "There is no place like home. My whole career, my friends and family have been so supportive of me and I'm thrilled to be racing in front of them," she said. "It's a great feeling to have so many familiar faces in the crowd. I just hope to give them a great show."

The 2010 season has been about what a Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate might expect: Lots of ups and downs. Cobb made just one lap at Daytona before being collected in an accident. Her best finish, 21st, came at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

"Since we're a new team, we pretty much had to start from scratch with our setups and I've had to drive pretty conservatively," she said. "The good news is that we've left each place with a much better understanding of what it takes to do well there.

"I'm feeling much more comfortable behind the wheel and our trucks are getting faster and faster each time we unload."

Cobb believes this week she can show the team's potential. "I've run two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races there before so coming back will be a smooth transition," Cobb said. "I think that will make getting up to speed a lot easier than at the other tracks we've been to so far."

Two Missouri drivers, Tony Jackson Jr. of Lebanon (No. 07 Chevrolet) and Jesse Smith of Wildwood (No. 98 Great Wolfe Lodge/Lloyds BBQ/Hormel Foods/Child's Tire Toyota) also are in the field.

Wayne's Words: Kansas A Track Where 'Young Guns' Excel

"Kansas Speedway, the Kansas City area and Kansas are very special to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. With the exception of 2000, when Kansas Speedway still was under construction, there's been at least one event here since the series began in 1995.

"One of my most cherished moments as series director came in the Kansas Speedway's inaugural NCWTS event. Ricky Hendrick won his first race on a very emotional afternoon.

"Perhaps it's the track's multiple grooves and wide corners but Kansas Speedway seems to offer greater opportunity for non-veteran drivers to show their stuff. It's one of only two tracks currently active for five years or longer without a repeat winner.

"And, like Ricky, there have been other firsttime winners like Jon Wood in 2003 and Erik Darnell in 2007.

"Kansas Speedway was where Carl Edwards was 'discovered' so to speak. His top-10 finish for Mike Mittler, an independent owner, set in motion the wheels that propelled him to stardom in our series and ultimately the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

"No disrespect to our veteran winners here -- Todd Bodine, Terry Cook, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Mike Skinner -- but Kansas Speedway is a place where you can bet the 'young guns' are going to make their presence felt.

"So don't be surprised if an unfamiliar name stands atop the leader board when the checkered flag waves. It's happened before and it's likely to happen again."

- Wayne Auton, Series Director

O'Reilly 250 Marks First Time 2010 Owner Points Set Field

Being among the top 25 in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Owner Standings is a good thing entering Sunday's O'Reilly Auto Parts 250.

That means your team has a guaranteed starting position in the 36-truck field.

The switch-over from 2009 points follows the season's fourth race on April 2 at Nashville Superspeedway.

Still, there's no guarantee a team "locked in" this week will have the same status next time.

Steve Urvan's No. 21 H2O Fire Prevention Chevrolet driven by Chris Eggleston is 25th in current rankings but a mere 30 points are the difference between positions 25 and 30.

There's not much safety in opposite numbers: Positions 21 and 25 are 36 points apart.

For the second consecutive season, it's possible there could be separate driver and owner champions. The race between Kevin Harvick Inc. and Billy Ballew Motorsports -- the latter with multiple drivers -- went down to the 2009 season finale before DeLana Harvick prevailed.

This year's battle currently pits KHI and the No. 17 Red Horse Racing Toyota of Timothy Peters. Peters holds an 82-point lead in driver standings while KHI is two points ahead of Tom DeLoach in owners' scoring. Busch's No. 18 is third.

Crafton-Haefele Fashion Successful Careers Together

Crew chief Bud Haefele and driver Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet) have been a constant in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series since 2003.

Haefele joined ThorSport Racing as a consultant in 2003, followed Crafton to Kevin Harvick Inc. in 2004 then returned with Crafton to his current team the following season.

After a season as truck chief, Haefele became Crafton's crew chief beginning with the second race of the 2006 season.

This week's O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 will be his 105th consecutive race atop the No. 88 team's pit box -- easily the longest tenure of any current driver-crew chief combination in the series.

The pairing has been successful. Crafton got his first victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 2008 and has finished among the top 10 in the championship standings in each of the past three seasons. Crafton ranked No. 2 a year ago and stands fifth entering the season's fifth race.

The duo should be a contender this week. Crafton finished seventh a year ago, one of four top- 10 finishes in his nine starts at Kansas Speedway.

Crafton finished fifth in 2004.

"The best way to get the driver comfortable at Kansas or any race track is to give him a truck that handles good and fast," said Haefele. "We have good horsepower and a good mile-and-ahalf package so Matt is usually pretty happy. We really concentrate on making the fine adjustments."

Weather is the variable.

"The challenge at Kansas is it's usually really hot and the track gets slick," said Haefele. "We start with our baseline set-up and work with the changing track conditions.

"Last year it was cool and wet and that really threw us for a loop."

Schrader, Ickler Tapped To Sub For Absent Winners

Bench strength is crucial to any championship drive and Kevin Harvick Inc. and Kyle Busch Motorsports are taking opposite approaches to keeping their owner championship numbers up with their No. 1 drivers busy in Richmond International Raceway this weekend.

