Off-week notes 2009-02-23

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes Dejà vu: New Season, Same Look After Two Races DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 23, 2009) - The 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series looks like a rerun of 2008. In fact, you might call it a...

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes

Dejà vu: New Season, Same Look After Two Races

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 23, 2009) - The 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series looks like a rerun of 2008.

In fact, you might call it a carbon copy.

Todd Bodine (No. 30 Germain Racing Toyota) successfully defended his Daytona International Speedway victory and -- most recently -- Kyle Busch (No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts/NOS Energy Drink Toyota) won the Feb. 21 San Bernardino County 200 for the second consecutive season.

After an off-week in the schedule, both drivers head for Atlanta Motor Speedway's March 7 American Commercial Lines 200 occupying the same positions they held 12 months ago.

Busch, counting five more bonus points than 2006 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Bodine, heads the points standings 370 to 365. Each has a second-place finish.

Busch is the defending winner of the American Commercial Lines 200, a victory that allowed him to retain the standings advantage through the first four races of 2008. The 23-year-old Las Vegas driver, who became the first to capture a pair of NASCAR national series races on the same day at Auto Club Speedway, has won three times at the Hampton, Ga., track.

Bodine, however, isn't to be outdone, having won the 2006 edition of the race.

As for Busch, the turning of the calendar hasn't cooled his NASCAR Camping World Truck magic. His Auto Club Speedway finish was the driver's 10th straight among the top 10 -- a streak that includes a pair of victories.

Busch's efforts last season boosted team owner Billy Ballew into the No. 3 spot in final series owner points. Ballew, who now counts wins in six straight seasons, figures to be a serious title contender again.

"Billy Ballew is a great part of this deal," said Busch following his victory. "He makes it happen for us. For Billy to keep carrying this deal like he has and keep giving us the opportunity to have fun; that means a lot."

Motocross Champ Carmichael Excels On Four Wheels

You might say Ricky Carmichael (No. 4 Monster Energy Drink Chevrolet) is a fast learner. But with a record 15 American Motorcycle Association motocross championships in hand -- plus a solid season of four-wheeled competition in the NASCAR Camping World Series East -- it's not surprising that Carmichael logged a top-10 finish in just his second truck race.

Carmichael, who qualified third for the San Bernardino County 200, finished eighth.

"It was an awesome run; he did a great job all weekend, qualifying and race," said his veteran crew chief, Billy Wilburn, who oversees the Kevin Harvick Inc. team. "To say that it was expected would be wrong.

"I would say before the year's out, you'll have yourself a Raybestos Rookie (race) winner."

Carmichael, whose next race is April 25 at Kansas Speedway, was pleased with his performance but agreed there's plenty of learning yet to be done.

"I'm super-pumped and I learned a lot," he said. "I wish we could have done better for (KHI) but personally, I'm happy."

Carmichael has a pair of aces in the hole -- Harvick and teammate Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet). He followed three-time series champion Hornaday into the top five at one point after Harvick radioed Carmichael to pick up the pace.

"I just feel comfortable around Ron," Carmichael said. "I didn't even know I was fifth so that was pretty neat. But I knew if I was up there (with him) I was going to be able to learn a lot."

In The Loop

Last season, Todd Bodine and Kyle Busch finished 1-2 at Daytona. The following week at Auto Club Speedway, Busch won and Bodine finished second.

The exact same thing happened in the first two races of this season.

But there's one major difference further down the running order. Defending champion Johnny Benson is way down the list.

After two races last season, Benson was third in points. Now, he's 19th.

The statistics tell the story:

At this point in 2008, Benson had a Driver Rating of 101.8. This year he has an 80.7.

His Average Running Position after two races was 7.6. This year it's 14.1.

Last year he had a series-best Pass Differential of plus-52 (passes minus times passed). This year it's plus-3.

Last year, 85% of the laps were spent in the top 15. This year it's down to 58%.

On the other hand, Busch has improbably improved. Last Saturday's perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 pushed his season-to-date rating to a series-leading 134.6. Additionally, he leads the series in Average Running Position (4.6), Pass Differential (plus-45) and Fastest Laps Run (38).

Etc.

Doug George added to his already lengthy NASCAR resume, becoming a first-time crew chief winner backing Kyle Busch. George previously competed in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series after winning NASCAR Camping World West Series and Southwest Series titles. He is the fourth series-winning crew chief also to have raced in trucks.

Chad McCumbee (No. 07 The GPSstore Chevrolet) turned in a record performance for SS Racing, finishing third in the San Bernardino County 200. The team's previous best, a fourth by now-crew chief and team manager Bobby Dotter, came in Martinsville Speedway's 2004 spring race.

Gabi Decarlo's (No. 90 Great Clips Toyota) series debut produced a top-20 finish (19th).

Call Kyle Busch "Mr. Perfection." After rolling up a perfect, 150.0 Driver Rating in the San Bernardino County 200, Busch came back with an identical effort in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Stater Bros. 300.

Circle Bar Racing recorded its 300th consecutive start in California -- a streak that began with the opening race of the 1997 season. The Tom Mitchell-owned team is the second to reach the 300 consecutive start plateau -- Roush Fenway Racing is the leader at 326 -- and third to participate in at least 300 races. Thorsport Racing is the next team to compete in 300 events. Last weekend's race was the Ohio-based team's 292nd.

T.J. Bell (No. 21 Home4theHolidays.org Toyota ranks among the top 10 (sixth) for the first time following a fifth-place finish at Auto Club Speedway.

Fitzpatrick Retains Raybestos Rookie Lead

J.R. Fitzpatrick (No. 7 TRG Chevrolet) failed to crack the top 20 at Auto Club Speedway but the top-10 bonus points he banked the previous week at Daytona helped keep the Canadian driver atop Raybestos Rookie Contender standings.

Two drivers involved in Daytona accidents bounced back in Southern California: Ricky Carmichael finished eighth with James Buescher (No. 10 International MAXXFORCE Diesel Ford) coming home in the 13th position.

Toyota's victory at Auto Club Speedway was the truck maker's third in a row, matching Dodge's 2001-2003 record at the track.

The order of finish among manufacturers was identical to that of the season opener, giving Toyota a six-point lead over rival Chevrolet. Ford and Dodge rank third and fourth, respectively.

Up Next

Atlanta Motor Speedway will host its only NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event on March 7. The 1.54-mile track hosted a single event in 2004 and two races in each of the following seasons.

Kyle Busch is the defending winner of the American Commercial Lines 200. He also won the race in 2005 along with the track's fall race in 2007.

Other spring winners expected to compete are Ron Hornaday Jr. ( 2005), Todd Bodine (2006) and Mike Skinner (2007).

Hornaday and Skinner finished second and third behind Busch a year ago with Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menard's Chevrolet) and Chad McCumbee rounding out the top five. Crafton ranks third in current standings; McCumbee, eighth.

Fast Facts

The Race: American Commercial Lines 200
The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway

The Date: Sat. March 7, 2009
The Time: 2 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 200.2 miles/130 laps
Track Layout: 1.54-mile oval

TV: Speed, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM. Listen locally TBA

2008 Winner: Kyle Busch
2008 Pole: Ron Hornaday Jr.

Schedule (times local):
Friday: Practice, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and 1:30-2:50 p.m.
Saturday: Qualifying, 9:35 a.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Bobby Dotter , T.J. Bell , Matt Crafton , Ricky Carmichael , Chad McCumbee , J.R. Fitzpatrick , James Buescher , Kyle Busch
Teams Germain Racing , Roush Fenway Racing