Martinsville: Series round three preview

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes -- Martinsville Crawford Rolling To Series Record 325th Start This weekend, Rick Crawford (No. 14 Ford) and Dennis Setzer (No. 92 Fleet AO Chevrolet) will each make their 21st NASCAR Camping...

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes -- Martinsville

Crawford Rolling To Series Record 325th Start

This weekend, Rick Crawford (No. 14 Ford) and Dennis Setzer (No. 92 Fleet AO Chevrolet) will each make their 21st NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Martinsville Speedway, by far the most for any driver competing at the series' secondshortest track on the schedule.

But Crawford has also reached another milestone -- his series record 325th career start. All this as his team, Circle Bar Racing, attempts to secure primary sponsorship for the truck. Circle Bar Racing, in turn, is making its 326th consecutive start, dating back to the beginning of the 1997 season.

Crawford began racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 1997 and owns five victories and six pole positions, including last year's Kroger 250. Crawford also won the spring race at Martinsville in 2004 and has eight top fives at the track, including three straight.

While Crawford is only 16th in points after two races, he is coming off a ninth-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway and has finished in the top 10 in points in seven of the last nine seasons.

Harvick Shooting For Fourth Consecutive Victory

Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet) became the first and only driver in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series history last year to win four straight races (his streak actually reached five). Kevin Harvick (No. 2 Kroger/Tide Chevrolet), Hornaday's team owner, looks to accomplish a similar feat Saturday.

Harvick will attempt to win his fourth consecutive series start at Martinsville. He closed 2009 with consecutive victories at Phoenix International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway, and won earlier this month at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Harvick skipped the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway.

Harvick's chances are good for this weekend. He won last year's March race at Martinsville, and is reunited with longtime crew chief Butch Hylton, with whom Harvick was first paired with in 2003 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

"I'm excited about that," Harvick said. "We've talked about getting the No. 2 truck back to where we need it to be, and we've won a lot of races in the past, so hopefully we can continue that same success. "

In addition to winning last season, Harvick has logged four top fives and five top 10s.

"Martinsville has been a good track for us," Harvick said. "We ran really well there last spring, obviously, winning the race. We had a little trouble in the fall race with a flat tire, but we were able to make up a couple laps and come back with a solid top five. Based upon our most recent success in the series, confidence is very high."

While Harvick has won at Martinsville, Hornaday -- the series leader in victories overall and short-track wins -- has not. In fact, the four-time champion is not even in the top 10 in points at this point. Other notables who have not won in the series at Martinsville include points leader Todd Bodine (No. 30 Toyota), Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota) and Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet).

Director's Take: Wayne's Words

"It's exciting to get going again after a threeweek break. We've had two races this season, both on big tracks, and it's back to the series' roots this weekend as we head back to Martinsville Speedway for the 23rd time in history.

"As always, we're happy to go back to Martinsville, because this series was founded on short tracks. We know whenever we go there, we're in for a treat.

"I have been attending races at Martinsville for over 40 years and I have some great memories at Martinsville. You only need to go back to last October, when Timothy Peters (No. 17 Red Horse Racing Toyota) scored his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at his home track, which was a great deal. Otherwise, we've seen some great finishes. Kyle Busch has been involved in two of those -- once taking out Johnny Benson (No. 15 Red Top Collector Car Auction), and the other time being taken out by Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet).

"As I've said in the past, patience is the name of the game. Martinsville is essentially two drag strips with two very tight corners. If you don't have patience, or the right brake set-up, it's going to be a long day.

"One other important note -- this one on tires. Goodyear brought a softer tire to Martinsville last year and it really bodes well on the trucks. The racing last year was spectacular as a result. "I think we're ready to have a good weekend of racing at Martinsville."

- Wayne Auton, Series Director

Karthikeyan To Make Series Debut At Martinsville

Former Formula 1 driver Narain Karthikeyan (No. 60 SafeAuto Chevrolet) will make his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in the Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway and in the process, become the first driver from India to compete in the Trucks.

Karthikeyan, who will make select events this season, made 19 starts in Formula 1 and joins the likes of Nelson Piquet Jr., Scott Speed, Jacques Villeneuve, Eliseo Salazar and Max Papis who have competed in both F1 and now, the Camping World Truck Series. He is running with newly-formed Starbeast Motorsports, and has Camping World Truck Series veteran Stacy Compton, sixth in points, as his driver coach.

"The opportunity to compete in a NASCAR series is a dream come true for me," Karthikeyan said. "I have raced all over the world, but this is a different kind of challenge for me and I look forward to learning everything I can about racing in this environment. NASCAR is known for its passionate fans. I am excited to be introducing India to this sport and hope to help develop an equally passionate fan base there.

Team owner Miguel Abaroa said Karthikeyan is the center of Starbeast's efforts to grow the sport in India.

"After his success in Formula 1, Narain has become one of India's most popular athletes and the obvious choice to introduce NASCAR to the subcontinent," Abaroa said.

Added Compton: "We have always had a desire to work with drivers to help with their transition into NASCAR."

Of the aforementioned former F1 drivers, Speed seems to have had the most success. While he finished 27th in his first start, he was the only one of the former F1 drivers with a victory (2008, Dover International Speedway).

Wyler Racing is competing in its fifth full season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series after making its series debut in 2005.

Peters, White Head To Home Track Seeking Points Lead

Timothy Peters captured his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory last October at Martinsville Speedway, and heads there this Saturday seeking his third career win after opening 2010 with a victory at Daytona International Speedway.

