March 2005 Truck Series News Archive
- Martinsville Testing UPDATE DW Fastest: Brendan Gaughan is facing a pretty tough situation: he’s trying to bounce back from a gosh-awful weekend at Atlanta last weekend while getting ready for one of his most difficult tracks, Martinsville Speedway. But there’s one thing about Gaughan – it’s almost impossible to deflate this eternal optimist. “Even Martinsville Speedway knows this is not one of my favorite places . I love the track * I just stink at it,” Gaughan said during a break in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series testing at Martinsville Thursday. “We’re excited about coming back here, but we know we’ve got some work to do.” That’s what Gaughan and about 20 other NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers were doing Thursday, working to get faster for the Kroger 250, set for April 9. And Gaughan was facing perhaps the biggest challenge. Two years ago the Georgetown University graduate almost won the NCTS championship. After a year in the NEXTEL Cup ranks, he’s back in the truck series and he hasn’t gotten off to a great start. He failed to qualify for last week’s event in Atlanta and is outside the top 30 in points. “We’re working on making sure we can make enough speed to make the race,” Gaughan said of his testing goals at Martinsville. “I think a lot of it is me on a track like this because I notoriously don’t do well at Martinsville. We need to work on me a little bit and I think the sad thing is we’re going to have to make it a qualifying race truck and count on the race being a bit of a downer just because I need to make the race.”But we’re gonna keep working at it and we’re gonna come here and make the show. You never know, maybe I’ll even get a top five at this dang place one of these days.”
Other drivers testing at the track Thursday included Gaughan’s Orleans’ racing teammate #62-Steve Park, #6-Ron Hornaday, #75-David Starr, #16-Jack Sprague, #22-Bill Lester, #66-Todd Bodine, #12-Robert Huffman, #23-Johnny Benson, #5-Mike Skinner, #9-Shige Hattori, #38-Brandon Whitt, #17-David Reutimann, #11-Darrell Waltrip, #50-Todd Kluever, #?-Tam Topham and #?-Alex Yontz.
Mike Skinner consistently turned in the top speeds of the day, but Waltrip was close behind all day. Both drive Toyotas. Rookie Todd Kluever lost an engine in his Roush Racing Ford just before the lunch break and did not return to the track. Another round of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series testing is on tap Friday.(Martinsville Speedway)(3-25-2005)
UPDATE: Darrell Waltrip: “The Martinsville test was great. I was the fastest truck there according to our watch. We all had electronic timing and scoring, not NASCAR, but what we set up with the Pi System. I ran a 19.99-second lap, and I think Mike Skinner was next with a 20.10.”(FoxSports)(3-27-2005)
- #63 News: Justin Allgaier will drive the #63 Mittler Brothers Ford for their limited schedule in the 2005 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.(PR)(3-22-2005)
- Off-Weekend News and Notes: The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, “10 Years Tough” in 2005 and beginning its second decade as a NASCAR national touring series, is decidedly higher profile than in its inaugural season with events at many high-speed tracks like Daytona International Speedway and – most recently – Atlanta Motor Speedway. But the racing remains fiercely competitive, whether on short track or superspeedway. And the list of series stars has come full circle, along with the tough competitors they’ve been able to beat. Mike Skinner (#5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) edged Terry Labonte by .090-second to win the inaugural race in 1995. Ron Hornaday Jr. (#6 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) prevailed by .008-second – about a foot – to beat Bobby Labonte (#47 Chevrolet All-Star Chevrolet) in the March 18 World Financial Group 200 on Atlanta’s 1.54-mile oval. The Phoenix decision remains fifth-closest in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series history. Atlanta’s margin of victory is third-closest – and tightest ever on a track of a mile or more in length. Hornaday, who won championships in 1996 and 1998, is well on his way to disproving the adage of not being able to return home successfully. The victory was a record-extending 27th and added Hornaday to a short list of competitors – Dennis Setzer (#46 Chevrolet Silverado Chevrolet) and Jack Sprague (#16 Chevy Trucks Chevrolet) – who have won in seven seasons. He also climbed to fifth in series point standings. The 46-year-old Californian, who left the series in 2000 to compete in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series and NASCAR Busch Series, is back for a possible third title and wheeling a truck owned by DeLana Harvick, wife of NASCAR NEXTEL Cup star Kevin Harvick. She becomes just the sixth female owner to score a victory on the series. And that might give Hornaday a bit of a déjà vu moment: He previously posted victories for Teresa Earnhardt. Hornaday’s last win came in 2002 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He’s one of four drivers who have taken trucks to victory lane for three different owners: Earnhardt, Harvick and Dave Fuge. The current campaign is the first since 1996 in which the three “original” champions – Hornaday, Skinner (1995) and Sprague (1997, 1999 and 2001) – are going head-to-head for the championship. That’s a bonus for NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series fans and absolutely fine with Sprague, Hornaday’s fierce rival on track but loyal friend when the engines aren’t running.
