Michigan: Series round 9 preview

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes -- Michigan New Winner At Michigan A Guarantee This Time Around This Saturday's VFW 200 at Michigan International Speedway is a rarity indeed. There is not a single previous winner of the...

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes -- Michigan

New Winner At Michigan A Guarantee This Time Around

This Saturday's VFW 200 at Michigan International Speedway is a rarity indeed.

There is not a single previous winner of the event on the entry list.

Michigan is one of just eight tracks on which four-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet) has failed to record a victory.

Current points leader Todd Bodine (No. 30 Germain.com Toyota) is similarly without a win -- although Bodine has won at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., a layout similar to MIS.

A Ford has won five of the previous 10 races at the 2-mile speedway including the last three.

But the manufacturer has gone winless in 2010 and hasn't visited Victory Lane since last year's Michigan event.

The season's ninth of 25 races is wide-open, to say the least.

A couple of names stand out among possible winners: Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota Tundra Toyota) finished in the runner-up position a year ago.

Busch, however, was driving the No. 51 Zyclara/Graceway Pharmaceuticals Toyota that now belongs to Dover International Speedway winner Aric Almirola.

Billy Ballew Motorsports' No. 15 Qualcomm/ArcSight Toyota was the No. 3 finisher and it's not going out on a limb to make the truck's current driver, Nelson Piquet Jr., a possible winner. Piquet finished a solid eighth a week ago at Texas Motor Speedway, the Brazilian's second top-10 run of an abbreviated 2010 campaign.

Add Texas runner-up (and Kansas Speedway winner) Johnny Sauter (No. 13 Curb Records Chevrolet); 1995 series champion Mike Skinner (No. 5 International Trucks/Monaco RV Toyota) and Elliott Sadler (No. 2 Grange Insurance Chevrolet) to an expanding group of contenders.

Skinner was impressive in Texas finishing fifth, his season's best performance and fifth consecutive race in the top 10. Sadler ran fifth in his most recent appearance driving the Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

A rookie has yet to win at Michigan International Speedway but, based on performance in Texas, Austin Dillon (No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Chevrolet) could end that drought. Dillon started from the pole, led the race and finished third. Richard Childress Racing will be making just its second NCWTS appearance at MIS. Jay Sauter drove the No. 3 truck to a second-place finish behind Greg Biffle.

Kyle Busch: Owner/Teacher At Kyle Busch Motorsports

In less than two weeks Kyle Busch has watched two of his pupils walk the line in a sense -- graduated to the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He started the 2010 season with two rookies under his tutelage -- Tayler Malsam and Brian Ickler.

"Roush Fenway Racing called Ickler and asked him about what his deal was with me and if he could get out of it and try to move into the Nationwide Series," said KBM driver-owner Busch.

"I have no reason to hold Brian Ickler back. This opportunity is in his best interests. I feel like I've done what I needed to do to help him move up. The same situation occurred with Tayler. Braun offered him a chance to move up to the Nationwide Series and we have no reason to hold him back."

Now Busch is left to stand on his own -- a task the 25-year-old has no problem upholding with 18 victories in the series -- until the next pupil comes his way.

If You Take Your Seat Too Soon At Michigan, You Might Miss Something

"Michigan is very similar to a superspeedway. Yes, you heard me right. Just like at Daytona and Talladega, aerodynamics will be huge on Saturday and horsepower is key. The truck with the biggest horse under the hood has a good chance of crossing the finish line first."

"Like Daytona and Talladega, the trucks actually draft down the straightaway. MIS has been known for four -- sometimes five -- wide racing for position. The drivers definitely have room to maneuver.

"Be sure not to get top comfortable in your seats, now, because last lap passes have been the norm at Michigan.

"Remember in 2008 when Erik Darnell passed Johnny Benson for the victory on the last lap -- winning only by .005 seconds.

"Though young guns have performed well at Michigan the last two seasons, I look to see a veteran doing burnouts after it is all over on Saturday. Maybe Ron Hornaday Jr., who has never won at Michigan, will make his mark on Saturday in his manufacturer's backyard.

"And you can never count out Kyle Busch, Todd Bodine or Mike Skinner at a 2.0 mile-oval It's hard to believe they have never won at MIS."

- Wayne Auton, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Director

Piquet Jr. On The Right Track With Veteran Crew Chief

From the outside looking in, you would not know that Nelson Piquet Jr. isn't quite up to speed on many of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series' tracks. In essence, you would not know that he is a former open-wheel driver trying to find his place in a stock car world because he makes himself look right at home.

The Brazilian-born driver has competed in three races (Daytona, Charlotte and Texas) this season, finishing in the top-10 twice.

"When it comes to transitioning from openwheel racing to stock cars, it's all racing. It's all driving," said Piquet. "Obviously, each series has its own characteristics and different formats of racing. When you're inside a car and fighting, though, it's all very similar. You're battling 'car tight' versus 'car loose' and trying to get the handling corrected. No matter what you're driving, you have to concentrate and maintain yourself during the race."

Piquet's ability to transition so well can partially be credited to his Michigan-native crew chief, Kevin "Cowboy' Starland.

Starland is no stranger to the NCWTS garage. For the last five seasons Cowboy called the shots for series veteran Rick Crawford before moving to work with Piquet during the 2010 season.

"Nelson has come a long way in just a few races," said Starland. "He's got a lot of talent and he's willing to listen. He'll lean on my experience when he's learning a track, then he executes. That what makes us such a good team. We know we can trust each other."

