Preseason Test: Day one report

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Preseason Thunder Day 1: Inclement Weather Washes Out Daytona Activities DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 15, 2005) -- Christmas is going to come a day late for Roush Racing's Todd Kluever as day-long showers canceled ...

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Preseason Thunder Day 1: Inclement Weather Washes Out Daytona Activities

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Jan. 15, 2005) -- Christmas is going to come a day late for Roush Racing's Todd Kluever as day-long showers canceled Saturday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Preseason Thunder at Daytona International Speedway.

Kluever, set to participate in his first series event Feb. 18, was disappointed but will get another chance to test the 2.5-mile superspeedway Sunday.

"I've been waiting all my life so I guess I can wait one more day," said the 26-year-old native of Sun Prairie, Wis., who'll drive Roush's No. 50 Shell ROTELLA T Ford, a sponsorship shared with World Financial Group.

Kluever, a likely Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender, isn't the only Roush driver eager to get on Daytona's asphalt. His teammate and mentor, Ricky Craven, also will be making his first start in the No. 99 Superchips Ford that carried Carl Edwards to victory in last year's Florida Dodge Dealers 250.

"Testing at Daytona is big and so is the anticipation of getting on the track," said Craven. "Obviously we would have liked to have started the day at nine o'clock but it's the same for everyone."

Thirty-eight different drivers are on hand for annual drills leading up to the opening event of the 2005 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Among the group are former Florida Dodge Dealers 250 winners Mike Wallace (No. 59 Harris Trucking Ford) and Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar Racing Ford).

Four former series champions -- Bobby Hamilton (No. 4 Dodge), Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 6 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet), Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) and Jack Sprague (No. 16 Chevy Trucks Chevrolet) -- also will compete fulltime this season.

Kluever knows he faces the toughest competition of his young career but knows he'll learn some important lessons along the way.

"It's pretty neat for somebody in my position to be able to come and race with so many guys that have been through so much in NASCAR and people like Ricky, who has won NEXTEL Cup races," he said. "It's great to race with guys that you know are on top of their game ... helping you to become a better race car driver.

"I have aspirations of going on and doing what those guys have done."

Kluever hopes to become Roush's fourth series rookie of the year. Greg Biffle was the first followed by 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Champion Kurt Busch and Edwards.

In some ways, veteran Craven wishes he figuratively was wearing his teammate's shoes.

"Todd is an example of where I see myself 12 years ago which is good for him and not so good for me," said Craven, who adds that the extensive list of former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers will add further to the popularity of the series, which begins its 11th season next month.

"What other sport can you have drivers or athletes in their late 40s winning a championship?" said Craven, pointing to Hamilton, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2004 at 47 years of age. "My reaction to that is that experience weighs pretty heavy. Experience must be worth something because Bobby Hamilton, Ted Musgrave (No. 2 Team ASE/Carquest Dodge) and Dennis Setzer (No. 46 Chevrolet Silverado Chevrolet) have proved it.

"I think I'm sort of in a sweet spot here where at 38, I'm not either. I'm certainly not young but I feel like I've got a few good years left so it will be good."

Craven will be backed by veteran crew chief Mike Beam. The pair was together three seasons in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and won races.

"I just want to capitalize on the opportunity; it's a good one," said Craven.

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Hamilton, NASCAR's first driver-owner champion in more than a decade, will be no less busy this season than in 2004. He'll again field three trucks out of his shop in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., for Chase Montgomery (No. 18 Dodge) and former NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series track champion Timothy Peters (No. 04 Bailey's Dodge).

Peters, slated to compete in 11 races, was introduced to the Daytona media on Saturday during a news conference in which his Bailey's Cigarettes-sponsored truck was unveiled. Bailey's will back Hamilton's truck in 12 additional events.

"BHR has been looking for young driver that fit the mold of our operation," said Hamilton. "Timothy Peters did a test for us in the off season and really showed talent. He has a lot of potential to make great things happen in the sport and for our team."

Peters, Providence, N.C., will make his series debut in April's Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway. NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and NASCAR Busch Series veteran Casey Atwood will drive the No. 04 Dodge at Daytona and in subsequent races at California Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Hamilton is among pre-season favorites for the 2005 championship but reiterated that he doesn't worry about points until a half-dozen races remain on the schedule.

"If you win the most races and have the fewest DNFs, you'll be the guy," he said.

NEWS OF NOTE

On tap for Sunday ... With the loss of Saturday's opening session of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Preseason Thunder to inclement weather, teams will see a 12-hour day on Sunday -- including practice under the lights. Track hours are 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., weather permitting. The night practice, which wasn't on the original schedule, will enable crew chiefs to ready their trucks for the Feb. 18 Florida Dodge Dealers 250, set for an 8 p.m. EDT start on SPEED Channel and the affiliates of MRN Radio and XM Satellite radio.

Two times the opportunity ... Darrell Waltrip Motorsports will field two Toyota Tundra trucks in 2005, adding Robert Huffman (No. 12 Toyota) to a roster that returns 2004 Raybestos Rookie of the Year David Reutimann (No. 17 NTN Bearings Toyota). "We've seen it across the board in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and Busch and Craftsman Truck that two teams are better than one. You can take what one guy's doing and try something different on both trucks then put the best of both worlds together." Reutimann and Huffman shared the front row of last season's inaugural series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the first rookie candidates to achieve that feat.

Japanese competitor Hattori joins series ... Germain/Arnold Racing has added Shige Hattori (No. 9 AISIN Toyota) to its stable that produced back-to-back wins for Todd Bodine in 2004. He'll partner with Chad Chaffin (No. 18 Toyota) this season. Hattori, an Indy Racing League veteran, narrowly missed qualifying for last year's season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Kenji Mamota is Japan's only NASCAR Craftsman Truck starter competing in 1995 at Phoenix International Raceway.

Series 10 Year Tough in 2005 ... Last season marked the completion of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' first decade of 242 races. Hornaday, Skinner and Ken Schrader (No. 52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet) are among current competitors posting victories in 1995. Daytona is a key component in the development of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, joining the schedule in 2000. Five races have produced five different winners. Crawford's 2003 victory over Travis Kvapil and Robert Pressley marked the only three-way, side-by-side finish in series history.

Fast Facts

What: NASCAR Preseason Thunder.
Where: Daytona International Speedway.
When: Jan. 11-24.

Track layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval superspeedway.

Test schedule: Jan. 15-16 -- NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series; Jan. 18-20 -- NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series (Even-number car owner 2004 point standings finishing positions); Jan. 22-24 -- NASCAR Busch Series.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Darrell Waltrip , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Ken Schrader , Mike Wallace , Kurt Busch , Robert Pressley , Casey Atwood , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Ricky Craven , Jack Sprague , Rick Crawford , Chase Montgomery , Chad Chaffin , David Reutimann , Carl Edwards , Robert Huffman , Todd Kluever , Timothy Peters , Travis Kvapil