Loudon: Round 18 preview

* Benson Still Leads Points But Hornaday Making Move * Ren Carries Keys To New Hampshire's Victory Lane * Davis' Finish A Milestone Among Youngest Drivers Hornaday Scores Big At Gateway; Adds Another Track To Win List DAYTONA BEACH, Fla....

* Benson Still Leads Points But Hornaday Making Move
* Ren Carries Keys To New Hampshire's Victory Lane
* Davis' Finish A Milestone Among Youngest Drivers

Hornaday Scores Big At Gateway; Adds Another Track To Win List

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 8, 2008) -- Although nobody was willing to predict it at the time, Gateway International Raceway proved pivotal in Ron Hornaday Jr.'s (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet) journey to the 2007 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series title.

Hornaday -- and an untimely accident -- wiped out Mike Skinner's (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) points lead to set up a back-and-forth battle that the 50-year-old Palmdale, Calif., veteran ultimately won.

Saturday's Camping World 200 didn't produce quite that dramatic a swing but Hornaday posted his fourth victory of the season to nibble 25 points off Johnny Benson's (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles) lead.

Three of those victories have come on tracks where Hornaday previously was winless: Gateway and Kansas and Texas Motor speedways. His series-leading total reached 37 victories.

Benson, who finished third, is 94 points ahead of Hornaday with eight races remaining. Hornaday again used bonus points to narrow the deficit, leading 113 of 60 laps from the No. 2 starting spot to collect a perfect 195 point score.

He's 25 points to the good in 2008 bonus points scored -- 100 to 75 -- although the driver leading that category hasn't won the title in the past six seasons.

That statistic doesn't phase crew chief Rick Ren.

"You've got to lead laps and get points wherever you get them," he said. "You only have to win by one."

Ren, Not The Auto Club, Has Road Map To NHMS Victory Lane

Want to navigate your way into New Hampshire Motor Speedway's Victory Lane?

Let Rick Ren be your tour guide.

Ren, who calls the shots for Kevin Harvick Inc.'s Ron Hornaday Jr., counts three victories at the 1.058-mile track.

He's the crew chief for Hornaday, the defending winner of this week's Camping World RV Rental 200.

In 2006, Ren backed Johnny Benson -- ironically the driver that Hornaday is trying to catch in search of a record fourth NASCAR Craftsman Truck title.

Ren first wrote his name in the NHMS record book in 1998 with Andy Houston.

In sum, Ren has won with three different drivers, each with a distinctly different temperament; and with three different teams.

Last weekend's Gateway victory was the 19th of Ren's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career. He is No. 2 among active crew chiefs to Dennis Connor.

He's assembled 13 of those wins since the beginning of the 2006 season, a series high.

The Illinois native would seem to be a perfect fit for Kevin Harvick Inc.

Ren has won races with Hornaday; Rick Carelli, the team's general manager and Houston, who serves as Jack Sprague's (No. 2 American Commercial Lines Chevrolet) spotter.

Etc. & Quotable:

Benson Quietly Collecting Points ... Crew chief Trip Bruce's two-tire call rescued Benson from heavy traffic and was instrumental in his driver's 11th top-five finish of the season.

His 8.4 average finish is best among all competitors in 2008.

"Pit strategy is what got us up there," said Benson, who appeared headed for a seventh-place or worse ranking.

Benson isn't the only Bill Davis Racing driver posting consistent finishes. Mike Skinner's seventh-place run marked the 13th time this season the 1995 series champion has finished among the top 10.

A Long Streak Happily Broken ... Dennis Setzer (No. 18 Royal Gate Chrysler Dodge) sat on the Keystone Light Pole for just the fourth time in a 259-race career. Setzer's last pole came seven years ago to the day at Richmond International Raceway.

The last time a Bobby Hamilton Racing VA truck -- and a Dodge -- was a pole winner was March 1, 2006; Bobby Hamilton Jr. at Martinsville Speedway.

Trading Places ... Jason White will be behind the wheel of Billy Ballew's No. 15 Gunbroker.com Toyota this week rather than his familiar SS Green Light Dodge. Crew chief Doug George was hospitalized last week due to complications stemming from a spider bite. George is healed and will make the trip to New Hampshire. Steve "Duze" Dluzniewski and J.R. Norris subbed at Gateway last weekend.

Also On The Move ... Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Brian Scott will join Bill Davis Racing in 2009 as his current Xpress Motorsports switches to Toyota for this season's final seven races.

"Our two veteran drivers, Mike Skinner and Johnny Benson, have done a great job mentoring both Scott Speed and Michael Annett, and I think they will both take Brian under their wing," said BDR owner Bill Davis.

They Know New Hampshire

Andy Houston spots for Jack Sprague. Each is a former winner at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Houston in 1998 and Sprague in 2001.

"I really don't think it gives us an advantage," said Houston. "I would like to think that it does, but this series is so competitive, it would be hard to say that that both of us being past winners gives us an edge. But it definitely doesn't hurt."

NHMS Produces New Winners

Until Ron Hornaday Jr. snapped the streak, New Hampshire Motor Speedway boasted 12 consecutive different winners.

That record is gone but another fact looms large.

The 1.058-mile track also has produced its share of first-time winners; three in all.

Jay Sauter was the first in 1997 followed by Andy Houston in 1998 and Jimmy Spencer in 2003.

With three new drivers already etching their names in the win column this season, it's possible a fourth could join them when the checkered flag falls on Saturday's Camping World RV Rental 200.

