*Crawford Seeking Record Start At Martinsville
*Martinsville Good Place For Streaking Harvick
*Virginia Natives Peters And White Stand 2nd, 3rd In Points
Crawford Rolling To Series Record 325th Start
This weekend, Rick Crawford (No. 14 Ford) and Dennis Setzer (No. 92 Fleet AO Chevrolet) will each make their 21st NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Martinsville Speedway, by far the most for any driver competing at the series' second- shortest track on the schedule.
But Crawford has also reached another milestone—his series record 325th career start. All this as his team, Circle Bar Racing, attempts to secure primary sponsorship for the truck. Circle Bar Racing, in turn, is making its 326th consecutive start, dating back to the beginning of the 1997 season. Crawford began racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 1997 and owns five victories and six pole positions, including last year's Kroger 250. Crawford also won the spring race at Martinsville in 2004 and has eight top fives at the track, including three straight. While Crawford is only 16th in points after two races, he is coming off a ninth-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway and has finished in the top 10 in points in seven of the last nine seasons.
Harvick Shooting For Fourth Consecutive Victory
Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet) became the first and only driver in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series history last year to win four straight races (his streak actually reached five). Kevin Harvick (No. 2 Kroger/Tide Chevrolet), Hornaday's team owner, looks to accomplish a similar feat Saturday.
Harvick will attempt to win his fourth consecutive series start at Martinsville. He closed 2009 with consecutive victories at Phoenix International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway, and won earlier this month at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Harvick skipped the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway. Harvick's chances are good for this weekend. He won last year's March race at Martinsville, and is reunited with longtime crew chief Butch Hylton, with whom Harvick was first paired with in 2003 in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. "I'm excited about that," Harvick said. "We've talked about getting the No. 2 truck back to where we need it to be, and we've won a lot of races in the past, so hopefully we can continue that same success."
In addition to winning last season, Harvick has logged four top fives and five top 10s. Martinsville has been a good track for us," Harvick said. "We ran really well there last spring, obviously, winning the race. We had a little trouble in the fall race with a flat tire, but we were able to make up a couple laps and come back with a solid top five. Based upon our most recent success in the series, confidence is very high."
While Harvick has won at Martinsville, Hornaday—the series leader in victories overall and short-track wins—has not. In fact, the four-time champion is not even in the top 10 in points at this point. Other notables who have not won in the series at Martinsville include points leader Todd Bodine (No. 30 Toyota), Kyle Busch (No. 18 Toyota) and Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet).
Director's Take: Wayne's Words
"It's exciting to get going again after a three-week break. We've had two races this season, both on big tracks, and it's back to the series' roots this weekend as we head back to Martinsville Speedway for the 23rd time in history."
As always, we're happy to go back to Martinsville, because this series was founded on short tracks. We know whenever we go there we're in for a treat. "I have been attending races at Martinsville for over 40 years and I have some great memories at Martinsville. You only need to go back to last October, when Timothy Peters (No. 17 Red Horse Racing Toyota) scored his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at his home track, which was a great deal. Otherwise, we've seen some great finishes. Kyle Busch has been involved in two of those—once taking out Johnny Benson (No. 15 Red Top Collector Car Auction), and the other time being taken out by Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet).
"As I've said in the past, patience is the name of the game. Martinsville is essentially two drag strips with two very tight corners. If you don't have patience, or the right brake set-up, it's going to be a long day.
"One other important note—this one on tires. Goodyear brought a softer tire to Martinsville last year and it really bodes well on the trucks. The racing last year was spectacular as a result.
"I think we're ready to have a good weekend of racing at Martinsville." - Wayne Auton, Series Director
Karthikeyan To Make Series Debut At Martinsville
Former Formula 1 driver Narain Karthikeyan (No. 60 SafeAuto Chevrolet) will make his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in the Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway and in the process, become the first driver from India to compete in the Trucks. Karthikeyan, who will make select events this season, made 19 starts in Formula 1 and joins the likes of Nelson Piquet Jr., Scott Speed, Jacques Villeneuve, Eliseo Salazar and Max Papis who have competed in both F1 and now, the Camping World Truck Series. He is running with newly-formed Starbeast Motorsports, and has Camping World Truck Series veteran Stacy Compton, sixth in points, as his driver coach.
