*Chrissy Wallace Ready For NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Debut *Skinner Bids For Record, Third Consecutive Win At Martinsville *Same Track, Different Seat For NASCAR Mod Champion Donny Lia First Female Driver From Wallace Clan Debuts At ...
*Chrissy Wallace Ready For NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Debut
*Skinner Bids For Record, Third Consecutive Win At Martinsville
*Same Track, Different Seat For NASCAR Mod Champion Donny Lia
First Female Driver From Wallace Clan Debuts At Martinsville
Chrissy Wallace (No. 03 Toyota) hopes to follow her father Mike's footsteps into NASCAR national series competition.
If she's successful in qualifying for Saturday's Kroger 250, both father and 19-year-old daughter will have made their debuts at Martinsville Speedway.
Mike Wallace, a four-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck winner, finished second in his maiden NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Martinsville on Oct. 28, 1990.
He'll also spot for his daughter, who in 2007 became the first female driver to win a late model stock car race at historic Hickory (N.C.) Motor Speedway.
The younger Wallace would become the ninth female to compete in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
Rookies don't always benefit from having top equipment. Not Chrissy, whose team has 14 wins and the 2006 championship with Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota).
"Obviously, this is a big opportunity for me. I have to thank the Germains, Mike Hillman and Toyota for putting this deal together," she said. "Our goal is to go out there and run a smart race and finish."
Her father is happy to be going along for the ride.
"When I got the call from Chrissy after the test, It was very nice. She just wanted to tell me 'thank you,'" said Wallace. "She said everything I told her on the radio made her run faster and she said she realized I really did know what I was talking about.
"She asked me to spot for her. I don't even need to say it, I'm sure, but yes, I'm very proud."
Skinner Looks For Yet Another Record
Three have tried; none succeeded.
This week, Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) looks for a way to win an elusive, third consecutive short track race at the same track.
Dennis Setzer (No. 18 Dodge) was the last before Skinner to score back-to-back victories at a short track. Setzer won at Martinsville in 2002-03 and came tantalizingly close to a third victory the following April, finishing second to Rick Crawford (No. 14 Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford).
Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 VFW Chevrolet) had two shots at win No. 3 in 1998 and 1999, but failed both times to even crack the top 10.
Skinner has been in this position once before at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis in 1997. A broken oil line at mid-race ended the streak.
Martinsville's only three-time series winner, Skinner, isn't getting ahead of himself.
"Well, the first thing we have to do is win," said Skinner, who'll be aboard the BDR Chassis 5-76 that carried him to both Martinsville wins in 2007.
"Our goal this weekend is to definitely win, but we will take what we can get," he said. Skinner, ranked seventh in points following top 10s in California and Atlanta, adds it's too early for an "all in" strategy.
"We've got to catch back up in the points and this would be a good weekend to do it," Skinner said.
A Different Kind Of Martinsville For NASCAR Whelen Modified Champion Lia
Donny Lia (No. 71 TRG Chevrolet) seemingly has an advantage this week over his Raybestos Rookie of the Year classmates.
Lia has won at Martinsville Speedway before.
The question is whether winning last September's NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race provides Lia with insights beyond knowing the location of Victory Lane.
The New York native, following two days of testing at Martinsville last week, isn't sure driving a 3,400-pound truck will be markedly different from guiding his lighter modified around the track's paperclip layout.
"It was surprising to me just how hard you drive the trucks into the corners, pretty much as hard and deep as I would drive a modified there," said Lia, the modified tour's 2007 champion. "However, you do tend to pick the throttle up a little bit later in the corner and smoother than you would a modified."
What's more familiar about Martinsville is how the track fits Lia's eye. He's been there many times -- just not at Martinsville, Va.
"It is a lot like the track I cut my teeth at, Riverhead Raceway in (Long Island) New York, just bigger," he said. "So it is like going home for me."
Lia and his fellow Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates obviously benefited from testing -- something that hasn't previously happened.
"We learned a lot about our truck and were very competitive," said Lia, who posted third, fourth and seventh-fastest speeds during three of the test's four sessions.
His speed topped out at 94.941 mph, slightly more than a tenth-of-a-second slower than Jack Sprague's (No. 2 American Commercial Lines Chevrolet) top speed of 95.675.
Lia, who got a late start and has ground to make up in the rookie derby, thinks the Kroger 250 is a great opportunity to score points.
"If we can qualify in the top 10 and play the strategy game just right, I think we have a shot to win this race," he said.
Etc. and Quotable
Six Winners In Kroger 250 Field ... Six drivers with a combined nine of the track's 18 wins will compete in Saturday's race. They include Skinner, Setzer, Sprague, Crawford, David Starr (No. 11 Red Horse Racing Toyota) and Jon Wood (No. 21 Barnhill Ford).
ACS Relay Noted ... Wood's truck will carry the logo of the American Cancer Society in honor of his mother, Carol Wood, participating in the May 17 Relay for Life being held in Stuart, Va.
VFW To Ride With Hornaday ... The Kroger 250 marks the first of four races the No. 33 VFW Chevrolet of Ron Hornaday Jr. will honor the Veterans of Foreign Wars. His crew has been wearing "Support Our Troops" wristbands.
"You have to be tough. You can't let guys punt you around because if you do that, they will take advantage of you all day long." -- Brian Scott, No. 16 Shark Energy Drink/Albertsons Chevrolet, 16th in his 2007 Martinsville Speedway debut.
