NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes - Daytona Green Flag Ready To Fall On 2010 Camping World Truck Season DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- It's February, it's Daytona and it's the start of the 2010 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ...
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes - Daytona
Green Flag Ready To Fall On 2010 Camping World Truck Season
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- It's February, it's Daytona and it's the start of the 2010 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season.
The NextEra Energy Resources 250 begins the 25-race schedule for the 11th time on Feb. 12 as Daytona International Speedway enters its second decade of hosting the season opener.
The 100-lap, 250-mile event traditionally has featured non-stop action; surprise winners and often, one or more lead changes on the final lap and a finish decided by thousandths of-a-second.
The first nine editions of the NextEra Energy Resources 250 produced as many different winners. Todd Bodine (No. 30 Toyota) snapped that string a year ago.
This week the 2006 champion bids to become only the fourth different driver to win three consecutive NASCAR national series races at the 2.5-mile track.
Bodine and Rick Crawford (No. 14 Ford) are the only previous Daytona winners expected to compete.
Friday night's race will have an extra bit of excitement as double-file restarts, "shootout" style, debut in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Pit stop sequences return to pre-2009 procedures giving the teams the opportunity to change tires and add fuel on the same trip down pit road.
More than 40 teams are expected to seek berths in the 36-truck starting field. Twenty-five teams based upon 2009 Owners' Championship points standings are guaranteed a starting position. Up to 11 positions -- five more than a year ago -- will be set via time trials.
Series Champions Head Star-Studded Daytona Entry
No Daytona winner has gone on to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship in the same season. That could change in 2010 based on the number of former champions submitting entries for the NextEra Energy Resources 250.
Heading the list -- and going for a fifth championship and the elusive back-to-back crown -- is Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet). Hornaday finished fifth in last year's race but has experienced some ups and downs at Daytona. He has finished 23rd or worse in three of his six starts in the race.
Todd Bodine is "the man" not only of Daytona but also sister track Talladega Superspeedway. The New York native has a pair of victories at each track.
Mike Skinner (No. 5 International Trucks/ Monaco RV Toyota) boasts top-10 finishes in three of his past four Daytona races. But, like Hornaday, it's been either chicken or feathers for Skinner, who finished 25th or worse in his other appearances.
Johnny Benson (No. 95 Plane Guts Ford) goes to the line with a brand-new team owned by Nashville's Danny Gill. Gill was crew chief for 2004 champion Bobby Hamilton.
The race marks the return to the series of 2005 champion Ted Musgrave (No. 15 Toyota), who was second at Daytona in 2002 after winning the pole.
Loop Data: Keep An Eye On Busch
Kyle Busch will don his owner-driver hat for the first time in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Friday night, and statistics suggest his team will have a debut worth watching. And it's not just his No. 18 Toyota that has a shot at visiting Victory Lane for the first time under the Busch banner. Young gun Tayler Malsam, who will be in the No. 56 Toyota, has the Daytona pedigree to make noise.
Though Malsam has only one Daytona start -- last season, his rookie campaign -- the run was an impressive one. He finished 10th and posted some of the race's top statistics. In the event, Malsam had a Driver Rating of 92.1, an Average Running Position of 10.1, a Pass Differential (passes minus times passed) of plus-14 and 87 Laps in the Top 15 (out of 100).
With an incredible winning percentage of 23% in the series (16 wins out of 69 races), Busch is one of the favorites wherever he runs.
Daytona is no different.
Surprisingly, though, Busch is 0-for-2 in his Daytona races, finishing runner-up in both the 2008 and 2009 events. That's surprising because at Daytona, like at most places, Busch's statistics rank near the top, starting with a Driver Rating of 109.4 and an Average Running Position of 7.6.
Eyeing A Fifth Championship, Hornaday Jr., KHI Hoping For Daytona Success
Three months after wrapping up his fourth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship, Ron Hornaday Jr. is eager to get the new season started.
Doing it at Daytona gets the 51-year-old Californian fired up -- if in fact Hornaday ever needed motivation to get behind the wheel.
"Since I first sat behind the wheel of a race car I always wanted to go to Daytona," said Hornaday. "I know a lot of drivers say that, but driving through the tunnel at Daytona always gives me chills. To win a race at Daytona would fulfill a dream. It would be a great accomplishment."
There have been changes at Kevin Harvick Inc. since Hornaday and Kevin and DeLana Harvick accepted their series championship accolades in South Florida. Rick Ren, Hornaday's crew chief through a pair of championship and second-place runs, moved over to Kyle Busch Motorsports during the off season.
Longtime car owner and crew chief Dave Fuge, who participated in championship efforts by Mike Bliss (2002) and Travis Kvapil (2003), will be atop the pit box when the green flag falls Friday night.
Fuge believes the transition will be seamless. "I've known Ron forever; raced with him and against him for 20 years," said Fuge, who shared a victory with Hornaday in 2002 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
There's no pressure to succeed Ren, who arguably was the series' best crew chief over the past three seasons.
"Not any more pressure than I put on myself," said Fuge. "Everyone at KHI expects a lot and I expect the same."
KHI again will field a second truck. The No. 2 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet will be shared by Elliott Sadler -- who gets the call in Daytona -- and Harvick.
"I haven't drafted in a truck before, so it will be a little unique," said Sadler. "It'll be interesting to see how everything plays out at the end. The trucks tend to come down to the last 50 feet of the race before you know who is going to be able to pull off the win."
