Nashville: Round 15 preview

* Points Leader Benson Looking To Join Elite Group *Benson Going For Championship...And Another Guitar *In The Loop: Two Series Veterans Look To End Drought Elite Group Of Three-Time Winners Exists In Series DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 4,...

* Points Leader Benson Looking To Join Elite Group
*Benson Going For Championship...And Another Guitar
*In The Loop: Two Series Veterans Look To End Drought

Elite Group Of Three-Time Winners Exists In Series

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 4, 2008) -- It is widely known that the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is full of tough competition. So it's a rare accomplishment for a driver to win three races in a row. It's only happened five times.

Should Johnny Benson and his No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota find Victory Lane Saturday, it would mark Benson's third consecutive victory. He won twice last month at Kentucky Speedway and O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis.

Hopefully, the third time will be a charm for Benson. Last season, the series veteran won at Bristol Motor Speedway followed by a victory at Gateway International Raceway. The next race, however, at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, saw Benson end his day in eighth.

In 2006, Benson brought home back-to-back wins at Michigan and Milwaukee. Going for the third win, he had to settle for a ninth-place finish at Kansas.

Benson's teammate and former series champion Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) has managed the feat twice. Skinner nabbed three in a row in 1997 and most recently in 2007. His third win came at Martinsville, a track where he won in 1996.

Maybe that's a good omen. Benson found Victory Lane at Nashville Superspeedway in 2006 and goes into this week's race as the only previous winner in the Toyota Tundra 200 field.

Three other drivers have brought home three wins in a row. Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet) made it three in 1997. Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) also accomplished this in 2005, winning the last three races of the season.

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Greg Biffle won three straight in 2000, the same year he won the series championship.

Benson is aware of the challenge. "Winning three races in a row would be tremendous," Benson said. "The competition in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is so tight, and to be able to put together race wins is quite an accomplishment."

The driver also knows he has the team and support to end the race No 1. "Trip Bruce (crew chief) has done a great job all year giving me good enough trucks to win. We have had great pit stops which has really helped us get to the front," he said.

Another Sam Bass Custom Gibson Guitar, Please

Johnny Benson is no doubt racing towards his first series championship. Sitting atop the championship point standings, the driver will take all his recent momentum to a place where he knows how to get to Victory Lane.

With a win in 2006 to his credit, the driver admits he loves going to Nashville. "It is a great place to race and has one of the most coveted trophies in NASCAR," said Benson.

"I would love nothing more than to bring our Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota to Victory Lane on Saturday night. I need another Gibson to add to my trophy case," Benson said.

Ultimately, though, it all goes back to the championship. "We know what we have to do to be able to get more wins and hopefully the championship," he said.

"We have to finish in the top five week-in and week-out to be able to compete for the championship. (Ron) Hornaday and (Matt) Crafton are both really having a great year and we have to be on our A game in order to keep our chances alive."

Etc. & Quotable:

Champion Switching It Up ... Two-time and reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson announced that he will trade a car for a truck in a couple weeks at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Johnson will drive the No. 81 Chevrolet for Randy Moss Motorsports. Johnson has no previous starts in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series but brings plenty of experience to the table.

"I'm excited. I got my start racing off-road trucks, so it's going to be cool to be back in a truck," he said. "I've never driven in the series before. I've always wondered how they drive and what they're about."

Johnson will race against another well-known California native. "I've spent so much time with (Ron) Hornaday and he's been such a big part of my career, to be able to go out and race against him is going to be a blast."

May the best reigning champion win!

Chasing A Tennessee Sweep ... Speaking of Hornaday ... The three-time series champion and his teammate, Jack Sprague (No. 2 American Commercial Lines Chevrolet), both have an opportunity this weekend to complete the "Tennessee Sweep". Both drivers won at Bristol and Memphis Motorsports Park.

Stremme To Hit The Track ... Driver David Stremme will pilot the No. 15 Hyprene-Ergon Toyota this weekend for Billy Ballew Motorsports.

Stremme, who drives the No. 64 Aetreus Homes & Communities Chevrolet for Rusty Wallace Racing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, has plenty of experience and success at Nashville. The driver won the pole in March 2007 and has two top-five and five top-10 finishes at the superspeedway. His second-place finish, his best finish at the track, came in June's Federated Auto Parts 300.

Stremme has only one start in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He drove a Bobby Hamilton Racing Dodge at Martinsville in 2006.

The veteran looks forward to making it to Nashville in a truck. "I'm really excited about taking the wheel," he said. "Billy Ballew Motorsports has great equipment and great people. I love racing at Nashville and have had some of my best races there, so all of the elements are there for us to have a good day."

Like all the other competitors in the field, Stremme would like to end up in Victory Lane. Not just to add a win to his record but for that special trophy.

"One of the coolest things about Nashville is the trophy," he said. "It's one of those trophies that every driver wants to have up in their display case. I am hoping this race will give me a reason to brush up on my guitar skills."

Age Is Just A Number ... There is a strong "youth movement" in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season with more than 10 drivers under the age of 30. The rookies are definitely holding their own. Two of them, both twenty-somethings -- Scott Speed (No. 22 Toyota) and Donny Lia (No. 71 Nationrides.com Chevrolet) -- have even brought home their first wins in the series.

However, it's the "old guys" that continue to dominate and hold control over the top 10 in points. Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menard's Chevrolet) is the only driver under 45 sitting in the top five in the championship points battle. Crafton, age 32, is third in points.

