St. Louis: Series round 11 preview

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes -- Gateway Champions Shine At Gateway International Raceway Todd Bodine (No. 30 Germain.com Toyota) believes it's coincidental that experience appears to be the key at Gateway International ...

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes -- Gateway

Champions Shine At Gateway International Raceway

Todd Bodine (No. 30 Germain.com Toyota) believes it's coincidental that experience appears to be the key at Gateway International Raceway, where a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series-record seven champions have won in 12 races at the 1.25-mile track in suburban St. Louis.

"Anybody can hit on that (special) setup, haul the mail and run up front," said Bodine, the 2006 series champion and current points leader.

Anybody can -- but anybody doesn't.

There have been no first-time winners at Gateway. No Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender has won a race there.

The only double winner is Ted Musgrave, who led a whopping 158 of 160 laps of the 2006 event -- the year he and series pioneer-owner Jim Smith won the championship.

Often as not, the dominant truck hasn't won at Gateway.

A year ago, Mike Skinner (No. 5 Exide Toyota) was a surprised winner after some late-race fireworks that saw a succession of drivers abdicate the lead in a series of bizarre, late-race incidents.

"We won with a fourth-place truck and at the end of the day, when the smoke cleared, the No. 5 was in Victory Lane," Skinner said. "I kept asking myself, 'How did this happen?' But I'll take it."

David Starr (No. 81 Randy Moss Motorsports Toyota) is another driver who won at Gateway when other drivers' ambitions overcame common sense. Starr led only the final lap in 2004 in the last of three green-white-checker attempts.

"I was running fifth and I thought I'd finish third at best," said Starr, who executed a bump-and-run maneuver with less than a lap to go to claim the victory.

Gateway, with its tight turns and relatively flat configuration, requires a lot of braking over the course of 160 laps. By the time a driver is ready to make a final charge, those brakes may not be able to sufficiently slow a 3,400-pound truck.

"It invites you to go deeper and deeper and makes for an exciting (end of the race) when the guy who goes in too deep knocks out the guy who is running second," Starr said.

Still, he agrees with Bodine -- it's a great feeling to have the perfect truck. It's not something that happens frequently. The Houston driver, who made his 250th start a week ago at Iowa Speedway, remembers having that special setup when he won his first race in Las Vegas in 2002.

"It doesn't happen often," Starr said. "When it does, it's a feeling you can't describe. It's just awesome."

More Than A Decade Later, NCWTS Still Going Strong In Midwest

"In my opinion, NASCAR has some of its most loyal and vocal fans in the Midwest. That's not to diminish the fan base in my native Southeast but we've proved, year-in and year-out, that NASCAR truly is a major sport with a national following that transcends any single region.

"We saw great crowds last weekend in Iowa, where families -- especially those with children -- came to cheer the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. This week we can expect the same thing as the series moves south to Gateway International Raceway. We've been a fixture at the 1.25-mile track over more than a decade and we've provided a record book of thrills for the Illinois-Missouri fans.

"There will be a large, pre-race autograph session on pit road. That's always been a highlight of the weekend.

"And this year, we'll be there with the NASCAR Nationwide Series as the first half of a huge NASCAR doubleheader that rolls on to Indianapolis a week later.

"Gateway traditionally has been a track where veterans excel, however, this year we anticipate a larger than usual field with many drivers new or nominally new to NASCAR Camping World Truck competition.

"The track is a good one for those who have come to the series recently and who are moving up the ladder, so to speak, on their way to racing on the higher speed tracks like Talladega Superspeedway, which we'll visit in October.

"Gateway is a meld of short-track turns and high-speed straightaways where both speed and handling will challenge any driver's talents. Doing well at Gateway is a key to building a young driver's resume and proof he or she has the talent to become a NASCAR star."

- Wayne Auton, Series Director

Huge Win At Iowa For Dillon And RCR Team

In 258 NASCAR starts, Granddad -- famed Sprint Cup Series owner Richard Childress -- couldn't do it. Neither could Dad -- RCR General Manager Mike Dillon -- in 154 starts.

But it only took Austin Dillon (No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) 12 NASCAR Camping World Series starts to earn his first NASCAR national series victory.

Dillon led 187 laps from the pole Sunday at Iowa Speedway to win both his and the Childress family's first race. He became the second youngest winner in series history, adding his name to the short list of winners under the age of 21.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself to win," Dillon said. "Luckily, we came through and had a dominating performance."

During the off season, RCR announced that he would drive the famed black No. 3 Chevrolet with Bass Pro Shops adorning the hood. A natural fit for the young outdoors enthusiast.

"It's so awesome to see that number running well again," Dillon said. "To see the No. 3 when you're leaving the track, it was on top of the board. That was cool for me and my grandfather."

After a less than stellar start to the 2010 season -- finishing outside the top 10 five times -- Dillon said he earned his rookie stripes. The team, led by crew chief Danny Stockman, found something in Texas Motor Speedway and haven't slowed down.

Dillon earned his first career pole in June and his first career top-five finish. Since then he has started from the pole and finished in the top five in every race on the schedule.

In case you're counting, that's three consecutive poles and three consecutive top-five finishes for the 20-year-old.

