St. Louis: GM Racing preview

Madison, IL - Gateway International Raceway (GIR) is one of those tracks that Team Chevy Silverado drivers find very challenging due to the uniqueness of its configuration. Although the track is 1.25 mile, turns one and two are much more like ...

Madison, IL - Gateway International Raceway (GIR) is one of those tracks that Team Chevy Silverado drivers find very challenging due to the uniqueness of its configuration.

Although the track is 1.25 mile, turns one and two are much more like a short track, very tight. But, turns three and four are much wider and sweeping but there is an interesting sharp bend coming out of four on to the front stretch that has made for a lot of excitement in the nine NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races previously run at GIR.

Approaching race number 17 of the 25-race NCTS season, Ron Hornaday, Jr., No. 33 Camping World Silverado, remains embroiled in a tough battle to capture his third NCTS driver's championship. The all-time NCTS race winner with 32 victories is second in the standings, a mere 92 points out of the lead.

With three wins, eight top-five finishes and 15 top-10 runs this season, Hornaday, crew chief Rick Ren and the entire Kevin Harvick, Inc. (KHI) team are focused on continuing the march to capture the crown, which would be the first NASCAR major series title for KHI.

But GIR is a track where major success over the years has eluded Hornaday. In four previous starts, he has only one top-five finish, second in 1998.

"I haven't always had the best of luck at Gateway," said Hornaday. "But, I really do like the track. When I first started racing there I had to shift a lot, but now it's more about the brakes.

"I'm feeling pretty good about the odds this time. We are taking a truck that has finished twice each time it has been on the track, and those tracks both have similarities to Gateway. Two of my wins this year were at tracks that I had never won at before. I'd love to do my first burnout in victory lane at Gateway this weekend."

St. Louis native Kenny Wallace. No. 51 Flanders Provisions Co. Silverado fielded by Billy Ballew Motorsports, will return to the series after an absence of nearly nine years. Wallace last competed at Phoenix International Raceway in 1995.

"I am very grateful for Billy Ballew to ask me to drive his truck at a time when I was down and out," said Wallace. "Billy Ballew picked me up and to be able to drive this teams equipment in my hometown of St. Louis, Mo. Well it gets no better then that. I have some unfinished business with Mike (Wallace -Brother) at Gateway. He may have more starts there in a truck but I've had some good runs in the Busch car there and I look forward to this opportunity to get a good top-five run in our hometown."

Brendan Gaughan, No. 77 South Point Hotel Silverado, is the only active Silverado driver with a victory at GIR taking the checkered flag first in 2003. Coming off a strong showing that culminated in a second place finish at Bristol, Gaughan is charged up and ready to rumble at Gateway.

"The truck we are taking has been a good truck for us," said Gaughan. "We've had one top-10 finish (Mansfield) and two finishes where the truck was great, but we couldn't finish the deal like we needed to. We're going to St. Louis with a team that is ready for a win, so we're going to see if we can't rekindle some of that magic this team has had in the past with a truck that I know is capable of winning.

"It's the same tough St. Louis track. Turns one and two are tight and banked, and three and four are sweeping and flat, so it's hard to find just the right combination. When I won the race in 2003, I shifted on both straight-aways. I wish that we could still shift, but we can't. So, with the packages that Bryan Berry (crew chief), Mike Roos (shock specialist) and the guys have put together for me this year, I'm confident and I don't expect us not to be good in St. Louis."

Locked in a tight race for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year battle, Willie Allen, No. 13 ThorSport Silverado and Tim Sauter, No. 07 Lester Building Silverado are both looking to score their season-best finishes.

"I'm looking forward to racing at Gateway," said Allen. "It's a unique track with both ends being different. It's kind of hard to get a handle on both ends of the track, so you have to compromise a little. It's definitely a driver's track and a horsepower track. We're taking the same truck we ran at Atlanta and Kansas. We had some good finishes at those tracks so I'm excited about getting to Gateway."

"Gateway is a real challenging track to drive," said Sauter. "Even though it's a mile and a quarter, you need to race it more like a short-track. You use a lot of brakes in one and two and you need a strong motor to get you down the long straights. It's an easy place to use up your equipment.

"The key to going fast at Gateway is to get the truck to handle at both ends of the track, it's hard to get any momentum down the long straights if you can't carry any speed though the corners."

Brandon Miller will make another appearance in the No. 40 Key Motorsports Westerman Companies Silverado.

"I really believe that this should be my best race yet for Key Motorsports", said Miller, who in 2005 qualified fifth and finished sixth in a NASCAR Busch Series race for Richard Childress Racing at the Gateway International Raceway. "I've gotten really comfortable in the Key Motorsports Chevrolets and see my performance level improving with every lap, so I'm pretty confident heading into this race.

"Even though it's (Gateway International Raceway) a 1 ¼-mile race track it pretty much drives like a short track with really tight turns and a lot of braking, and that fits in really well with my driving style. I know that I'll have a good truck this weekend and can't wait to carry the Westerman Companies colors and logo to their best finish of the season yet."

J.R. Norris will be the driver of the No. 15 Flanders Beef Patties Silverado as the second Billy Ballew Motorsports entry.

"I am extremely excited with the opportunity that Billy Ballew has given to me," said Norris. "We have talked about this day for a long time and to have it all come together and to have a teammate like Kenny Wallace is a thrill. He has vast amounts of experience in St. Louis and I look to learn from him. I have to thank Flanders Beef Patties for coming onboard both the No. 15 and the No. 51 NASCAR Craftsman Series Trucks this weekend and I hope to bring home a good finish for Chris Huff, all his employees and customers."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Kevin Harvick , Kenny Wallace , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Tim Sauter , Brendan Gaughan , Brandon Miller , Willie Allen , J.R. Norris
Teams Richard Childress Racing