Proud Of His Roots, Peters Wants To Bring Title South
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is one of NASCAR's three national series, but it still projects an "outsider" identity. All but one of its champions — Bobby Hamilton — hail from beyond NASCAR's traditional Southeastern base. Californian Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet) perhaps most reflects the series' alternative roots. Hornaday leads in championships (four) and victories (45).
Timothy Peters (No. 17 K&N Toyota), the surprise points leader heading to this week's Atlanta 200, hopes to engineer a geographical shift. Peters, from Providence, N.C., climbed the traditional NASCAR ladder winning NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championships at a trio of short tracks south of the Mason-Dixon line. His heroes growing up included, naturally, Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip. "Earnhardt Sr. was a tremendous ambassador for the sport," said Peters. "I liked Darrell's driving style and the way the Tide car looked. He was aggressive and smart and always seemed to run well." In effect, Peters is racing for his fellow North Carolinians — some of NASCAR's most devoted fans. "The year that Bobby (Hamilton) won, everything seemed to fall into place," he said. "I'm hoping the way our year started that it could be one of those Cinderella seasons for us. I would love to add my name to the list of southern drivers that have achieved that goal."
Peters hasn't done especially well at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Of course, his record there isn't extensive — just three starts with a best finish of 15th. He believes Saturday's race will show great improvement, in part thanks to tutoring by Hamilton, for whom he drove in 2005-06. "He taught me how to use multiple grooves to make the truck run better," said Peters. "You can run your truck high or low or in between."
Peters has enjoyed the glow of the past couple of weeks celebrating his Daytona victory. But that was then; this is now. "It's a very cool feeling being the points leader of the series but Atlanta changes the game," said Peters. "This is when (it shows) you have it or you don't have it. It's privileged to be in this position, but we also know it's our job to stay up there the entire season."
Pair Of Bodine Brothers Line Up For Atlanta 200
It's been nearly six years since brothers Todd and Geoff Bodine have taken the green flag in the same NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race. They look to do it for a sixth time in the series this week.
Todd (No. 30 Toyota) won the 2006 Atlanta 200. Geoff, who'll drive the No. 95 Team Gill Racing Dodge, has 21 starts (the last in 2004) and a trio of second-place finishes. Bodine has spent the past several weeks at the Winter Olympics, overseeing the fortunes of his Bo-Dyne bobsleds and the Gold Medal U.S. Bobsled team.
"It's going to be like old times, you know?" said younger brother Todd. "He's looking forward to it. Once a racer, always a racer. It's giving him an opportunity to have some fun," said Danny Gill, whose Dodge (numbered 46 with Dennis Setzer at the wheel) finished third at Daytona, "We have worked really hard to prepare him a piece so that his return will be a competitive one. With his record (four NASCAR Sprint Cup top fives) Atlanta is a perfect track for him. I think he'll be a lot of fun to work with and have no trouble being a contender."
Loop Data: Atlanta Possible Bounce-Back Race For Skinner, Hornaday
Two drivers, both past champions, had uncharacteristically bad finishes at Daytona — Mike Skinner and Ron Hornaday Jr. Both have had to sit and mull over their poor standings position for the last two weeks. Finally, they'll have a chance to improve. And both should.
Skinner, who currently sits 23rd in the standings, and is strong at Atlanta, scoring top-five finishes in four of the last five races there, including a victory in 2007. Over that span, Skinner has had a Driver Rating of 104.2, an Average Running Position of 9.8, an average finish of 7.8, a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 81.7% and 27 Fastest Laps Run. What makes those numbers even more impressive: They include his October 2008 race, where he finished 26th with a Driver Rating of 63.6.
It's the same story for Hornaday, who is 27th after the season opener. His last four Atlanta races have all been top 10s, and he finished runner-up in three consecutive events from 2007-2008. But no wins, despite outstanding statistics. In the last four Atlanta races, Hornaday has a Driver Rating of 132.7, an Average Running Position of 2.2, an average finish of 3.3 and 101 Fastest Laps Run. In the two Atlanta races of 2008, Hornaday scored Driver Ratings of 141.8 and 144.3. A perfect rating is 150.0.
