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Bobby Hamilton first defending champion to win opening race NEWS & NOTES Record start for defending series champion ... No defending champion had opened the season with a victory until Bobby Hamilton (No. 04 Bailey's Dodge) prevailed in a ...

Bobby Hamilton first defending champion to win opening race

NEWS & NOTES

Record start for defending series champion ... No defending champion had opened the season with a victory until Bobby Hamilton (No. 04 Bailey's Dodge) prevailed in a final-lap duel with Jimmy Spencer (No. 2 Team ASE Dodge) on Feb. 18 at Daytona International Speedway. Hamilton now counts four victories at the 2.5-mile superspeedway; one as a driver and three as team owner. He's the sixth different Daytona winner.

Etc. ... Seven competitors have filed for this year's Raybestos Rookie of the Year Award. Among them is Kerry Earnhardt (No. 15 Kraft Foods/Stater Bros. Chevrolet), who won the Daytona Bud Pole. ... A record 17 different drivers led the Florida Dodge Dealers 250 - nearly half the starting field. The old mark was 13, also at Daytona. ... Two competitors, Crawford and Terry Cook (No. 10 Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford), have participated in all eight NASCAR Craftsman Truck races at California Speedway. Cook has completed 731 laps and 1,462 miles of the 800 laps and 1,600 mile run. ... The third-fastest race in series history was run at California Speedway in 2003. Ted Musgrave (No. 1 Mopar Dodge) won at an average speed of 145.925 mph. ... This week's race will be the first at the track in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competition since 1999 for two-time champion Ron Hornaday Jr., whose best performance is a third in 1998. ... Freshman Shige Hattori (No. 9 Aisin/Aisin AW Toyota) has been to California Speedway before but in open-wheel racing. Hattori finished fourth in a 1998 Indy Lights race and 30th in the track's 2002 Indy Racing League finale.

ON THE RIGHT TRACK

Musgrave not quite perfect but just about ... Musgrave will be gunning for his fourth win in five appearances at California Speedway. Musgrave posted consecutive victories beginning in 2001 and finished second a year ago to Todd Bodine (No. 66 Fiddle Back Racing Toyota) when the caution flag spoiled his final lap challenge. He has led five consecutive editions of the American Racing Wheels 200, a series record at California Speedway. Musgrave's Ultra Motorsports team has won four times at the track and was one-two in 2002 with Musgrave and Jason Leffler.

Bodine anxious to defend his victory ... The defending winner won't be in the same seat as a year ago but that doesn't bother Bodine, who also won the track's inaugural NASCAR Busch Series race in 1997. Bodine led the most laps of Daytona's season-opening race and finished third for his new team owned by Tom Eldredge and directed by veteran crew chief Tony Furr.

Don't count out Sprague in California ... Jack Sprague's (No. 16 Chevy Trucks Chevrolet) return to fulltime series competition in 2004 included a third-place finish at California Speedway, the three-time champion's fourth top five at the track. Sprague won back-to-back in 1998-99, clinching his second title with the latter victory. Friday's race will be Sprague's 199th on the series.

QUOTEBOOK

"I don't care who you are, if you're racing or playing or whatever, in front of your home crowd you're going to have that extra bit of adrenaline pumping through your veins." - Brandon Whitt, No. 38 McMillin Homes/Cure Autism Now Toyota, a native of El Cajon in San Diego County who considers California Speedway his home track.

"Having back to back races this year rather than such a gap as last year is better for everyone. It is much easier to get a momentum going and keep it going when the races are closer together." - Jack Sprague, on this year's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule.

"He pretty much taught me how to drive. Ever since I was 12 or 13 years old I have patterned my driving style after his. I really appreciate that he has the confidence in me to give me the opportunity." - Casey Atwood (No. 4 Bailey's Dodge), who gets his second start for Bobby Hamilton Racing at California Speedway. Atwood is - and likely always will be under current NASCAR eligibility rules - the youngest to start a NASCAR Craftsman Truck race at 16 years, six days old.

10 YEARS TOUGH

California Speedway is among seven currently scheduled tracks that did not exist when the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series began in 1995. The Fontana facility - which succeeded Riverside International Raceway and the Ontario Motor Speedway as Los Angeles area stops for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series - staged its first NASCAR Craftsman Truck race in 1997. Mike Bliss, driving Jim Smith's No. 2 Team ASE Ford, led 93 of 100 laps to beat Mike Wallace to the checkered flag.

FROM THE ARCHIVES

Retired NASCAR NEXTEL Cup star Ernie Irvan never won a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, although he co-owned winning trucks driven by Joe Ruttman and Boris Said. One of Irvan's two second-place finishes came at California Speedway in 1998.

FAST FACTS

What: American Racing Wheels 200 (Race 2 of 25).

Where: California Speedway.
When: 9:15 p.m. ET, Friday, Feb. 25.

Track layout: 2-mile paved.
Race length: 200 miles/100 laps.

Posted awards: $618,610.

TV: SPEED Channel, 9:15 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.

2004 winner: Todd Bodine.
2004 polesitter: Travis Kvapil.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Thursday - Practice 2:00 p.m. to 3 p.m. and 3:50 p.m. to 5 p.m. Friday - Qualifying 10:00 a.m. Trucks impounded after qualifying.

Top 10 drivers: 1. Bobby Hamilton 185. 2. Jimmy Spencer 175. 3. Todd Bodine 175. 4. Ricky Craven 165. 5. Ted Musgrave 155. 6. Brad Keselowski 151. 7. Ken Weaver 150. 8. David Starr 142. 9. Johnny Benson 139. 10. Wayne Edwards 138.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Ernie Irvan , Todd Bodine , Jason Leffler , Boris Said , Jimmy Spencer , David Starr , Casey Atwood , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Ricky Craven , Jack Sprague , Joe Ruttman , Kerry Earnhardt , Mike Bliss , Wayne Edwards , Brandon Whitt , Ken Weaver , Brad Keselowski , Jim Smith , Travis Kvapil