Off-week news and notes 2008-04-14

* Skinner Squeezes In Time To Defend Important Title * Teams Stay On Track During Off-Weeks * Lori Hamilton Provides Official Voice For Foundation Skinner Races For A Good Cause Out West DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 14, 2008) -- NASCAR...

* Skinner Squeezes In Time To Defend Important Title
* Teams Stay On Track During Off-Weeks
* Lori Hamilton Provides Official Voice For Foundation

Skinner Races For A Good Cause Out West

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 14, 2008) -- NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series veteran and former series champion Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) headed west to his home state of California last week to prepare to defend an important title.

In addition to all his success in NASCAR, Skinner also happens to be the defending Professional Champion of the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race.

The race, which takes place Saturday, is part of the 34th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

In its 32nd year, the celebrity racing event has become one of the main attractions during the Grand Prix race weekend. Fans will see a field of 18 competitors from both the celebrity and professional driver worlds battle in a 10-lap race on a 1.97-mile street circuit through the streets of downtown Long Beach.

The charity event benefits "Racing for Kids," a national organization that helps children's hospitals in Southern California.

With a busy NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule and fulltime truck duties, the driver still made it to the practice and media day to prepare for the race and spend time with this year's field.

Skinner is excited to be back in 2008 but not just to add another win to the chart.

"To me, the race itself is just the finale to everything that builds up to the race," he said.

"There's the training and then the practice day when they actually close down the streets just for the celebrities to practice and let the media get involved.

"Then, when we get back to Long Beach on race weekend, we make the children's hospital visit on Thursday and you start to get the warm, fuzzy feeling that you're actually doing something for charity and helping a wonderful company like Toyota do something so good for others," Skinner said.

Teams Keep Busy Testing

How do teams spend a break in the racing schedule? For several, the time is spent testing at various tracks ever after information to benefit them and keep them competitive down the road.

Two of Roush Fenway Racing's teams took two days to test at the newly-repaved Darlington Raceway. Erik Darnell in the No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford turned laps while Travis Kvapil and Bobby East shared the No. 09 Zaxby's Ford.

"We tested a brand-new truck that we plan on racing at Lowe's and Dover next month, and we spent a lot of time comparing it to what we have been racing," Darnell said.

Matt Puccia, Darnell's crew chief, agreed with his driver. "The things we learned here will benefit us at the many fast banked tracks like Lowe's," he said.

East, who took over the truck from Kvapil for the second day of testing, took it as another opportunity to gain valuable seat time. "That Zaxby's truck was probably the best stock car/truck I've ever driven," said East, who will start his 2008 schedule in Kansas.

"I made about 200 laps between the two days so it was good to get the laps in and get familiar with Chad (Norris, crew chief) and the truck before Kansas."

Further north, some of the series' Chevrolet teams tested at Richmond International Raceway .

Defending series champion crew chief Rick Ren was pleased with the track time. "We had a really good test," he said. "We worked on some short track set-ups. We learned a lot and look forward to taking what we learned and applying it at Mansfield."

"These off-weeks have given our two truck teams an opportunity to assess where we are and regroup before the long summer stretch."

Several teams also practiced at Pocono Raceway.

Etc. & Quotable:

Another Lady Set To Debut ... Kansas native Jennifer Jo Cobb will be the latest female to make her debut in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Cobb will not be the only new face in the garage; so will her team. She will pilot the No. 74 Dodge owned by 1990 Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope.

"I couldn't be more excited," Cobb said. "I love racing at Kansas Speedway, and am looking forward to climbing behind the wheel in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and kicking off Derrike's new race team."

The daughter of racer Joe Cobb, she has found success in the ARCA RE/MAX Series, where she's posted three top-10 finishes in her first five starts, one of which came at Kansas.

The driver also has two appearances in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, including one at Kansas Speedway.

Lori Hamilton Voice Of Foundation's Awareness Week ... Lori Hamilton, of Bobby Hamilton Racing VA and widow of 2004 series champion Bobby Hamilton, has been chosen to serve as the official spokesperson for the 2008 Oral, Head, and Neck Cancer Awareness Week which runs April 21 -- 27. A major part of the week will be free cancer screenings at over 150 medical facilities nationwide.

"When Bobby was diagnosed he immediately became an advocate of early detection of head and neck cancer," Lori Hamilton said.

"He asked everyone around him to get tested, promoted it to anyone who would listen and became a huge believer in the screening process. It doesn't hurt, is free and the 10 minutes it takes to do it could save your life. So we are encouraging everyone to please take advantage of this free screening opportunity."

Drivers Challenge Media In Kansas ... Roush Fenway Racing drivers Darnell and Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-Way Freight Ford) head to Kansas this week to promote the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250. On Tuesday, the drivers face off against local media members on the go-kart track at Sadler's Indoor Racing in Olathe, Kan.

Darnell won his first series race at Kansas Speedway in last year's O'Reilly Auto Parts 250. Braun, the rookie teammate, would like to add his first win to his resume and gain points on fellow freshmen in the close Raybestos Rookie of the Year battle.

Roush Fenway Racing's drivers know where to find Victory Lane in Kansas. In the seven races held at the speedway since 2001, its drivers have won three -- Jon Wood (2003), Carl Edwards (2004) and Darnell (2007).

In The Loop:

A quick glance at the top 10 in the Driver Rating proves that the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is an all-welcoming, parity-filled series. The numbers reiterate the old saying, "Age is just a number."

The top 10 in Driver Rating ranges from age 22 to 50. There are two drivers in their 20s, one in his 30s, six in their 40s and one his 50s.

The youngest in the top 10 is the points leader, 22-year-old Kyle Busch. With a series-leading Driver Rating of 122.0, he's one of three drivers with a Driver Rating above 100.0. Additionally, he has an Average Running Position of 5.1, 107 Fastest Laps Run and has run a series-high 94.5 percent of the laps in the top 15.

At the other end of the spectrum is 50-year-old Mike Skinner, who has had solid runs but some poor finishes this season. Despite a 14th-place points position, Skinner ranks fifth in Driver Rating (92.1), seventh in Average Running Position (12.8) and fifth in Laps in the Top 15 (72 percent).

Representing the 40-year-old crowd is defending series champion Ron Hornaday Jr., who is third in the points standings. The 49-year-old has a Driver Rating of 110.1, an Average Running Position of 8.2 and 39 Fastest Laps Run.

The lone 30-something in the top 10 of Driver Rating is Matt Crafton, who ranks 10th with an 83.5. Crafton, 31, has an Average Running Position of 14.2 and has run 65.7 percent of the Laps in the Top 15.

Up Next:

Two short weeks remain until the series returns to action with the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 on April 26.

Kansas will be the first track to host the series not in conjunction with the NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.



The Race: O'Reilly Auto Parts 250

The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: April 26, 2008

The Time: 6:00 p.m. ET
TV: SPEED, 5:30 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 250.5 miles / 167 laps
Track Layout: 1.5-Mile Oval

2007 Winner: Erik Darnell
2007 Pole: Mike Skinner

Schedule: Friday: Practice, 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 2:30-3:30 p.m. Saturday: Qualifying, 12:40 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Derrike Cope , Bobby Hamilton , Mike Skinner , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Colin Braun , Jon Wood , Matt Crafton , Carl Edwards , Bobby East , Erik Darnell , Jennifer Jo Cobb , Kyle Busch , Travis Kvapil
Teams Roush Fenway Racing