NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' Veteran Team Sees Progress Ahead for 2008 *The Heat is On: Erik Darnell Has Fast Weekend Testing *Daytona Resident Hits The Track: Mike Skinner is Ready to Race DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 13, 2008) -- As the new...
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' Veteran Team Sees Progress Ahead for 2008
*The Heat is On: Erik Darnell Has Fast Weekend Testing
*Daytona Resident Hits The Track: Mike Skinner is Ready to Race
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 13, 2008) -- As the new year gets under way and the season ushered in, 2008 also brings significant change for one of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' veteran organizations.
In December, Bobby Hamilton Racing announced that the organization would enter into a partnership with Arrington Manufacturing for the 2008 season and beyond. With that partnership also came the decision for the team to relocate from its home in Tennessee to Martinsville, Va., all in an effort to bring the team closer to the hub of NASCAR.
Clay Campbell, president of Martinsville Speedway and co-owner of BHR, sees this as nothing but a move in the right direction and his decision to get involved with BHR he calls a "no brainer".
A racer himself, the partnership provides for him a unique opportunity to see the other side of the fence in racing. "I had the utmost respect for Bobby Hamilton, what he built, and think it's neat to be able to carry his vision forward. Everyone is incredibly motivated, I know it will translate to success on the track," Campbell said.
The newly reconstituted Bobby Hamilton Racing Virginia (BHR VA), with the full support of manufacturer Dodge, expects the year to be fruitful. Dodge, a three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Manufacturers' champion with 64 victories, hasn't seen Victory Lane since the late Hamilton won at Mansfield Motorsports Park in May 2005.
Former teammates and veteran drivers Stacy Compton (No. 4 BHR VA Dodge) and Dennis Setzer (No. 18 BHR VA Dodge) join BHR VA's roster for the upcoming season and are making a homecoming of sorts to the manufacturer. Each of Compton's two victories were recorded in a Dodge. Setzer also has driven a Ram truck to Victory Lane.
During a visit to Daytona's infield media center as part of NASCAR Preseason Thunder, Setzer said, "Joey (Arrington) has a facility second to none. There is young talent in the shop, a group of people that can get all aspects of this pulled together and that means to get Dodge back on track. It's very exciting."
Equally optimistic, Compton echoed Setzer's appraisal. "We've made the first right step at getting Dodge back on track with the people they've got working in the program. When we unloaded here in Daytona, I was surprised at the amount of support they are putting into the truck program and how well it's all been going."
Compton recorded a best speed of 176.828 in single-truck laps, making him fifth quickest on Saturday.
As newly minted team co-owner, Arrington had the final words. "As Bobby would say, it's just time to kick their butt," he said.
The Heat is On ... Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford) stayed on top of the speed charts for the majority of Daytona's testing. Saturday morning he posted his fastest lap at 178.547. Darnell's top speed on Friday was 177.420. During Sunday's weather-shortened run, he closed with a speed of 182.260.
Darnell admits the pressure is on. While the young driver, who enters his third season in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, captured his first career win at Kansas in April 2007, the rest of the season brought anything but success. "We struggled quite a bit last year. We had some things happen that kind of took us out of contention for a top 10 in the points," he said.
During this morning's visit to the media center, Darnell emphasized he's eager for that first race. "If the first two days of testing here are any indication, we've got a really good truck not only in the single-truck runs, but in the draft it's really strong as well," he said. "I would definitely like to get the season started off on the right foot and, hopefully, pick up a victory in our Northern Tool + Equipment Ford."
Daytona Local Anxious to Start the Season ... Daytona Beach resident Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) is ready to get the show on the road. After finishing the 2007 season runner-up to champion Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet), he had a busy off-season -- but wasn't able to play as much golf as he would have liked.
Skinner spent time with members of the media during a break in preseason testing at Daytona. "We've had a lot of things going on with our race team, but it all came back together and everything is back the same with Jeff (Hensley) as crew chief again," he said. "I've been chomping at the bit to get here and start running some laps," he added.
Skinner, who is in hot pursuit of a second series championship, also talked about the dynamic between he and Bill Davis Racing teammate Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles/Exide Toyota). "I feel really good about having Johnny as a teammate when we come down to the stretch if either of us are fortunate enough to be in the hunt," said Skinner. "It's just up to us to be smart about how we go about things all year. I think we'll be in the middle of it."
Pit Stops ... Inclement weather shortened the final day's testing for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at Daytona. Teams were on the track just under three hours before showers ended the day at 1:45 p.m. ... Next up: Preseason testing continues for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway Tuesday, Jan. 22 and Wednesday, Jan. 23 with Thursday, Jan. 24 available as a rain date if necessary.
Fan Fest Offers Driver Q&As, Entertainment ... Along with the opportunity to watch next week's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series edition of NASCAR Preseason Thunder, fans can enjoy an afternoon and evening at Daytona's Sprint FANZONE on Tuesday, Jan. 15. Among the Fan Fest activities: Driver question-and-answer sessions, show cars, bands, a silent auction, displays and pit-stop demonstrations. Cost is $15 per session. Fans can watch each day's test -- Monday through Wednesday -- at no cost, beginning at 9 a.m.