"Martinsville is just one of those old-school places. It is good, old hard-nosed short track racing. Martinsville is a place where you can beat, bang, root and gouge and it is acceptable." -- Jack Sprague, who has a win among seven finishes of third or better and third-best Driver Rating of 107.7.
Schrader Returns ... Ken Schrader will run his own No. 52 for the first time since 2005. The Federated Auto Parts Toyota finished second at Texas Motor Speedway in June 2007 driven by Skinner. Rookies At Martinsville: 0-For-18
The list of Martinsville winners is a NASCAR Hall of Fame-worthy roster and includes Jimmy Hensley, the late Bobby Hamilton and Bobby Labonte.
Conspicuously absent is any Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate.
Yet it would be wrong to suggest it can't happen in 2008 because a rookie nearly broke through on three previous occasions.
Travis Kvapil finished second in 2001; likewise Carl Edwards in 2003 and Todd Kluever in 2005.
The trio shares one common distinction. Each won Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors.
So while the .526-mile layout hasn't produced any freshman winners, Martinsville Speedway definitely identifies the best in class.
A top five or top-10 finish under the circumstances will go a long way toward establishing a favorite in this year's rookie competition.
Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford) will defend his 2007 Kansas Speedway victory on April 26 .
The O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 will be the eighth held at the 1.5-mile facility in Kansas City, Kan.
This is a track where young drivers have made a huge impact. Four of Kansas Speedway's previous seven winners were under the age of 25: Darnell, Wood, Carl Edwards and the late Ricky Hendrick.
In The Loop:
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series regulars make it known they hold their own quite nicely against the double-duty drivers when racing at Martinsville Speedway. The regulars are the clear class at Martinsville, often trumping the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regulars. It should be interesting to see if the trend continues this Saturday.
The NASCAR Sprint Cup regulars in the field: Kyle Busch (No. 51 Toyota), Denny Hamlin (No. 15 Toyota) and Schrader. And all three have had struggles in the NASCAR Craftsman Trucks at Martinsville.
In two starts there, Hamlin has finishes of eighth (October 2006) and 19th (October 2007). In the two starts combined, he has an Average Running Position of 11.6, a Driver Rating of 90.0, 76.8 percent of the laps in the top 15 and seven Fastest Laps Run. His stats are solid, but not near the top of the charts.
The same can be said for Busch. In three Martinsville starts, he's finished fifth (October 2005), sixth (October 2006) and 31st (October 2007). In the three races, Busch has an Average Running Position of 10.6, a Driver Rating of 95.5, 81.0 percent of the laps in the top 15 and 19 Fastest Laps Run. Again, solid, but un-Busch like. Schrader, though failing to crack the top 10 in any of his last five Martinsville races, has been consistent over the last three. Since 2005, Schrader has a Driver Rating of 78.5 and an Average Running Position of 15.6. His last three finishes were 14th (April, 2005), 11th (October 2005) and 13th (March 2007). Schrader's best Martinsville finish -- eighth in October 2004 -- is the Missourian's only top 10.
Director's Take: Wayne's Words
Fans love Martinsville Speedway for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the bumper-to-bumper, fender-to-fender rubbing that makes for some of the most exciting races of the season.
And the competitors enjoy the racing as well. Aerodynamics isn't an issue; it's all about driving the truck.
That's easier said than done -- especially with 36 trucks on a tight track.
Drivers who can make his or her truck roll through the turns, stay off the curb and keep the brakes working from start to finish are going to have a very good chance of winning at Martinsville.
That said, it's not all in the driver's hands. The crew chief is very much a part of the equation from the time the truck is unloaded through the running of the race.
Strategy plays a big part in winning at any NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series short track race, but especially at Martinsville. Having the right setup is one thing. A crew chief also has to know when to call the driver to pit road to protect or gain track position.
That may not be quite as easy to call as in the past. There may be additional stops required due to the smaller, 17.75-gallon fuel cell that should shorten the fuel window.
Our teams had a great, two-day test last week to acquaint themselves with our 2008 engine package requiring a tapered spacer mounted between carburetor and intake manifold. The Kroger 250 marks its introduction to short track racing where a power reduction (around 70 horsepower) should help competitors with wheel spin and allow them to drive off the corners earlier and quicker. -- Wayne Auton, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director
Martinsville Becoming NASCAR Hub
It's not yet Charlotte, N.C., but with two teams, a top engine builder and a junior college motorsports program, Martinsville, Va., is becoming a hub of NASCAR in southern Virginia.
Jim Harris' HT Motorsports and Joey Arrington Engines set up shop near Martinsville Speedway several years back. Bobby Hamilton Racing VA relocated from the Nashville area a few months ago.
Patrick Henry Community College has sent several students to BHR VA including Darin Goins, tire specialist for Stacy Compton (No. 4 Dodge Dealers Dodge); John Sowder, a general mechanic and tire carrier in training and Chad Martin, tire specialist on the No. 18 Dodge of Dennis Setzer.
Did You Know?
NASCAR is celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2008 but Martinsville Speedway's first race pre-dated the organization by a year.
Martinsville is one of four tracks to host a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in all 14 seasons beginning in 1995.
The Race: Kroger 250
The Place: Martinsville Speedway
The Date: March 29, 2008
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
Race Distance: 250 laps/131.5 miles
TV: FOX, 3 p.m. ET
Track Layout: .526-mile paved
2007 Winner: Mike Skinner
2007 Pole: Mike Skinner
Friday: Practice, 11 - 11:50 a.m. and 1:45 - 3:30 p.m.
Saturday: Qualifying, 10:10 a.m.