"You know, I was at the shop last week," Dillon said. "The sign out front, we put different stuff up top of the sign. I was looking at it. It said, 'Life is good.' I think that represents us right now as good as anything."

Germain Racing, Kyle Busch Motorsports Battle For Owner Points

There's another battle in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and it's getting white hot.

That's the owner points, where the top of the standings is practically deadlocked. Steve Germain's No. 30 Toyota is first, but only 10 points ahead of Kyle Busch's No. 18 Toyota. Behind them is DeLana Harvick's No. 2 Chevrolet (45 points out of first) and Billy Ballew's No. 51 Toyota (88 points back).

It's a title hunt worth watching, especially with the interesting Kyle Busch-Brian Ickler rotation in that No. 18 ride.

This weekend, Ickler will pilot the successful machine. He had a decent run at Gateway last year, finishing 15th. In that event, Ickler had a Driver Rating of 54.0, an Average Running Position of 18.9, a Pass Differential (passes minus times passed) of plus-five. To keep up with Todd Bodine, Ickler must improve in one key stat this weekend: Laps in the Top 15. Last year, he only ran seven of the 160 laps in the top 15.

Bodine could take advantage of the inexperienced Ickler and put some distance in the owner points standings. Bodine has finished in the top five in three of the last four races at Gateway.

Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Bodine has a Driver Rating of 109.1, an Average Running Position of 7.5, 55 Fastest Laps Run, a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 88.0% and a Pass Differential of plus-74.

Germain and Harvick -- Delana's the defending owner champion -- both have wins at Gateway.

NCWTS, ETC

Sprint Cup Drivers Go Trucking

Three NASCAR Sprint Cup regulars will climb back behind the wheel of a truck Friday at Gateway. Series owner Kevin Harvick (No. 2 STUBB'S BBQ Sauce Chevrolet) will join Max Papis (No. 9 Geico Toyota) and Brad Keselowski (No. 129 Miller Lite Dodge) on the grid.

Harvick and Papis have made three previous starts this season. Keselowski has two. Harvick leads the way with two series victories (Atlanta and Martinsville) in 2010.

Brad Sweet Returns To The NCWTS

Brad Sweet (No. 90 Great Clips Toyota) returns to the series after skipping last week's race to score a victory in his sprint car. Sweet is no stranger to the mid-west area having raced for Kasey Kahne Racing's World of Outlaws team since 2007.

Sweet has made three previous starts this season and scored his career-best finish (12th) at Atlanta.

Trucks Abound At Gateway

A season-high 44 trucks are entered in this week's CampingWorld.com 200.

Daytona in February was the previous season high, with 42. The NCWTS starts 36 race trucks in each event.

Too Tough To Tame 200

Tickets for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series' return to Darlington Raceway are now on sale. The Too Tough To Tame 200 on Saturday, August 14 will be the first series race at the South Carolina track since 2004. Tickets are $25 for adults. Children are admitted free.

Harvick, Hornaday Play Ball

Ron Hornaday (No. 33 Chevrolet) and Kevin Harvick (No. 2 Chevrolet) will take part in Ollie's Eastern All-Star Game this Wednesday in Harrisburg, Pa. Harvick will throw out the first pitch.

Home Track Special For Mittler

most familiar. At least Mike Mittler hopes so -- as he prepares for this week's trip to his home track, Gateway International Raceway. Mittler's No. 63 Mittler Brothers Machine and Tool Ford, driven by Jack Smith, failed to qualify for last year's event. To make matters worse, a sister truck also missed the show. If Mittler appears fired up this time around, the reasons are obvious. "We have been looking forward to this race since missing it last year," he said. Mittler runs a limited schedule but is the only owner to have fielded an entry in all 16 seasons of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Mittler is pleased with 2010 so far. "We feel we have turned the corner with a 14th-place run at Kansas and a 15th at Texas and with the new truck, the team is focused on a top-10 run," said Mittler, whose shop is located a few minutes west of St. Louis on Interstate 70. "Jack Smith will return as driver and we feel his experience will help us attain our goal of a top 10." The team has competed in 11 Gateway races with a best finish of 15th in 2000 with Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray. This year's entry is dedicated to the fans. "We have been promoting a hometown sponsorship program where people sent in $20 and we put their names on the truck," said Mittler. "We want to run good for all our hometown fans. I would also like to recognize all the volunteer help that has been part of the team and made all the (16) years possible."

Fast Facts

Next Race: CampingWorld.com 200
The Place: Gateway International Raceway (1.25-mile oval)

The Date: Friday, July 16
The Time: 9 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 162 laps /200 miles

TV: SPEED, 8:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS NASCAR Radio (Listen locally on KFNS-FM 100.7)

2009 Polesitter: Colin Braun
2009 Winner: Mike Skinner

Schedule (All times CT):
Friday -- Practice, 11 a.m. -- 12:15 p.m. and 12:45-2 p.m. Qualifying -- 5:30 p.m.

-source: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , David Starr , Kevin Harvick , Max Papis , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Colin Braun , Jamie McMurray , Kasey Kahne , Jim Smith , DeLana Harvick , Brian Ickler , Brad Sweet , Austin Dillon , Jack Smith , Kyle Busch
Teams Germain Racing , Kyle Busch Motorsports