Darlington: Series round 15 preview

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes -- Darlington Return To Darlington Figures To Be 'Wide-Open' Affair Saturday's Too Tough To Tame 200 is proof positive that you can go home again. Darlington Raceway returns to the NASCAR ...

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes -- Darlington

Return To Darlington Figures To Be 'Wide-Open' Affair

Saturday's Too Tough To Tame 200 is proof positive that you can go home again.

Darlington Raceway returns to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Saturday night after an absence of nearly six years.

The race is one of the season's most anticipated stops and without a previous winner in the field, the 147-lap, 200.8-mile affair figures to be wide open.

Mike Skinner (No. 5 International Trucks/ Monaco RV Toyota) and NASCAR Camping World Truck points leader Todd Bodine (No. 30 Toyota) are Darlington veterans and polar opposites in terms of success.

Skinner competed 15 times in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Darlington without a top-10 finish.

Bodine, conversely, is one of the NASCAR Nationwide Series' most successful Darlington competitors with a victory, eight top fives and top-10 finishes in more than 70 percent of his 21 appearances.

"Any experience at Darlington is a good experience, no matter what series it's in," said Skinner.

Said Bodine, "Every corner is different. It's fast, it's aggressive, it's Darlington -- I love it."

Skinner, who finished 23rd in his only Darlington truck race in 2004, believes the track is better suited for trucks. "The trucks have enough downforce that you can actually run down a groove in one and two and with a car, it's impossible to do that," he said. "It is a perfect track for trucks."

That may be true but as far as Bodine's concerned, Darlington is still Darlington.

"There's never a corner, a straightaway, not a single moment when you are under green that you can forget about the race track," he said. "You race it every lap and you are racing the 35 trucks around you. It take a lot of patience and at the same time, you've really got to get after it."

The track was resurfaced in 2008 but Bodine doesn't think that is much of an issue.

"It's still Darlington. It's just easier on tires," he said.

Not Everyone's A NCWTS Rookie At Darlington Raceway

Life being a circular affair, six who competed in the most recent NASCAR Camping World Truck race at Darlington Raceway in 2004 will be on hand Saturday night to take the green flag in the series' return to the South Carolina landmark.

Three -- David Starr (No. 81 Toyota), Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet) and Ken Schrader (No. 2 Stubb's Legendary B-B-Q Chevrolet) -- finished seventh, eighth and 10th, respectively, in the most recent edition of the Too Tough To Tame 200.

Schrader finished second to Bobby Hamilton in Darlington's 2001 inaugural race and logged top-10 finishes in his other two starts, marking the 55-year-old as a likely favorite in this week's race.

Others who competed in Darlington's last truck race were Todd Bodine, Dennis Setzer (No. 92 FleetHQ.com-BTS Tire Chevrolet) and Mike Skinner.

Wayne's Words: Age, Experience Keys To Taming Darlington

"Going back to Darlington is like returning to childhood. It was a fixture on the Auton family's Labor Day Weekend calendar for many, many years. The Southern 500 was a special race, especially when your father was a NASCAR official.

"Darlington is close to another family favorite destination: Myrtle Beach.

"Forty or so years later, Darlington really hasn't changed. Oh, the facilities have been modernized but the track's temperament hasn't changed one bit.

"She's still the Lady in Black.

"The famous -- or infamous -- Darlington stripe can be both badge of honor or shame. Either way, though, just about every truck will have one before practice or the race are more than a few laps old.

"You're going to go fast but the turns are tight and one split second of indecision will put your right rear into the SAFER barrier.

"It's been nearly six years since the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series visited Darlington Raceway. The finish of that race, which Kasey Kahne won, was proof that blood isn't always thicker than water.

"Bobby Hamilton Sr. was fighting for a championship he ultimately won. Son, Bobby Jr., spun his tires on a restart and got run over and spun out -- by his father, who ultimately finished second to Kahne.

"Bobby Sr. won two of our previous visits, which isn't surprising. He was a tough, calculating, old-school competitor. Just the kind of racer who has the best chance of taming Darlington -- at least on a given day." -- Wayne Auton, Series Director.

Drivers Up, Drivers Down As Nine-Race Run Passes Half-Distance

Five races into the 2010 schedule's marathon run of nine consecutive weeks, Todd Bodine has added to his championship lead; and Aric Almirola (No. 51 Zyclara/Gateway Pharmaceuticals Toyota) and Timothy Peters (No. 17 Red Horse Racing Toyota) held second and third positions.

Bodine entered race No. 1 in Iowa with a 55- point lead over Almirola. He's up by 174 after winning Saturday's Nashville 200.

Gainers over five races are Austin Dillon (No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevrolet), up six spots from 11th to sixth; Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet), four spots from 10th to sixth and Johnny Sauter (No. 13 Curb Records Chevrolet), one spot from fifth to fourth.

Those are the winners, so to speak. On the flip side, starting with defending NCWTS champion Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 E-Z-GO Chevrolet), there are the losers.

Hornaday lost three positions, from fourth to seventh; Jason White (No. 23 GunBroker.com/ Outdoor Channel Outfitters Dodge), three from seventh to 10th; Mike Skinner, two from sixth to eighth and Ricky Carmichael (No. 4 Monster Energy Chevrolet), two from ninth to 11th.

