Phoenix: Series round 24 preview

* Bodine Inches Closer To Championship * Turner Motorsports Committed To Developing Young Talent *Bowyer Returns To NCWTS And Kevin Harvick Inc. Bodine Inches Closer To Championship, With Almirola and Sauter Two races remain in the quest for...

* Bodine Inches Closer To Championship
* Turner Motorsports Committed To Developing Young Talent
*Bowyer Returns To NCWTS And Kevin Harvick Inc.

Bodine Inches Closer To Championship, With Almirola and Sauter

Two races remain in the quest for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship.

The series title fight moves front stage and center to the land of the west at Phoenix International Raceway with three drivers still in the hunt for the title.

Todd Bodine (No. 30 Germain.com Toyota) maintains a 230-point lead over Aric Almirola (No. 51 Toyota) and a 304-point lead over Johnny Sauter (No. 13 Curb Records Chevrolet).

At first glance it would appear Bodine--with the second-largest lead in series history--has the driver's championship in the bag. If Bodine leaves Phoenix with a 195-point lead, he will clinch his second series championship. To guarantee that, Bodine needs to finish fourth, or fifth with at least one lap led, or sixth with the most laps led.

But Almirola and Sauter are not going down without a fight.

In the last 11 races, Almirola has scored 11 straight top-10 finishes and has outrun Bodine on four different occasions.

And Sauter has finished in the runner-up position three times since Pocono Raceway in July.

Despite Bodine finishing outside the top 10 on two different occasions in the last 11 races, he has found victory three times (Nashville Superspeedway, Darlington Raceway and Kentucky Speedway), leaving little room for the second and third-place contenders to make up ground.

"I think that just shows how good our guys are," said Bodine on his consistency this season. "I've said quite a few times, the first five races we struggled with making them drive good and then we went to work and figured it out and they've been driving great -- that's what allows you to keep that consistency."

Out of the three contenders, Bodine is the only one to have visited Victory Lane at Phoenix before, in 2005. In six starts, he has only finished outside the top-10 twice.

Turner Motorsports Still Committed To Developing Young Talent

It has been a year since Turner Motorsports first burst onto the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series scene as a relative unknown in the garage area.

However, the two-truck stable led by Texas native, Steve Turner, has proven that they are here to stay.

In their first full season of competition fielding trucks for Ricky Carmichael (No. 4 Monster Energy Chevrolet) and James Buescher (No. 31 Wolf Pack Rentals Chevrolet), Turner Motorsports has recorded eight top-five starting positions, along with nine top-five and 19 top-10 finishes in 25 races.

Turner announced Friday at Texas Motor Speedway that he will expand his truck series operation to three full-time teams next season and continue to develop young talent.

Carmichael and Buescher will return to their respective rides. The third team will feature a combination of both young and experienced drivers.

NASCAR Nationwide Series standouts Justin Allgaier and Jason Leffler, along with sprint car competitor Brad Sweet (No. 90 Great Clips Racing Chevrolet), will pilot the No. 32 Chevrolet Silverado entry in numerous truck series events next season.

"We have a great stable of both drivers and partners," said Turner on Friday. "This driver lineup shows Turner Motorsports' commitment to continuing to cultivate up-and-coming talent in NASCAR's top series. We all have high expectations for the future, including winning races and championships. We know that we have a lot of work ahead of us, but with dedication to the program, we can achieve our goals."

Bowyer Returns to NCWTS and KHI

It has been three years since Clint Bowyer raced in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

This Friday at Phoenix, he makes his return, driving the same Kevin Harvick Inc. No. 2 Chevrolet Silverado he did in 2007.

"I'm very excited to be stepping back behind the wheel for Kevin and DeLana [Harvick]," Bowyer said. "KHI has had a lot of success in the Truck Series in 2010 and I have no doubt that we can continue that success this weekend."

Bowyer ran four races in KHI's No. 2 truck in 2007 -- at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Dover (Del.) International Speedway, New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Bowyer's best finish that year was fifth in Atlanta.

Bowyer, who has seven career series starts, has one NCWTS win -- the November 2006 race at Texas Motor Speedway. He also raced in Martinsville and Loudon that season.

Though he's no stranger to Phoenix International Raceway, Friday's race will be Bowyer's first NCWTS race at the track. He has one NASCAR Nationwide Series win and one pole there in 2007, but has yet to score a win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in Phoenix. Still, he has exhibited strong performances at PIR in the NSCS, earning two top-five and four top-10 finishes.

KHI's No. 2 truck has four wins this season, three with Kevin Harvick behind the wheel and one with Elliott Sadler. Kevin Harvick is the defending race winner for the Lucas Oil 150, but is not running in Friday's race.

Crafton Displays Veteran Calm

Take a look at Matt Crafton's season, and you'll see the pattern of a veteran.

There was no panic when he finished outside the top 20 in two of the first five races. He kept his calm when he finished outside the top 10 in five of the first nine. The ninth race, in Michigan, Crafton finished 27th, dropping him to 10th in the points. Things looked dismal.

But Crafton displayed that veteran calm, quickly.

Since then, he has had 14 consecutive top-10 finishes, and is now fourth in points.

Statistically, it's like Crafton was two different drivers this season.

Over the first nine races, his stats looked like this: an average finish of 14.8, a Driver Rating of 89.8, an Average Running Position of 11.2, 28 Fastest Laps Run and a Pass Differential of plus-7.