Hornaday beat Sprague for the 1998 championship by three points, the closest title decision in series history. But the pair celebrated at California Speedway a year later when Hornaday’s late race pass of Greg Biffle helped Sprague win his second title. Appropriately, Sprague was close enough to Hornaday – finishing eighth at Atlanta – to give the winner a friendly fender rub on the cool-off lap. “My ol’ buddy Jack came up and gave me a congratulatory bump which brought back a lot of great memories,” said Hornaday. “He and I had some great battles in the old days; lots of races just like this.” Looks like the “old days” have morphed into the “new days.” The saga continues April 9 at Martinsville Speedway where, amazingly, Hornaday and Sprague haven’t been able to win despite their combined 51 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victories, 26 of them on short tracks. Sprague won the Bud Pole for last year’s Kroger 250.
NEWS & NOTES, PART II
Edwards latest series grad to strike gold … With an unprecedented weekend sweep at Atlanta Motor Speedway, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series 2003 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Carl Edwards becomes the 11th competitor to win in all three of NASCAR’s national touring series. Edwards and Roush Racing teammate Biffle, the 2000 NASCAR Craftsman Truck champion, are the only members of the “elite 11” to post their first NASCAR national touring victory in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. ETC. … Bobby Hamilton (#04 Bailey’s Dodge) continues to top the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship standings. He leads Ted Musgrave (#1 Mopar Dodge) by 65 points. Hamilton has ranked among the top 10 in points for a record extending 53 consecutive races beginning in 2003. … Hornaday’s winning average speed of 142.424 mph at Atlanta is sixth-fastest in series history. … The series has seen 13 different winners in the past 15 events, a streak that began on Aug. 6 at Indianapolis Raceway Park. … Sprague finished eighth at Atlanta in his 200th series start. Matt Crafton (#88 Menards Chevrolet) was 14th in his 100th appearance.
10 YEARS TOUGH
Close finishes have been the signature of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series thanks, in part, to a green-white-checker rule (since adopted by NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and NASCAR Busch Series). The format, used where possible when the race is under caution at the scheduled distance, has come into play 49 times in 245 races including both Atlanta events. Hornaday has figured in 10 such finishes—winning seven. … Although the Labonte brothers have competed in a total of just seven NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races, the former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champions have been involved in three of the series’ six closest finishes with a record of 1-2. Terry Labonte lost to Skinner at Phoenix International Raceway but returned in September 1995 to nip Geoffrey Bodine by .006-second at Richmond International Raceway. The latter finish remains second closest on the series to Butch Miller’s .001-second victory over Skinner in July 1995 at Colorado National Speedway.
What: Kroger 250 (Race 4 of 25).
Where: Martinsville Speedway.
When: 1:15 p.m. ET, Saturday, April 9.
Track layout: .526-mile paved oval.
Race length: 250 laps/131.5 miles.
Posted awards: $465,155.
TV: SPEED Channel, 1 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.
2004 winner: Rick Crawford.
2004 polesitter: Jack Sprague.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday – Practice 9:00 a.m. – 11:15 a.m. Qualifying 4:45 p.m. Trucks impounded after qualifying.(NASCAR PR)(3-22-2005)
- Hornaday edges out Labonte at Atlanta: #6-Ron Hornaday won the World Financial Group 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway by 8/1000’s of a second over #47-Bobby Labonte under a green-white-checkered finish. #04-Bobby Hamilton finished 3rd [he has a 1st, 2nd and 3rd so far in 3 races], #46-Dennis Setzer and #75-David Starr. It is Hornaday’s 27th win in the Truck Series, which is the record for the most. His last win was at Homestead in 2002.