Busch, Ballew Return To Atlanta But From Different Directions
Few drivers and teams have dominated a race track as Kyle Busch and Billy Ballew Motorsports. Busch and owner Billy Ballew have won four times at the 1.54-mile track, including three of the past four times the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has competed at AMS. Is a fifth victory in the cards? Perhaps — but only one member of the combination will find itself in Victory Lane.
Busch left his Atlanta owner's team after the 2009 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He formed his own team, Kyle Busch Motorsports, and will take the green flag in his own No. 18 Toyota Tundra Toyota along with teammate Tayler Malsam (No. 56 One Eighty Toyota). Ballew, meanwhile, returns with Aric Almirola in the defending Atlanta 200 winning No. 51 Gateway Pharmaceuticals Toyota. BBM's second entry, the No. 15 Red Top Auto Auction Toyota, will be driven by Steve Wallace, a NASCAR Nationwide Series veteran making his truck racing debut.
"It's great to race in Billy Ballew's hometown of Atlanta. What better place to bring home a victory for Billy," said Almirola. Wallace, coming off a 10th-place finish in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Sam's Town 300, said, "This is awesome. It's something I've always wanted to do." His uncle, Mike Wallace, is a four-time NCWTS winner.
Busch, meanwhile, is pleased to return to Atlanta and go for a 17th career victory that would tie him for fifth on the all-time series list with Todd Bodine and Ted Musgrave.
"It's a track I really like. It's fast and the truck races are always really good," said Busch. "Obviously, getting a win there would be really huge because it would be the first for Kyle Busch Motorsports."
Fields for the first four races of the 2010 season are set based on 2009 Owners' Championship points with the top 25 teams locked into the 36-truck fields. It's not too early to think about the reset to 2010 standings scheduled for May 2 at Kansas Speedway. Several teams currently protected by last year's points would have to qualify on speed if the reset happened this week. Among them are Richard Childress Racing's No. 3, Turner Motorsports' No. 4 and Billy Ballew Motorsports' No. 15.
Director's Take: Wayne's Words
"Speedweeks at Daytona International Speedway was an exciting time for all of us and I can't remember a year when there was so much optimism in the garage or enthusiasm among fans of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. "We had to wait an extra day to run this race but that didn't dampen the excitement. We had everything you could ask for and more — first-time Daytona winner and pole winner and a last-lap pass for the win. "It was great to see familiar faces in the garage and to welcome the many new teams — 25 percent of them weren't with us at Daytona in 2009. That growth shows the commitment of the NASCAR community to our series.
"Now it's time to get down to business at Atlanta Motor Speedway, another track that's featured great racing and finishes since the 1.54-mile facility joined the series in 2004. "Nobody will forget the back-and-forth battle between Mike Skinner and Bobby Hamilton in 2004. Bobby won the race (and later the championship) as Mike wound up spinning through the grass after his last-ditch pass attempt off Turn 4.
"That's what NASCAR racing is all about and why a truck race at Atlanta Motor Speedway is a must-see, early-season event.
"By its nature, Atlanta plays into the hands of the always-on-the-gas competitors of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The track is wide and offers plenty of different opportunities to go where the other driver isn't. "The fans can look forward to three and four-wide racing at speeds of more than 180 miles per hour. "I look back on the early years of the series, when the mile track at Phoenix International Raceway was our Daytona, and just shake my head about how far we've come.
"Speed hasn't diminished the excitement. The tough trucks are just as exciting at 180 mph as they were at 140 mph. "And they still trade plenty of paint." - Wayne Auton, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Director
Raybestos Rookie of the Year Standings
Brett Butler, 11
Justin Lofton, 10
Austin Dillon, 9
Jennifer Jo Cobb, 8
Landon Cassill, 7
Kevin Harvick Inc. has named Doug George as crew chief for the No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet driven by Ron Hornaday Jr. The move unites a pair of former NASCAR Southwest Series champions. George previously served as crew chief for KHI's No. 2 E-Z-Go Chevrolet Harvick will drive in Atlanta.
