Las Vegas: Series round 20 preview

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes - Las Vegas T.J. Bell Hopes To Keep Promise To His Team In Las Vegas DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 21, 2009) -- T.J. Bell (No. 11 Red Horse Racing Toyota) is a realist. Bell, a first-year driver...

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes - Las Vegas

T.J. Bell Hopes To Keep Promise To His Team In Las Vegas

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 21, 2009) -- T.J. Bell (No. 11 Red Horse Racing Toyota) is a realist.

Bell, a first-year driver with Red Horse Racing, believes you walk before you run and excel in short measures before you win the marathon.

That said, the 29-year-old competitor had no illusions about being a championship contender in 2009.

What the Sparks, Nev., native did tell his team going into the season was he would do everything in his power to win them a race.

"As hard as this team works, they don't deserve anything less than a win and I promised it to them," said Bell. "That's our goal, to go out and win races. We're not racing for points; we're not racing for anything else.

"It would mean a lot to get the first victory (since 2006) for this team."

This could be the week it happens and what better place than in Bell's home state where he finished eighth in last year's Las Vegas 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

"I love the race track and it's always good to go back to Nevada and Vegas (being) close to home," said Bell of Saturday's 219-mile/350-kilometer/146-lap event. "I've got family there and a lot of fans coming down from Reno."

It's been an up-and-down season for Bell and his team. He finished fifth in the season's second race at Auto Club Speedway and was 12th last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He ran as high as third at Chicagoland Speedway several weeks ago in a truck crew chief Rick Gay Jr. has selected for the trip to Las Vegas. Bell says the pair has made significant progress over the course of the season -- especially since Timothy Peters (No. 17 Horse Racing Toyota) joined the team.

"We're really getting to know each other very well and we're getting the trucks set up the way I like to drive them. It's really good how things are starting to work out because Timothy and I drive similarly."

Racing isn't the only item on Bell's schedule in Las Vegas. On Friday, he and SPEED's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series pit road reporter, Ray Dunlap, will do tandem sky dives courtesy of Extreme Sky Dive -- Las Vegas. Bell will be making his first jump; Dunlap his second.

The Las Vegas 350 is the 20th of 25 events on the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck schedule. Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Copart Chevrolet) holds a 217-point lead in the championship standings but never has won in eight trips to the 1.5-mile speedway. Hornaday, however, has finished in the top five on five occasions, including a second in 1998 that wrapped up his second of three championships. He also clinched the 1996 title at LVMS.

"This year we have a really good shot at (a win)," said Hornaday. "We have run pretty well at the 1.5-mile tracks. I'm really excited to get back there."

Top Breakout Competitor In '09: You Pick 'Em

Every season has its breakout competitor. This year, there are at least three from which to choose.

Maybe it's 21-year-old Brian Scott (No. 16 Albertsons Toyota), who scored his first victory at Dover International Speedway and ranks fourth in NASCAR Camping World Truck standings.

Or perhaps it's Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford), last year's Raybestos Rookie of the Year who will celebrate his 21st birthday this week. Braun won his first series race in June at Michigan International Speedway and moved to fifth in points -- his best ranking ever -- with a top-10 finish in New Hampshire.

Then there's Johnny Sauter (No. 13 Fun Sand/Rodney Adkins/Curb Records Chevrolet), the eldest and most experienced of the trio, who is riding a four-race streak of top-five finishes, including a second-place performance Sept. 12 at Gateway International Raceway. Sauter, the leading Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate, jumped from 10th to seventh in the overall standings and was closing on New Hampshire winner Kyle Busch (No. 51 Miccosukee/Gateway Pharmaceuticals Toyota) before fuel mileage issues ended the challenge.

Sauter well may be the series' next first-time winner; perhaps in Las Vegas. "I was 12th, I think, there on that last restart and ended up with a fifth-place finish," he said after last weekend's race. "Definitely felt like we had the truck to beat, just didn't get it done today."