For race results, see:
- Pork on the #29 at Atlanta: Brad Keselowski and the #29 K Automotive NASCAR Craftsman Truck series team, spent two days of testing at Atlanta Motor Speedway and considerable time in the wind tunnel preparing for Friday’s truck race at Atlanta. Keselowski’s Ford truck will carry a new paint scheme debuting Pork’s new marketing campaign. “Atlanta is real important for us,” Keselowski said. “Not only are we showcasing Pork’s new marketing campaign, but we are also working to perfect this new speedway truck that we worked very hard on over the off-season. We had such a great run at Daytona which was followed by bad luck at California. Now we want to get on the right track of consistency in top finishes starting at Atlanta.”(Detroit News)(3-17-2005)
- #200 For Sprague: Three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Champion Jack Sprague is poised to set another milestone in his racing career. Sprague will become only the second driver in series history to make 200 NCTS starts when the green flag waves over the field of the World Financial Group 200 March 18th at Atlanta Motor Speedway. “It is always an honor to set a record or achieve a milestone in NASCAR racing,” said Sprague. “The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is where I really got the opportunity to build a career in this sport and it has always held a special place in my heart. It is a tremendous place to race. I know (Rick) Crawford hit the 200 mark before me and his are consecutive but it is still cool that just he and I are at that mark right now.” Sprague held the record for consecutive starts from the NCTS inception in 1995 through the end of the 2001 season but left the series for opportunities in both NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR Nextel Cup Series competition. He returned to full-time NCTS competition at the beginning of the 2004 season behind the wheel of the #16 Xpress Motorsports Chevy Trucks Silverado as a member of GM Racing’s Team Silverado. He picked up right where he left off, continuing to set records. He now holds the record for the most pole positions won, 26 total and sits second on the all-time win list with 24, moving to just two victories away from the record of 26 held by Ron Hornaday.(GM PR)(3-16-2005)
- Bobby Labonte to Kick Off 2005 Chevrolet Silverado All Star Program: 2000 NASCAR Cup Champion Bobby Labonte will kick off the 2005 Chevrolet Silverado All Star program behind the wheel of the Chevrolet “Nashville” All Star Phil Vassar Silverado on March 18 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The World Financial Group 200 will be Labonte’s fourth NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) start and his third as the driver of the Morgan-Dollar Motorsports fielded #47 Silverado. Country music star Phil Vassar, whose latest Arista Nashville album “Shaken Not Stirred” will highlight the paint scheme of the #47 Silverado, has been named the Grand Marshal of the race and will kick off event number three of the 2005 NCTS season with his rendition our “National Anthem.” In addition, Vassar will serve as the honorary starter of the race waving the green flag as the 36-truck field thunders out of turn four. Joining Chevrolet Silverado and Vassar as a partner on Labonte’s truck is the Nashville Visitors and Convention Bureau. “Nashville” will be featured for the first time in a major NASCAR series on the rear quarter panels of the #47 at the Atlanta event. Veteran crew chief Randy Goss will again head up the #47 team. Goss served as the crew chief on the #47 throughout the 2004 season that included the seven Chevy Silverado Celebrity All Star races and two driver development races (J.J. Yeley at Michigan and Kyle Busch, Indianapolis Raceway Park). Under his leadership, in nine NCTS 2004 starts, the #47 has an impressive record including four top-five finishes; four top-10s and seven top-15 finishes. Goss’ impressive NASCAR record includes championship-winning efforts in both the NCTS and NBS with driver Greg Biffle. Chevrolet Silverado and Morgan-Dollar Motorsports teamed to bring the All Star program to fans at seven NCTS events during the 2004 season-with several more to follow in 2005.(GM PR)(3-16-2005)
- Crawford wins pole at Atlanta: #14-Rick Crawford won the pole for the World Financial Group 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway with a lap of 182.735mph. The rest of the top-five are #15-Shane Hmiel, #5-Mike Skinner, #23-Johnny Benson and #22-Bill Lester. #04-Bobby Hamilton had to use the Champions Provisional. Missing the race were: #19-Regan Smith, #48-Derrike Cope, #77-Brendan Gaughan and #31-Steve Grissom.