"The opportunity to compete in a NASCAR series is a dream come true for me," Karthikeyan said. "I have raced all over the world, but this is a different kind of challenge for me and I look forward to learning everything I can about racing in this environment. NASCAR is known for its passionate fans. I am excited to be introducing India to this sport and hope to help develop an equally passionate fan base there. Team owner Miguel Abaroa said Karthikeyan is the center of Starbeast's efforts to grow the sport in India. "After his success in Formula 1, Narain has become one of India's most popular athletes and the obvious choice to introduce NASCAR to the subcontinent," Abaroa said. Added Compton: "We have always had a desire to work with drivers to help with their transition into NASCAR."
Of the aforementioned former F1 drivers, Speed seems to have had the most success. While he finished 27th in his first start, he was the only one of the former F1 drivers with a victory (2008, Dover International Speedway). Wyler Racing is competing in its fifth full season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series after making its series debut in 2005.
Peters, White Head To Home Track Seeking Points Lead
Timothy Peters captured his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory last October at Martinsville Speedway, and heads there this Saturday seeking his third career win after opening 2010 with a victory at Daytona International Speedway.
Meanwhile, Jason White (No. 23 GunBroker.com Dodge) heads to Martinsville in search of his first career victory. He started on the pole at Daytona and finished fourth. So what do these two drivers have in common? Both call Martinsville their home track, and the two are currently second and third in the points standings, chasing series leader Todd Bodine (No. 30 Toyota). Peters is only four points behind Bodine (340-336), while White lies 45 points out of first after two races.
"I really love Martinsville and I'm really looking forward to going back there as a winner," said Peters of Danville, Va. "Coming off that win in the fall, I have that much more confidence that we can repeat and get this No. 17 back to Victory Lane. Martinsville is a special place for me and I've had a lot of success there over the years, but last year's win was definitely the best moment I've had at that track and one of the best moments of my career."
Said White: "I'm excited about the start we've had this year, (but) I won't be satisfied with a good run and another top-15 finish at Martinsville. Right now, it's all about momentum and carrying forward what we have done to start the year and keep this team at the top of the points standings."
Benson, Skinner Seek Strong Results At Martinsville
Johnny Benson (No. 15 Red Top Collector Car Auction Toyota) has taken on a new role in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career. Benson won the series championship in 2008, and since then has run only nine of the 27 races. But in those events, he has scored three top fives and five top 10s. He's back this weekend at Martinsville, piloting the No. 15 Toyota for Billy Ballew Motorsports. Expect another scene-stealing performance from Benson. In his 12 career Martinsville races, Benson has one win, four top fives and six top 10s. His numbers since the inception of Loop Data in 2005 – a span of nine races for Benson – are just as strong. Overall, he has a Driver Rating of 92.2, an Average Running Position of 12.1, 61 Fastest Laps Run and a Laps in the Top 15 percentage of 69.6%.
Also watch for past champion Mike Skinner (No. 5 International Trucks/Monaco RV Toyota). Overall at Martinsville, Skinner has a Driver Rating of 96.7, an Average Running Position of 11.1 and 159 Fastest Laps Run. In his win in March of 2007, Skinner scored a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0, leading 246 of the 253 laps. His Average Running Position that day was an incredible 1.1.
Statistically, Skinner—who is hoping to leap into the top 10 in points—is one of the best at short tracks. Last year, Skinner notched a Driver Rating of 111.6 in the six short-track races. That number ranked second in the series, behind Ron Hornaday Jr.'s (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet) 130.2.
*Aric Almirola (No. 51 Graceway Pharmaceuticals Toyota) is quietly running fourth in the standings. He finished a solid third earlier this month at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He has never finished better than 20th in final points.
*DJ Kennington (No. 6 Northern Provincial Pipelines Chevrolet) has been tabbed the driver of Rick Ware Racing's truck for Martinsville. A veteran of short-track racing in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Martinsville is a track that has always been on the Canadian's radar. "I have run at nearly every track in the NASCAR Nationwide Series and none of those resemble the type of racing we do here in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series," he said. "We run a bunch of road-course events but a majority of our races (come) on half-mile and smaller flat tracks, just like Martinsville."