Sauter, 31, is on track to become the first official rookie candidate to log a top-10 points finish since Carl Edwards was eighth in 2003.

Crew Chief Hensley Says Aggressive Driver Fares Well At LVMS

Jeff Hensley was the winning crew chief in 2006 with Mike Skinner (No. 5 PC*Miler Navigator Toyota) when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series became the first to race on Las Vegas Motor Speedway's reconfigured track. He calls the shots for Brian Scott this season.

What makes Las Vegas Motor Speedway different from the other 1.5-mile tracks on which the series competes?

"It's got (more) grip. When we first got there in the new configuration it was as smooth as a tabletop. Now there's a pretty harsh bump over the tunnel in turns one and two that you have to work your way through. During the race it's not near as critical as qualifying or trying to cut a good lap."

Does a certain type of driver excel at LVMS?

"I think an aggressive driver does real well there. If the truck is working like it should, it's a multi-groove track during the race and you can drive the thing hard and you don't have to worry about tire issues."

How will pit strategy play into the race?

"You don't have to depend on the (new) tires to pick you up as we do at some tracks and the give-up is not near as much so you can play a fuel strategy. Last year was my first race with Brian and we weren't that good to start the race so we made a couple of pit stops and some adjustments and by the end of the race we were good."

How important is track position vs. other speedways?

"It's important but not as important as it would be at a Texas or Charlotte where you run right on the bottom. When we won there in '06 with Skinner, we played a little bit of fuel mileage. We got inside our window and we pitted and we didn't come back. The place lends itself to a lot of green-flag racing so you've got to look at all that. In Chicago, track position was important because you got really tight behind people. At Vegas, you can move up a groove and you won't have to run in the tire tracks of the other guy."

The gear ratio has been changed from last year. How will that affect your race?

"It actually changed the truck that I wanted to carry there because with the higher gear, you're not going to be able to get out of the gas. You've got to have a downforce, side force truck. It might trouble qualifying a little bit and that seems to be our MO anyway but when the race starts, you can stay on the gas and run it wide open and drive to front."

Loop Data: LVMS Hasn't Been Kind To Matt Crafton

Matt Crafton lost 20 more points to series leader Ron Hornaday Jr. at New Hampshire last weekend, despite another top-five finish.

Now, he heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a spot where success has eluded him -- big time. In other words, Crafton hopes that 20-point trickle doesn't turn into a geyser.

In terms of average finish at active tracks, Las Vegas ranks as Crafton's worst (he has an average Las Vegas finish of 18.1). In terms of Driver Rating, it's his fourth-worst track at 77.7.

But there's a sign of hope for Crafton: momentum. Crafton has scored a Driver Rating over 100.0 in six consecutive races. Additionally, his last race at Las Vegas -- last season -- resulted in a third-place finish, a Driver Rating of 101.0 and an Average Running Position of 7.6.

So, maybe his fortune has turned at the 1.5-mile track. Because prior to that, it was usually a rough go at Las Vegas.

In 2006, Crafton finished 21st with a poor Driver Rating of 61.1. In 2007, he finished 26th with a Driver Rating of 61.9.

Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Crafton has an Average Running Position of 14.5, three Fastest Laps Run, no Laps Led and 387 Laps in the Top 15 for a percentage of 65.5%.

Some more bad news for Crafton at Las Vegas -- even though Hornaday has yet to win a race there, he has performed well enough to do so. Hornaday has a solid Driver Rating of 94.2 and an Average Running Position in the top 10 (9.9).

Wayne's Words: Looking Forward To What Lady Luck Will Bring At Vegas

"Las Vegas Motor Speedway occupies a special place in NASCAR Camping World Series history. Its first race ended the 1996 season in which two tracks over a mile in length -- Las Vegas and Homestead-Miami Speedway -- had spots on the schedule.

"In a way, Las Vegas paved the way for what the series has become even though in its second season, truck racing remained a Saturday night, short-track phenomenon.