See results/lineup at:
Truckseries – starting lineup
Truckseries.com – qualifying results.(3-18-2005)
- #15 Gets Sponsor for Atlanta: Shane Hmiel and Billy Ballew are once again relying on support from the greater Atlanta area in order to field Hmiel’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series entry in this Friday’s World Financial Group 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Six different Georgia based companies have pooled their funds to provide the much needed sponsorship dollars to allow Hmiel to wheel the #15 Billy Ballew Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado this weekend. D and D Aviation, The Terry Reid Automotive Group, Alpharetta Self-Storage, GCR Tires, Woodard Pools and Spas and Sidelines Sports Bar and Grill are the other Georgia based companies helping to back Hmiel’s efforts. The one lone contributor from outside the Peach State is Mannhiem’s Central Florida Auto Auction.(Billy Ballew Motorsports PR)(3-16-2005)
- New Crew Chief for the #13: ThorSport Racing says Shane Tesch has been named crew chief for its #13 Chevrolet driven by Tracy Hines in the Craftsman Truck Series. The team also announced that David Zoriki Motorsports has become an associate sponsor. Financial terms were not announced..(NASCAR Scene Daily Newsletter)(3-16-2005)
- Hmiel back in the #15, Earnhardt out, more Atlanta testing news UPDATE 2: Kerry Earnhardt’s name was still above the door, but it was Shane Hmiel testing the #15 Billy Ballew Chevrolet Wednesday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Only two days ago, Hmiel had no plans to compete this year in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck series. But he received a call on Tuesday to return to the vehicle he drove last year in time for the March 18 World Financial Group 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. He will be taking over for Earnhardt, who will not be racing at Atlanta because of lack of sponsorship. Albertson’s parted ways with the team this week.
“Kerry is a great guy,” Ballew said. “It takes lots of money to keep these operations running, and because of lack of sponsorship we were unable to run Kerry in the Atlanta race.” Shane Hmiel was more than happy to accept the offer to drive the #15 after his immediate success with the team last year made Billy Ballew Motorsports a familiar place to Hmiel. “This is like my home (Billy Ballew Motorsports),” Hmiel said. “Billy is like a father to me. He’s always there to bring me back into racing, and last year he paid out of his own pocket. Racing with him feels like Saturday night racing, six guys and the truck, that’s it. It’s good to come here and be the fastest above these factory-backed teams.” And Hmiel was the fastest during Tuesday’s test, despite jumping back in the truck just that morning. Hmiel circled the fastest track in NASCAR in 30.81 seconds (179.940mph). Ballew is anticipating an announcement regarding that new sponsor within the week.
#47-Bobby Labonte also continued testing Wednesday as the team began to make changes to the truck, trying to find a better balance for what they think is needed for the March 18 World Financial Group 200. Turning in a lap of 31.02 seconds (178.723mph), Labonte seemed content with his team’s progress.
#29-Brad Keselowski also tested his Craftsman Truck on Wednesday, turning in a top lap of 31.50 seconds (175.999 mph). Busch drivers Blake Feese and Stanton Barrett joined Wednesday’s test. Feese was fastest in his #5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, turning in a lap of 30.14 seconds (183.94 mph). Barrett was just a tick slower at 30.18 seconds (183.69 mph).
Testing will continue throughout next week as drivers prepare for the upcoming March 18-20 Golden Corral 500 race weekend. Great seats are still available for all three days; for more information call Ticketmaster or the Atanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211 or visit www.AtlantaMotorSpeedway.com.(AMS PR)(3-2-2005)
UPDATE: being told that Albertson’s didn’t pull their sponsorship from the #15 team, they were only on the truck for the Daytona race (regional reasons) through DEI’s association with Kraft. Stater Bros was on the truck for California (same reasons) through Kraft… the Kraft deal was only for the first two races.(3-3-2005)
UPDATE 2: from Albertsons: “The story regarding Albertsons sponsoring Kerry Earnhardt in the Craftsman Truck Series and then dropping him after the Daytona race is inaccurate. The true sponsorship agreement was between Kraft/Nabisco, DEI, and Ballew Motorsports for two races, Daytona and California Speedway. Nabisco placed Albertsons decals on the truck in Florida and those of Stater Brothers on the truck for the California Craftsman race, but neither grocer had any input regarding who was to drive, or not drive, the truck.”(Albertsons)(3-10-2005)