*Several drivers are making their NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debuts at Martinsville. They are Dale Brackett (No. 7 Chevrolet), Tony Jackson Jr. (No. 9 ASI Chevrolet), Clay Greenfield (No. 23 Team Gill Racing Dodge), Narain Karthikeyan (No. 60 SafeAuto Insurance/Wyler.com Toyota), Paddy Rodenbeck (No. 82 Green Hills Software Chevrolet), Lance Fenton (No. 95 Team Gill Racing Dodge) and Chris Eggleton (No. 21 H20 Fire Protection Chevrolet).
*Toyotas have won six of the last eight Camping World Truck Series races at Martinsville.
*Seven Martinsville winners have come from the front row, including three polesitters.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year Contender Standings
1. Austin Dillon, 21
2. Justin Lofton, 20
3. Brett Butler, 19
4. Jennifer Jo Cobb, 17
5. Landon Cassill, 7
Up Next: Nashville
Next weekend's Nashville 200 — the first of two races for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Nashville Superspeedway — comes on the back-end of the series' first back-to-back 2010 weekends.
Previously, the series has only raced once per season on the 1.33-mile concrete track, with Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet) taking the honors last season. Johnny Benson (No. 15 Red Top Collector Car Auction Toyota) is the only driver with multiple victories — two — at the track.
The series' second race at Nashville will be Aug. 7.(NASCAR PR)(3-22-2010)
Tough Trucks And Drivers Face Equally Tough Martinsville Speedway
‘Sparks Going To Fly' Almirola Predicts, After Darlington Goodyear Tire Test
Bodine, Busch, Hornaday ‘Top Statistical' Non-Winners In Martinsville
Springtime In Virginia: Dogwoods And Truck Racin'
Two sure signs of spring in Virginia are dogwood trees in bloom and the roar of engines at Martinsville Speedway. You're sure to find both on March 26-27 when the .526-mile speedway hosts the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the Kroger 250.
Putting 36 tough trucks on the paperclip-shaped track pretty much guarantees there'll be action aplenty. "Martinsville is a survival track," said Dennis Setzer (#46 Team Gill Racing Dodge), one of just two multiple winners of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Martinsville. "With young drivers and seasoned veterans in the field, I'm sure it will be a survival race." Setzer cut his teeth on short tracks like Martinsville — notably at Hickory Motor Speedway near his home in Newton, N.C. He sees many of the same fans at Martinsville when the trucks line up in March and October since Martinsville is about 100 miles from home.
Setzer says they're sure to get a show and the fans literally are on top of the action. "You can look right down into the cockpit and see the drivers working the steering wheel," said Setzer, adding that Martinsville's long history with late model and modified racing has made it special. To the late model fans, it's a really special place," he said. "It always was our Daytona." Setzer currently is eighth in the standings, largely on his third-place finish at Daytona. He's optimistic the first-year team will find resources to keep him in the points race.
Goodyear Testers Say Darlington Promises 'Heckuva Show'
It's probably not too early for fans to start thinking about buying tickets for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series' return to historic Darlington Raceway on Aug. 14. Two drivers who tested Goodyear Wrangler tires there last week — Aric Almirola (#51 Graceway Pharmaceutical Toyota) and Timothy Peters (#17 K&N Toyota) — gave the 1.366-mile South Carolina track their personal approval. Both can't wait to get back. "It's going to be exciting for the fans but it's going to be a challenge for us as well," said Peters, who will be making his first appearance at the "Track Too Tough to Tame. "It's going to be action-packed for sure." Almirola predicts, "… a heckuva race. The trucks really draft so much so I'm sure we'll be nearly flat-out," he said. "There's not a lot of room to put two trucks side-by-side here anyway so I'm sure sparks are going to fly."
Bodine, Busch, Hornaday Have Stats But No Victories
Ron Hornaday Jr. (#33 Longhorn Chevrolet) has accomplished just about everything at Martinsville Speedway – except win. In 15 total starts at the Virginia short track, Hornaday has five top fives and nine top 10s. He has led 231 laps. In the last six races, he has five top-10 finishes. Even his poor finishes are strong. In the fall Martinsville race in 2008, Hornaday finished 29th. But in the event, he led 154 of the 200 laps, and scored the second-best Driver Rating (123.6) despite running out of fuel near the end. So the stats suggest he's due. Since the inception of Loop Data statistics in 2005 – a span of 10 races at Martinsville – Hornaday has an Average Driver Rating of 108, an Average Running Position of 8.4, a series-high 170 Fastest Laps Run and a series-high 1,926 Laps in the Top 15 (85.3%).
