Martinsville: Round four preview

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes - Martinsville HT Motorsports Going For First Win Racing at Martinsville Speedway means racing at home for members of HT Motorsports. Competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series since ...

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes - Martinsville

HT Motorsports Going For First Win

Racing at Martinsville Speedway means racing at home for members of HT Motorsports. Competing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series since 2001, the team is still searching for that first win and would love nothing more than for it to come in front of family and friends.

With a veteran driver lineup, chances are good it could come this weekend. New to the HT team this season, David Starr in the No. 24 Zachry Toyota is no stranger to Martinsville's Victory Lane. Starr led 121 laps in the Kroger 250 before he grabbed the checkered flag in 2006. Winless since that race, the driver is ready to get back to Victory Lane.

"Even just saying getting back to Victory Lane sounds so good," said Starr. "All of us drivers go to the track each week trying to get the win, so Martinsville wouldn't be any different in that category. Knowing that you have led laps there and been to Victory Lane there makes you have a different, more confident outlook."

Starr's teammate Terry Cook (No. 25 Harris Trucking Toyota), also winless since 2006, is ready to find his way back to Victory Lane as well. Sitting seventh in points, the Ohio native thinks his team has the determination and momentum it needs.

"I feel like things are finally falling into place for us," he said. "Every team out there works hard and I cannot say enough about this HT Motorsports crew and how much time and effort they put in each week. We are hungry for a win, and won't back down until we get there."

Team owner Jim Harris, who hails from Lynchburg, Va., echoes his drivers' sentiments. "I think winning at home would be great for this team, just as it was for Bobby Hamilton Racing last year. Winning at what is declared your home track is always where you want to win first."

Harris has a little history with the track. He started coming to races back as a young teen. "I would come and sit on the concrete seats in Turn 4 and get covered up with black rubber and inhale the fumes. I was hooked," he said.

While he enjoys reminiscing of his younger days, Harris does say the best seat in the house is the seat he has these days with his teams.

And Starr would like a win as a gift to wife Kim and new son David Jr., born March 12. It would be a great way for me to celebrate being a dad, but every day is a celebration in that department," he said.

Premier Racing Takes Momentum Home

Like HT Motorsports, Premier Racing will be staying close to home this weekend. The Danville-based team is riding a wave of success in the first three races of the season. Driver and team co-owner Timothy Peters has his No. 17 Hayes Iron & Metal/Strutmasters.com Toyota sitting ninth in points. The top-10 ranking is a first for both the driver and team.

"We have built momentum in the first three races," said Peters. "Our success early in the year should translate to a good finish at Martinsville, a place I've had a lot of success in previous races."

While the driver believes racing at home doesn't give him an edge necessarily over the other teams, it's the strong support of your hometown fans that makes a difference.

A win is the team's ultimate goal and would be even sweeter coming at the their home track. "A win in my backyard, in front of my family, friends, and sponsors would mean more than any other win on the circuit."

Not only will the team be competing in front of friends and family, but sponsors too. Philip Hudgins, CEO of Premier Racing, said, "Most of our sponsors come from Virginia, and it would be a great way to reward them for their generous support."

Votes Are In: Media Predict Hornaday And Carmichael To Win

Media voted in the first-ever poll to predict who they thought would be the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion and Raybestos Rookie of the Year. The results are in claiming Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 VFW/Longhorn Chevrolet) will be the champion come Homestead. Hornaday edged Todd Bodine (No. 30 Germain Toyota) in the poll.

Johnny Benson (No. 1 Red Horse Racing Toyota) isn't predicted to grab a historic back-to-back championship as they have him slated to finish third. Mike Skinner (No. 5 Bad Boy Mowers Toyota), Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet), Kyle Busch (No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts/NOS Energy Drink Toyota), Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar Truck Corral/International Engine Ford), Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-Way Freight Ford), Terry Cook (No. 25 Harris Trucking Toyota), and Chad McCumbee (No. 07 SS Green Light Racing Chevrolet) round out the top 10.

In the rookie corner, media claim Rick Carmichael (No. 4 Oakley/Moster Energy Drink Chevrolet) as the series' Raybestos Rookie of the Year.

Atop The Box With Jeff Hensley

Martinsville native Jeff Hensley knows a thing or two about getting around the .526-mile track. The veteran crew chief helped lead Mike Skinner to his sweep of the short track in 2007 and has a win in the NASCAR Nationwide Series with Chuck Bown in 1993.

Hensley discusses his take on the track and shares thoughts on being home:

Q: What is the key to Martinsville Speedway? "Staying out of trouble is the biggest key. A lot of times at Martinsville it is not the best truck that wins but who has the best pit strategy. It is really hard to pass there so if you're able to have good pit stops and beat people out, then that is a huge advantage. "It also places a premium on qualifying, track position is so important. It is like a series of 20-lap heat races. So if you qualify well, have good pit stops and manage to stay out of others misfortune, then you can win the race."

Q: What specific challenges does it present to you as crew chief? "You want to be able to pit as soon as you can and be able to make it the rest of the way on fuel. Basically, this is a one-stop race if you time it right. You have to have the nerve to make the call and stick with it. If you need 50 laps of caution to make it, then you hope you get them. I have needed them and gotten them and I have needed them and not gotten them."