- Atlanta News and Notes: David Reutimann (#17 NTN Bearings Toyota) had a decent season in 2004 but recognizes it could have been much better. Despite capturing 2004 Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors, Reutimann failed to reach other goals, such as a race win and a spot in the top 10 (he finished 14th) in the final points standings. For that reason, any talk of a sophomore jinx is the furthest thing from the 34-year-old competitor’s mind. “I try not to think about that stuff … I feel more confident this year than last year.” Reutimann, who heads to this week’s World Financial Group 200 as the defending Bud Pole winner, went on to finish third in the 2004 race, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series’ first at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Historically, being rookie of the year in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has been anything but a jinx. In 1999, Greg Biffle returned to win a season-record nine times. Brendan Gaughan (#77 Jasper Engines & Transmissions Dodge) posted six victories in 2003 and – a year ago – Carl Edwards went to victory lane on three occasions and finished fourth for the championship. “Being rookie of the year always helps,” said Gaughan, who won twice but – like Reutimann – failed to crack the top 10. “It helps confidence; it helps the team. It helps everybody feel better. “To us, we just knew we were better and we went out to prove that we were better.” Reutimann, a Florida native, agrees. There’s too much going on without tossing superstition into the mix “Your standard challenge every week is the level of competition,” Reutimann said. It’s not an easy thing to win a pole or run up front. There are not many challenges to overcome at Atlanta other than what you face every race weekend.” A year ago, Reutimann shared the Atlanta front row with fellow Raybestos Rookie contender Robert Huffman (#12 Toyota Tundra Toyota) – the first time in series history that freshman drivers qualified one-two. Now Huffman is his teammate at Darrell Waltrip Motorsports, a positive move for both drivers, according to Reutimann. Reutimann enters the season’s third race ninth in points; Huffman is 11th. “That’s really beneficial to both of us,” he said of the expansion to a two-truck team. Huffman was third among rookies in 2004 and 23rd overall. Atlanta this week will be dramatically different than a year ago when the race was run in the afternoon with qualifying and happy hour a day earlier. On Friday, time trials take place in early evening following which the field will be impounded for a 9:15 p.m. ET race start. “There are a lot of questions to be answered,” said Reutimann, likely speaking for many in the garage. “You have to figure out whether (the track) is going to tighten up or it it’s going to stay the same. It’s anybody’s guess on what it’s going to do. “We’ve never run there under the lights. It’s going to be a neat deal.”
NEWS & NOTES, PART II
Atlanta master Labonte in the field … No active driver has more NASCAR NEXTEL Cup victories at Atlanta Motor Speedway than Bobby Labonte (#47 Chevrolet Silverado Chevrolet), a six-time winner on the 1.54-mile speedway. Labonte’s best NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series finish is third, at Martinsville Speedway in October 2004. Older brother Terry Labonte won at Richmond in 1995. Two brothers never have won in the series. Todd (#66 Fiddle Back Racing Toyota) and Geoffrey Bodine have come closest with a victory and second-place finish, respectively.
Three-time champ Sprague goes for 200 … Jack Sprague (#16 Chevy Trucks Chevrolet) is set to make his 200th series start this week. He’ll become just the second 200-race starter. Rick Crawford (#14 Circle Bar Truck Corral Ford) hit 200 Feb. 25 at California Speedway. Matt Crafton (#88 Menards Chevrolet) becomes the 17th driver to appear in 100 races when he starts the World Financial Group 200. ETC. … Jimmy Spencer (#2 Team ASE Dodge) goes for the triple this week entering Atlanta’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck, NASCAR Busch Series and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup events. … NASCAR and Atlanta Motor Speedway will host 100 urban youth for the World Financial Group 200 as one component of a community-focused “Welcome to Atlanta NASCAR Weekend” celebration. … Crawford’s truck will carry the logo of the National Kidney Foundation, which is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first kidney transplant in the United States. The team’s “extra man” in Atlanta will be Lonnie Mixon, a Mobile, Ala. donor whose gift extended the life of a chronic kidney disease sufferer in 2004.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
Mile-and-a-half tracks key in title race … This week’s event at Atlanta Motor Speedway marks the first of nine events on seven 1.5-mile tracks – more than a third of the 2005 schedule. Bobby Hamilton (#04 Bailey¡¦s Dodge) won last year’s championship on the strength of two wins (Atlanta and Kentucky) and five of eight finishes among the top five on 1.5-mile layouts. Next best were Crafton and David Starr (#75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet) with four top fives; they finished fifth and sixth, respectively, in final points standings. Veterans well-versed in Atlanta competition … Several series “newcomers” – drivers who didn’t compete at Atlanta in 2004 – won’t need much in the way of practice laps to acquaint themselves with the track. Todd Bodine, Ricky Craven (#99 Super Chips Ford) and Spencer each has a top-five finish in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup competition at the track. Johnny Benson (#23 Toyota Tundra Toyota) won Atlanta’s NASCAR Busch Series race in 1995, his championship season.
