NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes - Texas Battle For Owners' Championship Beginning To Boil DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Despite finishing 17th in the Mountain Dew 250 fueled by Fred's at Talladega Superspeedway, Ron Hornaday Jr. (No.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes - Texas
Battle For Owners' Championship Beginning To Boil
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Despite finishing 17th in the Mountain Dew 250 fueled by Fred's at Talladega Superspeedway, Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 VFW Chevrolet) continues to sit on a comfortable, 202-point lead over Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet) with three races remaining in the 2009 season.
But Hornaday, along with team owners Kevin and DeLana Harvick, are casting anxious looks over their collective shoulders.
Kyle Busch's (No. 51 Miccosukee Resort/Graceway Pharmaceuticals Toyota) sixth victory of the season cut Kevin Harvick Inc.'s lead in the coveted series owners' championship to just 100 points.
Busch has been red-hot since ending Hornaday's five-race victory streak at Bristol Motor Speedway on Aug. 19. In fact, Busch hasn't lost in two months, going four-for-four in races entered with the Billy Ballew Motorsports team.
"(Matt) Crafton isn't our worry," said Hornaday, who is on the verge of locking up a record fourth championship. "We are worried about the No. 51 (Busch). He is fighting for the owners' points, and he's the guy we're racing, too."
For Hornaday and the Harvicks, this week's WinStar World Casino 350 couldn't come at a better time. Hornaday is the defending winner of the race. He also won the 1.5-mile track's spring race in 2008.
Busch finished second to Hornaday in both of last year's TMS races.
"Texas has really become a great place for us the last two years," said Hornaday. "I used to struggle at Texas, but (crew chief) Rick Ren and the No. 33 guys have really gotten a good setup for the truck."
Hornaday finished 19th at Texas in June after leading 52 laps.
"I'm excited to go back and try to get the finish we left there in the spring," he said.
The Ballew team, it should be noted, is peaking. It celebrated its first one-two finish at Talladega with Aric Almirola (No. 15 Graceway Toyota) as the runner-up.
"Is it (a championship) possible? Yes, but it might not be probable," said Ballew, a 14-season series team owner. "We'll give it our best effort and see where it shakes out."
Major Changes For NASCAR Camping World Trucks In 2010
The popular double-file restarts "shoot-out style," successful in both the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series, is coming to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2010.
Teams also will be able to pit for fuel and tires on the same stop; two trips down pit road are necessary this year.
"The rule change is so positive," said 1995 champion Mike Skinner (No. 5 EXIDE Toyota), noting the positive effect of the restart rule in NASCAR's other two national series. "It's worked out great; it will be great here."
Teams will be permitted to use a sixth man in the pit servicing area (five are allowed in 2009); a self-venting fuel can may be used to refuel; a team will run no more than two races with a sealed engine (currently three) and a SPEC engine can be used at tracks measuring less than 1.25 miles.
Also -- a second race will be held at Nashville Superspeedway on April 2 to replace the previously-scheduled event at Memphis Motorsports Park. The latter track was closed by parent Dover Motorsports last week.
"I am excited about the continued progression of NASCAR's efforts to contain costs in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series," said KHI's Kevin Harvick. "I believe the competition will be tough as it's ever been."
Loop Data: Hornaday's Points Lead Safe At Texas
Two tracks own the distinct honor of hosting two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races: Martinsville Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway (next season, Nashville Superspeedway joins the fray).
Texas is the site of this weekend's race, and the analysis becomes a bit easier -- mainly because the statistics become more plentiful.
In terms of Loop Data, which NASCAR started collecting in 2005, statistics have been compiled for nine Texas races -- a healthy sample size.
If the statistics hold true, and patterns continue, Ron Hornaday Jr. will maintain -- and maybe tighten -- his stranglehold on the points lead.
At Texas since 2005, Hornaday has a Driver Rating of 119.7 (second-best), an Average Running Position of 6.1 (third), a series-high 194 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 91.3% (second).
But there's a glimmer of hope for Matt Crafton, who sits second in the points. Though his career numbers trail Hornaday's by a wide margin, he did have one of his best performances in this season's first Texas race.
In a runner-up finish, Crafton had a Driver Rating of 123.9, an Average Running Position of 4.1, 51 Fastest Laps Run (a race-high) and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 99.4%. He spent all but one of the laps in the top 15.
Overall at Texas, Crafton is average. He has a Driver Rating of 89.0 (11th-best) and an Average Running Position of 12.4 (14th).
Rick Ren: Talking Strategy At Texas Motor Speedway
In 2008, Rick Ren became just the second crew chief to sweep both NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Texas Motor Speedway. His driver, Ron Hornaday Jr., hadn't previously won at the 1.5-mile speedway.
Ren also has a WinStar World Casino 350 win in 2000 with Travis Kvapil.
He talks about some of the challenges the team will face in Friday's race.
Q: Has the track changed over the years you've been coming to Texas? "The track has changed ever so slightly. The main changes over the years have been in the tire compounds that NASCAR has chosen to bring. The tire changes have proven to be a bigger challenge than the changes in the track itself. However, anytime a track sits in the sun it will lose grip over time, and that has been the major hurdle we have faced going to Texas."
Q: Do you approach it differently with your setups? "I start with my basic setup for Texas then move from there. We have a really good base package, so I use my setup from years past and move around the track changes."
Q: What are the pit strategy challenges with pit rules/green flag stops? "Texas is the one track that the 2009 pit rules really become a challenge. Texas is a place where you historically have to make a green-flag pit stop, so then it becomes a question of tires or gas or both. The dual pitting is a challenge in its own right, but becomes even more of a factor when you have to make the call under green."
Q: How has racing with a big points lead changed strategy from past years? "It hasn't changed our strategy at all. We still attack the track the same way we have in the past."