Bodine, Hillman Go With Proven Game Plan In Search Of Daytona Win No. 3
While many teams built new equipment for the NextEra Energy Resources 250, it has been a case of "same-old/same-old" at the Germain Racing shop.
A bit of spit and polish was all it took to ready Todd Bodine's No. 30 Toyota for this year's Daytona race.
Simply put, why mess with success? It's the same Tundra that Bodine and crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. have brought to Daytona since 2005.
"It is a proven winner," said Hillman of the chassis that has won twice, finished second once and never been out of the top five in five Daytona appearances.
"Daytona is a handling track and the chassis has always responded well to Todd so there's no reason to change."
Bodine has become "Mr. Daytona" in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with his uncanny ability to find the right drafting partners to keep him in contention -- and out of trouble -- right up to the checkered flag.
You might say that's easier said than done although Bodine finds it a simple process. "You choose who you want to race with on the fly, in the race," he said. "You know what trucks you draft well with and what trucks push you well and you keep that in the back of your mind and work yourself on the race track to try to get help from the other trucks."
The Germain team, despite its success, again goes to Daytona lacking complete sponsorship. Both Bodine and Hillman hope that another victory will open that door -- as it did under similar circumstances in 2009.
"We have a great truck to go with," Bodine said. "So, if we go there and do what we know how to do and run well, hopefully the pieces of the sponsor puzzle will fall into place and we'll have some companies sign up to come on board."
Said Hillman, "All the guys here worked real hard all winter long to get everything ready to go for the 2010 season. We really haven't let our lack of sponsorship affect the way we prepare for the start of the season. We're hoping another strong run at Daytona will help us in that area."
Director's Take: Wayne's Words
Here's the pre-Daytona perspective of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Director Wayne Auton, heading into Friday's season opening race: "It's funny how racing works. You breathe a big sigh of relief when the season finally ends but that lasts about two weeks. You think, 'I can't wait for the new season to start.'
"We've had a number of tracks open the season over the past 15 years -- Phoenix, Homestead-Miami and Walt Disney World -- but Daytona International Speedway's 'big stage' definitely ranks as the best.
"Here, in no particular order, are some of my favorite Daytona memories: "The first race was a swing of emotions, heart in your mouth after Geoffrey Bodine's frontstretch accident. But the crowd's reaction when he raised his arm on the way to the ambulance and the cheers when the race was decided in the final turn was unbelievable.
"You couldn't orchestrate a three-wide finish with three different makes of trucks but that happened in 2003. We knew that we'd gotten the rules right that day.
"We enjoyed having nine different winners but Todd Bodine's second win in-a-row was pretty special. And he won by just enough!
"Jack Sprague got his Daytona victory in 2007. That was special because Jack's role in building the series was special in and of itself. Every driver wants to say he won at Daytona and happily for Jack, he got the chance.
"The most frequently asked question over the winter is how does the 2010 season shape up in terms of teams and competition?
"From my perspective, the season has all the makings of being one of the best. We've had large numbers of calls from owners wanting to step up to the series. That's one reason why we altered the starting line-up lock-in procedure. We wanted to give the newcomers every opportunity to make the race.
"We go to Daytona with five former champions in the field and Ron Hornaday Jr. looking to make history again as a five time champion.
"I can't wait to see the green flag drop."
Four drivers have declared intention to compete for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year award in 2010 -- with the list certain to grow next week.
The rookie class includes Brett Butler (No. 47 Fuel Doctor Chevrolet); Jennifer Jo Cobb (No. 10 www.drivenmale.com Ford); Austin Dillon (No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) and Justin Lofton (No. 7 visitpit.com Toyota). Dillon was chosen the early front-runner in a media poll conducted by NASCAR.
• Speaking of Dillon, the Daytona race marks the return of Richard Childress Racing after a 10-year absence. Dillon's grandfather, Richard Childress, was among charter owners in the series and won the 1995 title with Mike Skinner.
• After competing in Saturday's ARCA Lucas Slick Mist 200, former Formula 1 driver Nelson Piquet Jr. (No. 1 Toyota) has been entered in the NextEra Energy Resources 250. He'll join Red Horse Racing teammates Lofton and Timothy Peters (No. 17 K&N Toyota). The most recent F-1 "refugee," Scott Speed, scored a victory in his sixth start at Dover International Speedway.
• Randy Moss Motorsports completed its two truck lineup adding the No. 81 Zachry Toyota for series veteran David Starr. Starr will team with Skinner.
• While it's not technically a debut, Daytona marks the first full-time season for Turner Motorsports and sophomore driver Ricky Carmichael (No. 4 Monster Energy Chevrolet).
• Ted Musgrave on Daytona: "It's a gamble. You can have a great truck and not win the race or a terrible truck and finish up front.
• Toyota goes after a record fifth consecutive championship after matching Chevrolet's 1995-98 record last year.
• Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet) didn't win a race in 2009 but still finished second in the points standings.
He blames the pit road procedure, now discontinued. He had plenty of power but poor fuel mileage and gave away a stop to others.
"I know we gave a couple of races away. I'm really happy we're going back to normal rules," he said.
Up Next: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Adjustments to the 2010 series schedule have created a two-week break between Daytona and the next NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on March 6 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The 1.54-mile track has been "owned" recently by Kyle Busch, winner of three of the last four Atlanta races (and four overall) including last year's Atlanta 200.
Busch is the only driver to have won more than once.
Despite Busch's dominance, Chevrolet continues to be AMS' top manufacturer; Silverados have visited Victory Lane on five occasions.