Todd Bodine (#30 Toyota), another former champion still looking for his first Martinsville victory, could find start #13 at the track a lucky one. Bodine finished second to hometown hero Timothy Peters in last October's event. Since 2005, Bodine holds some of the top numbers at Martinsville. In those 10 races, Bodine has a Driver Rating of 93.6, an Average Running Position of 10.8, 43 Fastest Laps Run and 1,707 Laps in the Top 15 (75.6%).
As usual, also watch for Kyle Busch (#18 Toyota), who has encountered uncharacteristic struggles at Martinsville. In six races there, Busch has three top 10s. But he also has three finishes outside the top 15. In his Martinsville career, Busch has a Driver Rating of 103.3 and an Average Running Position of 8.4.
Matt Crafton (#88 Menards Chevrolet) hopes to bounce back at Martinsville Speedway following a 27th-place finish in Atlanta. Crafton has yet to win at the .526-mile track but posted top-10 finishes in each of the track's most recent four races including a second place to Mike Skinner (#5 International Trucks/Monaco RV Toyota) in the 2008 Kroger 250. Martinsville Speedway has made the Kroger 250 a truly family-friendly event. Children age 12 and under will be admitted free.
Setzer and Rick Crawford (#14 Circle Bar Ford) have competed in the most races (20 of 22) held at Martinsville and share the record for top-five finishes (eight). Setzer leads all drivers with 13 top 10s. Toyota did not enter competition in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series until 2004. Beginning with the 2006 Kroger 250, a Tundra has won six of the past eight races.
Raybestos Rookie of the Year Standings
1. Austin Dillon, 21
2. Justin Lofton, 20
3. Brett Butler, 19
4. Jennifer Jo Cobb, 17
5. Landon Cassill, 7
Up Next: Martinsville
After races on the series' two fastest tracks — Daytona International Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway — the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to its roots for the March 27 Kroger 250 at .526-mile Martinsville Speedway. The race is the first of two hosted by the popular Southern Virginia track — one of just three tracks to have been on the schedule each year since the series began in 1995.
Kevin Harvick (#2 Chevrolet), the defending winner, bids for a fourth straight victory in successive starts dating to Phoenix in 2009.
*No Kyle Busch, But Billy Ballew Motorsports Doesn't Miss A Beat
*Bodine New Championship Leader; Skinner, Hornaday Struggling
*Austin Dillon Gets First Top 10; Moves To Top Of Freshman Rankings
Almirola, Wallace Keep Wheels Turning At Ballew Motorsports
Atlanta team owner Billy Ballew battled Kevin Harvick Inc. down to the season's final race in the battle for the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Truck Owners' Championship — largely on the strength of Kyle Busch's (#18 Toyota Tundra Toyota) seven victories. When Busch left to form his own team, many figured Ballew would have a difficult time matching that performance. So far that hasn't happened.
Drivers Aric Almirola (No. 51 Graceway Pharmaceuticals Toyota) and Steve Wallace (No. 15 Red Top Auto Auction Toyota) finished three-four in Saturday's E-Z-GO 200. Almirola jumped to fourth in series points while Ballew stands fifth in the owners' standings. Almirola has finished second, third and third in his past six starts for the team. Wallace became the 25th driver to log a top-five finish in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut.
I feel like we're one of the trucks that everyone knows they're going to have to race for the win," said Almirola. "I wouldn't say Atlanta was a confidence booster as much as it justified the confidence I had going into the season."
"It was phenomenal what we accomplished in Atlanta," said Ballew. "Kyle Busch is a tremendous driver. He's won everything you can at Atlanta and we ran toe-to-toe with him all race long. "I think that shows that we're as strong or stronger than we've ever been."
One Champion Up, Two Others Down
Todd Bodine (No. 30 Toyota) is off to his best start in a couple of years, finishing fifth in Saturday's E-Z-GO 200 to become the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points leader. "That's the key to any series, any points race," said Bodine, backing up a runner-up finish at Daytona. Bodine, the 2006 champion, last topped the standings after last year's season-opening race.