Open-wheel grads know Atlanta, too … Raybestos Rookie contender Shige Hattori (#9 AISIN/AISIN AW Toyota) finished ninth and eighth in Atlanta Indy Racing League competition in 2000-01. Jimmy Kite (#06 MRD Chevrolet), a fellow Indianapolis 500 veteran, was ninth in 1999.
10 YEARS TOUGH
Tucson (Ariz.) Raceway Park is prominent in the development of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. The .375-mile oval – with its pit road located off the track behind Turn 2 – hosted a trio of points races, three exhibition events during “Winter Heat” in 1994-95 and a September 1994 demonstration race. Ron Hornaday Jr. (#6 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) won twice at TRP in 1995 and the final race on March 1, 1997. Skinner was the track’s 1996 winner. Hornaday, Sprague (seventh) and Crawford (12th) are the only veterans of Tucson’s finale competing this week in Atlanta. Fellow drivers from the 1997 race remain active in other capacities. Rick Carelli is Hornaday’s spotter; Kevin Harvick owns the GM Goodwrench team with his wife DeLana; Doug George is the crew chief for Regan Smith’s #19 Chevy Trucks Chevrolet; Bob Keselowski is crew chief for son Brad Keselowski’s #29 Pork. The Other White Meat Ford; and Bobby Dotter owns Ken Weaver’s #08 1-800-4-A-Phone Chevrolet.
FROM THE ARCHIVES
Atlanta Motor Speedway is just the fifth track to host more than one series race in a season. The EasyCare Vehicle Service 200 is set for Oct. 29. Phoenix International Raceway staged a pair of races annually from 1995 through 1998. The series visited Bakersfield, Calif.’s Mesa Marin Raceway two times in 1995. Texas Motor Speedway has been a twice-yearly stop since 1999 with Martinsville Speedway doubling up beginning in 2003.
What: World Financial Group 200 (Race 3 of 25).
Where: Atlanta Motor Speedway.
When: 9:15 p.m. ET, Friday, March 18.
Track layout: 1.54-mile banked paved.
Race length: 200.2 miles/130 laps.
Posted awards: $495,082.
TV: SPEED Channel, 9 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.
2004 winner: Bobby Hamilton.
2004 polesitter: David Reutimann.
Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday – Practice 9:00 a.m. – 10:10 a.m. and 10:55 a.m. to 11:55 a.m. Qualifying 5:10 p.m. Trucks impounded after qualifying.(NASCAR PR)(3-10-2005)
- Rules Book Amended: The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rule book has been amended to require body extension panels and larger cowl flaps beginning with the March 18 World Financial Group 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, NASCAR officials announced today. The rule changes, according to NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director Wayne Auton, give teams the opportunity to reduce costs and improve the handling of their race trucks. The amendments follow recent wind-tunnel tests conducted by NASCAR. “Evaluation of our rules is an ongoing process based upon NASCAR’s three principles – assisting our teams reduce costs, foster close competition and safety,” Auton said. “Addition of the skirt flaps will enable our competitors to utilize the same truck on a more varied configuration of tracks. Following incidents involving several trucks during our race at Daytona International Speedway last month, NASCAR felt it necessary to explore a number of avenues to make the trucks more stable and driveable. The rule changes are an outgrowth of this research and testing.”