Hornaday has been named an honorary H.E.A.T. enforcement officer by Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. Last week, Hornaday appeared at a Henry County safety checkpoint and rewarded 30 buckled-up families with free Atlanta Motor Speedway tickets. The event was part of AMS' 50th anniversary celebration.
The first six NASCAR Camping World Truck races in Atlanta produced six different winners. Just two drivers, Busch and Ryan Newman, won the next four. Bodine, Busch, Hornaday and Mike Skinner (No. 5 International Trucks/Monaco RV Toyota) are former winners expected to compete in this week's race.
Newman is the only driver to record a first series victory — his only one to date — in Atlanta. Six other Atlanta winners have combined for 129 NCWTS victories.
The 2006 fall race was the track's most competitive event, featuring 21 lead changes.
Six of the 10 previous races have been won by a driver starting fifth or better. Pole winners Bodine (2006), Skinner (2007) and Busch (2009) parlayed No. 1 starting spots into victories.
Up Next: Kroger 250 at Martinsville
Fans love the up-close action at historic Martinsville Speedway. It's paint-to-pass on the tight, .526-mile track — the first short track on the 2010 schedule. Making it even better, the grandstands are among the circuit's closest to the racing making an afternoon at the southern Virginia track one of the year's most anticipated outings.
Kevin Harvick is the defending winner of the March 27 Kroger 250 but Martinsville Speedway has a history of not rewarding its most recent winners. In fact, there have been 12 different winners in the last 13 events at a track hosting spring and fall NASCAR Camping World Truck series races. Dennis Setzer and Mike Skinner are the track's only repeat winners. Each has three victories.
Veterans Say 2010 To Be Most Competitive Season Yet
Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet) left Daytona International Speedway literally salivating in delight over his fifth-place finish in the 2010 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season opener. "It fits perfectly with what we want to accomplish this year," said Crafton, who finished runner-up to Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet) in last year's points standings. "We went down there with a plan this year to be really smart and stay out of any situation that would put us out of the race early. "We did that and we ended up with the best finish we've ever had down there."
Crafton heads for Atlanta ahead of longtime nemesis Hornaday but that fact doesn't guarantee the Tulare, Calif., competitor's upgrade to his first NASCAR national series title. Crafton and other series veterans are convinced the competition level has reached unprecedented heights in 2010.
"It's really tough at the front of the field. The same guys that were tough last year are going to be tough this year plus there are some new faces in new places that are going to be fighting for top fives and wins all year long," said Crafton, who's beginning his 10th full season in the series. Other former champions concur with Crafton.
"As a driver, you want to see the series grow and you look for new teams to join the competition," said Todd Bodine (No. 30 Toyota), a former Atlanta 200 winner.
Said Mike Skinner (No. 5 International Trucks Toyota), the 1995 series champion and 2007 Atlanta 200 winner, "The competition has stepped up its game. We are going to have to be on top of our game every week in order to have a shot at the championship."
Hornaday, who finished 27th at Daytona, hopes to channel 2008 when he was 25th in the opening race but rallied to finished only seven points behind champion Johnny Benson (No. 95 Plane Guts Ford).
"You have champions like myself, Todd, Skinner and Benson hoping to compete for more championships and young kids like Austin Dillon (No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) and Ricky Carmichael (No. 4 Monster Energy Chevrolet) coming up through the ranks," said Hornaday, the series' only four-time champion.
"It's hard to tell who's going to be really tough after one race but from what I saw in Daytona, we have a bunch of new, high-quality teams that are going to contend for wins week-in and week-out."
Kyle Busch Motorsports Off To Rocky Start; Atlanta An Elixir?
Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota) was typically blunt in his assessment of his new team's performance on Feb. 13 at Daytona International Speedway. "It didn't go exactly how we'd hoped," said Busch, who saw both he and teammate Tayler Malsam (No. 56 One Eighty Toyota) involved in accidents.