For Davis, A Sweet Debut

Marc Davis drove the No. 81 Randy Moss Motorsports Chevrolet to a 16th-place finish at Gateway International Raceway -- the best debut among the five youngest drivers since the age 18 minimum was imposed in 2002.

Rookies Like NHMS

It didn't take long for a Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate to score a victory at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

In fact, the 1998 event saw freshman drivers score one-two finishes with Andy Houston nosing out 2000 series champion-to-be Greg Biffle.

Just two years later, it was Roush Fenway Racing's Kurt Busch  --  a future
NASCAR Sprint Cup titleholder  --  grabbing the hardware.

Current Raybestos leader Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford) hopes history repeats itself this week. Braun is looking for his first win and Roush Fenway's 50th trip to Victory Lane.

Who Is The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' Most Popular Driver?

Have you cast your vote yet? Don't forget to make it count. For the first time in series history, voting for the Series' Most Popular Driver is in the hands of the fans. Be sure to check out NASCAR.com and vote for your favorite. More than 36,000 votes have been cast since voting began July 5.

Director's Take: Wayne's Words

"When we first went to New England in 2006, the idea of eating a lobster was foreign to say the least to this North Carolina native -- and probably many of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitors, who likewise were making their initial trip to what I'd call the 'far north.'

"Twelve years later, lobster is a dish all of us enjoy. We look forward to the series' only trip 'up east' not only for the food but the hospitality. Southern race fans love their NASCAR but probably no more so than the tens of thousands who will crowd into New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend.

"There's something else special about New Hampshire. We get to rub shoulders with competitors in two of NASCAR's great developmental series -- the modifieds and Camping World East. Graduates of both divisions have gone on to become NASCAR stars. Of course, Todd Bodine, whose family is synonymous with modified racing, is our 2006 champion.

"NHMS is the second of three flat mile tracks on which we race in 2008. Each is different; New Hampshire absolutely can't be compared with Phoenix or Milwaukee. The straightaways are long and the corners are slightly banked."

"Two things will get you a good finish this week: Momentum off the corners and the ability to out-brake your opponents." -- Wayne Auton, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway became a part of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck schedule in 1996 and assembled 11 consecutive different winners before Hornaday's victory a year ago.

There have been 27 races at four tracks in the Northeast. Hornaday is the only driver with a victory at each site.

In The Loop:

Conquering New Hampshire Motor Speedway takes finesse.

The one-mile, flat layouts can make passing tough -- so strategy is key.

Of course, some drivers do it better than others. Combining the statistics gleaned from similar tracks -- New Hampshire, Milwaukee and Phoenix -- the kings of the flat one-milers are Ron Hornaday Jr., Johnny Benson and Todd Bodine.

When combining -- or averaging -- the Loop Data statistics from those three tracks, Hornaday holds a slight edge over Benson. And that could translate into another chip taken from Benson's current 94-point standings lead.

At one-mile flat tracks since 2005, Hornaday has a Driver Rating of 118.2, an Average Running Position of 5.3, 1,820 Laps in the Top 15 (98.4%) and a Pass Differential of 55 (passes minus times passed).

Benson ranks slightly behind Hornaday in most of those categories. He has a Driver Rating of 115.8, an Average Running Position of 7.8, 1,578 Laps in the Top 15 (85.3%) and a Pass Differential of 59.

Also strong is Bodine, who could start the long climb back from a 249-point deficit. At the one-mile flat tracks, Bodine, currently fourth, has a Driver Rating of 108.0, an Average Running Position of 7.0, 1,682 Laps in the Top 15 (90.9%) and a Pass Differential of 15.

By the way, the driver running this weekend with the top Pass Differential is Ted Musgrave with a 68.

Manufacturers' Battle

Chevrolet's 138th victory marked the 13th time in 14 seasons that the GM brand has posted six or more wins.

In doing so, Chevrolet narrowed Toyota's lead in the series Manufacturers' Championship to seven points.

Dodge's second-place finish is the truck maker's best since Setzer's March 31 victory at Martinsville Speedway.

The recent Gateway race showed parity among all four manufacturers. Three finished among the top three and all four among the top six. Each boasted a team among the top-five qualifiers.

Up Next:

Get ready to roll the dice as the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series heads for Las Vegas Motor Speedway and next Saturday's Qwik Liner Las Vegas 350.

Travis Kvapil won last year's race but won't be around to defend that victory. Mike Skinner (2006) is the most recent winner expected to compete.

Fast Facts

The Race: Camping World RV Rental 200 Driven by Winnebago Industries
The Place: New Hampshire Motor Speedway

The Date: Sept. 13, 2008
The Time: 3 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 211.6 miles / 200 laps
Track Layout: 1.058-Mile Oval

TV: SPEED, 2:30 p.m. ET

2007 Winner: Ron Hornaday Jr.
2007 Pole: Set by Rule Book

Friday: Practice, 10:30-11:50 a.m. and 1:45-3 p.m.;
Saturday: Qualifying, 10:05 a.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Kevin Harvick , Greg Biffle , Jay Sauter , Andy Houston , Kurt Busch , Bobby Hamilton Jr. , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Colin Braun , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Jason White , Rick Carelli , Scott Speed , J.R. Norris , Michael Annett , Brian Scott , Marc Davis , Travis Kvapil
Teams Roush Fenway Racing , Bill Davis Racing