Homestead: Toyota preview

Homestead: Toyota preview
Nov 17, 2004, 4:03 PM

THIS RACE -- This will be the ninth race at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS). There will be nine Toyota Tundras in the field. LAST RACE -- In the most recent NCTS race at Darlington Raceway (Nov.13), two Toyota ...

THIS RACE -- This will be the ninth race at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS). There will be nine Toyota Tundras in the field.

LAST RACE -- In the most recent NCTS race at Darlington Raceway (Nov.13), two Toyota drivers registered top-10 finishes. Johnny Benson was the top-finishing Toyota driver with a sixth-place finish in the No.23 Bill Davis Racing Tundra. Robert Huffman was the top-finishing rookie with a ninth-place finish in the No.12 InnovativethMotorsports Tundra.h Toyota drivers following Benson and Huffman to the checkered flag were Bill Lester (16 ), Travis Kvapil (19t ) and Todd Bodine (20th).

POINTS RACE -- After 24 races, three Toyota drivers are among the top-15 in the NCTS championship standings. Travis Kvapil is seventh in the standings with 3,046 points, just 7 points behind sixth-place David Starr. Mike Skinner (2,887 points) is 12th in the standings and David Reutimann (2,744 points) sits in 15th-place.

ROOKIE RACE -- After 24 races, Toyota's David Reutimann, driver of the No.17 Darrell Waltrip Motorsports NTN Bearings Tundra, remains atop the Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Year standings with 243 points, 55 more than second-place Tracy Hines (188 points). Tundra driver Robert Huffman is just one point behind Hines in third- place.

FOUR WINS FOR TOYOTA -- Toyota has registered four victories in 22 NCTS races in its inaugural season in the series. Todd Bodine earned the two most recent wins for Toyota when he captured the checkered flag at Texas (Oct.16) and California (Oct.2) in his No.30 Germain/Arnold Racing Tundra. Travis Kvapil captured the checkered flag at Michigan (July 31) and New Hampshire (Sept.18) in his No.24 Bang Racing Line-X Tundra to record Toyota's first two NCTS wins.

FOUR FIRSTS FOR TOYOTA -- Toyota has earned four NCTS pole positions in its debut season in the series. Mike Skinner earned the two most recent pole positions for Toyota when he captured the first starting spot at Texas (Oct.16) and Las Vegas (Sept.25). The two other Toyota pole positions were captured by Travis Kvapil at California (Oct.1) and David Reutimann at Atlanta (March 12).

TOYOTA TOP-FIVES -- Toyota Tundra drivers have recorded 24 NCTS top-five finishes this season. In addition to four victories, Tundra drivers have finished second (4), third (5), fourth (6) and fifth (5). Travis Kvapil has the most top-fives for a Toyota driver this season with six finishes among the leaders -- including two wins, one second-place, two fourths and one fifth. Johnny Benson has five top-five finishes, and Todd Bodine and Mike Skinner have had four top-fives.

TWO TOP-10S FOR TRAVIS -- Travis Kvapil has recorded two top-10 finishes in three Miami NCTS starts. He has finished second (2001), sixth (2003) and 15th (2002) at the Florida circuit. The Janesville, Wis.-native also has started all three races among the top-10 -- qualifying fourth (2003), sixth (2002) and seventh (2001).

TRAVIS TAKES TITLE AT MIAMI -- Last year, in the NCTS season finale at Miami, Travis Kvapil's sixth- place finish enabled him to capture the NCTS championship over Dennis Setzer, Ted Musgrave and Brendan Gaughan. Kvapil, who entered the final race of 2003 in third-place in the championship standings, crossed the finish line ahead of his three challengers to clinch the title. Kvapil ended the year with 3,837 points, nine more points than Setzer and 20 more than Musgrave.

TWO IN THE TRUCKS -- Mike Skinner has made a pair of NCTS starts at Miami. In 1996, the Daytona Beach, Fla.-residenthstarted second, led 74 laps and crossed the finish line in 20th-place. The following year, Skinner qualified 18t , led 33 laps and finished fourth.

