Texas: Round nine preview

Texas visit signals beginning of summer; Gaughan looks for fifth straight DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 6, 2005) -- Summer doesn't officially start until June 21 but this Friday's Chex 400K at Texas Motor Speedway traditionally signals the coming of...

Texas visit signals beginning of summer; Gaughan looks for fifth straight

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 6, 2005) -- Summer doesn't officially start until June 21 but this Friday's Chex 400K at Texas Motor Speedway traditionally signals the coming of the season for competitors in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

The race, the first of two at the 1.5-mile superspeedway in Ft. Worth, is one of the year's most popular with competitors -- many of whom look forward finally to shedding their coats and jackets after a wet and cool winter and spring.

The race marks the 15th stop by the series at Texas, the most at any single track.

The series first visited the facility in 1997 and, since 1999, has run a pair of races annually. The second event, the Silverado 350K, is set for Nov. 4.

Texas was the series' fastest track until Daytona International Speedway was added to the schedule in 2000. With Mike Skinner's (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) 2004 record-qualifying lap of 182.174, Texas is No. 4 on the speed charts behind Daytona, Atlanta and Lowe's Motor Speedways.

Atlanta, Lowe's and Texas all measure the same distance -- 1.5 miles -- but competitors note that the Ft. Worth facility is unlike the other two.

"It's got its own personality," said David Starr (No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet), a Houston native still seeking his first victory at his home track. Starr has finished third three times at Texas, most recently in fall 2002. "It's like Lowe's and Atlanta (yet) it's different.

"I love the surface of the racetrack. I'll be honest, I can't think of anything wrong with the Texas Motor Speedway."

Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Cars Toyota) agrees.

"The track (surface) is aging up and it's getting pretty racy," said Benson, who finished second to Todd Bodine (No. 66 Fiddle Back Racing Toyota) at Ft. Worth last October.

Benson rates Texas among his top-five favorite tracks, and not just because of the competition.

"The race draws huge numbers of fans and that's pretty cool," he said.

Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 6 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) hasn't competed in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Texas since 1999.

"I can't believe the difference with the body changes," said Hornaday.

Another returnee is Brendan Gaughan (No. 77 Jasper Engines & Transmission Dodge), hopes to extend his Texas Motor Speedway-record winning streak of four races. Gaughan swept both races in 2002 and '03 before spending last season on the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series. He's the series' leading money winner at Texas with nearly $300,000.

Gaughan, whose family has Texas roots and owns a ranch a few miles west of the track, says his success at the venue has as much to do with mindset as anything else.

"There's something about being a cowboy that makes it good to go back to Texas," he said. "It's the old 'Cowboy up' statement. This is the place."

-nascar-

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , David Starr , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Brendan Gaughan