St. Louis: Brian Ickler preview

BRIAN ICKLER Don't Get S(Pook)ed By Gateway MOORESVILLE, N.C. (July 14, 2010) -- There is no track on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule quite like Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill. Built in 1996 by Chris Pook, former...

Don't Get S(Pook)ed By Gateway

MOORESVILLE, N.C. (July 14, 2010) -- There is no track on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule quite like Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill.

Built in 1996 by Chris Pook, former President and CEO of CART and the founder of the highly successful Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (Calif.), Gateway is a 1.25-mile egg-shaped oval.

Turns one and two have a tight radius and are banked at 11 degrees, while turns three and four are longer and more sweeping, but have slightly less banking at nine degrees.

What that means for drivers and crew chiefs in Friday night's 200 is that compromise is the key. Because each end of the track is different, it's very difficult to set up the racetruck so it handles well at both ends.

Brian Ickler, driver of the No. 18 Viasystems Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports, knows that good communication with crew chief Eric Phillips will be crucial to making sure his truck handles as best as possible on Gateway's quirky layout. Ickler and Phillips both know that an ill-handling truck can make for a very long night at the track located just across the Mississippi River from St. Louis.

Unlike last week at Iowa Speedway in Newton, where Ickler entered the Truck Series race with seven starts in five different racing series on his resume, he comes to Gateway with just one start ever. Last year, Ickler started 22nd and finished a solid 15th in just his 10th career Truck Series event.

He'll look to score his first Truck Series victory at Gateway and do so with a local company supporting him. St. Louis-based Viasystems Group, Inc., a technology leader and a worldwide provider of complex multi-layer, printed circuit boards and electro-mechanical solutions, will be the primary sponsor on Ickler No. 18 Toyota for Friday night's race.

And while Ickler would like nothing more than to score his first victory, he wouldn't mind giving Viasystems a huge win right across the river from its headquarters.

Brian Ickler, Driver, No. 18 Viasystems Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports:

What are your overall thoughts heading to Gateway?

"It's one of those really flat racetracks. One set of corners is really tight and the other is more sweeping, kind of like Phoenix. I've only run there once, but I know Rick Ren (director of competition) and Eric Phillips (crew chief) have had success there. Obviously, we're really excited to have Viasystems on board. It's a huge race for them, especially being based in St. Louis, so we're going to try and put them in victory lane."

On paper Gateway looks similar to Darlington (S.C.) Raceway, only smaller. Are there any comparisons?

"They look the same, but they're very different. Gateway is just so flat. One turn is really flat and the other has a little more banking. You have to get a good run off of (turn) three to be good there, so I think that's our biggest deal."

How do you deal with a track that has two different ends like Gateway?

"I think all tracks you go to, you sort of give up one end. One end always seems better than the other end. You just have to know where the weaknesses are, where you have to be good. Obviously, Rick and Eric's experience will help me with that."

Eric Phillips, Crew Chief, No. 18 Viasystems Toyota Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports:

Overall thoughts heading to Gateway?

"I was able to win there last year (as crew chief) with (Mike) Skinner. I've always seemed to have done well there. Looking forward to it. We've got a brand new truck that the guys built."

Gateway is kind of a quirky track. Can you talk about that?

"It's kind of a tough racetrack to get ahold of. Turns one and two are so much different than three and four. You've got to work on getting your truck good so you can get as much speed as possible going down that long backstretch. Rick (Ren) has a lot of experience there and has won there, and with me having won there last year with Skinner, we're looking forward to it."

How hard is it to give up speed at one end of the track to gain speed at the other end?

"It's always a compromise race at any track, just some more than others. You want to get it perfect everywhere, but it's very rare that you get the race truck totally perfect. It seems like when you do get it perfect, something happens and you don't win those. It's when you make the best of what you have, that's when you become successful."

Is Gateway comparable to any other track?

"Setup-wise, it's not that different than Iowa or Loudon (New Hampshire Motor Speedway) or Milwaukee. It's a flat track that's a little more than a mile and turning and getting up off the corner is key. We'll take some of our notes from those places and see what we can make work to make sure we're fast at Gateway."

Can you talk about Brian's development as a driver?

"Brian's a terrific talent. We wish we could race with him more than we are. Brian and Kyle (Busch's) driving styles and feedback are very similar, so the transition back and forth between both of them is fairly easy for Rick and I. It can be really challenging going back and forth between drivers, but they both are so similar in that they give great feedback and have a great feel. Brian just doesn't have the seat time that Kyle does."

Rick Ren, Director of Competition, Kyle Busch Motorsports:

After not racing more than two consecutive weekends, the Camping World Truck Series schedule is at the second of nine consecutive races without a break. Talk about this stretch of the season.

"We've built up our fleet and we're actually in pretty good shape. I think in this nine-race stretch, we're only going to depend on one truck being raced more than once. We're in pretty good shape so that we should have our pick of trucks. This is the stretch that every year I felt separated the men from the boys. In the last few years, the idea was to gain the most possible (driver) points through this stretch. We're in a little bit of different situation that I have been in before in that we're racing for the owner's championship. We still have to gain as many points as we can and we know who we're racing against each week. First and foremost, we're racing to win, but if you're not in a position to win, you need to be in a position to gain points for the championship we're in. We're in pretty good shape right now. We've built some brand new trucks and repaired all the stuff that had a little bit of damage and we're actually starting to work on our Talladega stuff right now."

Is this the part of the season where championships are won and lost?

"Yes. It's been my focus the last few years on this middle stretch of the season, where it's really hot and you've got some short tracks, you've got some mile-and-a-half tracks -- you've kind of got a conglomerate of things. This stretch shows the teams that are prepared the best. That, and you've got to have some luck on your side. Whoever can gain the most points during this stretch puts themselves in a position to win or lose the championship."

Can you talk about Gateway International Raceway and the 200?

"We've got a brand new truck going to Gateway. It's very similar to the new truck we took to Iowa. It's a sister truck. We just made a couple of small changes on it. Personally, we've been good at Gateway for quite a few runs there, so we've got some good notes to run off of. We're excited to have Brian Ickler running there. He's been doing a great job for us. I'm excited to go to St. Louis, we'll have Viasystems as a sponsor there and they're a local company headquartered in St. Louis. I'm from (Tilton) Illinois, so I have a lot of family and friends that show up at that race. It's only about three or four hours from home, so I'll have a lot of people there."

Gateway is kind of a quirky track. Can you talk about that?

"It's a beast. I've been talking to Brain about what part of the racetrack we have to be good at. Turns one and two are really tight and everyone slows down, so the biggest bang for your buck is being good in (turns) three in four. It's just because everyone has to slow down in (turns) one and two. That's what we'll work on."

Can you talk about Brian's development as a driver?

"The first practice at Iowa, Brian said how loose the truck was and gave Eric and the guys really, really good feedback and they really hammered on the setup. They didn't get too far off the baseline setup, maybe only three or four changes, and the next thing you know, we're at the top of the board in the second practice. If Brian could race every week, he's a guy I think you could run for a championship with next year. He gives really good feedback, he has a great feel and he does a great job of explaining what the vehicle is doing at different stages going through the corner. A lot of drivers are not good at giving you that feedback. I've worked with all types of drivers in my career and he does a great job of describing what the vehicle is doing."

-source: kbm

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Drivers Chris Pook , Brian Ickler , Kyle Busch
Teams Kyle Busch Motorsports