Offweek news of note 2006-08-30

* Raybestos Rookie Almirola learning ropes from series veterans * Roush Racing fuels Ford's bid for series manufacturer title DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2006) -- Florida native Aric Almirola (No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet) has his...

* Raybestos Rookie Almirola learning ropes from series veterans

* Roush Racing fuels Ford's bid for series manufacturer title

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 28, 2006) -- Florida native Aric Almirola (No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet) has his eye on an eventual seat in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.

Almirola, 22, believes his time in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will help him reach that goal -- as it did for Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Kevin Harvick.

"The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is perfect for guys like me to come in and learn from many of the veteran drivers who have raced in the NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series already," said Almirola, who landed his second front row start last week at Bristol Motor Speedway. "I feel like I learn a lot from those guys and I'm able to apply what I learn to (all) the races I run right now."

Almirola, part of Joe Gibbs Racing's driver development program, hopes to better last year's eighth-place finish -- his best in the series -- when he visits New Hampshire International Speedway on Sept. 16. He's logged a pair of top 10s in the season's first 17 races, ranks third in Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings and 18th in overall points.

The Tampa competitor knew the going would be tough from top-to-bottom but concedes that's just part of the learning process for someone who jumped from Late Models to one of NASCAR's three national touring series.

"The rookie class this year is really tough. The time I had in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series last year with the four starts I made was definitely a help," he said. "I don't think it gives me a big advantage over the other rookie contenders because most of them have more experience in heavier stock cars already."

Almirola expected progress to be slow especially after chatting with several of the veteran drivers who have competed in the series for many years.

"They have all said that five years ago you could have a bad (handling) truck and still run top 10 and nowadays you can have the same truck and you'll be lucky to run 20th," he said. "As far as trucks vs. cars, I feel like the trucks are more difficult to get a handle on because they have a longer wheelbase and are naturally tight.

"Compared to a car, you have to run a truck really loose to make it turn."

The Gibbs team has entered Almirola in five NASCAR Busch Series races. He finished 11th at Dover International Raceway in June.

"The truck races have been a big help ... especially the races that run on the same weekend as the Busch races," he said. "The Busch Series is definitely the next step in my career. I get to race with the majority of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup guys in the Busch Series and eventually, one day, my goal is to go NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing."

NEWS AND NOTES

Mark Martin's (No. 6 Scotts Ford) Aug. 23 victory at Bristol Motor Speedway marked the 41st time a Roush Racing truck has gone to Victory Lane in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. Martin, one of eight drivers to win in a Roush Ford F-150, captured the team's first trophy in September 1996 during the final weekend of competition at North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway.

Roush Racing continues to add to its lead in all-time truck owner victories and is four clear of its closest rival, Ultra Motorsports. Bobby Hamilton Racing, with 19 wins, is closest among active owners in the series.

The Jack Roush-owned team accounts for 54 percent of Ford's 76 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victories and has competed in 266 consecutive races, seven short of Jim Smith's series record.

Ford's sixth win of the season moves the truck maker to within five points of series manufacturer leader Toyota. Martin's victory ended Toyota's Tennessee win streak at five races.

ETC. ... Martin's fifth career victory -- and fourth of 2006 -- moved the 47-year-old veteran to 14th on the series career win list. ... Martin is the series' fifth different short track winner in as many races in 2006 and seventh in succession dating to Richmond International Raceway's event in September of last season. One short track race, the Oct. 21 Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway, remains on the schedule. ... David Starr (No. 11 Red Horse Racing Toyota) has been the season's most consistent short track driver with four of five finishes among the top five. Starr, who finished fifth at Bristol, was one-for-43 in top fives prior to his victory in April at Martinsville. ... Former ppc Racing crew chief Rick Gay joined Ted Musgrave's No. 9 Team ASE/Germain Toyota team in the same role prior to Bristol's O'Reilly 200 and backed the 2005 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion's run to a third-place finish -- Musgrave's best since April 2 when he was runnerup to teammate Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) at Gateway International Raceway. ... Bodine's second-place finish, his sixth of first or second, increased his championship lead to 154 points over Johnny Benson (No. 23 Exide Toyota), who was fourth. ... Bristol Motor Speedway continues to be inhospitable to rookie drivers. Raybestos Rookie of the Year leader Erik Darnell (No. 99 Roush Racing Ford) was the highest finishing freshman in 18th-place. ... Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 AES Chevrolet) and David Reutimann (No. 17 Team Tundra Toyota) scored top-10 finishes in Saturday's night's NASCAR Busch Series Food City 250. Hornaday's third-place finish was his best in the series since his 2004 victory at The Milwaukee Mile.

QUOTEBOOK

"If you talk about NASCAR's success today, you cannot go through an explanation without talking about its character. It is just part and parcel of it. Bobby Hamilton registers as a hardcore NASCAR character. He's worked hard, driven hard, he's played hard and he's done everything that speaks to the character of NASCAR that helps build the attitude around NASCAR." - NASCAR President Mike Helton on last week's recognition of the 2004 series champion's contributions to NASCAR, the racing industry and Bristol Motor Speedway.

IN THE LOOP

For Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota), the season-to-date Scoring Loop Data provides ample of evidence of what might have been. Skinner is 15th in current point standings despite being the No. 2 miles and lap leader in a season sabotaged by four DNFs.

Skinner, however, is second to championship leader Bodine in Driver Rating -- 102.5 vs. 108.2. He ranks Fastest Early in a Run, second in Laps in the Top 15 (2,371 of 2,877), third in number of Fastest Laps and third in Speed in the Turns.

One additional clue to the 1995 champion's 2006 woes: Skinner ranks No. 8 in Speed on Restarts and Speed Late in the Race.

FAST FACTS

What: New Hampshire 200 (Race 18 of 25).

Where: New Hampshire International Speedway.

When: 2:15 p.m. ET, Sept. 16.

Track layout: 1.058-mile flat paved oval.
Race length: 211.6 miles/200 laps.

Posted awards: $537,434.

TV: SPEED Channel, 1:30 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.

2005 winner: Rick Crawford.
2005 polesitter: Matt Crafton.

Top 10 drivers: 1.Todd Bodine 2,624. 2. Johnny Benson 2,470. 3. David Reutimann 2,394. 4. Ted Musgrave 2,380. 5. Rick Crawford 2,323. 6. David Starr 2,295. 7. Terry Cook 2,248. 8. Jack Sprague 2,246 9. Ron Hornaday Jr. 2,221.10. Mike Bliss 2,201.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday --Practice 10:15 a.m. a. m. -- 11:25 a.m. Rookie Practice 1:20 p.m. -- 1:50 p.m. Final Practice 2 p.m. --3 p.m. Saturday - Qualifying 9:30 a.m. Trucks impounded after qualifying.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , David Starr , Greg Biffle , Kurt Busch , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Jack Sprague , Terry Cook , Rick Crawford , Matt Crafton , Mike Bliss , David Reutimann , Jack Roush , Mike Helton , Aric Almirola , Erik Darnell , Jim Smith , Mark Martin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing