NEWS OF NOTE * How close can it get?... David Starr's series-matching best finish-third place-increased his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship margin to 17 points following the O'Reilly 400. The spread from first through fourth, however,...
NEWS OF NOTE
* How close can it get?... David Starr's series-matching best finish-third place-increased his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship margin to 17 points following the O'Reilly 400. The spread from first through fourth, however, is 37. A year ago, the gap between first and fifth and first and 10th was 166 and 357, respectively. In 2002, it's 125 and 184.
* Not so easy to win from the front... Jason Leffler became the seventh consecutive Bud Pole winner who failed to parlay a No. 1 start into victory this season and earn the $10,000 Craftsman bonus paid to the team which wins from the pole. After seven races in 2001, the winner's average starting position was 1.86. This year it's 9.71. Oh yes - Brendan Gaughan started 10th.
* Winner, winner, who's got a winner?... Gaughan is the year's sixth different winner in the season's first seven races. That's happened just once previously, in 1998.
* Texas not so tough on tenderfeet... The recently completed O'Reilly 400 marked the third time in nine races and second in succession that an official rookie candidate won at Texas Motor Speedway. Previous Rookie winners were the late Kenny Irwin Jr. (1997) and Travis Kvapil (October 2001). Kvapil finished second to Gaughan on June 7. Texas Motor Speedway now counts the most consecutive different winners on any NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series venue - nine.
* Driver changes at Memphis Motorsports Park... Countryman-Ballew Motorsports announced June 14 the release of Raybestos Rookie Trent Owens, who will be replaced in the No. 15 Dickies Ford by veteran Rich Bickle, a three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series winner in 1997 with Darrell Waltrip Motorsports. Owens was 22nd in the standings and finished 26th at Texas Motor Speedway after his truck's engine failed."It would be unfair to place the blame on Trent," said Preston Countryman of his team's early-season performances."We've had a lot of bad luck this season and even the most experienced driver can't overcome that." Said co-owner Billy Ballew:"At this point, we just felt we needed to bring a veteran driver in like Rich (to) help our young race team." Also, Carl Edwards, of Columbia, Mo., will make his series debut at Memphis Motorsports Park in the No. 63 Mittler Brothers Racing Ford, formerly driven by Larry Gunselman. Gunselman recently left the St. Louis-based team to join FD2 Motorsports in the NASCAR Busch Series.
* Dejà vu for Morgan-Dollar... Danny Gill, crew chief at Memphis Motorsports Park in 2001 when Dennis Setzer gave Morgan-Dollar Motorsports its first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory, rejoins the No. 46 ACXIOM/Computer Associates Chevrolet team for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 200. Gill, who departed Bobby Hamilton Racing and Robert Pressley's No. 18 Dodge on June 3, succeeds John Monsam, who was released by Morgan-Dollar following Setzer's 14th-place finish at Texas. Setzer is due to drive this year's Martinsville Speedway-winning truck this week with his 2001 Memphis chassis in reserve.
* Out of one shop and into another... Monsam, meanwhile, moves to Xpress Motorsports and the No. 16 IWX Motor Freight/Knights Inn Chevrolet of Mike Bliss. "We were looking to add leadership and winning experience to our team and John certainly does that," Xpress Team Manager Dave Fuge said. "John will take over race-day activities on pit road, a move that definitely is going to help our team... and I can concentrate on spotting." Monsam has won with three teams and three drivers in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, most recently with Setzer at Martinsville Speedway in April.
* Memphis isn't Dodge city... Although Dodge has won four of seven races this season and 19 of the past 31 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events, no Ram-driven pickup truck has gone to victory circle at Memphis Motorsports Park. Chevrolet has won three times and Ford once. The No. 2 Team ASE Racing/Carquest Dodge of Scott Riggs finished second in last year's O'Reilly Auto Parts 200. Current driver Jason Leffler has a pair of top-five finishes in U.S. Auto Club Silver Crown competition at the .75-mile track, including a third in 1999.
* Under the radar no longer... Anyone waiting for Rick Crawford to stumble may have a long wait. The current NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series iron man - 133 consecutive starts - has quietly moved to second-place in the championship standings. It is Crawford's best-ever placing since joining the tour in 1997. The stats tell the story: over the past 17 events, Crawford has 13 top-five and 15 top-10 finishes with an average finishing position of 6.3."We're ready to take the ol' No. 14 Circle Bar hound dog to the hometown of Elvis Pressley and work on getting our first victory of the year," Crawford said.
* Celebrating a one-year anniversary... Brian Rose made his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut June 23, 2001 with a 28th-place finish at Memphis Motorsports Park. The Bowling Green, Ky. competitor definitely is looking to better that in his return at the wheel of the No. 4 Perry Connection Dodge out of the Bobby Hamilton Racing stable."I can't begin to tell you what the last year has been like," said the 22-year-old Rose, who hopes to end a two-race slide that has seen him drop from seventh to 13th in the standings."The one thing I know is if we're not getting it done at a track somewhere and they get in and run fast, then it is the driver that is slow," said Rose, alluding to owner Hamilton and teammate Robert Pressley."That definitely keeps you on your toes."
* And speaking of Robert Pressley... Pressley, quite possibly the most veteran driver on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will be visiting Memphis Motorsports Park for the first time. Pressley has a winning mount for the O'Reilly Auto Parts 400 - a chassis named Angel that Joe Ruttman drove to victory in 2001 at Pikes Peak International Raceway. Todd Meyers continues as interim crew chief of the No. 18 Dodge.
* Oh brother, Oh sister... Just once in a NASCAR national touring series-and never in the organization's modern era-has a brother and sister competed against each other in the same race. It could happen at Memphis Motorsports Park with entries submitted by NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series regular Randy MacDonald and his sister, Teri MacDonald-Cadieux. On July 10, 1949, competing in Strictly Stock (now NASCAR Winston Cup) on the old beach road course in Daytona Beach, Fla., Tim Flock finished second while his sister, Ethel Flock Mobley, placed 11th. The winner was Red Byron.
TRACKING SERIES ALUMNI
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series graduates continue to make headlines in the NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division, where Jack Sprague, Scott Riggs and Greg Biffle occupy the top three positions in the championship chase following the past weekend's Kroger 300 Presented by Oreo. Biffle finished second to Todd Bodine, and Riggs won the Bud Pole.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
On June 20, 1998, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series also raced in Tennessee - but about as far from Memphis as you can get without leaving the state. Ron Hornaday Jr. celebrated his 40th birthday by winning the Loadhandler 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway. The two-time series champion won back-to-back races on the concrete-surfaced track - both from the Bud Pole - in 1997-98.