There's joy in the Germain Racing camp but Bodine added that two other former champions — Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet) and Mike Skinner (No. 5 International Trucks/Monaco RV Toyota) — have their backs to the wall after just two races. Hornaday, involved in an early accident, finished 34th. Skinner also had problems but salvaged a 14th. Skinner, the 1995 champion, heads to Martinsville Speedway later this month 17th in points. Hornaday, mired in a huge hole as he bids for a fifth championship, is 28th."I've come out of Daytona 38th before and it's a long, hard struggle to get back to the top," said Bodine. "Normally, you never get to the top. You get to the top five; that's about it."
Timothy Peters (No. 17 K&N Toyota) successfully backed up his Daytona victory. Peters finished seventh to trail Bodine by just four points. Considering Peters was the winner of Martinsville's fall race a year ago, his Red Horse Racing team no longer is flying below the radar as far as the championship is concerned.
Loop: Newcomers Likely To Get Schooled In Martinsville Debut
It'll be interesting to see how the likes of Austin Dillon, Jennifer Jo Cobb (No. 10 JJC Racing Ford) and Justin Lofton (No. 7 visitpits.com) react to their first race at the beating and banging style of the unique Martinsville Speedway. Debuts at NASCAR's oldest track are a statistical mixed bag. Some are very good, most are pretty bad.
Todd Bodine started off his Martinsville career with four consecutive top-10 finishes.
But Rick Crawford didn't crack the top 10 until his fifth try.
Ron Hornaday Jr.'s first trip to Martinsville came in the series' inaugural year of 1995, and resulted in a respectable 13th-place finish.Of the active drivers,
Mike Skinner's Martinsville career path is the most enviable. He finished second in his first race there in 1995 (Joe Ruttman won), and won his second race there a year later.
But what of the newcomers, those in the Loop Data era since 2005?
Ricky Carmichael finished 29th in this race last season, notching an Average Running Position of 24.8 and a Driver Rating of just 38.8.
Tayler Malsam enjoyed a much better debut outing, finishing 14th with an Average Running Position of 18.5, a Driver Rating of 67.6, and even turned a Fastest Lap Run.
James Buescher, now in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, had an outstanding first trip to Martinsville. He finished 11th with an Average Running Position of 14.0, a Driver Rating of 76.9 and 105 laps in the Top 15.
Skinner Rounds Up Charity $$
Mike Skinner's Fourth Annual Toyota Skinner Round Up for Charity will take place Thursday and Friday in Daytona Beach. The event has raised over a half million dollars for Volusia County charities in its three previous years.
The two-day affair includes a Friday night concert featuring blues star Stacy Mitchhart, a celebrity auction and Saturday golf tournament and poker tournament at Spruce Creek Country Club.
Among those appearing are four-time NASCAR Camping World Truck champion Ron Hornaday Jr., Rick Crawford, Steve Park, Michael Waltrip and American Idol's Bo Bice."It's our opportunity to give back to the community," said Skinner, a longtime Daytona resident with wife Angie.
Butch Hylton has been named crew chief of Kevin Harvick Inc.'s No. 2 Chevrolet being shared in 2010 by Harvick and Elliott Sadler. Hylton and Tony Stewart won last month's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Daytona for KHI. Hylton succeeds Doug George, who moved to Ron Hornaday Jr.'s No. 33 Chevrolet at Atlanta.
Harvick's Atlanta victory was his third in as many starts. He won at Phoenix and Homestead-Miami Speedway to end the 2009 season. Sadler drove the truck at Daytona.
Busch didn't get a record-matching fifth victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway but his runner-up finish to Harvick was the best performance by a Kyle Busch Motorsports truck. "This proves we're out here to run good," said Busch.
It took Austin Dillon (No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) just four races to claim his first top-10 finish. Dillon was 10th in Atlanta and tops Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings.
The E-Z-GO 200 painted a familiar picture for manufacturers. Since the track's fall race of 2005, Chevrolet and Toyota have swapped victories in successive races. Chevrolet now has won six times at the 1.54-mile speedway but Toyota, based on its Daytona victory and recent second place, retains the manufacturers' championship lead by three points.
Up Next: Martinsville
After races on the series' two fastest tracks — Daytona International Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway — the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to its roots for the March 27 Kroger 250 at .526-mile Martinsville Speedway.
The race is the first of two hosted by the popular southern Virginia track — one of just three tracks to have been on the schedule each year since the series began in 1995.
Kevin Harvick (No. 2 Chevrolet) is the defending winner of the Kroger 250.