*Rick Crawford, Mike Skinner weigh in with Masters golf predictions *Winners and losers as Kroger 250 sets 2006 starting guarantees DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 3, 2006) -- Golf, not racing, will be front and center for several NASCAR Craftsman...
*Rick Crawford, Mike Skinner weigh in with Masters golf predictions
*Winners and losers as Kroger 250 sets 2006 starting guarantees
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 3, 2006) -- Golf, not racing, will be front and center for several NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitors as the series takes its longest hiatus of the season.
This is Masters Week at Augusta National, an event that Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar Truck Corral Ford) and Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) look forward to each year.
Both are avid players who would carry single-digit handicaps if not for a busy racing schedule. But they're also fans of the game and can't wait to see the likes of Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els and Retief Goosen tee it up in the season's first major.
Skinner went to last year's tournament and may be in the gallery later this week.
"It was pretty awesome; a lot of fun," he said. "I have been invited to play Augusta National but we were testing and had to turn it down. I have not had another invitation but I'd love to play there."
Crawford, whose late model team was based in Cleveland, Ga., calls the course "hallowed ground for a golfer, like Talladega (Superspeedway) is for a racer from Alabama." Crawford hails from Mobile.
He won't be able to attend this year's tournament but has in the past. His son, Adam, will be competing in his first late model event this weekend in Mobile.
"My favorite in the tournament is Fred Funk," Crawford said. "A couple of years ago we did a ride-around for Ford at Homestead-Miami Speedway before the tournament at Doral. Fred was one of the guys I had in my car and we really had a good time."
The drivers' pick for who will wear the traditional green jacket on Sunday afternoon?
"When you go to The Masters it is hard to not predict Tiger Woods to be a contender," said Skinner of the four-time winner.
Crawford agrees, but is going in another direction.
"I'm going with the southpaw and the 2004 winner Phil Mickelson," he said. "If you look at the year he's had so far, it is very similar to the year he was having in 2004 before he won the Masters."
NEWS AND NOTES, PART II
Last Saturday's race at Martinsville Speedway closed out the season's first four races in which top 35 guaranteed starting positions are based upon 2005 truck owner championship points. A number of drivers breathed a sigh of relief as they won't have to qualify for the April 29 Dodge Dealers Ram Tough 200 on speed.
Five unranked teams raced their way into the top 30.
Conversely, five which held top 30 rankings from a year ago dropped out.
Among the first group are former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champions Ted Musgrave (No. 9 Team ASE/Germain Motors Toyota) and Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-Way Toyota).
"I'm just glad that we won't have to worry about qualifying on time as much as we have had to these first four races," said Sprague, whose team wasn't eligible for a top-30 guaranteed starting position because Wyler Racing didn't join the series until June.
Two teams new to the series in 2006 -- the No. 20 and No. 21 Wood Brothers/JTG Racing Fords of Raybestos rookie of the year contenders Marcos Ambrose and Bobby East -- also made the top 30.
The final spot among the current top 30 was decided by a single point. Erin Crocker (No. 98 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge) can make her first trip to Gateway International Raceway knowing the Ray Evernham team has a place in the field. Conversely, fellow freshman Kraig Kinser (No. 29 Ginn Clubs and Resorts Chevrolet), will have to qualify on speed for one of six remaining positions.
In winning the Kroger 250, David Starr (No. 11 Red Horse Racing Toyota) became the 14th different winner in 15 series events at the .526-mile track. No other track has produced more than 10 winners.
Starr was victorious in his fourth start with the Tom DeLoach and Jeff Hammond-owned team, a single-race winner in 2005.
The Houston, Texas driver becomes the 10th member of a select group of drivers who have won races in two different makes of truck. Starr won three previous races -- the most recent at Phoenix in 2004 -- in Chevrolets. Five active drivers in the series have won races for two manufacturers.
Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) and David Reutimann (No. 17 Team Tundra Toyota) will be racing this week -- but not in the traditional sense. Both will suit up Saturday in the 30th Anniversary running of the Toyota/Pro Celebrity Race over the 1.97-mile, 11-turn Long Beach Grand Prix course in Long Beach, Calif.
