Michigan: Toyota preview

THIS RACE: The Paramount Health Insurance 200 will be the sixth NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) race at Michigan International Speedway (MIS). There will be ten Tundras in the field at the Michigan two-mile oval. LAST RACE: In the most...

THIS RACE: The Paramount Health Insurance 200 will be the sixth NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) race at Michigan International Speedway (MIS). There will be ten Tundras in the field at the Michigan two-mile oval.

LAST RACE: In the most recent NCTS race at Texas Motor Speedway (June 10), three Toyota Tundras finished in the top-10. Johnny Benson, driver of the No.23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Tundra, crossed the finish line second behind race winner Jack Sprague. Mike Skinner, driver of the No.5 Bill Davis Racing Tundra, started from the pole and led the race three times for 116 laps en route to a fourth-place finish. David Reutimann, recorded the other top-10 for Toyota when he crossed the finish line 10th in his No.17 NTN Bearings Tundra.

BENSON'S BEST: Johnny Benson's second-place finish at Texas equals the best result of his NCTS career. Last year, Benson finished second in the October Texas race, and in 1996 he was second at Phoenix. "At the beginning of the race my Tundra was pretty good, but then it started to get loose," said Benson, after the race. "We left it alone at the first stop and it just got looser. Finally, I told the guys that we needed to make a change. On our final stop we made that change and everything was fast from then on out. Unfortunately, we just ran out of time."

SKINNER SAYS: After starting from the pole and leading the most laps at Texas (116), Mike Skinner is confident as the NCTS heads to Michigan. "We're definitely knocking on the door," says Skinner. "My Tundra was awesome at Texas we almost had a perfect night."

POINTS PACE: After the first nine races of the 2005 season, one Toyota driver is among the top-10 in the NCTS championship standings. Johnny Benson is ninth in the standings with 1,128 points, 193 points behind leader Ted Musgrave. Several Tundra drivers are just outside the top-10 in the standings, including David Reutimann (12th), Mike Skinner (13th) and Todd Bodine (14th).

LAST YEAR HERE: A year ago in Michigan, Toyota earned its first-ever NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory when Travis Kvapil captured the checkered flag at MIS in his No.24 Bang Racing Line-X Tundra. Toyota's inaugural series victory came in the 13th race of its debut season in the NCTS.

DOUBLE DUTY: Grand Rapids, Mich.-native Johnny Benson will compete in a pair of races in his `home' state this week. Along with the NCTS race at MIS (June 18), Benson will compete in a 100-lap Late Model race at Michigan's Berlin Speedway, June 15. Benson, who has built two Late Model cars for the race, is a partner in the track located near Grand Rapids. Rusty Wallace's son Stephen will run Benson's other car in the race, while his father will attend the event and sign autographs.

TEN IS NO.11: There will be 10 Tundras on the entry list at Michigan -- one more than usual. Darrell Waltrip Motorsports will field the No.11 Federated Auto Parts Tundra for Ken Schrader at MIS. "After a successful second half to the 2004 season, we've had a rather slow start this year," says Pat Wall, TRD's NCTS Program Manager. "We've asked Darrell's team to help us evaluate the overall Tundra package in order to enable us to continue to be successful."

D.W. TALKS THIRD TRUCK: "We welcome the opportunity to field a third truck for TRD," says Darrell Waltrip. "I know that Bobby Kennedy (team manager) and our group will do everything possible to make this a successful endeavor. Having a third truck at Michigan will not only be valuable to TRD, but it will be beneficial to both of our teams throughout the rest of the season."

FATHER'S DAY PRESENT: Although Father's Day takes place on Sunday after the Michigan NCTS race, there are a couple of Toyota teams that would like to celebrate the holiday a day early in `Victory Lane.' Germain/Arnold Racing general manager Mike Hillman works with two of his sons, Mike Jr. and Mark, at the team. Mike Jr. is Chad Chaffin's (No.30) crew chief and Mark works on Shige Hattori's No.9 Tundra. At Darrell Waltrip Motorsports, team manager Bobby Kennedy has his son Nathan serving as the tire specialist for David Reutiman's No.17 Tundra.

FOLLOWING FATHER: "Both of my boys that work with me are really dedicated to racing and they've followed in my footsteps," says Mike Hillman. "I made Mike Jr. go to college for a couple years because I wanted him to be sure racing was what he wanted to do with his life. He got a business degree and when he got out of college he wanted to go racing. Mike Jr. started working with me at 19 and we worked together for five or six years before he went out on his own. When the opportunity came to put a crew chief in place on the No.30 truck with Chad (Chaffin), I knew he was the perfect fit for it. He had enough experience with being a car chief and setting up race vehicles that I thought he was ready."

MORE FOLLOWING FATHER: "When Mark graduated from high school, at first he didn't want to work in racing and be away from home every weekend and make the commitment it took to go racing," explains Mike Hillman. "However, last year when we were starting a second team at Germain/Arnold, he asked me about a job. I plugged him in working on the No.9 team and he's really caught on fast."

BOBBY'S BOY: "I love working with him," says Bobby Kennedy, talking about his son Nathan. "It's great to see him following in my footsteps and I'm happy to see how quickly he has learned and adapted to things. Hopefully, he can continue to grow and be as lucky as I've been and some day be a crew chief or run a team. There can't be a better situation than having your family with you at the race track. I'm proud to be able to watch him grow and achieve things."

THE SON'S SIDE: "At first, it was tough when I began working at the team," explains Nathan Kennedy, talking about working with his Dad at Darrell Waltrip Motorsports. "He'd come by and check on any work I did, but as I've progressed, he has lightened up a little bit. We spend a lot of time together now and that's the best thing about working together. He's been in racing his whole life -- and my whole life and there were times when I didn't see him very much. He's very knowledgeable and learning from him is pretty cool. My Dad gave me an opportunity to work in racing and I look at it as attending the Bobby Kennedy `College of Racing.'"


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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Darrell Waltrip , Rusty Wallace , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Ken Schrader , Johnny Benson , Jack Sprague , Chad Chaffin , David Reutimann , Travis Kvapil , Bobby Kennedy
Teams Bill Davis Racing