Meanwhile, Jason White (No. 23 GunBroker. com Dodge) heads to Martinsville in search of his first career victory. He started on the pole at Daytona and finished fourth.

So what do these two drivers have in common? Both call Martinsville their home track, and the two are currently second and third in the points standings, chasing series leader Todd Bodine (No. 30 Toyota). Peters is only four points behind Bodine (340-336), while White lies 45 points out of first after two races.

"I really love Martinsville and I'm really looking forward to going back there as a winner," said Peters of Danville, Va. "Coming off that win in the fall, I have that much more confidence that we can repeat and get this No. 17 back to Victory Lane. Martinsville is a special place for me and I've had a lot of success there over the years, but last year's win was definitely the best moment I've had at that track and one of the best moments of my career."

Said White: "I'm excited about the start we've had this year, (but) I won't be satisfied with a good run and another top-15 finish at Martinsville. Right now, it's all about momentum and carrying forward what we have done to start the year and keep this team at the top of the points standings."

Crewmembers from Virginia include: * Jeff Hensley, No. 16 Crew Chief, Horsepasture (owns two Martinsville victories with Mike Skinner) @*Trip Bruce, No. 1 Crew Chief, Chester @*Hal Ralston, No. 6 Engineer, Staunton
*Dan Mrak, No. 1 Engineer, Woodbridge @Kevin Riddle, No. 33 Mechanic, Martinsville @*Seth Saunders, No. 60 Tire Specialist/Front Tire Carrier, Gretna

Benson, Skinner Seek Strong Results At Martinsville

Johnny Benson (No. 15 Red Top Collector Car Auction Toyota) has taken on a new role in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career -- cameo.

Benson won the series championship in 2008, and since then has run only nine of the 27 races. But in those events, he has scored three top fives and five top 10s.

He's back this weekend at Martinsville, piloting the No. 15 Toyota for Billy Ballew Motorsports. Expect another scene-stealing performance from Benson.

In his 12 career Martinsville races, Benson has one win, four top fives and six top 10s. His numbers since the inception of Loop Data in 2005 -- a span of nine races for Benson -- are just as strong. Overall, he has a Driver Rating of 92.2, an Average Running Position of 12.1, 61 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 69.6%.

Also watch for past champion Mike Skinner (No. 5 International Trucks/Monaco RV Toyota). Overall at Martinsville, Skinner has a Driver Rating of 96.7, an Average Running Position of 11.1 and 159 Fastest Laps Run.

In his win in March of 2007, Skinner scored a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0, leading 246 of the 253 laps. His Average Running Position that day was an incredible 1.1.

Statistically, Skinner -- who is hoping to leap into the top 10 in points -- is one of the best at short tracks. Last year, Skinner notched a Driver Rating of 111.6 in the six short-track races. That number ranked second in the series, behind Ron Hornaday Jr.'s (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet) 130.2.

NCWTS, Etc.

Aric Almirola (No. 51 Graceway Pharmaceuticals Toyota) is quietly running fourth in the standings. He finished a solid third earlier this month at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He has never finished better than 20th in final points.

DJ Kennington (No. 6 Northern Provincial Pipelines Chevrolet) has been tabbed the driver of Rick Ware Racing's truck for Martinsville. A veteran of short-track racing in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Martinsville is a track that has always been on the Canadian's radar. "I have run at nearly every track in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and none of those resemble the type of racing we do here in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series," he said. "We run a bunch of road-course events but a majority of our races (come) on half-mile and smaller flat tracks, just like Martinsville."

Several drivers are making their NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debuts at Martinsville. They are Dale Brackett (No. 7 Chevrolet), Tony Jackson Jr. (No. 9 ASI Chevrolet), Clay Greenfield (No. 23 Team Gill Racing Dodge), Narain Karthikeyan (No. 60 SafeAuto Insurance/ Wyler.com Toyota), Paddy Rodenbeck (No. 82 Green Hills Software Chevrolet), Lance Fenton (No. 95 Team Gill Racing Dodge) and Chris Eggleton (No. 21 H20 Fire Protection Chevrolet).

Toyotas have won six of the last eight Camping World Truck Series races at Martinsville.

Seven Martinsville winners have come from the front row, including three polesitters.

Up Next: Nashville

Next weekend's Nashville 200 -- the first of two races for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Nashville Superspeedway -- comes on the backend of the series' first back-toback 2010 weekends.

Previously, the series has only raced once per season on the 1.33-mile concrete track, with Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet) taking the honors last season. Johnny Benson (No. 15 Red Top Collector Car Auction Toyota) is the only driver with multiple victories -- two -- at the track.

The series' second race at Nashville will be Aug. 7.

Fast Facts

Next Race: Kroger 250
The Place: Martinsville Speedway (.526-mile oval)

The Date: Saturday, March 27
The Time: 2 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 131.5 miles/250 laps

TV: SPEED, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM (Listen locally on WZBB-FM, 99.9.)

2009 Polesitter: Rick Crawford
2009 Winner: Kevin Harvick

Schedule prior to race day:
Friday -- Practice, 10-11:20 a.m., 1:10-2 p.m. Qualifying, 4:40 p.m.

-source: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Kevin Harvick , Eliseo Salazar , Max Papis , Narain Karthikeyan , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Dennis Setzer , Rick Crawford , Matt Crafton , Jason White , Nelson Piquet Jr. , Scott Speed , Timothy Peters , Aric Almirola , Paddy Rodenbeck , Kyle Busch , Clay Greenfield
Teams Red Horse Racing