Memphis: GM Racing preview

Memphis - Team Chevy Silverado drivers have a special affection for Memphis Motorsports Park (MMP). Since the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) began competing at the .75-mile flat track, the Bowtie Brigade has posted more wins; top-five and...

Memphis - Team Chevy Silverado drivers have a special affection for Memphis Motorsports Park (MMP). Since the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) began competing at the .75-mile flat track, the Bowtie Brigade has posted more wins; top-five and top-10 finishes than any other manufacturer.

The track, with its prominent Chevy presence, is one of the few stand-alone tracks Silverado drivers race on that is a "Chevy" track. They roll out the red carpet for not only the guys with the gold Bowtie on their uniforms, but all NCTS competitors with true Southern hospitality.

As much as adding another victory to their resume means to the Silverado drivers, taking home the "Elvis" trophy seems to have as much, if not more, meaning to them. The hardware is as unique a trophy as is available for the winner of a NCTS race.

Dennis Setzer, No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Silverado, heads the list of successful drivers at the facility just north of historic downtown Memphis, TN. With one win, seven top-five finishes and eight top-10 runs in eight starts, the Newton, NC native has clearly figured out his way around the track in a Silverado.

Last year, an incident on pit road involving the jack from another team instantly erased what was looking to be his second victory there.

"Last year at Memphis was definitely the one that got away," said Setzer. "It was just one of those racing things. I am looking forward to coming back this year and getting our Spears Silverado to victory lane.

"I really like the Memphis track and the fans there are just great! I really like that cool trophy too!"

Ron Hornaday, Jr., No. 33 Camping World Silverado, had also had a very late-race incident in 2005 that stole a second victory from his grasp.

"I have gone to victory lane before in Memphis," said Hornaday. "And have been very close a couple of other times. When that happens, it just drives me to want to go out there and win the next time.

"You know, Memphis is one of those tracks where it is a very prestigious deal to win. The trophy is an Elvis trophy, and it's just really cool. That's what we race for -- trophies."

Aric Almirola will make his first 2007 appearance in the NCTS behind the wheel of the No. 51 FedEx Express Silverado fielded by Billy Ballew Motorsports. Almirola, now competing in selected events in both NASCAR Busch Series (NBS) and NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (NNCS) for Joe Gibbs Racing, made his career-first NCTS start at MMP in 2005, also in a Chevy Silverado.

"I want to thank everyone at FedEx Express," said Almirola. "They have given me the opportunity to drive in the NASCAR Craftsman Trucks Series for the past three years. I appreciate their support and am thankful for the opportunity to drive for them.

"I am really excited to drive for Billy Ballew Motorsports this weekend. When Kyle (Busch) drives the truck, it is the truck to beat and we plan on going to Memphis with that same frame of mind that we will be the one to beat. Billy Ballew, Richie Wauters and the rest of the team does an awesome job on these trucks and look forward to putting the FedEx Express Chevrolet Silverado in Victory Lane in Memphis."

Matt Crafton, No. 88 Menards Silverado, has a great record at MMP, but wants to add one more turn in the race, the turn into victory lane. In six previous trips to the track, he has one top-five and five top-10 finishes.

"Memphis is not the easiest track we go to," said Crafton. "But once you get the right feel to your truck, you can get a good race rhythm and head to the front. We always fight the heat there so you have to be physically and mentally prepared to deal with that aspect. Short track racing is pretty intense in the NCTS so you have to be on your game. Of course having that Elvis trophy on my shelf would be awesome too."

Brendan Gaughan, No. 77 South Point Hotel Silverado, likes the trophy as well: "We all know the Memphis is home to Graceland and Elvis. But Vegas was like his second home. I would love to take that Elvis trophy to Las Vegas this year and make its home in the South Point Hotel & Casino."

But added that the racing at MMP isn't bad either: "I can't explain it, but I like that track, Amazingly enough, as much as I say I hate short tracks - if you are looking for a bright spot on my career as far as Craftsman Truck short track racing goes, it's Memphis.

