THIS RACE: This will be the second NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) race at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway. There will be nine Toyota Tundras in the field at the Ohio half-mile oval. LAST RACE: In the most recent NCTS race at Gateway ...
THIS RACE: This will be the second NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) race at Mansfield Motorsports Speedway. There will be nine Toyota Tundras in the field at the Ohio half-mile oval.
LAST RACE: In the most recent NCTS race at Gateway International Raceway (April 30), Tundra drivers Mike Skinner, Todd Bodine and Chad Chaffin recorded top-10 finishes at the St. Louis-area track. Skinner, driver of the No.23 Bill Davis Racing Tundra started eighth and finished fourth. Bodine, driver of the No.66 Fiddle Back Racing Tundra, crossed the finish line seventh and Chaffin finished ninth in his No.30 Germain/Arnold Racing Tundra.
SKINNER SCORES AT ST. LOUIS: At Gateway, Mike Skinner registered his first top-five and second top-10 finish of the season. "Our Tundra ran good all night long and our Toyota motor was just awesome," said Skinner, following the race. "I think we just missed our `set-up' a little bit and had to make adjustments all race long. We actually had a flat tire about halfway through the race -- we were going backwards and being passed two at a time -- before the caution came out. I think that's a really good sign! It shows our luck is changing because the caution came out right when we needed it. We were able to pit, get four new tires and return to the track without losing a lap."
POINTS PACE: After the first five races of the 2005 season, four Toyota drivers are among the top-15 in the NCTS championship standings. Todd Bodine is fifth with 678 points, just 108 points behind leader Ted Musgrave. Tundra drivers following Bodine in the standings are Johnny Benson (643 points) in eighth-place, Chad Chaffin (633 points) in ninth-place and Mike Skinner in 14th-place (566 points).
LAST YEAR AT MANSFIELD: Last season, in the debut of the NCTS at Mansfield, Tundra drivers Mike Skinner (11th) and David Reutimann (14th) finished among the top-15 at the Ohio short track.
FOUR FIRSTS AT MANSFIELD: Four Tundra drivers -- Johnny Benson, Todd Bodine, Shige Hattori and Robert Huffman -- will be making their NCTS race debut at Mansfield this year. Huffman practiced at the track a year ago, but did not start the race when qualifying was cancelled and the starting line-up was determined by NASCAR rules.
NEVER BEFORE: "Mansfield is a track that I haven't even seen," says Johnny Benson, driver of the No.23 Bill Davis Racing Tundra. "As a matter of fact, I don't even remember watching last year's race on TV. It's going to be a totally new experience. I find it exhilarating going to a track that you've never been to before and trying to figure out the good spots and the bad spots -- both when you're alone on the track, and when you're with other people on the track."
JOHNNY ON-THE-SPOT: "It's definitely a challenge," adds Benson, talking about visiting a track for the first time. "Especially when everybody else knows the track -- or the majority of the field knows the place -- and you're not sure what to expect. Sometimes that can be a positive, and sometimes that can be a negative. I just plan to take the approach of going to Mansfield and looking at the track -- and going from there. Sometimes if you watch a tape of a race to see what to expect it puts your parameters in a smaller `box' -- you see what people are doing on the track and you only set your mind to doing those things."
BEEN THERE, DIDN'T DO THAT: "I didn't race at Mansfield last season because qualifying was cancelled due to rain," says Robert Huffman, driver of the No.12 Toyota Tundra. "The field was set by the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rule book and we didn't make the show, although I was at least able to practice. I'm excited about going back there because it's the kind of track that I've raced on over the years. We're taking the same truck that we raced at Martinsville, and based on our performance there I think we'll do well at Mansfield."
REUTIMANN REMEMBERS: "We started 33rd at Mansfield last year, but we were able to leave there with a top- 15 finish," says Reutimann, who finished 14th a year ago. "Because our short track program has really improved, I'm excited to go back there. The track's fun and the fans are great. I think both Robert (Huffman) and I will do well."
IN THE AREA: Although he has never before been to Mansfield Motorsports Speedway, Shige Hattori, driver of the No.9 AISIN/AISIN AW Tundra, has been to the Mansfield-area. "I've been to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car course, which is pretty close to Mansfield, but the Mansfield track is totally different," says Hattori. About a year ago, Hattori tested a sports car at the Mid-Ohio road course in nearby Lexington.
NOT AT NIGHT: The race in Mansfield will be the first time Shige Hattori will be racing his Tundra during the day. Each of his first four career NCTS starts (Daytona, California, Atlanta and St. Louis) was a night race.
CHAD CHATS: "When I first started racing in the Busch Series and then moved into the Craftsman Truck Series, I really liked the short tracks," says Chad Chaffin, driver of the No.30 Germain/Arnold Racing Tundra. "I did real well at the short tracks, that was my background -- racing short tracks around Tennessee. I used to look forward to racing at places like IRP and the Nashville short track. Now, I'm getting to the point where I prefer the big tracks."
KEY TO C.C.: "The big thing for us is to get our Tundra really fast so we can qualify well," explains Chaffin, about the key to success at Mansfield. "When you come to a short track and can start in the top four or five, it makes for a whole different day than starting 20th. It's a whole lot easier for your race strategy if you're starting up front."
MORE FROM MIKE: "Our team is getting more depth all the time," says Mike Skinner. "Jeff (Hensley, crew chief) and I are starting to speak the same language and we understand each other more and more every week. I just think it's just a matter of time before you see that No.5 Tundra in `Victory Lane.'"
CHARITY ON THE LINKS: This past Monday (May 7), David Reutimann hosted the inaugural `David Reutimann Charity Golf Classic' at Silver Oaks Golf Club in his hometown of Zephyrhills, FL. The event raised more than $10,000 for the All Children's Hospital Foundation, which funds programs to meet the needs of young patients at the hospital, along with research and special programs.