*Carelli Moves From Bristol's Victory Lane To Spotter Stand *Top-Five And 10 Leader Sprague Heads Another Category *With Speed's Return, All Nine '08 Winners In O'Reilly 200 Carelli Knows Bristol Motor Speedway From Bottom To The Top DAYTONA...
*Carelli Moves From Bristol's Victory Lane To Spotter Stand
*Top-Five And 10 Leader Sprague Heads Another Category
*With Speed's Return, All Nine '08 Winners In O'Reilly 200
Carelli Knows Bristol Motor Speedway From Bottom To The Top
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 18, 2008) -- Little did Rick Carelli know his sponsor's slogan, "Above The Crowd," would have a different meaning a decade or so after his 1996 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory at Bristol Motor Speedway.
When the engines fire for Wednesday night's O'Reilly 200, Carelli will have one of the best seats in the house high atop Bristol's control complex.
Carelli, who retired from active competition after finishing fifth at Daytona International Speedway in 2002, is the spotter for defending NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet).
In a way, Hornaday and Carelli might be said to have the unfair advantage this week. Both are winners of the O'Reilly 200 -- the only such driver-spotter combination in the field.
"As a past driver you can watch the lines a driver is using in practice and suggest a different way around the track because you have an understanding of what the truck needs to do to go faster," said Carelli, who began spotting for NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Mike Dillon in 1999.
That led to a stint with Dale Earnhardt and finally Kevin Harvick in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Harvick formed a truck team and Carelli followed.
"A past driver also can give the crew chief different ideas," he said. "I'm always looking ahead on the racetrack and constantly aware of what's going on all over and on some days, it is almost the same as sitting in the seat."
Carelli agrees that his job this week will be one of the season's biggest challenges.
"Anywhere the closing rate is fast, things happen in a hurry," he said.
At Bristol, You Need A Program To Keep Up With Jack Sprague
Jack Sprague (No. 2 American Commercial Lines Chevrolet) is best at Bristol Motor Speedway in top-five and top-10 finishes with four and seven, respectively.
He'll also lead another category when he starts Wednesday's O'Reilly 200.
Sprague has driven for five different owners in his nine previous Bristol races. Kevin Harvick Inc. will be his sixth.
It hasn't seemed to matter whether he drove a Chevrolet (for four owners) or a Toyota. Sprague has at least one top-10 finish in each truck.
He won for Rick Hendrick in 1999 en route to his second NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series title.
Different Owners, Similar Results
Jack Sprague has driven for five different owners at Bristol Motor Speedway. This week, DeLana Harvick will be his sixth.
Etc. & Quotable:
Speed Returns At Bristol ... Scott Speed (No. 22 Red Bull Toyota) has been absent from the series since finishing third at Michigan in mid-June. That will change this week as the four-time ARCA RE/MAX winner and points leader runs the first of eight NASCAR Craftsman Truck races remaining on his schedule.
"I am looking forward to running Bristol for the first time. I have received a lot of information about Bristol, so it should be quite interesting to see how it all applies when I get there," said Speed, the winner at Dover.
Carpentier To Debut ... In order to get additional track time on one of the toughest tracks on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule, Patrick Carpentier will make his first series start in the No. 04 BHR-VA Dodge. He is the 12th Canadian to compete in the series.
All Nine Winners In At Bristol ... With Speed and Kyle Busch (No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts/NOS Toyota) back in the fold, all nine 2008 winners will line up at Bristol. Busch, eighth in his most recent start at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis, bids to join Carl Edwards and Mark Martin as drivers who have won in all three of NASCAR's national series at the .533-mile facility.
Johnson Latest Champion To Sample Series ... Jimmie Johnson (No. 81 Kobalt Tools Chevrolet) is the 10th different NASCAR Sprint Cup champion to compete in a truck race. Jeff Gordon is the only active champion without a series start. He co-owned the Chevrolet driven in 1995 by Scott Lagasse.
Concrete Conquerors ... Seven expected entrants have won NASCAR Craftsman Truck races on concrete. Bristol winners include Johnny Benson, Ron Hornaday Jr., Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) and Jack Sprague. Speed, Busch and Ted Musgrave (No. 59 Harris Trucking Toyota) also won on concrete. While Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) has not won at Bristol in a truck; the 2006 champion has two NASCAR Nationwide victories in 1992-93.
Joe Set The Standard ... With four series winners age 50 and older in the field, it's possible a "very veteran" driver may win at Bristol this week. None, however, will be the first senior to set foot in Bristol's Victory Lane. Joe Ruttman was 50 in 1995 when he captured Bristol's Pizza Plus 150. The victory was the first in the series by a 50-year-old and a Ford truck.
A Fourth Win So Far Is Unobtainable
Four drivers on five occasions have failed to win a fourth consecutive NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. Johnny Benson (No. 23 Exide Toyota) gets his shot at the record this week. Here's how the previous streaks ended.
Rick Carelli's Five Toughest 'Spots'
Rick Carelli's spotting career began in 1999 as he recovered from injuries suffered in an accident at Memphis Motorsports Park.
He developed a relationship with Richard Childress Racing and Kevin Harvick.
Here are Carelli's five most difficult places to spot:
Bristol, Martinsville and Dover: "They're short and you have to be able to watch everything at once."
Phoenix: "The spotters' stand is in Turn 1 and it makes it harder to see over to the turns on the opposite end of the track."