"We saw the championship settled three times in Las Vegas. There have been down-to-the-wire points finishes the last two years, but neither was any more exciting than in 1998 when Jack Sprague won the race, Ron Hornaday finished second and Ron won the championship by three points.

"While the points aren't as close right now, don't bet against Las Vegas being a factor in the ultimate outcome. History says there is no such thing as a safe points lead in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

"The cross-country trip is a long one but this is one trip the teams look forward to every year. The schedule is such that there's plenty of time to soak up the Las Vegas atmosphere and maybe even take a little bit of Vegas home -- if you're lucky!

"Las Vegas Motor Speedway and the community of Las Vegas do a great job promoting the Las Vegas 350. There's always a large and enthusiastic crowd for our final stand-alone race of the year. Then everyone takes a deep breath and gets ready for the final five races of 2009." - Wayne Auton, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Director

Carmichael Loves Las Vegas; So Does Sauter

Las Vegas is a special place for Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Ricky Carmichael (No. 4 Monster Chevrolet), just not in a NASCAR Camping World Truck.


Carmichael this week returns to the seat of the Kevin Harvick Inc. truck he shares with fellow rookie J.R. Fitzpatrick. The duo rank fourth and fifth in Raybestos points.

Las Vegas was a regular stop on the various Supercross and motocross circuits when Carmichael was No. 1 in the two-wheeled competition.

He won three U.S. Open titles at the MGM Grand and wrapped up the 2006 Supercross championship there as well.

"I've always liked coming to Las Vegas; I have a lot of good memories," Carmichael said.

Carmichael, however, will be just another rookie this week. He's never set foot on the Las Vegas Motor Speedway grounds.

The favorite would be Johnny Sauter with a combined eight NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series starts at the track.

Sauter finished third in the 2002 NASCAR Nationwide Sam's Town 300 driving a Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing.

Manufacturers' Standings

Roush Fenway Racing and Ford have had a quiet summer since scoring the team's 50th victory in June at Michigan International Speedway. This could be the week, however, that its No. 6 truck again finds Victory Lane.

The team has a pair of wins at LVMS, most recently in 2007 with Travis Kvapil at the helm of the F-150.

Toyota continues its drive toward a fourth consecutive Manufacturers' Championship. Busch's New Hampshire victory increased the truck maker's lead to 18 points over Chevrolet.

Up Next: Martinsville

The coming month offers NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams the opportunity to rest and reload for a final, five-race run to the 2009 championship.

Kevin Harvick drove his No. 2 Chevrolet to victory at Martinsville in March. Harvick bids to join Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota) in scoring a season sweep at the .526-mile track. Skinner won both the Kroger 250 and Kroger 200 in 2007.

The Oct. 24 Kroger 200 is the season's final short-track race. Harvick is one of four short-track winners in the five races held this year. Ron Hornaday Jr. has two wins. Skinner and Kyle Busch also have visited Victory Lane.

Fast Facts

Next Race: Las Vegas 350
The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway

The Date: Sat., September 26, 2009
The Time: 9:30 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 219 miles / 350 kilometers / 146 laps
Track Layout: 1.5-mile oval

TV: SPEED, 9 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, PRN, SIRIUS XM. Listen locally on KDWN-AM 720 .

2008 Winner: Mike Skinner
2008 Polesitter: Ron Hornaday Jr.

Saturday: Practice, 9 -- 10:15 a.m. and Final Practice 10:45 a.m. -- to 12 noon. Qualifying, 3:30 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Mike Skinner , Kevin Harvick , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Colin Braun , Jack Sprague , T.J. Bell , Matt Crafton , Johnny Sauter , Ricky Carmichael , Carl Edwards , Timothy Peters , J.R. Fitzpatrick , Brian Scott , Kyle Busch
Teams Richard Childress Racing , Roush Fenway Racing , Red Horse Racing