Off-week news of note 2008-04-07

*Crafton Bidding To Become Kansas Speedway's Next First-Time Winner *Nearly Quarter Of O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 Has Sunflower State Victory *In The Loop: The Computer Pegs Crawford As Favorite Among Non-Winners First Wins Abound In Kansas: ...

*Crafton Bidding To Become Kansas Speedway's Next First-Time Winner
*Nearly Quarter Of O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 Has Sunflower State Victory
*In The Loop: The Computer Pegs Crawford As Favorite Among Non-Winners

First Wins Abound In Kansas: Resurgent Crafton Says 'Why Not?'

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 7, 2008) -- Veterans can't wait to race on 1.5-mile tracks where their experience certainly makes a difference.

The most recent seven NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champions have won 31 of 71 races held on so-called "intermediate" speedways.

Kansas Speedway, however, is different. Beginning with the late Ricky Hendrick's surprise victory in the 2001 inaugural race, there have been three first-time winners including Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford) in 2007.

That would lead Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet) to believe the April 26 O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 could be special. Crafton is anything but a rookie but the Tulare, Calif., native remains without a victory in 176 series starts.

Crafton, 31, is on a roll of sorts having finishing second -- a career best -- at Martinsville Speedway on March 29. So why not the next step up?

"To win races, you first have to put yourself in position to be there at the end. We've had top-five finishes before but we haven't been as consistent as we'd have liked," said Crafton, currently sixth in NASCAR Craftsman Truck point standings. "Now we really feel like the pieces are in place for us to be (consistent) ... and the wins will come."

Crafton's team, owned by Duke and Rhonda Thorson, has been fulltime in the series since 1998 and has one victory with Terry Cook. The Ohio-based team also fields a second truck for Shelby Howard (No. 13 ThorSport Racing).

With all-time series winning crew chief Dennis Connor having returned as competition director, Crafton believes anything is possible -- wins and a championship.

"We know if we're going the things we need to do, we can compete with anybody," said Crafton.

Sunflower State Winners: Eight Are In At Kansas Speedway

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has staged 12 events in the state of Kansas beginning in 1995 with five road races at Heartland Park Topeka.

Kansas Speedway joined the schedule in 2001.

Eight of 11 Kansas winners are expected to compete in the April 26 O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 including all of the competitors who visited Victory Lane at HPT.

Interestingly, no driver has been able to double up even though three of those winners -- Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 VFW Chevrolet), Jack Sprague (No. 2 American Commercial Lines Chevrolet) and Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) -- are ranked one, two and three in series victories.

Hornaday is the only double Kansas winner, scoring victories at HPT in the track's 1995 inaugural and its 1999 finale.

Etc. & Quotable: Speed To BDR; Quinn To Wyler Racing

Speed Doing Double Duty In Kansas ... The April 25-26 weekend will be a busy one for Scott Speed, who joins Bill Davis Racing for a partial schedule in the No. 24 Toyota. The match reinforces the "loan" of Skinner to Team Red Bull's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series No. 84 car. "He knows what it takes to run well and win races," said Speed, who also will compete in Kansas Speedway's ARCA RE/MAX Series race. "The more I can learn from him, the quicker my learning process will be."

Wyler Racing Names New Crew Chief ... John Quinn has assumed the role of crew chief at Wyler Racing and driver Terry Cook. George Church had started the season as crew chief of the No. 60 Wyler.com Toyota, but left the team following the Martinsville race to pursue other opportunities. Quinn has two victories, both with Roush Fenway Racing. He won with Ricky Craven in 2005 and Darnell a year ago at Kansas.

NCTS Point Leader Still Hot Commodity ... Kyle Busch (No. 51 Toyota) has won in all three of NASCAR's national series for a record third year with his April 5 NASCAR Nationwide Series victory at Texas Motor Speedway. Billy Ballew Racing announced that Marc Mitchell henceforth will compete in a Toyota. The No. 15 truck made its debut at Martinsville Speedway where Denny Hamlin finished 21st.

Rookie Braun Busy During Off Weeks ... Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford) is in Arizona Saturday to cheer for his uncle Cole, who is competing an Ironman competition -- a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run. Then it's off to Kansas Speedway for a media event and the April 20 Nationwide Series Corona Mexico 200 presented by Banamex.

Key Motorsports Signs Apparel Sponsor ... Keep'n It Reel, manufacturer of outdoors apparel, becomes the official apparel provider of Key Motorsports, which fields the No. 40 Chevrolet of driver Chad Chaffin. In The Loop:

Five drivers in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series have competed in all seven races at Kansas Speedway -- and only one of them has visited Victory Lane.

Terry Cook, Ted Musgrave, Matt Crafton, Rick Crawford and Martinsville winner Dennis Setzer have seven Kansas starts but only Cook has a victory.

One of the remaining four could join Cook -- Crawford. Crawford has two consecutive runner-up finishes at Kansas, and has tremendous statistics at the 1.5-mile track since 2005. Crawford has a Driver Rating of 105.4 (fourth best), an Average Running Position of 8.3 (third) and he's run 82.1percent of laps inside the top 15 (fourth).

The other three drivers need to improve upon past Kansas performances if they want to end their 0-for-7 droughts.

Musgrave notched top fives in 2001 and 2002 but since then has failed to crack the top 10. Over the past three races, he has a Driver Rating of 79.4 (13th) and an Average Running Position of 16.4 (14th).

Crafton scored a 10th-place finish last season, but prior to that finished 27th and 20th in 2005 and 2006, respectively. He has a Driver Rating of 76.2 (16th) and an Average Running Position of 14.2 (11th) over the last three races. On the bright side, Crafton is second in Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green) with 86.

Setzer, who has the hot hand after his win at Martinsville, scored top-three runs from 2001-03, but hasn't finished in the top 10 since. His worst Kansas finish (26th) came last season. Since 2005, Setzer has a Driver Rating of 82.8 (12th) and an Average Running Position of 15.4 (13th).

If this year's Raybestos Rookie of the Year class is looking for a level playing field, Kansas Speedway fills the bill.

None of the seven candidates has competed in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at the 1.5-mile speedway.

Still, Justin Marks (No. 9 Construct Corps/Crocs Toyota) won the pole for last year's ARCA RE/MAX Series event. Phillip McGilton (No. 22 Toyota) was ninth in ARCA's 2006 event. Marc Mitchell also has ARCA experience there.

Up Next:

The April 26 O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 marks the first time in 2008 the series has not run in combination with the NASCAR Sprint Cup or Nationwide series.

This year's schedule features eight such "stand-alone" races.

FAST FACTS

The Race: O'Reilly Auto Parts 250
The Place: Kansas Speedway

The Date: April 26, 2008
The Time: 6:00 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 250.5 miles / 167 laps
TV: SPEED, 5:30 p.m. ET

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 Mike Skinner , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Colin Braun , Ricky Craven , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Terry Cook , Rick Crawford , Matt Crafton , Shelby Howard , Scott Speed , Chad Chaffin , Justin Marks , Erik Darnell , Phillip McGilton , Kyle Busch
Teams Roush Fenway Racing , Bill Davis Racing