Q: From a technical standpoint, what are you concerned about for this race? "You pay special attention to the braking systems at Martinsville. The brakes, the cooling, the fluid, the pad and the type of brake you use. No matter how good your truck handles at Martinsville, if you don't have the right brake system that is working in harmony with everything else on your truck, then you're not going to run good. You can take a really good race truck with a bad set of brakes and run poorly, or you can take a decent handling truck with a good set of brakes and make it look really good."

Q: This will mark your driver Brian Scott's fourth start at the short track. What are some things you guys are looking at as you head into the weekend? "We had a good run last October with Brian. Our finish didn't show it but we ran from eighth to 12th almost all day. We started based on points because of the rain and worked our way all the way up through the field. "Right now we're headed into this race building on the momentum from a top 10 at Atlanta. We are taking a new truck which we've put a lot of effort into building. Hopefully we can lay a good foundation with this truck for our short-track program and it will translate into success at places like Gateway, Memphis and Loudon."

Q: What does it mean for you to race and win at a track you grew up around? "It means a lot, growing up in that area as a kid Martinsville was always our Daytona 500. To win a race here is very special to me, it is my track. But that said, I don't put any more emphasis winning there than I do any place else. Winning any race in this day and time is hard to do. They are all very precious and very important.

"As a kid I used to go to the track with my dad and sneak into the garage area by climbing under the fence. My mom used to always wonder how I got so dirty and greasy. When you're nine or 10 years old it doesn't matter, you just wanted to be in there and involved with what was going on."

Rookie Standings

This week the 2009 rookie class prepares for their first short track of the season.

Current standings leader J.R. Fitzpatrick (No. 7 Mammoet Chevrolet), who competed in last October's Kroger 200, only has three points separating himself from Ricky Carmichael. Not originally on his schedule, his strong showing out of the box has Carmichael and his No. 4 Oakley Chevrolet headed to Martinsville.

Johnny Sauter (No. 13 Fun Sand/Rodney Atkins/Curb Records Chevrolet) has two previous starts in the series where he notched a 22nd and 23rd-place finish. The Wisconsin native also has one start in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and four in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Only nine points behind Fitzpatrick in fifth, perhaps his experience will give the 2002 NASCAR Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year runner-up an edge over the rest of the class.

Manufacturer Battle

Chevrolet holds on to the most wins with six at Martinsville Speedway. But it's been a little dry spell for the manufacturer. Their last win was in April 2005 with driver Bobby Labonte. Dodge and Toyota are pushing Chevy's record. Both are tied with five wins.

In The Loop

Johnny Benson, the defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, sits 29 points out of the top 10 -- a position he didn't figure to be in at the close of 2008.

Now, after three races, Benson will likely take a "one race at time" mantra. The next race in his battle to regain standings prominence is Martinsville -- and the last time the series visited the short track, Benson won.

So optimism is high. Benson has been solid at Martinsville since the inception of Loop Data in 2005. In his last eight races there, Benson has a Driver Rating of 90.5, an Average Running Position of 12.8, 59 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 66.8%.

But there's one problem. The man Benson's chasing is even better. David Starr, who is 10th in points, ranks above Benson in almost every key statistical category. Starr, who won at this race in 2006, has a Martinsville Driver Rating of 92.6, an Average Running Position of 12.6, 60 Fastest Laps Run, a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 65.7% and has been passed only 74 times in the last eight races, the fewest of any driver during that span.

Starr struggled during the last Martinsville race, finishing 33rd, but has finished in the top 10 in four of the last six Martinsville races.

Director's Take: Wayne's Words

"Short-track racing is the very foundation of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Martinsville Speedway is such a historic track. It's also one of four tracks remaining on the schedule to host this series since its inaugural 1995 season.

"This will be the first short track we'll race this season so teams are looking at completely different factors and setups than the first three tracks.

"One of the biggest factors at this track will be brakes. You can have a great running truck but if you don't have the right brake set-up, it could keep you out of Victory Lane.

"A driver's track position is also key here. It is so hard to pass, you really want to start your day in a good position which places a big emphasis on your qualifying run.

"Not only will starting in a good position be important but teams' pit strategy will be key to keeping that good track position. It will be interesting to see what calls the crew chiefs make.

"This paperclip-shaped track is like two drag strips with two corners. It gets tight. Drivers will have their hands full trying to keep their fenders on. Of course, that just gives the fans good action to watch."

- Wayne Auton, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Director

Martinsville Speedway will host the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this weekend, the first of two visits to the short track for the series. This southern Virginia track and Texas Motor Speedway are the only two tracks on the schedule to host the series twice.

Up Next

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series takes a break before heading to Kansas Speedway for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 on Saturday, April 25.

Defending race winner Ron Hornaday Jr. led 136 of 167 laps on his way to Victory Lane. He was also the first to win from the pole.

Fast Facts

The Race: Kroger 250
The Place: Martinsville Speedway

The Date: Sat., March 28, 2009
The Time: 2 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 250 laps / 131.5 miles
Track Layout: .526-mile oval

TV: FOX, 2:00 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM. Listen locally on WZBB-FM 99.9.

2008 Winner: Dennis Setzer
2008 Pole: Jack Sprague

Schedule:
Friday -- Practice, 11-11:50 a.m.; 1:45 - 3:30 p.m.
Saturday -- Qualifying, 9:10 a.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Bobby Labonte , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , David Starr , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Colin Braun , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Terry Cook , Rick Crawford , Matt Crafton , Johnny Sauter , Ricky Carmichael , Timothy Peters , Chad McCumbee , J.R. Fitzpatrick , Brian Scott , Kyle Busch
Teams Red Horse Racing