Talladega: Round 20 preview

*Crawford Has Solution If Talladega Finish Repeats *Scoring Loop Stats Give Bodine Significant Edge *Benson, Hornaday, Crafton Discuss Points Strategies This Year's Mountain Dew 250 Will Be Crawford's 'Do Over' DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 29,...

*Crawford Has Solution If Talladega Finish Repeats
*Scoring Loop Stats Give Bodine Significant Edge
*Benson, Hornaday, Crafton Discuss Points Strategies

This Year's Mountain Dew 250 Will Be Crawford's 'Do Over'

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 29, 2008) -- Rick Crawford's (No. 14 Power Stroke Diesel/Circle Bar Ford) not one to dwell on the past but if he could have a "mulligan" on last year's Mountain Dew 250, the outcome might have been different.

Crawford's last-lap challenge to Talladega winner Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) came up .014 seconds -- a fender length -- short.

But yesterday has come and gone and Crawford, who won a similarly close decision at Daytona International Speedway in 2003, is looking forward.

"I'll do something different this year," he said. "I've re-run that last lap a thousand times. I (now) know what to do if that situation comes about again to win the race."

Crawford is a five-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series winner -- but not since August 2006. So Talladega in his native state would be a fine place to end a 54-race winless streak.

"Let's talk about winning but you may not be able to fulfill that opportunity so let's not be dejected about it (if it doesn't happen)," said Crawford.

"Just being able to participate at a race track of (Talladega's) size and magnitude with that history means enough to me."

Crawford, ranked sixth, still has a shot at the championship but counting points isn't something he'll be doing on Saturday.

"The points will take care of themselves," he said. "I'm going to Talladega to win."

Age Is More Than A Number On NASCAR's 'Super' Tracks

Consider this as more proof why Carl Edwards stands among the top echelon of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers and well could win this year's championship.

Edwards, 24 when he won Daytona International Speedway's 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series opener, is the only driver under the age of 40 to win a series race at Daytona or Talladega Superspeedway.

The next youngest winner is Mike Wallace (No. 9 Germain Racing Toyota), a 40-year-old in 2000 when the series made its debut at Daytona. Wallace will compete this week as teammate to Bodine.

Mark Martin won Talladega's inaugural Mountain Dew 250 in 2006 at the age of 47 following up his February victory in Daytona.

Daytona's winners also include Joe Ruttman, 56 and the late Bobby Hamilton, 47.

Last year's Mountain Dew 250 winner, Bodine, was relatively young by that standard at age 43. He opened 2008 with a Daytona victory.

Jack Sprague (No. 2 American Commercial Lines Chevrolet) has competed in trucks and cars at Daytona and Talladega for nearly a decade. He finally won Daytona's race in 2007 as a 42-year-old.

"I think the key to winning at places like Talladega and Daytona is a combination of experience, discipline and good equipment," said Sprague. "The veteran drivers in this series have had that and I think as a result, they have been the ones in Victory Lane at the end of the day."

Director's Take: Wayne's Words

"Talladega and Daytona are similar tracks in some ways but in others are quite different.

"Both feature high-speed competition with big packs of trucks and the likelihood of a photo finish with two, three or even four trucks side-by-side.

"Talladega is unlike Daytona in that it's very wide and much smoother. The start/finish stripe also is beyond the dogleg and makes the strategy for a last-lap draft very different. You may see a couple of lead changes between Turn 4 and the checkered flag.

"Horsepower is the key at Talladega; along with a very aerodynamic body. Crews will look for any advantage they can find since 1/16th of an inch in the right place can mean 2/10ths of a second on the clock. They definitely push the envelope.

"That's why the inspection process is so important to keep all the teams on a level playing field. NASCAR hands out the rear spring and shocks and also limits horsepower to a greater degree than at the other tracks on the schedule.

"The tapered spacer used at Talladega and Daytona is 1/16th of an inch less than approved elsewhere.

"Past experience has shown that the package works. Last year's Mountain Dew 250 ended with three trucks taking the checkered flag separated by less than a 10th of a second. It doesn't get much better than that!" -- Wayne Auton, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director

Talladega Superspeedway joined the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2006. The event was held from 1995-2005 at Richmond International Raceway. Mark Martin was the inaugural winner during a season in which the Arkansas veteran won a series-leading six races.

In The Loop:

On paper, Todd Bodine should win this race by about eight laps. Of course, no race is run on paper, and this is the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series we're talking about -- where unpredictability is the norm.

Nonetheless, Bodine is strong at the two biggest tracks on which the series runs, winning at Daytona earlier this season and Talladega a year ago.

Over the two Talladega races the series has run, Bodine has a win and a fourth-place finish. He has a combined Driver Rating of 125.2, an Average Running Position of 3.6, 183 Laps in the Top 15 (97.3%) and 51 laps led. All those numbers are best on the series.

His combined numbers at Daytona and Talladega (5.16 miles worth of terrain) are likewise impressive -- and trounce his competitors.

At the two tracks since 2005, Bodine has a combined Driver Rating of 121.5, an Average Running Position of 4.3 and has run 95.6% of the laps among the top 15. All those are also best in the series.

In other words, series leaders Johnny Benson and Ron Hornaday Jr. -- who have combined to win eight of the last 11 races -- will have their work cut out for them if they want to make it nine of 12.

Their stats are solid, though. Benson has a Driver Rating of 104.2 and an Average Running Position of 8.1. Hornaday has a Driver Rating of 99.7 and an Average Running Position of 10.6.

Manufacturers' Battle: Chevrolet Winless On 'Big' Tracks

Maybe this will be the week.

