Off-week news 2009-07-06

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes Matt Crafton Keeps Name In Mix For Series Title DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 6, 2009) -- Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menard's Chevrolet) might be thinking he's experiencing some dejà vu. As the ...

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes

Matt Crafton Keeps Name In Mix For Series Title

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 6, 2009) -- Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menard's Chevrolet) might be thinking he's experiencing some dejà vu. As the series prepares to head to Kentucky Speedway next weekend, he's sitting right where he was at this point last year, second in points behind leader Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet). This time around though, Crafton is looking to reverse what became of last season.

In eight races at Kentucky, the Tulare, Calif., native has five top-10 and two top-five finishes. He finished third last season, which allowed him to hold on to his second place in the standings. From there, however, he slowly fell back before finishing the year fifth, matching his previous best points finish of 2004.

Surrounded by three former series champions, the driver knows the competition he's up against and how valuable each week is in order to end up on top.

"We're heading into the summer stretch where contenders start to separate themselves from the pack a bit," said Crafton. "Sometimes, you have an awesome truck and maybe don't have a strong finish to show for it. Other times, you're fortunate to finish well when you don't have your best truck. The bottom line with all of it is staying focused on what it takes to be successful each week, on the things we can control. That's what will get us to where we want to be.

"This series is so competitive and we only have 25 races, so you have to make each race count. It's important to make the absolute most out of your situation each week and the biggest part of that is finishing races. You can't challenge for wins if you're not there at the end; if you're not in position."

Being in Victory Lane is something that took Crafton a while to accomplish. He grabbed his first career win last season at Lowe's Motor Speedway in his 178th start. He's eager to get back there as noted after finishing second to Todd Bodine (No. 30 Toyota) to take over the points lead at Texas in June. "I would give up the points lead to be where Bodine is tonight," he said.

Is Kentucky Success Key To Championship?

Ron Hornaday Jr.'s season is coming together as though he might be on his way to a record fourth series title. But as previous seasons have shown, anything can happen in the remaining 14 races that send the decision down to the final lap at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November. The series heads to Kentucky Speedway for race No. 12 on Saturday, July 18. In nine visits to the Bluegrass State, the series has yet to see a repeat winner. However, they have seen four eventual series champions win: Greg Biffle (2000), Mike Bliss (2002), Bobby Hamilton (2004) and most recently Johnny Benson (2008).

Of those perched among the top five in the current standings, only two have wins at Kentucky. Points leader Hornaday won in 2006. He finished 10th in 2007, the same year he claimed his third championship and then again last year before he finished the year runner-up to Benson.

Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota), third in the current standings, made it to Victory Lane in 2007. Last year he sat on the pole before finishing the race in seventh.

One title contender has had mixed luck at the track. In four starts, Todd Bodine (No. 30 Toyota) has a second-place finish, a top 10, and two finishes outside the top 10. A year ago, an accident relegated him to a 27th-place finish.

Looking at who occupies the fifth position in the standings, David Starr (No. 24 Zachry Toyota) is having a strong season. Starr might be the one to wind up in Victory Lane and break his 82-race winless drought. Starr finished fifth last season at Kentucky. In six additional starts, he only has two finishes outside the top 10 -- 15th in 2000 and12th in 2007. His best finish was third in 2004.

Loop Data: White Hot Braun Launching Up Standings

Something must have clicked for Colin Braun after the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Dover.

He finished 22nd that race -- his fourth DNF in five races, all the result of accidents.

The finished dropped him to 20th in the series standings. His runs were much better than that, but luck refused to smile on him to that point.

But then came the race at fast Texas Motor Speedway, a track at which his Roush Fenway Racing team always excels.

Braun finished third that race. A week later, at Michigan, Braun collected his first career victory (and Roush Fenway's 50th in the series). The Victory Lane visit launched him to 12th in points.

Then another top 10 at Milwaukee, and another at Memphis, and Braun is in the top 10 in points for the second time in his career (the first was a one-week stay earlier this season, after a ninth-place finish at Daytona).

Still, Braun's statistics suggest he should be even higher in the points if not for that early-season bad luck. He ranks in the top five in practically every key Loop Data category.

Braun has a Driver Rating of 94.8 (fifth-best), an Average Running Position of 10.1 (fifth), 64 Fastest Laps Run (seventh) and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 79% (fifth).

Most Popular Driver Voting Begins

Online voting begins today for the 2009 Most Popular Driver of the Year Award in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Fans can visit NASCAR.com to cast their vote.

Last season, the first year fans had the opportunity to have a hand in the selection process, over 60,000 votes were cast for the award. Johnny Benson took home the honors at the banquet in addition to his first series title.

This year, fans will have the chance to "write in" their favorite driver if he/she is not among the nominees for a specific series.

Fans should go to fanfeedback@nascar.com to submit their write-in vote. Fans may vote or submit a write-in candidate once per day and are encouraged to vote throughout the season. Polls will close Oct. 31.

Up Next: Kentucky Speedway

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has one more week to prepare for the racing action at Kentucky Speedway. The series heads to the Bluegrass State for the Built Ford Tough 225 presented by Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers on Saturday, July 18.

Ron Hornaday Jr., Mike Skinner and Dennis Setzer are some of the former winners expected to compete.

Fast Facts

Next Race: Built Ford Tough 225 presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers
The Place: Kentucky Speedway

The Date: Sat., July 18, 2009
The Time: 7 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 225 miles / 150 laps
Track Layout: 1.5-mile Oval

TV: SPEED, 6:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM. Listen locally on WYGY-FM 97.3

2008 Winner: Johnny Benson
2008 Polesitter: Mike Skinner

Schedule:
Friday: Practice, 3:15 - 4:50 p.m. and 6:30 - 7:30 p.m.;
Saturday: Qualifying, 3:30 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , David Starr , Greg Biffle , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Colin Braun , Dennis Setzer , Matt Crafton
Teams Roush Fenway Racing