* 'Young Guns' back in the spotlight * 200th NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race comes to Memphis June 21 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 12, 2003) -- For the "Young Guns" of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, the 2003 season has been a matter of...
* 'Young Guns' back in the spotlight
* 200th NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race comes to Memphis June 21
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (June 12, 2003) -- For the "Young Guns" of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, the 2003 season has been a matter of circles and cycles.
After watching "40-something" veterans capture the first five events, the youngsters finally are flexing their competitive muscles.
Jason Leffler (No. 2 Team ASE Racing/Carquest Dodge), age 27, made it to victory circle at Dover International Speedway on May 30 to record his first NASCAR win.
A week later, at Texas Motor Speedway, 27-year-old Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 Orleans Hotel Dodge) orchestrated a history-matching victory. Gaughan's performance in the June 6 O'Reilly 400K was the Las Vegas competitor's third consecutive win at the 1.5-mile speedway, equaling Jack Sprague's 1996-97 series record at Phoenix International Raceway.
But Gaughan wasn't the only "youngster" at top speed in the Lone Star state. Raybestos Rookie points leader Carl Edwards (No. 99 Roush Racing Ford), 23, withstood Gaughan's pressure until five laps from the race's conclusion before finishing second -- the Columbia, Mo. driver's best series effort.
And Edwards' teammate, 21-year-old Jon Wood (No. 50 Roush Racing Ford) claimed the No. 3 spot, just ahead of Travis Kvapil (No. 16 IWX Motor Freight Chevrolet), age 27.
While Gaughan and Kvapil continue to chase veteran NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points leaders Bobby Hamilton (No. 4 Square D Dodge) and Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar Motel & RV Ford), the invigorated pair will spend an off-week contemplating the gains they made at Texas where Hamilton finished seventh and Crawford 14th.
Gaughan and Kvapil stand third and fourth -- 99 and 108 points, respectively, behind Hamilton -- heading into the June 21 O'Reilly 200 at Memphis Motorsports Park. The event kicks off eight consecutive weeks of racing on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
Few were surprised that Gaughan "three-peated" at Texas -- least of all the driver himself who has won $231,300 in only four starts in Fort Worth, most at the track by a series driver.
"I knew we were better than last year," he said. "I thought we had slightly better odds than 50-50."
Fourteen races and four months remain before Gaughan and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series return to Texas for the Oct. 11 Silverado 350.
"You can bet we're going to try and break [Sprague's] record when we come back," Gaughan said.
Wood, meanwhile, doesn't think it will be that long before he and Edwards taste victory, based on the pair's three top-four finishes over the past two events.
"It's only a matter of time before one of us gets to victory lane and surely the other one won't be far behind," Wood said.
NEWS & NOTES -- PART II
* Hamilton still perfect in three categories ... If good things come in threes, Hamilton left the O'Reilly 400K with a Texas-sized grin. The series point leader is the only competitor to complete each of this year's 1,379.3 miles, lead all seven races and finish among the top 10 in each event.
* Crawford's top-10 finish streak ends ... A late-race accident ended Crawford's string of top-10 finishes at 14 -- a run that began Aug. 10, 2002 at Nashville Superspeedway. Crawford had an eye on Sprague's record of 24 straight during portions of the 1997-98 seasons.
* Dodge in victory circle for 40th time ... Gaughan's Texas victory was the 40th in series competition by Dodge and the third in a row for the truck maker in 2003. Dodge last won three consecutive in 2001 when Ram trucks captured the first eight races to match the NASCAR Craftsman Truck manufacturer record.
* Etc. ... Part-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitor Charlie Bradberry won the June 7 NASCAR Elite Division, Kodak Southeast Series Bob Harmon Memorial Sunbelt Rentals 150 at Nashville Superspeedway. ... The O'Reilly 200 at Memphis marks the 200th event in NASCAR Craftsman Truck history. Among those expected to participate in the event are three teams -- K Automotive, Spears Motorsports and Ultra Motorsports -- that have competed full time on the series since the inaugural race on Feb. 5, 1995. ... The O'Reilly 200 also will conclude the first leg of the Raybestos Rookie of the Year competition with segment bonus points (10-9-8-7-etc.) awarded based upon a candidate's NASCAR Craftsman Truck championship points. Edwards has wrapped up the 10 bonus points but the second spot remains up for grabs with Tina Gordon (No. 31 Microtel Inn & Suites Dodge), Jody Lavender (No. 08 Lavender's Discount Carpet Chevrolet) and Randy Briggs (No. 53 ProMotion Ford) separated by just 60 points.