The field of 20 includes a number of well-know figures from the entertainment and sports world including X-Games gold medalist and professional skateboarder Bucky Lasek, FOX TV's Malcolm in the Middle star Frankie Muniz, tennis legend Martina Navratilova, actor William Shatner and NFL Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway.
Qualifying will be held Friday with PEOPLE magazine donating $15,000 to the pole winner's charity. Toyota will donate $5,000 in the name of each celebrity racer to a non-profit program benefiting children's hospitals in Long Beach and Orange County, Calif. Another $5,000 will be donated to the race winner's charity of choice.
For the first time ever, the 10-lap sprint race will feature celebrities competing against professional drives in identically prepared, race-ready Scion tC models.
"The Scions are fun to drive," said Bodine, who along with Reutimann recently tested the cars at a southern California road course. "The front wheel drive on those cars is a lot different from what I am used to. It took me a couple of runs to get used to the car but I finally got the hang of it."
Reutimann is looking forward to "hanging out" with some celebrities. "Being that I am a Star Trek fan from way back, meeting William Shatner (the show's Capt. James T. Kirk) was huge for me," he said. "Racing in the Toyota Pro/Celebrity event is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Guys like me don't get to hang out with people like that."
ETC. ... Mark Martin (No. 6 Scotts Ford) continues to lead the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series point standings following his fourth-place finish in the Kroger 250. He leads runnerup finisher Musgrave by 55 points. Roush Racing announced last week that Martin would compete in an additional seven races bringing his total for the season to 14. ... Dennis Setzer (No. 85 GM FlexFuel E85 Chevrolet) posted his 125th top-10 finish at Martinsville Speedway where he is the only two-time race winner. Setzer's ninth-place finish leaves him 36 top 10s short of Sprague's series record. ... Bobby Hamilton Jr., who won the Kroger 250 Budweiser Pole, became the 14th No. 1 starter failing to win at Martinsville. Hamilton is the fourth different pole winner of 2006. His only previous pole was recorded in 2004 at his hometown track, Nashville Superspeedway. ... Craftsman Motorsports in conjunction with Bobby Hamilton Racing will host the May 23 "Craftsman For A Cure" charity event which will support the American Cancer Society Relay for Life and the Victory Junction Gang Camp. The event will be held at the NASCAR Speedpark at Concord Mills near Lowe's Motor Speedway and will enable fans to race go-kart race against drivers, obtain autographs and even spend quality time with select drivers at a private dinner. Tickets for the "Craftsman For a Cure" will go on sale Monday, April 17 at 9 a.m. ET. For tickets, call 866-227-3264.
IN THE LOOP
Martinsville winner Starr ran among the top 15 on 248 of 250 laps. He recorded the top seven fastest laps, topping the charts at 93.323 mph. ... Terry Cook (No. 10 Ford Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford) was the Kroger 250's top closer, moving up six positions (25th to 19th) over the final 25 laps. ... Although a mid-race spin cost him a possible shot at victory in his first series race, Clint Bowyer (No. 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet) recorded the second-best driver rating of the event at 123.4. Bowyer, who finished seventh, trailed only Starr at 141.7.
What: Missouri-Illinois Dodge Dealers Ram Tough 200 (Race 5 of 25).
Where: Gateway International Raceway.
When: 8:15 p.m. ET Saturday, April 29.
Track layout: 1.25-mile paved oval.
Race length: 200 miles/160 laps.
Posted awards: $596,350.
TV: SPEED Channel, 8:15 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.
2005 winner: Ted Musgrave.
2005 polesitter: Ted Musgrave
Top 10 drivers: 1. Mark Martin, 720. 2. Ted Musgrave, 665. 3. Todd Bodine, 662. 4. David Reutimann, 576. 5. David Starr, 556. 6. Erik Darnell, 552. 7. Jack Sprague, 544. 8. Mike Bliss, 544. 9. Dennis Setzer, 531. 10. Rick Crawford, 508.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Saturday -- Practice 9:05 a.m. -- 10:05 a.m.. Rookie Practice 10:30 a.m. -- 11 a.m. Final Practice 11 a.m. to 12 noon. Qualifying 4 p.m. Trucks impounded after qualifying.