FIVE MORE IN MIAMI -- In addition to his two NCTS starts at Miami, Mike Skinner has made the field in five other NASCAR races at the Florida oval. He has started four Cup Series races and one Busch Series race at Miami. His best finish in these five races was a sixth-place result in the 1999 Cup race at the track.

SKINNER TALKS TOYOTA -- "I think it's been an awesome year for Toyota," says Skinner. "As the season has progressed -- and as Toyota has progressed Toyota's program continues to get better and better. When we recently had to go back and run one of the first Tundras we had, you can really see how far Toyota has come in the development of the truck. What Toyota has today is as good as what anybody else out there has."

SKINNER TALKS TOYOTA II -- "I think Toyota has had to overcome some hurdles this year, with the biggest one being the `new kid on the block' this season," says Skinner. "Anytime you're the `new kid on the block,' going through the inspection process for the first time, and getting parts approved by NASCAR for the first time -- without really having any history with the Craftsman Truck Series -- is a huge hurdle."

BILL IS BACK -- Bill Lester competed in NCTS races at Miami in 2002 and 2003. He qualified for both races among the top-10, starting eighth in 2003 and ninth in 2002. In both his NCTS starts at Miami, Lester has crossed the finish line 18th.

BENSON HAS BEEN HERE -- Johnny Benson has started nine NASCAR Cup and Busch races at Miami, but he has never participated in a NCTS event at the Florida track. Benson's racing resume includes five Cup starts and four Busch races at Miami. In a Cup car at Miami, Benson has registered two top-10 finishes. The Grand Rapids, Mich.- native also has a fourth-place finish (2003) in the Busch Series at the Florida oval.

BENSON STREAKING -- Johnny Benson has registered top-10 finishes in six of his last seven NCTS starts this season. He has finished second (Texas), third (NH), fourth (Las Vegas), fifth (Phoenix), sixth (Darlington) and seventh (California). In his other race during the streak, he crossed the finish line in 11th-place at Martinsville.

TODD HAS TAKEN MANY LAPS -- Beginning with his first NASCAR start at Miami in 1995, Todd Bodine has qualified for 11 races at the track -- including three Cup Series starts and eight Busch Series races. During his Miami career, the Chemung, N.Y.-driver has recorded two top-five finishes in the Busch Series. His best Cup Series finish at the track was an 11th-place in 2003.

HANK HAS FIVE -- Even though he has never started a NCTS race at Miami, Hank Parker Jr., driver of the No.21 Innovative Motorsports Tundra, has made five Busch Series starts at Miami. In his five races at the track, Parker Jr. has recorded two top-five finishes -- a second-place in 2002 and a fourth-place in 1999. The Denver, N.C.-native has also led 50 laps at the Florida oval.

HANK'S REVIEW -- "I think Toyota's performance has been above what most people expected," says Parker Jr. "I think in the last quarter of the season the progress has really picked up quite a bit, especially at tracks like California, Las Vegas and Texas. I think that's where the program really took a step up. Not to say Toyota didn't have good engines and trucks before that, but I think that's where the level of the program was raised."

REUTIMANN HAS ONE RUN -- David Reutimann has made one NASCAR start at Miami. In 2002, Reutimann ran in a Busch Series race at the track, but completed just seven laps before retiring.

HUFFMAN HAS NOT -- Robert Huffman has never competed in a NASCAR race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

NEW DRIVER TO DEBUT -- Shigeaki Hattori will be making his NCTS debut at Miami driving the No.01 Toyota Tundra. Hattori, 41, is a veteran open-wheel racer who will be competing in his first-ever stock car race. During his career, Shigeaki Hattori has competed in several open-wheel racing series, including the IRL and CART. In 1998, he captured the checkered flag in an Indy Lights race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Hattori's sponsor, Aisin, is a global supplier of automotive parts.

MORE PRODUCTION TUNDRAS -- Toyota recently announced plans to nearly double engine production at its Alabama plant of the V8 engines that are used in the production Tundra models. Engine capacity will increase from approximately 250,000 to 400,000, and it will add about 300 jobs at the Huntsville-based plant.

TV TIME -- Homestead-Miami Speedway, Friday, November 19, 3:30 PM (Eastern), SPEED Channel


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