Phoenix: GM Racing preview

Phoenix - (November 6, 2007) - Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) has always been a favorite track for competitors in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS). The uniquely shaped one-mile track in the desert that sits on the southwest fringes of...

Phoenix - (November 6, 2007) - Phoenix International Raceway (PIR) has always been a favorite track for competitors in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS). The uniquely shaped one-mile track in the desert that sits on the southwest fringes of metropolitan Phoenix has been on the NCTS schedule since the 1995 inaugural season. Chevrolet has a long, successful history with PIR and the track carries a strong Chevy presence.

Virtually every year, the battle for the NCTS championship has been played out at PIR in front of the thousands of fans that have strong ties to the NCTS, PIR and the drivers who have molded the series.

With the championship fight raging and a great competition in progress for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year (RROY) title between Willie Allen, No. 13 National Pork Board/Nashville Music City Racing Silverado and Tim Sauter, No. 07 Lester Buildings Silverado, the 150-lap/150-mile Casino Arizona 150 has all the makings of another history-making, crowd-pleasing event.

This year, the seesaw championship battle that Ron Hornaday, Jr., No. 33 Camping World Silverado, is engaged, campaigning to capture his third NCTS championship, takes center stage at PIR, a track that Hornaday has captured two NCTS victories in previous years. In fact, although a native of Palmdale, Calif, Hornaday considers PIR his home turf because of the laps and victories he has on his resume from his years of competition in NASCAR's Southwest and West touring divisions prior to joining the Silverado contingent as a full-time competitor in 1995.

Hornaday will be making his 13th start at PIR in the NCTS on Friday night, the 24th race of the 25-race season. In his previous 12 races at the track, he has scored two wins (1999, 1998), seven top-five and 10 top-ten finishes. He has also completed every lap in his 12 previous starts at PIR and has led 133 laps.

"I am really looking forward to racing out in Phoenix," said Hornaday. "I have two wins at Phoenix International Raceway and I like that track a lot.

"We are taking the truck that we won with at New Hampshire and it is a good truck. Rick Ren and all the guys on the Camping World team have put a lot of hard work into that truck to get it ready for this week."

Hornaday's Kevin Harvick, Inc. teammate at PIR will be team owner, Kevin Harvick in the No. 2 Camping World Silverado. Just like his full-time driver, Harvick has many laps around PIR and two NCTS wins to his credit. It will be Harvick's fourth NCTS start in 2007 behind the wheel of his KHI Silverado. The Bakersfield, Calif native will have a busy weekend, competing in all three major NASCAR series events at PIR.

"I am really excited about racing in the truck series at Phoenix this week", said Harvick. "I won there back in 2002 and 2003 driving KHI trucks. 2002 was the first win for KHI and for me in the Truck Series so it is definitely a special place for me.

"I am going to be driving a new truck at Phoenix. It has never been on the track, but I know that all those guys in the shop will have it dialed in for me."

Currently leading the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings, Allen is heading to PIR determined to stay in the top spot. Coming off a strong finish at Texas, Allen and his ThorSport Racing team are ready for the rumble in the desert.

"We had a great run at Texas," said Allen. "Runs like that are good for the morale and helps build momentum for the entire team.

"This will be my second trip to Phoenix. Last year we had a mechanical problem, but during practice and qualifying, I was starting to get pretty comfortable with the track. It is different than any other one-mile track we run on and it is fun as a driver to race on a challenging race track. We are focused on keeping our lead in the RROY standings, but it is a tight race now so we just have to keep doing what we have been doing, racing every lap and getting great finishes."

Sauter, coming off his first top-10 finish of the season at Texas, has his eye on the ROY prize as well: "We lost our primary short-track truck at Martinsville, the one I liked to drive so much. We're going to run the sister truck to it at Phoenix. All the Green Light Racing guys spent a lot of time working on this truck to make it the same as the truck we lost. With a little racing luck, we should have a shot at another top-ten."

Matt Crafton, No. 88 Menards Silverado, continues to be Mr. Consistent in the NCTS after scoring another solid top-10 run at Texas. Looking to Phoenix, Crafton is determined to move the peg on the meter up to top-five in the finishing order. With two-top fives (including a third place finish in 2004) and three top-10 finishes in the last three PIR NCTS races, Crafton and his ThorSport Racing crew have a good chance of getting it done.

"Phoenix is a track that is almost like home to me," said Crafton, another California native. "I have run a lot of laps on that place in late models, tour cars and Silverado trucks. I am comfortable with the track and know what it takes to be fast there. I am really looking forward to this race and with how well we have run there in the past, I believe we can bring home another solid top-five as well as be a contender for the win."

As if running all three premier NASCAR divisions at PIR isn't enough, Kyle Busch, No. 51 Flanders Beef Patties Silverado, will take his Billy Ballew Motorsports (BBM) crew chief Richie Wauters and some of the other BBMS team to the Annual Fall Classic Presented By Bank Of America this weekend at the Bullring at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Busch will drive the No. 51 Super Late Model Saturday night after the NASCAR Busch Series race in Phoenix. The team will be going back and forth between Vegas and Phoenix for practice, qualifying and the race.

"We had a dominant truck last week in Texas until the engine blew," said Busch. "It makes it disappointing because these guys work so hard on these trucks week in and week out. I'd like to put Flanders Beef Patties in Victory Lane before the season is over and hope to do it this weekend in Phoenix. I enjoy Phoenix but setup is key to be able to get the car to turn and if you can get it to turn and hopefully being able to get it to drive up off the corner straight and not sideways. I've had some good runs in the truck and in the Cup and Busch cars at Phoenix so I'm hoping to give Billy Ballew another victory this weekend."

Teaming with Busch in the second BBM entry is Andrew Myers, No. 15 NEO Synthetics Chevrolet Silverado. Myers will be making his first NCTS start, but had posted victories in the NASCAR Grand National Division, West Series at both Phoenix (two) and Irwindale (one). "I'm really excited about making my first start in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this weekend with Billy Ballew Motorsports," Myers said. "I spent last week with the team where we went to Caraway to make a few laps and in Texas for the race. I'm a hands on person so it was a great way for me to get to know the truck and the guys on the team. I've had two wins at PIR in the Grand National Series and am pretty comfortable with the track itself. Phoenix is known for the tight corners and being able to get the vehicle to turn. It should be fun experiencing it in a race truck. Doug George, JR Norris and the guys on this team including Richie Wauters have been very helpful with preparation for this debut. I'm hoping to make a few laps behind Kyle to see his line since he's had success at PIR as well." Riding the momentum of a strong runner-up finish at Texas, Brendan Gaughan and the No. 77 South Point Hotel Silverado, are on a mission to get to the top-10 in NCTS points.

"I've just never had a great finish there," said Gaughan of PIR. "It is a track that I like a lot. In the days of the Winston West Series, we never did really badly there. I broke my shoulder blade in a wreck in 2001, but we always had decent runs.

"I think it is a driver's style race track. The flat three and four, the semi-banked one and two. They moved that wall out of two so it is a whole lot more fun to drive, but I just haven't put together a great run there yet. I don't know why, and now's the time to do it. There's no better time like the present to change that. We have a lot on the line these next two races. Phoenix is one of those tracks that have bits and pieces of other tracks we go to. I can see similarities to St. Louis or Milwaukee or maybe even Richmond, but it's its own place. It's a very unique track as far as both corners. It's a very fun place to race."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Matt Crafton , Tim Sauter , Willie Allen , Andrew Myers , Kyle Busch