Daytona Preseason Thunder, day 5 report

NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona - Day Five *2004 Daytona 250 winner Hamilton switches numbers while son hopes to restart career *Fords continue to set pace in single-truck runs on second day of Daytona testing DAYTONA...

NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder at Daytona - Day Five

*2004 Daytona 250 winner Hamilton switches numbers while son hopes to restart career

*Fords continue to set pace in single-truck runs on second day of Daytona testing

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 14, 2006) -- Believers in numerology take note.

Bobby Hamilton, the 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion and defending Daytona 250 winner, has returned to the No. 18 Dodge that's been a terror to its rivals at Daytona International Speedway.

With sponsorship from Fastenal, Hamilton decided over the winter to drive the truck in which he won his first series race in 2000 at Martinsville Speedway.

"The No. 18 has been close to several championships with Joe Ruttman and Robert Pressley but it's been down for a couple of years," said Hamilton, who drove the No. 04 Dodge in 2005. "We want to get it back up to where it belongs."

Daytona fans will have no trouble recalling the truck's exploits at the 2.5-mile superspeedway. Ruttman won the Bud Pole for the first two runnings of the Daytona 500 and continues to hold the series qualifying record at 187.563 mph.

Ruttman won the 2001 race -- the only driver to win from the pole -- while Pressley (No. 59 Harris Trucking Dodge) captured the event the following year. Pressley was the second competitor to win in his first series start.

Matching Hamilton with the No. 18 would seem a sure-fire proposition.

Hamilton won last year's Daytona 500 from a start of 36th and last, edging Jimmy Spencer by a bumper length when caution appeared on the race's final lap. He led only a few feet of the 100-lap, 250-mile event.

"It was definitely strange," Hamilton agreed during a break from Saturday's NASCAR Jackson Hewitt Preseason Thunder test. Spencer went to Victory Lane but was backed out after NASCAR officials rechecked scoring loops and videotape. "It wasn't for me. I knew that I'd won the race."

The 2006 season will be a busy one for Hamilton and BHR. The team figures to campaign up to four trucks. Sophomore Timothy Peters returns to the No. 4 Dodge in which he ran a partial season a year ago. Hamilton's son, Bobby Hamilton Jr., has at least a 12-race deal to campaign the BHR2 team's No. 8 truck. And Raybestos Rookie hopeful Scott Lagasse Jr. will climb into the seat of the No. 04 Ram for the season's second race at California Speedway.

"You've got to have more than a two-truck team to run for the championship," said Hamilton, coming off a two-win season in which he finished sixth in the title race.

The team's most intriguing element is the younger Hamilton, a longtime NASCAR Busch Series competitor who competed in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series a year ago.

Hamilton Jr., a five-time NASCAR Busch Series winner and fourth-place championship finisher in 2003, ranked a disappointing 36th in last year's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition. The 28-year-old driver admits he's out to prove that he's capable of racing hard and winning at NASCAR's highest levels.

"If the truck's capable of leading laps, we'll win races," said Hamilton, who won the Bud Pole for the 2004 Toyota 200 at Nashville Superspeedway and counts two fourth-place finishes as his best in five NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series appearances. "I'm back to do the same thing as I did in the NASCAR Busch Series car -- that's beat Todd Bodine (No. 30 Germain Motor Company Toyota), the No. 18 truck, the No. 4 and everybody else."

Hamilton, who will be in Green Light Racing's No. 08 Dodge at Daytona in a one-race deal, is grateful for the opportunities. Reasoning that out of sight means out of mind, Hamilton hopes to make the most of the exposure.

"If I was sitting at home waiting for a call, I'd be working on the farm," he said. "I've got to get out there and rebuild my career."


Fords continue to dominate testing results ... Rookie Erik Darnell (No. 99 Roush Racing Ford) topped the morning's single-truck speed charts with a lap of 178.951 mph as temperatures plummeted more than 20 degrees from Friday and drivers battled stiff winds. Jon Wood (No. 20 Wood Brothers-JTG Ford) was second-fastest at 178.696 while Darnell's teammate, David Ragan (No. 6 Roush Racing Ford) stood third at 178.377. That caught the attention of three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-Way Toyota), who stood 12th in the morning session.

"Those Fords are stupid-fast and I think they're legitimately fast (by the Rule Book)," said Sprague.

Sprague was asked about how the level of competition in the series has changed since he won his third title in 2001. "From where the bar was then, now you can't even see the bar," he said.

Last year's pole winner Kerry Earnhardt (No. 13 ThorSport Chevrolet) recorded the afternoon's fastest single-truck lap at 177.445.

Crocker expects measured results in 2006 ... Erin Crocker (No. 98 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge) told media members that last season, during which she split time in NASCAR Craftsman Trucks, NASCAR Busch and ARCA RE/MAX series, was enlightening in two respects. "There were a lot of things I learned to do and a lot of things I learned not to do," said Crocker.

Considering she's new to her Evernham Motorsports crew and that the Daytona truck wasn't completed until just before the team left for Daytona, Crocker called early results encouraging. "We're on the same page ... but it's going to take some time. So it could be a slow start to the year," she said, adding, "I want to win. I want to prove I'm competitive and that I can do it."

Hamilton lauds engine rule in place for Daytona 250 ... The addition of a .990-inch spacer between intake manifold and carburetor, which reduces the flow of air but doesn't affect fuel flow, has resulted in slower practice speeds. And, according to the elder Hamilton, it still gives the driver plenty of throttle response. "It's the best rule they (NASCAR) have made [for the Daytona 250]," he said. Teams for the first time also are required to mount a right side window. NASCAR will evaluate test results before issuing specific procedures for the Daytona 250. A third and final day of testing begins at 9 a.m. Sunday and concludes at 5 p.m.

Fast Facts

Session 2: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams participating in the Feb. 17 Daytona 250.

What: Preseason testing for the 2006 Daytona 250.

Where: Daytona International Speedway.

Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval superspeedway.

When: Friday, Jan. 13 through Sunday, Jan. 15.

Times: 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. Includes one-hour lunch break from noon until 1 p.m.

Who: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams intending to compete in the Feb. 17 Daytona 250. More than 40 teams are participating.

TV: Test highlights shown at 7 p.m. ET Jan. 15 on SPEED.


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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Todd Bodine , Jimmy Spencer , Robert Pressley , Jack Sprague , Jon Wood , Joe Ruttman , Kerry Earnhardt , Erin Crocker , Scott Lagasse Jr. , David Ragan , Timothy Peters , Erik Darnell