Piquet Jr. and Starland head to Michigan -- a track the driver has never seen -- this weekend looking for their third straight top-10 finish. If You Take Your Seat Too Soon At Michigan, You Might Miss Something

NCWTS, ETC.

Kevin Harvick Inc's Andrew Emrick hails from Riga, Mich., about an hour away from MIS. Emrick joined the No. 33 team at the beginning of 2010 as a rear-tire carrier.

Jennifer Jo Cobb's team names all their race trucks after classic rock stars. In Michigan, she will be debuting "Jimi," named after guitar great Jimi Hendrix.

Rookie Roundup

Austin Dillon re-inherited the Raybestos Rookie Of The Year standings lead after his stellar performance last week at Texas Motor Speedway. Dillon earned his first career series pole Thursday night and scored his best finish of his career, a third place in the WinStar World Casino 400k.

Second-ranked rookie contender Justin Lofton (No. 7 Visit-pit.com Toyota) was involved in an accident that prevented him from finishing the race and regulated him to a finish of 23rd. He dropped nine points behind Dillon.

Jennifer Jo Cobb (No. 10 Driven- Male.com Ford), who sits fourth in rookie points, scored the first top-15 finish of her career. Becoming only the sixth female to garner a top 15 in the series, Cobb's 14th-place finish was the 18th top 15 to be recorded by a female in the NCWTS.

Skinner Slowly But Surely Gaining Momentum In 2010 Season

A series veteran -- and past champion -- is gaining wild momentum in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and creeping up the points standings with each passing race. Yes, Mike Skinner's points deficit of 219 to leader Todd Bodine looks daunting. But if the 1995 series champion continues his consistently strong pace, that could vanish sooner than later. Skinner has put together a string of five consecutive top-10 finishes, and posted his first top five of the season last Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway (fourth). In doing so, he has steadily marched up the series standings. After the first race of the season at Daytona, Skinner was 23rd in points. A race later, 17th. Three races after that, after Kansas, he cracked the top 10. And now, he's sixth in points. Quietly, he owns some of the strongest statistics in the series: Driver Rating of 91.5, an Average Running Position of 10.1, 15 Fastest Laps Run, a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 91.5% and a Pass Differential (passes minus times passed) of plus-46. As far as the immediate future goes, Skinner's momentum shouldn't slow. He is strong at Michigan. Though he has yet to win there, Skinner does have four top fives and five top 10s in seven races. He has led at least one lap in five of his seven Michigan races. Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, a span of five Michigan races, Skinner has a Driver Rating of 109.5, an Average Running Position of 7.2, 17 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 94.8%.

Carmichael, Dillon Team Up For Prelude To The Dream

Ricky Carmichael (No. 4 Monster Energy Chevrolet) and Austin Dillon both grew up racing on dirt -- one on two wheels, the other on four.

It is no secret Carmichael is the king of dirt on two wheels -- he did not earn the nickname The GOAT (Greatest Of All Time) for nothing.

Dillon began his racing career on dirt, gaining valuable skills for his current job at hand -- driving in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

This coming Wednesday the two will collide when Carmichael -- the five-time American Motorcycle Association Rider of the Year -- will make the transition once again from two wheels to four.

Carmichael will pilot Dillon's dirt late model in Tony Stewart's Prelude to the Dream at Eldora Speedway. The Team Dillon Racing vehicle will sport Carmichael's famed No. 4 flanked with support from Oakley.

"I might try to fly up and watch him," said Dillon, who scored his first top-five finish this past weekend in Texas. "He (Carmichael) will have my dirt crew chief and team helping him out. So he should have a pretty good chance at winning the thing."

Carmichael will not be alone in his endeavor. He will join fellow Truck Series competitors Aric Almirola and Ken Schrader (No. 2 KHI Chevrolet) on the St. Jude team lead by team captain Denny Hamlin.

It will be Carmichael's first time at the charity event, but Almirola will return for his fifth Prelude. Schrader is one of only five drivers who have been a part of the festivities since its inception six years ago.

Up Next: Iowa Speedway

Following a four week summer break during June, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will pick up action again the second weekend in July at Iowa Speedway.

It will be only the second time the series has visited the facility. Mike Skinner (No. 5 International Trucks/Monaco RV Toyota) won the pole for the inaugural Lucas Oil 200 and led 180 laps en route to score his second victory of the 2009 season.

Current Raybestos Rookie Of The Year contender Austin Dillon made his first career NCWTS start at Iowa last season. He started ninth and finished 12th.

Fast Facts

Next Race: VFW 200
The Place: Michigan International Speedway (2-mile oval)

The Date: Saturday, June 12
The Time: 2 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 200 miles/100 laps

TV: SPEED, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS NASCAR Radio. (Listen locally on WVFN-AM 730)

2009 Polesitter: Brian Ickler
2009 Winner: Colin Braun

Schedule:
Friday -- Practice, 10:30-11:20 a.m., 1:10-2:30 p.m.
Saturday -- Qualifying, 9:30 a.m.

-source: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Tony Stewart , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Jay Sauter , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Colin Braun , Rick Crawford , Nelson Piquet , Nelson Piquet Jr. , Johnny Sauter , Ricky Carmichael , Elliott Sadler , Denny Hamlin , Aric Almirola , Erik Darnell , Justin Lofton , Jennifer Jo Cobb , Tayler Malsam , Brian Ickler , Austin Dillon , Kyle Busch
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Roush Fenway Racing , Kyle Busch Motorsports