NCTS Etc. Five former winners -- Hornaday, Sprague, Setzer, Kvapil and Ted Musgrave (No. 9 Team ASE Toyota) -- are among entered drivers for this week's O'Reilly 200. No winning competitor at Memphis Motorsports Park has started worse...
Five former winners -- Hornaday, Sprague, Setzer, Kvapil and Ted Musgrave (No. 9 Team ASE Toyota) -- are among entered drivers for this week's O'Reilly 200.
No winning competitor at Memphis Motorsports Park has started worse than fifth in the nine previous runnings of the O'Reilly 200. The Bud Pole qualifier has won three times including the last two races. "There's a premium placed on two qualifying laps because they directly affect the 200 laps of racing," said Bodine, who started 19th and finished 15th in last year's race.
More on strategy: "This is a follow-the-leader race track," said Rick Ren, Hornaday's crew chief. "It can be very difficult to pass and pit stops are crucial. Even pit selection plays an important role at Memphis."
Kraig Kinser (No. 47 Ginn Resorts Chevrolet) finished 36th in last year's O'Reilly 200, liked what he saw of the track and is anxious to improve upon his rookie performance. "It is so unique, and there is really no other place like it," said the former sprint car star. "There are little bumps all over the track, and it makes for some fun, exciting racing for the drivers and the fans."
Skinner celebrates his 50th birthday on June 28 and obviously hopes to become the second 50-year-old to win a NASCAR Craftsman Truck race. He would join Joe Ruttman in that "senior" category. Also a year older this week is Benson, whose 44th birthday was observed on June 27.
There has not been a repeat owner winner at Memphis Motorsports Park, however, two -- Teresa Earnhardt and Bill Davis -- also have won NASCAR Busch Series races at the track. Earnhardt's two drivers -- Hornaday and Martin Truex Jr. -- went on to win championships in the same seasons, 1998 and 2005, respectively. Driver updates: Aric Almirola, whose first NASCAR Craftsman Truck start came at MMP in 2005, will be at the wheel of Billy Ballew's No. 51 Chevrolet this week. Making his return to the series is Chad Chaffin, a two-time winner who will take the controls of the No. 40 Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet. Chaffin finished fourth in his first Memphis appearance in 2001.
Final word on Memphis' degree of difficulty: 17 first-time drivers averaged a finish of 24.2 in 2006 -- even with rookie Erik Darnell's (No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford) ranking of second.
Toyota Regains Winning Ways In Milwaukee
Johnny Benson's victory in the Toyota Tundra Milwaukee 200 was Toyota's sixth of the season -- the same number the truck maker had won through the first 11 races of 2006.
Bill Davis Racing counts four of the six victories, three by Mike Skinner and Benson's latest score. Germain Racing's Todd Bodine and Wyler Racing's Jack Sprague account for the other two.
In The Loop: Sprague, Darnell And Setzer Strong In Memphis
After his first career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series win at Kansas Speedway in April, Erik Darnell failed to achieve the momentum he hoped for -- until last week.
Darnell finished sixth at Milwaukee, his best finish since the Kansas win. In between, his best finish was 15th at Mansfield.
Now, Darnell returns to a track at which he had great success last season -- Memphis Motorsports Park.
Darnell finished second at Memphis last season and racked up impressive stats in his first race at the .75-mile track.
Darnell had a Driver Rating of 118.0, an Average Running Position of 3.881, 13 Fastest Laps Run and ran all 202 laps in the top 15.
Jack Sprague won the Memphis race last year and earned an impressive 144.2 Driver Rating in the process. Sprague has two wins at Memphis, and over the past two years has amassed solid statistics at the Tennessee track.
Sprague has an average Driver Rating of 116.4, an Average Running Position of 7.465, 32 Fastest Laps Run and 329 Laps in the Top 15.
Another driver to watch this weekend could be Dennis Setzer. Setzer won at Memphis in 2001 and has two top-10 finishes in the past two years. He has a Memphis Driver Rating of 117.6, which is best of any driver who has run each of the past two Memphis races. He also has an Average Running Position of 4.918, 36 Fastest Laps Run and, of the 404 laps run at Memphis over the past two years, Setzer has run 402 of them in the top 15.
The Milwaukee Mile again proved a difficult track for rookies to excel, however, an untimely green flag stop may have cost Tim Sauter (No. 07 Lester Buildings Chevrolet) his first top-10 finish of the campaign. Sauter claimed highest-finishing freshman honors with a 16th-place performance.
Up Next: Kentucky Speedway
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series reaches the mid-point of the 2007 season on Saturday, July 14 with the eighth edition of the Built Ford Tough 225 presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers.
Two-time series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. won last year's race -- the first winner to qualify outside the top 20. Hornaday's Kevin Harvick Inc.-owned Chevrolet came from a start of 22nd. That was 15 positions deeper in the field than the next-worst qualifying winner, Dennis Setzer in 2005.
This year's race carries a Kentucky Speedway record purse of $767,050 with a winner's share of approximately $83,000 -- second highest of the 2007 season.
Next Race: O'Reilly 200
The Place: Memphis Motorsports Park
The Date: June 30
The Time: 99 p.m. (ET)
TV: SPEED, 8:30 p.m. (ET)
Track Layout: .75-mile oval
Race Purse: $568,734
2006 Winner: Jack Sprague
2006 Pole: Jack Sprague
Friday -- Practice 5 p.m. -- 6 p.m.; 6 p.m. -- 6:30 p.m. (rookies) and 7:45 p.m. -- 8:45 p.m.
Saturday - Qualifying 5 p.m.