That well could change at Atlanta Motor Speedway, where Busch is the track's only four-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winner. "Now that we've got the first race out of the way, I think everyone will be
more comfortable going into Atlanta," said Busch. "It's a pretty special feeling when you're driving your own equipment and the first time will
be a moment I'll remember for the rest of my career."
Loop Data Say Peters, White Have Hill To Climb In Atlanta
Two names – surprise ones – were the big winners coming out of the season-opening race at Daytona.
One was Timothy Peters (No. 17 K&N Toyota), who nabbed his second career victory. The other was Jason White (No. 23 GunBroker.com Ford), who finished in the top five for only the third time in his career. The next step: Continued success.
The statistics suggest that the goal might be tough to attain. Peters doesn't have a history of success at Atlanta. In three races there, he has an average finish of 22.0, a Driver Rating of 63.3, an Average Running Position of 21.3, no Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of just 7.1 (28 out of 395 possible laps).
Same goes for White. In four career Atlanta races, White has an average finish of 25.0, a Driver Rating of 45.4, an Average Running Position of 23.6 and 32 Laps in the Top 15 out of a possible of 520 laps (6.2%).
Then there's Todd Bodine, a past series champion who finished second at Daytona and should continue his strong start. In terms of series-only regulars, Bodine is "the man" at Atlanta.
Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005 – a span of nine races for Bodine – the 2006 series champion has an average finish of 9.1, a Driver Rating of 107.7, an Average Running Position of 7.6 and a series-high 1,049 Laps in the Top 15 (88.9%).
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was off last week but that doesn't mean that Ricky Carmichael wasn't busy. Carmichael has a "second job" as a Supercross analyst for SPEED TV and was in the booth for last Saturday's event at Indianapolis. Carmichael, the sport's greatest champion, gets a leg up on his fellow truck competitors arriving in Atlanta a weekend early as the Supercross circuit moves to the city for next Saturday's race.
NASCAR Raybestos Rookie of the Year Standings
1. Brett Butler, 11
2. Justin Lofton, 10
3. Austin Dillon, 9
4. Jennifer Jo Cobb, 8
5. Landon Cassill, 7
Up Next: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Adjustments to the 2010 series schedule have created a three-week break between Daytona and the next NASCAR Camping World Truck race, March 6 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The 1.54-mile track has been "owned" recently by Kyle Busch, winner of three of the last four Atlanta races (and four overall), including last year's Atlanta 200. Busch is the only driver to have won more than once. Despite Busch's dominance, Chevrolet continues to be AMS' top manufacturer; Silverados have visited Victory Lane on five occasions.(NASCAR PR)(2-22-2010)
Surprises Abundant As 2010 Season Opens In Daytona
If last week's NextEra Energy Resources 250 is any indication, the 2010 season will be anything but business as usual. The results were surprising — at least based on the preseason polls.
Timothy Peters (#17 K&N Toyota) laid the Kryptonite on Superman — Todd Bodine (#30 GEICO Toyota) — to pull off the upset. The victory was Peters' second in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series but first on a superspeedway. The Providence, N.C., driver won on his home turf last fall at Martinsville, Va. Peters, a three-time NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track champion, is the points leader for the first time in his 69-race career.
Bodine lost his bid for a third consecutive Daytona victory, finishing second after Peters' last-lap pass in a wild race that saw 12 drivers exchange the lead 23 times.
Perhaps as shocking was Jason White's (#23 GunBroker.com Ford) dash to the Keystone Light Pole — the first for the 30-year-old Virginian. White, driving an ex-Roush Fenway chassis, gave SS Green Light Racing its first series pole and with a fourth-place finish, its second-best performance. White never has ranked among the top 10 in the standings during an 80-race career that began in 2001. "We put ourselves in a position to win the race and if things go your way, you can get to Victory Lane," said White, whose best series finish, a third, came last September in Las Vegas. "If we keep putting ourselves in that position, the wins will come."
New Teams, Drivers Make Immediate Impact
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Director Wayne Auton predicted there'd be new faces at the races in 2010. He might have added they would stand out immediately.