Dillon, Crafton and Sauter have been the hottest commodities over the past five events, ranking one-two-three in points scored with 807, 796 and 776, respectively.

Schrader Puts the 'E' In Experience At Darlington

Try this number on for size: 14,488.

Those are the laps Ken Schrader has logged in three NASCAR national series around Darlington Raceway. It works out to nearly 20,000 miles and marks the 55-year-old Schrader as a favorite to win Saturday's Too Tough To Tame 200.

"I'm pretty familiar with its characteristics and challenges," said Schrader, a Darlington pole winner on four occasions and second-place finisher in the NCWTS inaugural race of 2001.

"Some people call that 'character;' others call it frustrating but make no mistake -- Darlington is unique. There will never be another track like it because I believe they broke the mold and a lot of drivers breathed a sigh of relief."

Schrader is showing no signs of slowing down in his fifth decade. He promotes several race tracks and competes in multiple dirt track events most weeks.

Oh, and he "dabbles" in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, where Schrader recorded his fourth consecutive top-10 finish last week in Nashville.

Schrader's No. 2 Kevin Harvick Inc. Chevrolet stands third in series owner standings, 24 points behind Germain Racing's No. 30 Toyota.

NCWTS, Etc.

Rookies: Time To Toss 'Worst" Finishes

This weekend's Darlington event marks the 15th race of the 2010 season and the first opportunity for Raybestos Rookie of the Year contenders to discard a "worst" finish. The award, in part, is based upon a candidate's best 14 finishes. Austin Dillon's current lead over Justin Lofton (No. 7 Visitpit.com Toyota) is 48 points.

Lofton had a rough introduction to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series but has rebounded of late, finishing ninth at Nashville to follow up a solid, fifth-place performance at Pocono.

Germain Racing Matches Record

Todd Bodine's second victory of 2010 gives Germain Racing multiple wins in seven consecutive seasons, matching the NCWTS record set between 1998 and 2004 by Jim Smith's Ultra Motorsports. High point of the latter was Ultra's 12-win season of 2001, shared by Ted Musgrave and Scott Riggs.

Make Motorsports Goes Green

Liberty Recycling will sponsor MAKE Motorsports' No. 50 Chevrolet to be driven by T.J. Bell at Darlington Raceway this week. Liberty is the nation's largest tire recycling provider and has donated over 500,000 pounds of recycled rubber to build athletic fields in Iraq.

'Man Upstairs' Helps At Darlington

Having a spotter who has competed at Darlington Raceway figures to be a big plus this weekend. Andy Houston competed in a pair of NCWTS events at the track in 2003-04 and he'll be talking rookie Austin Dillon through Saturday's race. "I think it will definitely help him that I have raced on the track before and be able to coach him through it," said Houston. "He gets a lot of help from his RCR teammates and from his grandfather (Richard Childress) and his father (Mike Dillon), but during the race he usually only has one guy talking to him. I think it will sure benefit him."

Manufacturers Title Rivals Swap Places Toyota has a one-point edge on Chevrolet, reversing the order and advantage post-Pocono.

Top Rookie's Numbers Compare Favorably With Bodine's

If not for an understandable rookie adaptation period, the short list of championship contenders would surely include Austin Dillon's name.

The statistics say it all. Over the past seven races, Dillon has scored seven consecutive top-10 finishes. His numbers are tremendous: an average finish of 4.4, a Driver Rating of 115.0, an Average Running Position of 4.9, 225 Laps Led, 150 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 98.8%.

But those first seven were shaky, at best. None of his finishes were in the top five, and only two were in the top 10. He had a Driver Rating of 69.0 and an Average Running Position of 17.9.

Chalk it up to rookie jitters, because Dillon's maturation process is done.

In fact, over the last seven races, Dillon has scored more points than points leader -- and championship favorite -- Todd Bodine. Over the last seven races, Dillon has scored 1,137 points.

Dillon bests -- or comes close to -- many of Bodine's other numbers as well. Though Bodine put up a better Driver Rating over the last seven races (116.9), Dillon trumped the 2006 series champion in Average Running Position (4.9 vs. 6.3), Laps in the Top 15 percentage (98.8% vs. 91.4%), Fastest Laps Run (150 vs. 124) and average finish (4.4 vs. 6.3).

Up Next: Bristol Motor Speedway

Two competitors look for the three-peat when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to Bristol Motor Speedway for the Aug. 18 O'Reilly 200. Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota) and Billy Ballew were a winning pair in 2008-09 but went their separate ways this season.

Both bid to become Bristol's first three-time winners -- Busch in his Kyle Busch Motorsports entry and Ballew with his pair of Toyota entries.

Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Chevrolet) won back-to-back in 1997- 98, while four different owners have posted a pair of victories at the .533-mile concrete oval: Ballew, Bill Davis, Dale Earnhardt and Jack Roush.

-source: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Bobby Hamilton , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Ken Schrader , David Starr , Kevin Harvick , Andy Houston , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Dennis Setzer , T.J. Bell , Scott Riggs , Matt Crafton , Jason White , Johnny Sauter , Kasey Kahne , Ricky Carmichael , Jack Roush , Timothy Peters , Aric Almirola , Jim Smith , Austin Dillon , Kyle Busch
Teams Germain Racing , Kyle Busch Motorsports , Red Horse Racing