Points leader Benson recently turned 45. Hornaday and Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar Truck Corral/Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford), who celebrated their 50th birthdays this summer, are sitting in second and fourth, respectively. Rounding out the top five, Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) is 51 years young.

Green In The Nashville Field ... Former NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Jeff Green will drive the No. 40 Key Motorsports Chevrolet at Nashville and Bristol.

Rookies Look For Better Luck At Nashville

Rookie points leader Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-Way Freight Ford) is heading to familiar territory this weekend. The young Texan competed in the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Nashville Superspeedway in March. Braun started the race ninth and brought home a 15th- place finish.

I'm looking forward to going to a track that I've already raced at this year," said Braun. "It's a great track and it's a lot of fun for a driver."

Braun and fellow Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Justin Marks (No. 9 Crocs Toyota) stayed busy over the off- week break. The pair headed to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal with the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Braun practiced the No. 16 Citi-Financial Ford for Greg Biffle. Marks competed in the No. 10 Furniture Electronics Toyota for Braun Racing.

Who Is The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' Most Popular Driver?

Have you cast your vote yet? Don't forget to make it count. For the first time in series history, voting for the Series' Most Popular Driver is in the hands of the fans. Be sure to check out NASCAR.com and vote for your favorite. More than 30,000 votes have been cast since voting began July 5.

Up Next:

The series will stay in the Volunteer State rolling east from Nashville to Bristol Motor Speedway for short-track racing on Wednesday, Aug. 20.

Johnny Benson is the defending winner at the short track and definitely on a hot streak as the season moves down Interstate 40.

Director's Take: Wayne's Words

"Racing at Nashville Superspeedway means visiting the home of Country music, the Sam Bass custom guitar and racing on concrete.

"Just about everyone, at one time or another, has visited the various attractions: the Grand Ole Opry, Printers Alley, the Country Music Hall of Fame and the clubs on Broadway.

"There is definitely plenty to do before drivers and teams get down to the serious business of racing.

"And serious it is with the traditional Gibson guitar trophy up for grabs. We've been to Nashville a dozen times and nobody's won that trophy more than once. It seems like the guitar -- and not the points -- is the biggest topic of conversation whenever we go to Nashville Superspeedway.

"We always seem to have a competitive race in Nashville. The concrete surface definitely is a challenge but it takes at least one element out of the equation.

"Once a driver and crew chief agree on a setup, that's it; the conditions aren't going to change a lot.

"The 2006 race was one of the best in series competition. Johnny Benson led only the final lap proving, once again, that no NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race is over until that checkered flag falls."

-- Wayne Auton, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director.

Manufacturers' Battle

As the series makes it way to Tennessee, three manufacturers look to break a deadlock. With two wins, Ford, Dodge and Toyota are tied for the most wins at Nashville Superspeedway.

Dodge's last win came in 2004 with the late Bobby Hamilton. Toyota made its most recent trip to Victory Lane in 2006 with Johnny Benson.

Ford is the defending winning manufacturer. Travis Kvapil won last year's Toyota Tundra 200. While Kvapil won't be in the field to defend the win, his two former Roush Fenway Racing teammates, Erik Darnell and Colin Braun, could help Ford take the lead. Darnell started from the pole in 2006 and last season brought home a ninth-place finish.

Chevrolet trails the other three with just one win at the track in 2002. Luck could swing their way, however, as Ron Hornaday Jr. looks to take his success on other concrete tracks to Nashville. Hornaday finished second to Kvapil last year.

In The Loop: Two Veterans Could End Drought At Nashville

This season has morphed into an odd one for both Mike Skinner and Jack Sprague.

Both entered 2008 with optimism galore. Skinner just missed his second NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship last season and Sprague joined a new team -- the one that nabbed the title last season.

Though neither has suffered a poor season (Skinner's in fifth and Sprague's in ninth), the two former series champions have yet to visit Victory Lane.

The winless drought could end this weekend, and extend the streak of different race winners at Nashville (it's currently at seven).

According to the statistics, Skinner has to be considered the favorite. Really, he's done just about everything but win. Skinner has led the most laps in each of the past three races, but only has a best finish of third to show for it.

Over that span, he has a Driver Rating of 136.1, an Average Running Position of 2.2, 82 Fastest Laps Run and has run all but six of the Laps in the Top 15 (98.7%). All those are series-best marks.

So, Skinner is doubly due. He's come achingly close at Nashville and has nine consecutive top-10 finishes this season. A win looks likely to come sooner than later.

Ditto for Sprague, who has notched two runner-up finishes this year and a second-place finish at Nashville in 2006.

Over the past three Nashville races, Sprague has a Driver Rating of 106.3 (fourth-best), an Average Running Position of 7.6 (fourth), 41 Fastest Laps Run (tied for second) and 389 Laps in the Top 15 (86.3%), which is second-most behind Skinner.

Fast Facts

The Race: Toyota Tundra 200
The Place: Nashville Superspeedway

The Date: August 9, 2008
The Time: 7:30 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 200 miles / 150 laps
Track Layout: 1.333-Mile Concrete Oval

TV: SPEED, 7 p.m. ET

2007 Winner: Travis Kvapil
2007 Pole: Mike Skinner

Schedule:
Friday: Practice, 5-6:15 p.m. and 6:45-8 p.m.;
Saturday: Qualifying, 1:45 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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