Danny Gill, who quarterbacked the late Bobby Hamilton to the 2004 series championship, made his debut as a team owner and put both his trucks in the top 10 — despite having to make repairs following an accident that claimed both trucks in final practice. Veteran Dennis Setzer (#46 Plane Guts Dodge) nearly won the race, finishing on the rear bumper of Bodine's Toyota. Johnny Benson, the 2008 series champion, made his return to truck racing a memorable one, putting Gill's #95 Plane Guts Ford in the ninth spot. Not bad for the Nashville-based team that came to the season-opening race without back-up trucks.
Equally impressive was the debut of Daisy Ramirez' pair of Chevrolets. Ramirez, a native of Honduras who arrived late at the track after becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen, saw both her trucks claim top-15 finishes. JJ Yeley, rebounding from serious injury suffered in a 2009 open-wheel accident, finished 10th in the #01 Koma Unwind Chillaxation Chevrolet while Mexico City resident Carlos Contreras (#00 Potencia Blast Energy Shot/Alpina Water Chevrolet) claimed a respectable 14th.
One-time Formula One driver Nelson Piquet Jr. (#1 Red Horse Racing Toyota) looked anything but a NASCAR rookie in his debut. The Brazilian, teammate to race winner Peters, finished sixth.
The race had an international flavor featuring drivers from Brazil, Canada, Italy and Mexico.
Red Horse Racing Under The Radar No Longer
Red Horse Racing came into the 2010 season with one sure thing and a couple of question marks. It just so happened, that sure thing – Timothy Peters – won the season opener. Most figured Peters' maturation process would continue into this season, coming off a 2009 campaign that saw a win at Martinsville Speedway and an eighth-place finish in the points standings. Immediately, Peters inserted himself into the early championship discussion. In his Daytona victory, Peters notched a Driver Rating of 117.5, an Average Running Position of 6.6, a Pass
Differential (passes minus times passed) of plus- 26 and 89 Laps in the Top 15 (out of 100).
The two question marks fared pretty well, too – especially Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr. In his first NASCAR race, Piquet finished sixth, posting some of the top statistics in the event. Piquet had a Driver Rating of 96.1, an Average Running Position of 9.5, two Fastest Laps Run and 85 Laps in the Top 15.
Rookie Justin Lofton (#visitPIT.com Toyota) didn't boast too many strong statistics, but he did end the day with a top-20 finish. Finishing 18th in his first-ever NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, Lofton had a Driver Rating of 43.3 and an Average Running Position of 23.5. He did put his name in the Closer category, improving one position in the final 10 laps.
Only 14 drivers gained a position in the final 10 laps, and none more than two positions.
Hornaday Faces Long Climb
A race removed from his 2009 championship season, Ron Hornaday Jr. (#33 Longhorn Chevrolet) is in an unfamiliar position — on the outside looking in. One race doesn't a season make, but Hornaday's 27th-place finish in Daytona has put a dent in the media's preseason prediction of a fifth NASCAR Camping World Truck championship.
In 10 previous seasons of racing at Daytona International Speedway, only one driver — Mike Bliss — has gone on to win the championship with a finish outside the top 15. Bliss, however, recovered from engine failure and a finish of 33rd in 2002. Ironically, 33 is Hornaday's truck number.
NCWTS, Etc.Brett Butler (#47 Fuel-Doctor.com Chevrolet) was the highest-finishing Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender in Daytona with an 11th-place finish in the Rick Ware Racing-owned truck. "For us coming so close to a top 10, we'll take it and build on this momentum," said Butler.
Up Next: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Adjustments to the 2010 series schedule have created a three-week break between Daytona and the next NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on March 6 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The 1.54-mile track has been "owned" recently by Kyle Busch, winner of three of the last four Atlanta races (and four overall), including last year's Atlanta 200.
Busch is the only driver to have won more than once. Despite Busch's dominance, Chevrolet continues to be AMS' top manufacturer; Silverado's' have visited Victory Lane on five occasions.