Todd Bodine (No. 30 Copart/PurpleHeart.org Toyota) attempts to become the third driver to score a season sweep at Texas Motor Speedway, having won June's WinStar World Casino 400. Brendan Gaughan took both races in 2002-03, while Ron Hornaday Jr. was a double winner last year. Bodine's June victory made him the first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competitor to win five times at the same track.
Two Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates have won the WinStar World Casino 350, Travis Kvapil (2000) and Gaughan (2001). Rookie of the Year Kenny Irwin Jr. captured the inaugural TMS race in 1997. Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford) was last year's highest-finishing Raybestos rookie with a fifth-place performance.
ThorSport Racing has entered a third truck in this week's race. David Gilliland (No. 98 Menards Chevrolet) will team with Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter (No. 13 Advanced Auto/Rio Grand/Curb Records Chevrolet). Gilliland finished 19th in his series debut earlier this year at Lowe's Motor Speedway driving for Kevin Buckler.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champions have won nine of the last 10 races at Texas Motor Speedway. Clint Bowyer, winner of the 2006 WinStar World Casino 350, is the only exception. Bodine and Hornaday are the only former track winners expected to compete.
Chrissy Wallace was the winner of the father-daughter battle at Talladega Superspeedway, posting a career-best 13th-place finish. Her father, Mike Wallace, finished 28th.
Texans in the garage: Several in the NCWTS garage call the Lone Star State their home, including three drivers: Colin Braun (Ovalo), James Buescher (Plano) driver of the No. 10 International MAXX Force Diesel Ford, and Houston native David Starr (No. No. 24 Zachry Toyota). Circle Bar Racing owner Tom Mitchell resides out in the West Texas town of Ozona. And on a team full of New Yorkers, you'll find a lone Texan: Patrick Briody (Austin), tire carrier for the No. 30 Germain Racing team.
Three of the first five series races at Texas Motor Speedway were won by Fords, the last coming in 2000. Dodge's last win (of five) came in 2003. Chevrolet has won nine times; Toyota six.
Director's Take: Wayne's Words
"This is quite a weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, and everyone in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is enthusiastic about getting the tripleheader started. We're the opening act so to speak, but the racing's going to be high quality.
"First, I'd like to take this opportunity to say 'thanks' to the fans who've supported the series over the years. The folks from Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana have been among our most loyal followers, and that's a big part of the reason we come to Texas Motor Speedway twice a year.
"Although the points aren't quite as close as they have been in recent seasons, there's every reason to believe the WinStar World Casino 350 will have an impact on who ultimately becomes the 2009 champion.
"Simply put, Ron Hornaday Jr.'s lead is going to be larger or smaller than the 202-point cushion he holds after last weekend's race at Talladega Superspeedway.
"If Ron can duplicate last year's success -- he won both Texas races -- it's very possible he can match Greg Biffle as the only driver to lock up the title prior to the season's final race. Ironically, Greg clinched his 2000 title right here at Texas Motor Speedway.
"A dozen or so rivals, however, would like nothing better than to add their names to the list of Texas winners -- and make sure the championship isn't settled until Homestead.
"Todd Bodine, I'm sure, would love to score a season sweep with a record-extending sixth win at a single track.
"Keep an eye on a couple of things: Tires and fuel.
"The fastest truck may not necessarily win -- or even finish on the lead lap -- if the crew chief isn't on top of his game when it comes to taking tires and fuel at exactly the right times.
"Races at Texas Motor Speedway are notorious for having long stretches of
green flag competition. Pit strategy has played a big role in winning here
before, and there's every reason to believe it will again this week."
-Wayne Auton, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Director
Manufacturers' Standings: Toyota Clinches Fourth Straight Crown
Toyota has won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title for the fourth consecutive time to match Chevrolet's series record, established from 1995-1998.
On a day that a Toyota simply had to finish ahead of its rival, the truck maker swept the first five positions in the Mountain Dew 250 fueled by Fred's at Talladega Superspeedway.
A Toyota has won six straight races on the series' two largest tracks -- Talladega and Daytona International Speedway.
"We have always maintained that success in NASCAR is the product of the people involved, and we have been fortunate to align ourselves with championship-caliber teams and exceptional drivers," said Ed Laukes, Toyota's corporate motorsports marketing manager. "Our Tundra teams overcame many challenges in today's harsh economic environment to persevere and help us win this title."
Toyota trucks have won 13 of the 2009 season's first 22 races.
Up Next: Phoenix International Raceway
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to the track where it all began in 1995 for the next-to-final race of the season. The Lucas Oil 150 marks the 19th time the series has visited Phoenix International Raceway.
Last year's race saw both championship contenders -- Ron Hornaday Jr. and Johnny Benson -- involved in accidents. When the checkered flag finally waved, the pair went to the season finale separated by just three points.
Kevin Harvick (No. 4 Chevrolet) is the defending winner of the Lucas Oil 150. Harvick bids to become the series' first four-time winner at Phoenix International Raceway.
Five drivers have posted multiple wins at Phoenix. Three -- Harvick, Hornaday and Mike Skinner -- will compete in this year's race.
The Race: WinStar World Casino 350
The Place: Texas Motor Speedway
The Date: Fri., Nov. 6, 2009
The Time: 8 p.m. CT
Race Distance: 147 laps / 350 kms.
Track Layout: 1.5-mile oval
TV: SPEED, 8:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM. Listen locally on KRLD-FM 105.3.
2008 Winner: Ron Hornaday Jr.
2008 Polesitter: Rick Crawford
Schedule: Thursday: Practice, 12:30-1:45 p.m. and 2:15-3:30 p.m.; Qualifying, 7 p.m.