"I've never done fantastic there, but I've never done really badly - even through my roughest year in 2005, we had a good finish there. We actually finished third, and it was one of the hottest races I have ever driven.

"It's not an easy track to drive. The back straight-away has a huge bump going into turn three. It's got that wall real close on the exit of four. Memphis is a pretty tough short track."

Kraig Kinser, No. 47 Ginn Resorts Silverado, was on his way to at least a top-10, but probably top-five finish at The Milwaukee Mile when he was called to pit road by the team late in the race for fuel under green. His 17th-place finish doesn't reflect at all how well the Morgan-Dollar Motorsports driver performed, so he and the team are looking to turn things around at Memphis.

"Memphis is a track that I am looking forward to heading back to this year," said Kinser. "It is so unique, and there is really no other place like it. There are little bumps all over the track, and it makes for some fun, exciting racing for the drivers and the fans. It is also usually extremely hot when we head to Memphis, but from what I have seen, the weather looks like it is going to be pretty cool, for Memphis anyways.

"I am just looking forward to getting to Memphis and get to a track that I have been to before, and we can jump right into the practices and get our Ginn Resorts Silverado tuned up and ready for the race. The past few weeks, the guys have been really upbeat and having some encouraging runs at Texas, Michigan, and Milwaukee have helped boost all of our confidence, and I am looking to have another strong showing at Memphis."

Tim Sauter, No. 07 Lester Buildings Silverado, fell victim to virtually the same scenario as Kinser at Milwaukee. After running in the top-10 throughout the majority of the race, a late-race green flag stop for fuel pushed him back to 16th in the finishing order.

"We're going to bring the same race truck we ran at Milwaukee," said Sauter. "It's a good piece. I think it will cut the corner and I'm hoping we can be as competitive at Memphis as we were last week."

Sauter's Green Light Racing teammate, Chad McCumbee, No. 08 Silverado is looking forward to another trip to Memphis.

"I am looking forward to going to Memphis," said McCumbee. "Our short track program has really picked up and I am hoping that we will be able to pick up where we left off at Mansfield where we came home 14th.

"I think Memphis is a place where it fits me a little better than a lot of the short tracks. It has a pretty wore out surface, similar to Myrtle Beach where I grew up racing. Anywhere that you get some tire wear and where the tires seem to fall off, I seem to really like racing there.

"I am really hoping that will be the case this year, and the softer tire will fall off and play in our favor. I expect if things go right, that our / Garmin Chevrolet will be a contender for the race win at Memphis."

Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender Willie Allen, No. 13 ThorSport Silverado, returns to MMP for the second time. The TN native made his first-ever NBS start in 2006.

"Memphis is a special track for me," said Allen. "I had my very first Busch race at Memphis Motorsports Park. It's also in my home state of Tennessee, so it will be great to go back and race in front of my friends and family. This is one of the few tracks on the schedule this year that I have raced at before and that makes a big difference. We can spend more time tuning the truck since I am familiar with the track. I look forward to getting back to my roots of short track racing and hope our Chevy Silverado has a good finish."

Chad Chaffin returns to NCTS competition in the No. 40 Curtis Key Plumbing Silverado, the team he ran part-time for in 2006.

"Even though we had some rough times early last year in trying to get into races and compete, I still enjoyed my relationship with Curtis and the team," Chaffin said. "The race team was a young one last year and worked through motor and personnel issues before finally righting the ship and actually qualified for and raced in the final 17 races.

"Now the #40 is solidly in the group of trucks racing every weekend in 2007, and some new people are now in place on the competition side. I'm looking forward to getting back in the truck and finally making something good happen for them."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Ron Hornaday Jr. , Dennis Setzer , Matt Crafton , Tim Sauter , Brendan Gaughan , Chad Chaffin , Kraig Kinser , Aric Almirola , Willie Allen , Chad McCumbee