As in Chevrolet breaking into the win column for the first time on one of NASCAR's two "super" tracks. Dodge, Ford and Toyota have at least two victories apiece at Daytona and Talladega. Ford is best at the two facilities with five wins in 11 races, including one at Talladega.

The best-finishing Chevrolet (Willie Allen) was sixth in last year's Mountain Dew 250. Chad McCumbee (No. 8 MRD Construction Chevrolet) was the truck maker's highest placed entry -- seventh -- in the 2008 season opener at Daytona.

Trailing leader and defending Mountain Dew 250 winner Toyota by nine points, Chevrolet is challenged to close the deficit this week. A first Talladega win thus would be doubly sweet.

Benson On Talladega: 'Anything Can Happen And Happen Fast'

No driver will win the 2008 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship at Talladega Superspeedway.

But one or more contenders could see their title hopes disappear as the difference between first and 36th could be as many as 140 points.

Competitors agree winning the Mountain Dew 250 would be great. They would add that surviving with their trucks intact is the next best thing.

"Talladega is your typical superspeedway where anything can happen and happens fast," said Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota), whose championship lead is a precarious one point over Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet).

"We just have keep out of the big wreck and be there at the end of the race."

Benson was third in last year's blanket finish and will be looking to hook up at the finish with Bill Davis Racing teammate Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota).

Hornaday, seventh in 2007, has his gaze firmly fixed on NASCAR Craftsman Truck history. He's bidding to become its first four-time and back-to-back champion and NASCAR's oldest national series titleholder at age 50.

If Hornaday leads at least one lap in Saturday's race, he will have led at every track on the current schedule. Skinner is the only other driver to accomplish the feat.

"Last year going into Talladega, I would say we were more on the conservative side. We were only three points behind Skinner and we just needed to make it out of Talladega with a good, solid finish and not try too hard and let one little mistake cause us to lose points," said Hornaday. "We need to have the same mindset this year."

Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet) isn't wishing anyone bad luck but he needs help to further reduce a 164-point deficit.

"At tracks like Daytona and Talladega, so much of it is good fortune, pure and simple," said the third-place driver. "It's about getting the right break at the right time."

Etc. & Quotable:

Less Than A Second ... Eight races at Daytona and Talladega have produced a total margin of victory of .858 seconds. Three others finished under caution. Last year's Talladega finish ranks sixth-closest in series history and arguably tightest involving three trucks.

On A Roll ... Todd Bodine has won race No. 20 in three of the past four seasons: Talladega (2007), Las Vegas (2005) and Auto Club (2004). This year's Mountain Dew 250 is -- race No. 20. Bodine is the only one of four Daytona-Talladega winners with a 2008 victory expected to compete.

Logano To Debut ... Joey Logano will make his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck start at Talladega behind the wheel of Jim Harris' No. 59 Team ASE/Harris Trucking Toyota.

Odds Good For Andretti ... John Andretti (No. 15 Hyprene-Ergon Toyota) has momentum finishing fourth in Las Vegas. He also has 21 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts at Talladega with third and fourth-place performances for Cale Yarborough in 1997. He also won the pole for that year's spring race. As an aside, sponsor Ergon supplied the asphalt for Talladega's repaving in 2006.

Having Teammates Helps ... So believes Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford), who benefits from having two Roush Fenway Racing partners. "The hardest part of being a rookie in this type of racing is getting the feel of how the truck works in the draft, and hoping you have some friends out there to draft with you," he said. "The guy with the fastest truck can't win this race alone." Roush Fenway continues to seek its 50th victory. The team's Mark Martin won the 2006 Mountain Dew 250.

Rookies Facing Uphill Fight

Freshman drivers historically haven't fared well at Talladega and Daytona. Just surviving is a victory in itself.

Brian Scott (No. 16 Albertsons Toyota) finished ninth in Daytona but the 20-year-old realizes one good day doesn't define a driver as a veteran in this type of racing.

"You have highs and you have lows. You look like you are not even in the same league with someone when they take advantage of you," said Scott. "It is all good when things are going right and you're making the right moves and capitalizing on other people, but you look like an idiot when it happens to you."

Who Is The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' Most Popular Driver?

Have you cast your vote yet? For the first time in series history, voting for the Series' Most Popular Driver is in the hands of the fans.

Be sure to check out NASCAR.com and vote for your favorite. Nearly 50,000 votes have been cast since voting began July 5. Voting ends Oct. 31.

Up Next:

Martinsville Speedway's Oct. 18 Kroger 200 marks the beginning of consecutive weekends during which competitors visit three tracks on which they raced earlier this season.

Dennis Setzer (No. 18 Dodge) notched his third Martinsville victory on March 31.

The race is the 20th to be held at the .526-mile track -- one of four to have scheduled events in each of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' 14 seasons.

Fast Facts

The Race: Mountain Dew 250 Fueled by Winn-Dixie
The Place: Talladega Superspeedway

The Date: Oct. 4, 2008
The Time: 4 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 250.04 miles / 94 laps
Track Layout: 2.66-Mile Speedway

TV: SPEED, 3:30 p.m. ET

2007 Winner: Todd Bodine
2007 Pole: Todd Bodine

Schedule:
Thursday: Practice, 12:15-1:30 p.m. and 2-3:15 p.m.
Friday: Qualifying, 11:05 a.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers John Andretti , Bobby Hamilton , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Mike Wallace , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Colin Braun , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Rick Crawford , Matt Crafton , Joe Ruttman , Carl Edwards , Willie Allen , Chad McCumbee , Joey Logano , Brian Scott , Mark Martin
Teams Germain Racing , Roush Fenway Racing , Bill Davis Racing