KHI goes with veteran Ken Schrader in Harvick's No. 2 Chevrolet while Busch will be spelled by Brian Ickler, a 24-year-old star in the making.

Schrader, 54, will be making his first start both for KHI and at Kansas Speedway.

"I've had a lot of opportunities in the past to just be at the race track but I don't just want to be at the race track," said Schrader, a series winner in 1995. "I'm excited to be going to the race track knowing I have a chance to win."

The same is true for Ickler, who posted a thirdplace finish in KBR's No. 18 Toyota last month at Martinsville. He was fifth in last year's O'Reilly Auto Parts 250, ironically in the truck that Busch won seven races.

Five Who Could Extend Kansas' Run Of Different Winners

Kansas Speedway boasts a competitive rarity -- nine different races, nine different winners.

The statistics make a case for 10-for-10, with a few notables who could do the deed:

Brian Ickler (No. 18 Toyota Tundra Toyota): Ickler only has one Kansas start, but it was a good one. Last year, he finished fifth with a Driver Rating of 95.4, an Average Running Position of 9.4, one Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 88.6%.

Tayler Malsam (No. 56 Toyota Tundra/One Eighty Toyota): Malsam also only has one Kansas start, and it was likewise a strong one. Last season, he finished 11th with a Driver Rating of 93.1, an Average Running Position of 9.6, four Fastest Laps Run, a Pass Differential (passes minus times passed) of plus-23 and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 95.5%.

Johnny Sauter (No. 13 Chevrolet): Also a rookie last year, Sauter competed in his first series Kansas race in 2009. He finished ninth, with a Driver Rating of 85.7, an Average Running Position of 9.4, all while spending all 132 laps in the top 15.

Johnny Benson (No. 15 Ted Top Collector Car Auction Toyota): The 2008 champion isn't running a full schedule this season but the starts he makes are expected to be of high quality. Benson's qualifying numbers aren't spectacular -- 17.4 -- but he's picked up an average of five positions in the finishing order. He has a Driver Rating of 92.7 which ranks eighth over the past five races.

Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet): Crafton's numbers aren't spectacular but he's the leader of two statistical categories. He's tops in Green Flag Passes with 264 and Quality Passes with 149. Crafton has a Driver Rating of 76.7.

NCWTS Etc.

Forty teams have filed entries for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250. That's the most entries for a NCWTS event at Kansas Speedway since 2003. It also matches the track's largest number of entries.

The field has an international flavor with three Canadians and India's Narain Karthikeyan (No. 60 Safe Auto Insurance Chevrolet) on the entry list. Two north of the border competitors bidding to make their series debut are Terry Jones (No. 46 Team Gill Racing Dodge) and Derek White (No. 96 OCR GAZ BAR Chevrolet).

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Director Wayne Auton and his wife, Libby, have become grandparents for the first time. The couple's youngest daughter, Telesa, delivered granddaughter Harper Rose on April 23.

Sunday racing is a rarity in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 is the first scheduled Sunday event in five years. The last scheduled Sunday race was held May 16, 2005 in Mansfield, Ohio, and was won by the late Bobby Hamilton.

Nelson Piquet Jr. has announced an additional schedule of three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events for the 2010 season beginning with the May 21 North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Piquet also will drive Billy Ballew Motorsports' No. 15 Qualcomm/ArcSight Toyota at Texas Motor Speedway on June 4 and at Michigan International Speedway on June 12. The 24- year-old former Formula 1 competitor finished sixth in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Daytona earlier this year.

Up Next: Dover

Dover International Speedway, which hosts the May 14 Dover 200, has produced first-time NASCAR Camping World Truck winners in each of the past two seasons. Scott Speed was a surprise winner in 2008 while Brian Scott took the checkered flag a year ago. Speed now is a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular while Scott is competing for Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Scott and Speed were just the latest drivers to get their first victory at the "Monster Mile." Jason Leffler (2003) and Chad Chaffin (2004) also went to Victory Lane for the first time at Dover.

The track's roster of winners, however, contains a pair of NASCAR Camping World Truck champions, Ted Musgrave (2002) and Ron Hornaday Jr. (2007) as well as brothers Kurt Busch (2000) and Kyle Busch (2005) and Mark Martin (2006).

Fast Facts

Next Race: O'Reilly Auto Parts 250
The Place: Kansas Speedway (1.5-mile oval)

The Date: Sunday, May 2
The Time: 1 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 250.5 miles/167 laps

TV: SPEED, 12:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM. Listen locally on KCSP-AM 610.

2009 Polesitter: Ron Hornaday Jr.
2009 Winner: Mike Skinner

Schedule:
Saturday -- Practice, 9-10:10 a.m., 10:40-11:50 a.m. Qualifying, 3:35 p.m.

-source: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Todd Bodine , Jason Leffler , Mike Skinner , Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Kurt Busch , Narain Karthikeyan , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Ricky Hendrick , Terry Cook , Jon Wood , Matt Crafton , Nelson Piquet Jr. , Johnny Sauter , Scott Speed , Chad Chaffin , Carl Edwards , Timothy Peters , Erik Darnell , Jennifer Jo Cobb , DeLana Harvick , Tayler Malsam , Terry Jones , Brian Ickler , Derek White , Jesse Smith , Tony Jackson Jr. , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Kyle Busch Motorsports , Red Horse Racing