Off week news of note 2008-03-19

Final Test A Confidence Booster: Teams Prepare For Short Track Racing Generation Next: Chrissy Wallace, Adam Crawford At Martinsville Test Another Skinner Signs Development Deal With Key Motorsports Martinsville Test Brings Confidence To ...

Final Test A Confidence Booster: Teams Prepare For Short Track Racing
Generation Next: Chrissy Wallace, Adam Crawford At Martinsville Test
Another Skinner Signs Development Deal With Key Motorsports

Martinsville Test Brings Confidence To Teams

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series held their final NASCAR-scheduled test for the season last week at Martinsville Speedway. The test at the .526-mile oval is the only NASCAR-scheduled test done on a short track.

Two of the next four races on the series' schedule will take place on short tracks beginning with a return to Martinsville on March 29.

Testing at the track also provided teams the opportunity to gather information beneficial for not only short tracks, but some of the flat tracks on the 25-race schedule.

Drivers and teams left the test satisfied with the results.

Veteran driver Terry Cook (No. 60 Wyler.com Toyota) is looking forward to coming back for the Kroger 250. Cook wrapped up testing with the fastest truck Thursday, posting best time and speed of 20.113 seconds/94.148 mph.

The driver and team believe they have found the right set-up to be competitive come race day. "Instead of coming back and racing for a top 10, I think we can come back and race for the win," said Cook.

With all three of their trucks running fast, the Roush Fenway Racing camp is also confident about returning to the speedway.

Erik Darnell, driver of the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford, was pleased with the test and knows it was a productive two days.

"This test gave us a chance to try a lot of different things that will help our short track program all year," he said.

"Matt (Puccia, crew chief) and the guys gave me a good truck which I think will be very competitive when we come back for the race," he added.

Darnell, who brought home his first win at Kansas Speedway last April, is looking to add another victory to his record.

Next Generation Drivers Spotted At Testing

During Martinsville's two-day test, some new faces were spotted in the garage. Among those newcomers were a couple drivers with familiar last names.

Chrissy Wallace, middle daughter of NASCAR Nationwide Series driver and four time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series winner Mike Wallace, tested the No. 03 Toyota for Germain Racing. The driver, who started racing at the age of 12, is looking to take her success in late models to the next level.

"Once I turned 14 or 15, I became more serious about racing and realized last year that racing was what I wanted to do," she said. "I want to come to trucks because this is the next step."

Adam Crawford, son of veteran driver Rick Crawford (No. 14 Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford), tested a Circle Bar Racing-prepared truck.

The younger Crawford found his way to the top of the speed charts. He closed out day two with the third-fastest truck, posting a fast lap time of 20.142 seconds -- a time faster than dad, a former Martinsville race winner.

The series has a history of fathers racing sons occurring on 16 different occasions. In fact, the first race for the series at Martinsville in 1995 featured a father/son duo, Geoffrey and Barry Bodine.

The race, eventually rained out, was postponed to a Monday where the younger Bodine had to "skip" high school class to participate in the race. Father Geoffrey, who led the race until he was involved in a next-to-last lap tangle with Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota), finished 15th. Barry finished 30th.

Etc. & Quotable

New Development ... Key Motorsports has created a development program for Dustin Skinner, the youngest son of former series champion Mike Skinner.

The main goal is testing and seat time with the hopes of fielding the 22-year-old driver in a possible six races in 2008.

The younger Skinner tested recently at New Smyrna Speedway, the driver's home track in Florida.

What we had at the end of the test in terms of a race truck and how it drove was a really huge improvement from where we started," he said of the test.

No. 40 Chevrolet crew chief Gary Showalter was on hand during the two days of testing. "Dustin did a really great job," he said.

"You can see that he definitely has the talent and his father's no-fear driving style," Showalter added. "We were genuinely impressed with his performance over the two days."

As for dad, he's pretty happy with the deal. "Everyone at Key Motorsports really worked hard with Dustin to give him the education he needed, and he's only going to get better," he said.

"And as the team gets more used to Dustin and his driving style and listens to his feedback, they then can give him what he needs to improve," he added. "He (team owner Curtis Key) has some really experienced people that will be working with Dustin on this deal so I'm really pleased."

No "Off Weekend" ... Colin Braun, driver of the No. 6 Conway Freight Ford for Roush Fenway Racing will head to Tennessee this week to join the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

Braun, who has one start in the series, will race the No. 16 CitiFinancial Ford in the Pepsi 300 at Nashville Superspeedway on March 22.

The trucks head to the superspeedway for the Toyota Tundra 250 on Aug. 9.

The Volunteer State hosts three series races -- most of any state. In The Loop:

Kyle Busch's stellar performance in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has made afterthoughts of last year's two front-runners, Mike Skinner and Ron Hornaday Jr.

The two champions dueled the entire season, and were the only drivers still mathematically eligible for the title going into the season-ending race at Homestead. Hornaday eventually took the crown.

But this year, the buzz surrounds Busch. Still, Skinner and Hornaday are within eyeshot of Busch and because the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular will race only a part-time schedule this season, will likely focus their energy on second-place Todd Bodine.

Statistically, both Skinner and Hornaday have fared well despite not being at the very top of the standings (although Hornaday is close, in third).

Hornaday has a season Driver Rating of 112.9 (third-best), an Average Running Position of 7.5 (third), 25 Fastest Laps Run (second) and 272 Laps in the Top 15 (fourth). He trails Bodine in all those categories, and by 50 points in the series standings. Hornaday is 122 points behind Busch.

Skinner has slowly crept up the standings after a 29th-place finish at Daytona. A third-place finish at Atlanta has Skinner in seventh place in the standings, 162 points behind Busch and 90 points behind Bodine.

In the three races this season, Skinner has a Driver Rating of 94.5 (fifth-best) and an Average Running Position of 14.1 (10th).

Raybestos Rookies who have held their own on the track so far this season made the most out of the two-day test at Martinsville.

Colin Braun kept his Ford near the top, finishing the test with a best speed 95.041 mph, the third fastest on the track.

Braun feels the test was well worth it. "Our truck was fast both days and we had a lot of time to try different set-ups to see what worked best," the rookie said.

"The guys worked really hard to get a lot accomplished that will help us tremendously when we go back for the race in two weeks," he added.

Donny Lia (No. 71 TRG Motorsports Chevrolet) ran right behind Braun. Lia consistently stayed on top of the speed charts for both days of the test.

Up Next:

The Kroger 250 is next on the schedule at Martinsville Speedway March 28--29. This will be the series' first race of the season on a short track.

Mike Skinner, the series' defending Kroger 250 winner in addition to winner of last October's race, is gunning for an unprecedented "three-peat."

Toyota Strong

Toyota remains on top three races into the 2008 season. With six wins, Chevrolet, however, holds the record for most wins by a manufacturer at Martinsville Speedway.

FAST FACTS

The Race: Kroger 250

The Place: Martinsville Speedway
The Date: March 29, 2008

The Time: 3:00 p.m. ET
TV: FOX, 3:00 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 131.5 miles / 250 laps
Track Layout: .526-Mile Oval

2007 Winner: Mike Skinner
2007Pole: Mike Skinner

Schedule: Friday: Practice, 11-11:50 a.m. and 1:45 p.m.-3:30 p.m.
Saturday: Qualifying, 10:10 a.m.

-credit: nascar International

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Mike Wallace , Colin Braun , Terry Cook , Rick Crawford , Erik Darnell , Donny Lia , Chrissy Wallace , Kyle Busch
Teams Germain Racing , Roush Fenway Racing , TRG Motorsports