NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes Aric Almirola Gaining Ground, Proving He Has What It Takes DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 5, 2009) -- As the season winds down, better keep an eye on Aric Almirola in the No. 15 Toyota. The Florida...
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series News And Notes
Aric Almirola Gaining Ground, Proving He Has What It Takes
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 5, 2009) -- As the season winds down, better keep an eye on Aric Almirola in the No. 15 Toyota. The Florida native might just be the next to wind up in Victory Lane.
Almirola has made 11 starts since teaming up with Billy Ballew Motorsports at Texas in June. In those 11 races, he's collected five top-five and three top-10 finishes. His best finish was runner-up to veteran Mike Skinner (No. 5 PC*MILER Toyota) in the series' inaugural race at Iowa Speedway.
"I'm very thankful for Billy Ballew and the opportunity he's provided me to get back on the race track and continue to prove myself in the sport," said Almirola. "I truly look forward to every weekend I go to the track in one of these trucks because I really feel every time we have a chance to win."
While considered one of the series' "younger" competitors, Almirola is no rookie when it comes to racing in the NCWTS and NASCAR. He made his series debut in 2005 at Memphis and ran the full 2006 season in the No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet for Spears Motorsports with a best finish of ninth at Lowe's. He has 44 total series starts. At Las Vegas, Almirola notched his 100th career NASCAR start.
"I'm by no means a rookie anymore in this series, but still feel I learn every weekend from the veterans. At tracks that I have a few hundred laps at, guys like Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Copart Chevrolet), Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) and Mike Skinner, they have a few thousand laps. I have a lot of respect for the veterans in the truck series, and I hope that when I'm pushing 50 years old, I'm still racing hard week-in and week-out and going to Victory Lane."
"I've had a lot of fun racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and racing with these guys. It's extremely competitive and you can't take anything for granted."
Race For Manufacturers' Title Drawing Close To A Winner
Toyota holds the lead in the hunt for the manufacturers' title as the season nears the final five races. The manufacturer has made it to Victory Lane 11 times so far this season compliments of drivers Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota), Mike Skinner and Kyle Busch (No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts Toyota). Two more trips to the winner's circle and Toyota will clinch the 2009 honors.
Toyota teams will have to watch out for Chevrolet, second in the running and only 13 points behind. Of the five remaining tracks on the schedule, Chevy has the most wins at three: Martinsville (6), Texas (8) and Phoenix (12). Ron Hornaday Jr. has delivered six of the manufacture's eight wins this season. Kevin Harvick at Martinsville in March and most recently Johnny Sauter (No. 13 Fun Sand/Rodney Atkins/Curb Records Chevrolet) at Vegas account for the other two victories.
Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-Way Freight Ford) brought Ford a noteworthy win at Michigan in June. Not only was it Braun's first career win but Roush Fenway Racing's 50th victory in the series, which extended Roush's lead for the most wins by an owner in the series.
Jason White (No. 23 GunBroker.com Dodge) handed Dodge its best finish of the season at Las Vegas with a third-place result. Dodge and White's previous best finish so far this year was fourth at Dover.
If luck falls Toyota's way, it would mark its fourth consecutive manufacturers' championship in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Sauter Takes Charge Of Rookie Class, Five Chances Remain To Catch Him
Now with a mark in the win column, Johnny Sauter has started to pull away with the lead in what has been a close battle for the series' top rookie honors. While the contest is not quite over, little time remains for the rest of the class to get caught up.
Tayler Malsam (No. 81 One-Eighty Toyota), the driver sitting second in the freshman class, has proven to be Sauter's most likely threat.
With one top-five and nine top-10s, consistency has kept Malsam and his Randy Moss Motorsports team in the mix. Currently 11th in overall standings (Malsam and veteran Stacy Compton (No. 60 SafeAuto Insurance/Melling Toyota) have scored an identical 2,526), he is only 26 points out of being back in the top 10.
Sauter became the first rookie this season to make the trip to Victory Lane. Could Tayler Malsam, second in rookie points, be the next?
His crew chief, Doug Wolcott, thinks it's within the realm of possibility and a win would definitely help close the point gap and keep his driver in contention for rookie of the year.
Coaching a rookie is nothing new to Wolcott, who took rookie of the year contender Scott Speed to his first career win last season at Dover International Speedway.
"I think for Tayler and this team, a win could probably come Texas or Homestead because our mile-and-a-half program is really good and he's been able to pick it up so quickly, running on the different lines," said Wolcott.
"Tayler has done an excellent job adapting to these trucks and the tracks that he's never seen before. I think he's a very talented driver."
Loop Data: Johnny Sauter Makes Climb Up Statistical Ranks
Clearly -- and statistically -- Johnny Sauter needed some adaptation time to get used to the uniqueness of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series competition.
Sauter, a rookie in the series, nabbed his first series win in the last race at Las Vegas -- an unlikely feat given the start to his season.
In the first six races of 2009, Sauter struggled, to say the least. He had one top 10 (a ninth-place run at Kansas) and an average finish of 18.5. His Loop Data statistics were, likewise, average. He had a Driver Rating of 70.4, an Average Running Position of 17.6, three Laps Led, 27 Fastest Laps Run, a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 48.4% and a Pass Differential of plus 35 (passes minus times passed).
After that sixth race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Sauter sat 18th in points.
But eventually Sauter acclimated, and is now one of the hottest drivers in the series. The last five races, starting with the event in Chicagoland, mark a distinct change in finishes, statistics and points standings position.
Sauter has finished in the top five in each of the last five races, notching an average finish of 3.6, a Driver Rating of 112.4, an Average Running Position of 6.4, 97 Fastest Laps Run, 62 Laps Led, a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 96.9% and a Pass Differential of plus 70.
He now sits fifth in the points.
A real, and interesting, test lies ahead for Sauter at Martinsville Speedway.
The season's first race at Martinsville (which was race No. 4) was arguably Sauter's worst of the season. In that event, Sauter finished 27th with an Average Running Position of 30.6 and a Driver Rating of 58.4.
Cast Your Vote!
Be sure to cast your vote for the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Most Popular Driver. Polls will close Oct. 31. Since opening July 6, more than 20,000 votes have been cast.
Visit NASCAR.com to vote or to write in your favorite driver. If they're not among the nominees write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Up Next: Martinsville Speedway
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has a couple weeks to prepare for the final short-track race of the season. The series will head to Martinsville Speedway for the Kroger 200 on Saturday, Oct. 24.
Martinsville is one of two tracks on the current schedule which hosts the series twice in the same season. The .526-mile track is also one of four tracks to host the series in all 15 seasons since 1995.
Only two drivers have managed to visit Martinsville's Victory Lane more than once: Mike Skinner and Dennis Setzer. The two veterans are tied for the most wins with three.
Next Race: Kroger 200
The Place: Martinsville Speedway
The Date: Sat., October 24, 2009
The Time: 1 p.m. ET
Race Distance: 200 laps / 105.2 miles
Track Layout: .526-mile oval
TV: SPEED, 12:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SIRIUS XM.
2008 Winner: Johnny Benson
2008 Polesitter: Ron Hornaday Jr.
Friday: Practice, 10-11:20 a.m. and 1:10-2:00 p.m.; Qualifying, 4:40 p.m.