Off week news of note 2005-03-07

Craftsman Trucks figure prominently in Roush Racing's NASCAR ascendance Reutimann had ringside seat for exciting Atlanta finish in 2004 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 7, 2005) -- NASCAR racing, unlike other professional sports, has no player ...

Craftsman Trucks figure prominently in Roush Racing's NASCAR ascendance

Reutimann had ringside seat for exciting Atlanta finish in 2004

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 7, 2005) -- NASCAR racing, unlike other professional sports, has no player draft.

Future prospects are where you find them.

Jack Roush arguably is the best in the business at beating the bushes and identifying the stars of tomorrow -- especially through competition in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

The Ohio native has identified those diamonds in the rough in a variety of ways: via recommendation (Greg Biffle), a "Gong Show" competition (Kurt Busch) and performance with a competing team (Carl Edwards).

It's hard to argue with success.

Biffle, who joined Roush's NASCAR Craftsman Truck team after being "discovered" by former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion and NBC analyst Benny Parsons, gave Roush his first NASCAR title in 2000. He won the Feb. 27 Auto Club 500 at California Speedway.

Busch, the 2000 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Raybestos Rookie of the Year, is the defending NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion and current points leader.

Edwards finished fifth in the Auto Club 500 and stands fourth in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup standings. The Missourian is second in NASCAR Busch Series rankings following Sunday's Telcel MOTOROLA Mexico 200 by Banamex in Mexico City in which Edwards finished third.

The Roush machine doesn't show any signs of slowing.

Todd Kluever (No. 50 Shell Rotella T Ford), Roush's 2004 "Race for the Ride" winner, was fourth in the Feb. 25 American Racing Wheels 200 at California Speedway. Kluever, who finished a spot behind teammate Ricky Craven (No. 99 Superchips Ford) is this season's leading Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender.

"The driver development program is important because you have to constantly be looking for new driving talent," said Roush. "There are several drivers in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, Mark (Martin) included, that are going to be retiring soon.

"We have to have the next generation of drivers available to fill those seats and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series has been a great place to get them started."

Roush also has a knack at knowing where each prospect fits.

Busch jumped to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup after a single season in trucks while Biffle spent three years. Subsequently, Biffle won the 2002 NASCAR Busch Series championship. Edwards grabbed NASCAR Craftsman Truck rookie honors in 2003, the Daytona Florida Dodge Dealers 250 in 2004 and competed concurrently in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup from mid-August through the conclusion of the season. He finished 10th in his debut on NASCAR's premier circuit.

"We've gone in different directions to get them to the Cup level," said Roush. "It really depends heavily on sponsorship opportunities and what we have available."

All three of Roush's series graduates support the adage that it's easier to slow a driver down than to speed one up. Biffle, Busch and Edwards experienced their share of early "hiccups" on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series -- and earned some not-so-subtle criticism from the boss. Kluever had an equally disappointing debut at Daytona, although neither of his accidents (or another in the accompanying ARCA Daytona 200) could be considered the fault of the 26-year-old Sun Prairie, Wis. competitor. Still, Kluever breathed a sigh of relief after delivering back an unmarked truck to crew chief John Monsam.

"The guys on my team were jumping around in the pits like we had won the race, but it really felt like we had won after what we went through in Daytona," said Kluever, who'll try to improve on his 15th-place championship standing in the March 18 World Financial Group 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. "It felt good to walk in the shop on Monday and be able to look the guys in the fab shop in the eyes because the truck came back in one piece. They stood behind me after our terrible Daytona weekend and said they'd fix anything I broke as long as I was running up front."

NEWS & NOTES, PART II

ETC. ... Shane Hmiel will drive Billy Ballew's No. 15 Chevrolet at Atlanta. Hmiel, a NASCAR Busch Series regular, won in the Atlanta resident's truck last September at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Kerry Earnhardt drove for the team in the season's opening two races. QUOTEBOOK

"I had the best seat in the house for one of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' best finishes in its 10-year history. Coming off of four, (Bobby) Hamilton and (Mike) Skinner were working each other over. I had a feeling they may take each other out and I was directly behind them. At the start-finish line, Skinner's truck lost it and got sideways. Hamilton won and we weren't sure if we finished second or third." -- David Reutimann, No. 17 NTN Bearings Toyota, Bud Pole winner and third-place finisher in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' Atlanta Motor Speedway debut.

10 YEARS TOUGH

Roush Racing joined the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series fulltime in 1996 with Joe Ruttman, who teamed with fellow NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competitor Chuck Bown the following season. Martin scored the team's first victory -- of a record 36 with seven different drivers - on Sept. 28, 1996 at the old North Wilkesboro (N.C.) Speedway. The team didn't begin a driver development program until 1998 when Biffle won Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors -- the first of three from the Roush stable to win the award. Biffle set the single-season victory mark of nine in 1999. Busch won four times in 2000, an all-time series high for a rookie competitor. Edwards is the team's most recent winner on Aug. 25, 2004 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Fast Facts

What: World Financial Group 200 (Race 3 of 25).
Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway.

When: 9:15 p.m. ET, Friday, March 18.

Track layout: 1.54-mile banked paved.
Race length: 200.2 miles/130 laps.

Posted awards: $495,082.

TV: SPEED Channel, 9 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.

2004 winner: Bobby Hamilton.
2004 polesitter: David Reutimann.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday -- Practice 9:00 a.m. -- 10:10 a.m. and 10:55 a.m. to 11:55 a.m. Qualifying 5:10 p.m. Trucks impounded after qualifying.

Top 10 drivers: 1. Bobby Hamilton 355. 2. Ricky Craven 330. 3. Jimmy Spencer 321. 4. Ted Musgrave 310. 5. Matt Crafton 280. 6. Steve Park 279. 7. Johnny Benson 271. 8. David Reutimann 256. 9. Dennis Setzer 254. 10. Casey Atwood 251.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Steve Park , Greg Biffle , Johnny Benson , Ted Musgrave , Ricky Craven , Dennis Setzer , Matt Crafton , Joe Ruttman , Kerry Earnhardt , Shane Hmiel , David Reutimann , Benny Parsons , Carl Edwards , Jack Roush , Todd Kluever