Under Section 20-B-3.6 of the rule book, all trucks will be required to install a vertical extension – side skirt – flush with the outer sheet metal at the bottom, on both the right and left rocker panels. The extensions must be the same length front to rear as the rocker panel, cut only for exhaust and jack clearance with a minimum of four inches ground clearance on the right side and three inches of ground clearance on the left side. The lower edge of the extension may be constructed of a plastic type material. Rule 20-B-5.12.2 has been amended to increase the size of the truck’s cowl flaps – two trap doors, hinged at the front in a way that the wind will keep them closed when the truck is moving forward – from two inches by 10 inches to four inches by 15 inches.(NASCAR PR)(3-10-2005)
- Driver to debut: Frank Wilson has always been driven to succeed, and the St. Marys [West Virginia] resident is taking that drive to the NASCAR level. Wilson unveiled his plans to run in the NASCAR Craftsman truck series this year. He will drive the #27 Chevrolet Silverado in 8 events this year. Wilson is using this season as a dress rehearsal for the 2006 season when he intends to run a full schedule. He has enjoyed success on the the area dirt track scene. And now Wilson Motorsports is in the process of putting together a winning team on the NASCAR level. Wilson will face his first test when he tries to qualify for the NASCAR truck race on April 9 [at Martinsville Speedway].(WTAP.com) not much info.(3-9-2005)
- MRD Motorsports signs driver for limited schedule UPDATE/CORRECTION: 19-year-old Blake Bjorklund was picked up by Dave Malcomson’s MRD Motorsports team out of Charlotte, NC for the 2005 Craftsman Truck Series season. Bjorklund will run 7 to 14 races for the team during the 2005 season. Bjorklund will be running the #06 Chevy Silverado for MRD Motorsports and will start his season on Saturday, April 9th at Martinsville Speedway. Bjorklund has experience at Lowe’s Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway competing in the last two ASA events. Bjorklund proved to be a strong contender with an impressive twelfth place finish in Atlanta in only his second ASA start. In 2004, Bjorklund took home Rookie of the Year Honors in the Midwest All-Star Racing Series (MARS), finishing the season second place in overall points. With numerous wins, Bjorklund is the youngest driver in addition to the first Minnesota driver to ever win a MARS touring event.(autoracingtracks.com)(3-4-2005)
UPDATE – Not True? folks at MRD Motorsports are telling me this is not true and they expect to make a driver announcement in a few days.(3-6-2005)
UPDATE./CORRECTION Driver named: Dave Malcolmson announced the signing of open wheel racing standout Jimmy Kite (Stockbridge, Ga.) to race for MRD Motorsports in the World Financial Group 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway (AMS). Kite, a four-time Indianapolis 500 starter and regular on the IndyCar Series since 1997, will be making his debut in a NASCAR-sanctioned event driving the #06 MRD Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado at his home track on March 18th. MRD Motorsports, of Concord, N.C., entered ten Craftsman Truck Series races in its debut last season. Atlanta will be MRD’s first start of 2005. Despite this being his first NASCAR event, Kite is no stranger to stock car racing or to AMS. In fact, the 1.54-mile, Hampton, Ga. oval was the site of Kite’s premiere in stock car racing in March of 1998 when he drove an ARCA series entry for Team Scandia. He followed that with a second ARCA start later that season at Michigan Speedway while working as a test driver for Scandia’s Winston Cup (now Nextel Cup) and Busch Grand National efforts. Kite also has IndyCar experience at the track with events in 1999 and 2000.
The MRD Motorsports operation, headed by Malcolmson and crew chief Bryan Berry (Concord, N.C.), entered the Craftsman Truck Series last season with a limited schedule. The #06 will again run a limited schedule in 2005 while pursuing marketing partnerships that would allow the team to contend for the championship in 2006. MRD Motorsports has previously been involved in the Allison Legacy Series and Goody’s Dash Series. A ninth-place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the 2004 season-closer marks the team’s career high finish in the Truck Series. To learn more about Jimmy Kite, please visit www.jimmykite.com and for more on MRD Motorsports Team go to www.teammrd.com which is launching on the web March 16, 2005.(MRD Motorsports PR)(3-9-2005)
- Hamilton plans to retire after 2006 season; Cup team for Jr.: #4-Bobby Hamilton plans to hang up his own helmet at the end of next season. ”I’ll race this year and next year, that’s my plan,” he said. ”I’ve got some bright young drivers racing for me and it’s going to be fun to devote my time to running the team and helping them develop. ”I’ve got hundreds of trophies from the early days stored at home,” Hamilton said. ”Eventually I plan to bring them all here and fill an entire wall with the stuff that Little Bobby and I have collected over the years.”
