NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes - Off Week Almirola, Wallace Keep Wheels Turning At Ballew Motorsports Atlanta team owner Billy Ballew battled Kevin Harvick Inc. down to the season's final race in the battle for the 2009...
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes - Off Week
Almirola, Wallace Keep Wheels Turning At Ballew Motorsports
Atlanta team owner Billy Ballew battled Kevin Harvick Inc. down to the season's final race in the battle for the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Truck Owners' Championship -- largely on the strength of Kyle Busch's (No. 18 Toyota Tundra Toyota) seven victories.
When Busch left to form his own team, many figured Ballew would have a difficult time matching that performance.
So far that hasn't happened.
Drivers Aric Almirola (No. 51 Graceway Pharmaceuticals Toyota) and Steve Wallace (No. 15 Red Top Auto Auction Toyota) finished three-four in Saturday's E-Z-GO 200. Almirola jumped to fourth in series points while Ballew stands fifth in the owners' standings.
Almirola has finished second, third and third in his past six starts for the team. Wallace became the 25th driver to log a top-five finish in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut.
"I feel like we're one of the trucks that everyone knows they're going to have to race for the win," said Almirola. "I wouldn't say Atlanta was a confidence booster as much as it justified the confidence I had going into the season."
"It was phenomenal what we accomplished in Atlanta," said Ballew. "Kyle Busch is a tremendous driver. He's won everything you can at Atlanta and we ran toe-to-toe with him all race long.
"I think that shows that we're as strong or stronger than we've ever been."
One Champion Up, Two Others Down
Todd Bodine (No. 30 Toyota) is off to his best start in a couple of years, finishing fifth in Saturday's E-Z-GO 200 to become the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points leader.
"That's the key to any series, any points race," said Bodine, backing up a runner-up finish at Daytona. Bodine, the 2006 champion, last topped the standings after last year's season-opening race.
There's joy in the Germain Racing camp but Bodine added that two other former champions -- Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet) and Mike Skinner (No. 5 International Trucks/Monaco RV Toyota) -- have their backs to the wall after just two races.
Hornaday, involved in an early accident, finished 34th. Skinner also had problems but salvaged a 14th.
Skinner, the 1995 champion, heads to Martinsville Speedway later this month 17th in points. Hornaday, mired in a huge hole as he bids for a fifth championship, is 28th.
"I've come out of Daytona 38th before and it's a long, hard struggle to get back to the top," said Bodine. "Normally, you never get to the top. You get to the top five; that's about it."
Timothy Peters (No. 17 K&N Toyota) successfully backed up his Daytona victory. Peters finished seventh to trail Bodine by just four points. Considering Peters was the winner of Martinsville's fall race a year ago, his Red Horse Racing team no longer is flying below the radar as far as the championship is concerned.
Loop: Newcomers Likely To Get Schooled In Martinsville Debut
It'll be interesting to see how the likes of Austin Dillon, Jennifer Jo Cobb (No. 10 JJC Racing Ford) and Justin Lofton (No. 7 visitpits.com) react to their first race at the beating and banging style of the unique Martinsville Speedway.
Debuts at NASCAR's oldest track are a statistical mixed bag. Some are very good, most are pretty bad.
Todd Bodine started off his Martinsville career with four consecutive top-10 finishes. But Rick Crawford didn't crack the top 10 until his fifth try.
Ron Hornaday Jr.'s first trip to Martinsville came in the series' inaugural year of 1995, and resulted in a respectable 13th-place finish.
Of the active drivers, Mike Skinner's Martinsville career path is the most enviable. He finished second in his first race there in 1995 (Joe Ruttman won), and won his second race there a year later.
But what of the newcomers, those in the Loop Data era since 2005?
Ricky Carmichael finished 29th in this race last season, notching an Average Running Position of 24.8 and a Driver Rating of just 38.8.
Tayler Malsam enjoyed a much better debut outing, finishing 14th with an Average Running Position of 18.5, a Driver Rating of 67.6, and even turned a Fastest Lap Run.
James Buescher, now in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, had an outstanding first trip to Martinsville. He finished 11th with an Average Running Position of 14.0, a Driver Rating of 76.9 and 105 laps in the Top 15.
Skinner Rounds Up Charity $$
Mike Skinner's Fourth Annual Toyota Skinner Round Up for Charity will take place Thursday and Friday in Daytona Beach. The event has raised over a half million dollars for Volusia County charities in its three previous years.
The two-day affair includes a Friday night concert featuring blues star Stacy Mitchhart, a celebrity auction and Saturday golf tournament and poker tournament at Spruce Creek Country Club.
Among those appearing are four-time NASCAR Camping World Truck champion Ron Hornaday Jr., Rick Crawford, Steve Park, Michael Waltrip and American Idol's Bo Bice.
"It's our opportunity to give back to the community," said Skinner, a longtime Daytona resident with wife Angie.
Butch Hylton has been named crew chief of Kevin Harvick Inc.'s No. 2 Chevrolet being shared in 2010 by Harvick and Elliott Sadler. Hylton and Tony Stewart won last month's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona for KHI. Hylton succeeds Doug George, who moved to Ron Hornaday Jr.'s No. 33 Chevrolet at Atlanta.
Harvick's Atlanta victory was his third in as many starts. He won at Phoenix and Homestead- Miami Speedway to end the 2009 season. Sadler drove the truck at Daytona.
Busch didn't get a record-matching fifth victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway but his runner-up finish to Harvick was the best performance by a Kyle Busch Motorsports truck. "This proves we're out here to run good," said Busch.
It took Austin Dillon (No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) just four races to claim his first top-10 finish. Dillon was 10th in Atlanta and tops Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings.
The E-Z-GO 200 painted a familiar picture for manufacturers. Since the track's fall race of 2005, Chevrolet and Toyota have swapped victories in successive races. Chevrolet now has won six times at the 1.54-mile speedway but Toyota, based on its Daytona victory and recent second place, retains the manufacturers' championship lead by three points.
Up Next: Martinsville
After races on the series' two fastest tracks -- Daytona International Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway -- the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to its roots for the March 27 Kroger 250 at .526- mile Martinsville Speedway.
The race is the first of two hosted by the popular southern Virginia track -- one of just three tracks to have been on the schedule each year since the series began in 1995.
Kevin Harvick (No. 2 Chevrolet) is the defending winner of the Kroger 250.
Next Race: Kroger 250
The Place: Martinsville Speedway (.526-mile oval)
The Date: Saturday, March 27
The Time: 2 p.m. ET
Race Distance: 131.5 miles/250 laps
TV: SPEED, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM.
2009 Polesitter: Rick Crawford
2009 Winner: Kevin Harvick
Friday -- Practice, 10-11:20 a.m., 1:10-2 p.m. Qualifying, 4:40 p.m.