Over the last 14: an average finish of 5.7, a Driver Rating of 101.7, an Average Running Position of 8.0, 83 Fastest Laps Run and a Pass Differential of plus-150.

There's no reason to think that won't continue. Crafton is strong at Phoenix, finishing in the top 10 in six of his nine starts at the one-mile track. Since the inception of Loop Data in 2010, Crafton has a Driver Rating of 98.9 and an Average Running Position of 8.4 at Phoenix.

Toyota Captures Fifth Consecutive Manufacturers' Championship

Kyle Busch's victory at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday night and his seventh NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win this season provided Toyota Motorsports with its fifth straight manufacturers' title.

Toyota has won the manufacturers' championship each year since 2006, in addition to the driver's championship with Todd Bodine (2006) and Johnny Benson Jr. (2008).

"To earn a fifth consecutive manufacturers' championship is an accomplishment we are very proud of, and is a testament to the commitment Toyota has -- now and in the future -- to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and to our race teams participating in the series," said Ed Laukes, Toyota's corporate motorsports marketing manager. "We have been fortunate to partner ourselves with championship-caliber teams and exceptional drivers. Our Tundra teams continue to prove their excellence on the track."

With two races remaining in the 2010 season, Toyota is on track to win the driver's championship yet again with Bodine, who currently leads the series standings over Toyota Tundra driver Aric Almirola, by 230 points.

Awards Banquet

The 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series/ NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Awards Banquet is set for Monday, Nov. 22 at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel.

This is the second year the two series have been combined and will celebrate the driver and owner champions together. Drivers in both series who finish in positions second-fifth in the standings also will be featured on stage, while those drivers in positions sixth-10th also will be recognized for their accomplishments.

SPEED personalities Rick Allen and Krista Voda will host the banquet for the second consecutive year. Additionally, comedian Tom Papa, who was personally chosen by Jerry Seinfeld to host the popular NBC show "The Marriage Ref" and has toured with Seinfeld for nearly a decade, will entertain the crowd. The banquet will air on SPEED on Friday, Dec. 3 from 7-9 p.m. ET as a lead-in to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards Banquet broadcast, also on SPEED.

NCWTS, Etc.

Phoenix International Raceway has hosted the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 19 times in the past. Kevin Harvick, who is not slated to run in Friday night's event, leads all drivers with four victories.

Despite the troubles that have plagued Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 E-Z-Go Chevrolet) this season, he is still fourth among lap leaders. Hornaday has led 392 laps in 2010, placing him behind Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota Tundra Z-Line Toyota), Kevin Harvick and current Truck Series points leader Todd Bodine (No. 30 Germain.com Toyota). Hornaday has led over 10 percent of the total laps completed in 2010.

The Phoenix polesitter has won a record five times, most recently in 2006 (Johnny Benson). The furthest back a winner has started was 16th, in 1995 (Mike Skinner).

Current series standings leader Todd Bodine has an overall finishing average of ninth-place this season. In six races at Phoenix International Raceway, Bodine has finished in the top 10 on four occasions.

Greg Pursley (No. 62 Gene Price Motorsports / Star Nursery) will make his third series start in Phoenix. Pursley, a K&N Pro Series West standout, scored his first top-10 finish in his series debut.

Steve Park (No. 46 VanDyk Boiler Corp. & Bollengraaf Toyota) returns to the series for the third time this season at Phoenix. Park, who has 64 starts in the series, has one NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory -- Autoclub Speedway in 2005.

Tim George Jr. (No. 22 RCR Development Chevrolet) will be making his second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway for Richard Childress Racing. George made his series debut last season in this particular race.

With five days remaining, more than 70,000 votes have been cast for the 2010 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series most popular balloting. Fans can visit www.nascar.com and vote for their favorite driver on the NCWTS page.

Fans also may write in their favorite driver who is not among the nominees by sending an e-mail to fanfeedback@nascar.com to submit their write-in vote. Voting ends this Friday.

The winner will be announced at the NCWTS postseason banquet. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series awards will again take place in South Florida at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel on Monday, Nov. 22.

Up Next: Homestead-Miami Speedway

Homestead-Miami Speedway marks the final race of the 2010 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season. The Ford 200 on Friday, Nov. 19, will be the 15th time the track has hosted the series.

The 1.5-mile track has hosted the series once each season since 1996 and produced 13 different winners. Series standings leader Todd Bodine (No. 30 Germain.com Toyota) remains the only driver to visit Victory Lane twice (2005 and 2008).

Kevin Harvick is the defending winner of the Ford 200, but is not expected to compete in the event.

Fast Facts

The Race: Lucas Oil 150
The Place: Phoenix International Raceway (1-mile oval)

The Date: Friday, Nov. 12
The Time: 8 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 150 laps/150 miles

TV: SPEED, 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS NASCAR Radio Channel 128 (Local: KGME-AM 910)

2009 Polesitter: Johnny Sauter
2009 Winner: Kevin Harvick

Pre-Race Day Local Schedule (All times PT):
Thursday: Practice, 4-5 p.m. and 5:30-6:30 p.m.;
Friday: Qualifying, 2:30 p.m.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Todd Bodine , Steve Park , Jason Leffler , Mike Skinner , Kevin Harvick , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Matt Crafton , Johnny Sauter , Greg Pursley , Clint Bowyer , Elliott Sadler , Justin Allgaier , Aric Almirola , Tim George Jr. , James Buescher , Brad Sweet , Kyle Busch
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Turner Motorsport