Memphis: Round 12 preview

* Tennessee Remembers Champion Bobby Hamilton * Defending Race Winner Sprague Calls MMP 'Different' * Skinner Closing On His Own Bud Pole Record * Benson Makes It Eight-For-11 In Milwaukee Memphis, Fellow Competitors Remember Champion ...

* Tennessee Remembers Champion Bobby Hamilton
* Defending Race Winner Sprague Calls MMP 'Different'
* Skinner Closing On His Own Bud Pole Record
* Benson Makes It Eight-For-11 In Milwaukee

Memphis, Fellow Competitors Remember Champion Hamilton

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 25, 2007) -- Competitors, officials and fans will remember one of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' most popular champions at Memphis Motorsports Park on Saturday -- an occasion Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen has proclaimed "Bobby Hamilton Day."

Pre-race ceremonies will be carried live on SPEED.

Hamilton, who succumbed earlier this year to cancer, won the 2004 O'Reilly 200. The Nashville area native was the Bud Pole winner in 2000.

"We are very honored that people want to pay their respects to Bobby in such a way," said Lori Hamilton, the late driver's widow. "Going to the tracks for the first time without him is hard but paying tribute to Bobby helps us remember the good times we had as a team."

Longtime friend and fellow competitor Ken Schrader is driving Hamilton's No. 18 Fastenal Dodge. He'll be making his first appearance at Memphis Motorsports Park. Schrader has one goal in mind -- win.

"It would be a great tribute to him to win this year," he said. "I'm going to do my best to make sure that happens."

Sprague 'Jacked Up' As He Defends At Memphis

Only two O'Reilly 200 winners -- Dennis Setzer (No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet) and Brandon Whitt -- aren't NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champions.

And, according to defending winner Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota), there are ample reasons why the .75-mile track favors the best the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has to offer.

"I don't know that Memphis is any tougher than anywhere else," he said. "It's just Memphis is just a little different track.

"One and two is certainly a different corner than three and four. You have to compromise so you can get around both corners well and that's hard to do."

Then there's the track surface itself.

"It's just a hard track to get ahold of," the three-time series champion said. "It eats tires. And it gets slippery and you've just got to be handling well."

Sprague adds, "I think it favors drivers that have been there a few times and know what to expect."

Sprague, the track's only two-time winner -- he visited Victory Lane in 2000 as well -- hopes the return to MMP will give Wyler Racing the opportunity to regain some momentum.

The team won the season-opening race at Daytona but has four finishes of 26th or worse in its last six starts. In the process, Sprague has fallen from fifth to eighth in the championship chase.

"We've been fast every week except for Texas," said Sprague, who has been beset by a litany of woes including inopportune flat tires. "I don't know about turning the season around. I just need the bad luck to quit.

"I don't necessarily want good luck; I just don't want the bad."

Skinner Closing On Bud Pole Record -- His Own

Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) is on a record-breaking pace to erase a mark the 1995 champion established in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' first season.

Skinner broke his own qualifying mark at The Milwaukee Mile on June 22 to post his seventh Bud Pole in 11 races this season.

Skinner is the single-season record holder with 10 poles over a 20-race schedule.

The California native has 14 races to better that mark. The most recent pole was his 39th.

Skinner had a pole winning bonanza in 2006, taking the No. 1 qualifying spot eight times. But the feat didn't translate into championship contention.

This year he's been both fast and consistent as evidenced by his three wins, nine top-five and 11 top-10 finishes -- and a 108-point championship lead.

Skinner has finished higher in eight of 11 comparable races, 2007 vs. 2006. He matched his other three finishes at Daytona, Kansas and Texas.

And, by leading all 11 starts, Skinner has amassed 70 bonus points -- 30 more than his cloest rival.

Benson Is Season's Eighth Different Winner

No NASCAR Craftsman Truck competitor had been able to assemble back-to-back victories at The Milwaukee Mile -- until Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota) sped to the checkered flag in last weekend's 13th Toyota Tundra Milwaukee 200.

Benson is the eighth different winner in the season's first 11 races, a testament to the argument that 2007 may be the most competitive season in series history.

Proving that the cream indeed rises to the top, the first four competitors in the point standings are former series champions -- Skinner, Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 2 Camping World Chevrolet), Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) and Travis Kvapil (No. 6 K&N Engineering Ford.

-credit: nascar

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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Ken Schrader , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Brandon Whitt , Travis Kvapil