:’Little Bobby” is Bobby Hamilton Jr., Hamilton’s 27-year-old son who is in his first full season in Nextel Cup [#32 Tide Chevy]. Sometime in the future Hamilton hopes to expand his team into the Nextel Cup Series, with his son doing the driving.(Tennessean)(3-8-2005)
- Orleans Racing Invites Race Fans to March 11th Open House: The Orleans Racing teams invite fans attending the Busch and Cup Series races to stop by the team’s 30,000 square-foot shop for their first annual open house. The shop, located just outside Las Vegas Motor Speedway’s turn one, will be host to all comers on March 11th, from 3 to 5 pm, who want to see the west coast’s largest working NASCAR team race shop. The shop, fresh from a complete top to bottom spring-cleaning, will give the race fan a glimpse of what it takes to put a race winning effort together. “We spent a lot of time and effort putting the Orleans Racing back into fighting shape,” says driver / general manager / co-owner, Brendan Gaughan. “We’ve already won again and we want to show everyone that we haven’t disappeared off the face of the earth.” Gaughan’s got a lot to be proud of as his family’s race shop is clearly the class of the field when you travel west of the Mississippi. From it’s full service fabrication and painting facilities to final assembly areas Orleans Racing is a self-contained facility that is capable of tackling on any job that’s needed to keep the #62 Orleans Racing Dodge and the #77 Jasper Engines and Transmissions Dodge in championship form. “We’ve cleaned the shop up; we’ve got our new 15,000 square-foot building about a quarter of the way done and we’re working out of it,” says 29-year-old driver Gaughan. “We want to show off what we have. We’ll have 10 trucks in the door. The new Steve Park banners and trophy from Fontana will be on display. We want the fans to come in and see where the last two consecutive Craftsman Truck Series Most Popular Drivers of the year work out of. We want the fans to see what the Orleans Racing team is all about. If you have never had a chance to see a full blown NASCAR race shop come on out.”
Putting his family’s well-known personal touch to the fan friendly affair Gaughan added, “Steve will be here, I’ll be here. Come on by and we’ll sign some autographs and hang out for a while. We’re going to have some of the new 2005 apparel on hand as well as some of the classic stuff that the fans are always asking us for.” Orleans Racing’s facility is easy to find, and is located directly adjacent to the Las Vegas Motor Speedway — an easy walk from the track that’ll play host to next weekend’s Nextel Cup event. The shop is located at 6975 Speedway Blvd., Building D-104 Las Vegas, NV 89115 Phone: (702) 644-7223.(Orleans Racing PR)(3-4-2005)
- Bobby Labonte to run Truck at Atlanta: Even though Bobby Labonte has more wins than any other full-time driver at Atlanta Motor Speedway, he’ll be a rookie on Friday, March 18. That’s when Bobby Labonte will compete for the first time at Atlanta in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck race. It will be his fourth career truck race and third in the #47 Chevy All-Stars Silverado, which he will try to drive to victory in the World Financial Group 200. Labonte will be pulling double duty that weekend, also driving his usual #18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet in the March 20 Golden Corral 500 NEXTEL Cup race. But Labonte was focused entirely on his Chevy truck on Tuesday at Atlanta Motor Speedway, when he was preparing for his Craftsman Truck Series debut at the fast track. His first few laps didn’t set any speed records, but Labonte said he was just getting warmed up when he turned a lap around the 1.54-mile speedway in 31.19 seconds (177.749 mph). Great seats are still available for all three days of racing action. Weekend ticket packages start at just $65 and are limited in quanity. For more information call Ticketmaster, or the Atlanta Motor Speedway ticket office at (770) 946-4211, or visit www.AtlantaMotorSpeedway.com.(AMS PR)(3-2-2005)
- Three Truck Series Crew Chiefs Fined: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series crew chief Steven Kuykendall has been fined $2,000 while Richard Gay and Jeffrey Hensley have been fined $500 for rule violations that occurred during last weekend’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event at California Speedway, NASCAR officials announced today.
Kuykendall, crew chief for the #21 Chevrolet of driver Mike Harmon, violated Section 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing) and Section 12-4-CC of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rule book, because of an unapproved third gear transmission ratio.
Gay, crew chief for the #10 Ford of driver Terry Cook, violated Sections12-4-A and 12-4-Q (truck, truck parts, components and/or equipment used that do not conform to NASCAR rules), because of unapproved jack bolts.
Hensley, crew chief for the #5 Toyota of driver Mike Skinner, violated Sections 12-4-A and 12-4-Q, because of an unapproved fuel filler neck. The infractions were discovered during opening day inspection.(NASCAR PR)(3-1-2005)
Born On Date: March 22, 2005
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