Texas: "From the spotters' location, you can't really tell how close other trucks are going away from you through the dogleg into Turn 1. Actually, all of the superspeedways are difficult because of closing rates and how the trucks move from lane to lane down the backstretch."
Bristol's Top Rookie Locks Up Title Five Years Running
Call it deferred gratification.
No Raybestos Rookie of the Year has managed to win at Bristol Motor Speedway.
That's the bad news but here's the good:
In each of the five seasons since the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series returned to the .533-mile track, the highest-finishing freshman candidate has gone on to claim the Raybestos Rookie of the Year crown.
That said, no rookie has been able to crack the top 10 since 1998 when Kevin Cywinski placed eighth.
Jay Sauter turned in the lone top-five performance in 1996. The Wisconsin driver finished third.
Willie Allen had the best results a year ago finishing 19th.
Who Is The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' Most Popular Driver?
Have you cast your vote yet? Don't forget to make it count. 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. More than 30,000 votes have been cast since voting began July 5.
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams get the opportunity to spend the Labor Day Weekend with family and friends before heading to Gateway International Raceway for the Sept. 6 Camping World 200 presented by Honda Power Equipment.
Johnny Benson is the defending winner at the 1.25-mile speedway in Madison, Ill.
Director's Take: Wayne's Words
"A year ago, nobody really knew what to expect as Bristol Motor Speedway finished one of the track's most significant reconstruction projects.
"Simply put, the Old Bristol was gone. What the week would bring was anyone's guess.
"The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series was honored to be the first to test the track and did the drivers put on a show for the fans!
"Where Bristol used to be a bump-and-run kind of place -- where you pushed and shoved to advance -- the track architects produced compound banking with multiple grooves. Amazingly, a fast driver could take the high line and make his passes without so much as scuffing his truck's paint.
"Who would have thought?
"The race was won from the eighth starting position. That was only the second time in 10 races that the winner started outside the top five.
"In one respect, the track is the same, old Bristol. Making a truck handle remains a challenge to every crew chief.
"Last year was interesting in another way. Johnny Benson won the race with an engine that hadn't been rebuilt from earlier competition. This factored into the decision to cut horsepower and give our owners the opportunity to reduce their costs.
"Speaking of Johnny, he's truly on a roll -- one that doesn't come around very often. Being able to win four out of five races is pretty much unheard of in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Greg Biffle was the last to do so; and that was in 2000.
"Nobody's ever won four in a row, something Johnny has a chance to do this week. Some pretty impressive drivers have tried and failed: Biffle, Todd Bodine, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Mike Skinner; champions all.
"So Johnny's got his work cut out for him. But the way the No. 23 team is running, he has a pretty good chance of making history."
-- Wayne Auton, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director.
Bristol Motor Speedway was part of the series' 1995 inaugural season schedule holding five stand-alone races through 1999.
The race returned in 2003 as a Wednesday night affair drawing crowds of up to 60,000.
In The Loop:
Mike Skinner's 2008 looks a bit like his 2005.
They share many of the same characteristics. After 16 races in 2005, Skinner was winless. After 15 races this season, the same holds true.
After 16 races in 2005, Skinner was eighth in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points standings. Currently, after 15 races, Skinner is in fourth -- the highest he's been all season. For the much of 2008 though, Skinner hovered around sixth and seventh.
But luck turned around for Skinner in 2005 at race No. 17 -- Bristol Motor Speedway. This season, Bristol sets up as race No. 16, but Skinner hopes the same holds true once again. In that 2005 Bristol event, Skinner led an unbelievable 190 of the 200 laps for his first victory of the season. He also scored a rare perfect Driver Rating of 150.0.
Overall, Skinner's Bristol record is strong. In six career starts, he has four top-10 finishes, including runs of first, seventh and fourth over the last three races.
Over that three race span, Skinner has a Driver Rating of 125.7, an Average Running Position of 4.3, 61 Fastest Laps Run and has run a stunning 595 of the 600 laps among the top 15 -- a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 99.2.
But, likely, much the focus will be on Johnny Benson's quest for four-in-a-row. It's not an impossible feat by any means. Benson won there last year and since 2005 has a Driver Rating of 123.1 and an Average Running Position of 4.6.
One other note of interest, going into the previous three Bristol races, the eventual Bristol winner had a season-to-date Driver Rating of at least 95.5. (Skinner had a 101.3 in 2005; Mark Martin had a 134.7 in 2006; Johnny Benson had a 95.5 in 2007). Five drivers currently have a 2008 Driver Rating over 95.5: Ron Hornaday Jr., Benson, Todd Bodine, Skinner and Kyle Busch.
The drive to 50 victories is a race between Toyota and Roush Fenway Racing.
The truck maker won for the 46th time in series competition at Nashville Superspeedway. Toyota has two wins at Bristol.
Ford stalwart Jack Roush hopes to win for the 50th time this week. His trucks have two of Ford's three Bristol victories in 2004 and 2006.
The Race: O'Reilly 200
The Place: Bristol Motor Speedway
The Date: Aug. 20, 2008
The Time: 8 p.m. ET
Race Distance: 106.6 miles / 200 laps
Track Layout: .533-Mile Oval
TV: SPEED, 7:30 p.m. ET
2007 Winner: Johnny Benson
2007 Pole: Travis Kvapil
Wednesday: Practice, 9:45-10:50 a.m. and 12-1:15 p.m.; Qualifying, 4:15 p.m.