Bryan Davis Keith · Saturday March 7, 2009
Taking advantage of an early qualifying draw that saw the sun obscured by low cloud cover, Kyle Busch rocketed to the Camping World Truck Series pole this morning in Atlanta, continuing his and the No. 51 team’s momentum from their dominating win at Fontana. Starting alongside Busch was none other than Series’ veteran Rick Crawford, who is making not only his 300th Truck start this weekend, but his 300th with owner Tom Mitchell and the Circle Bar racing team.
Though Crawford came close, Ron Hornaday was unable to challenge Busch for the pole, qualifying a disappointing fifth after having one of the strongest trucks in Friday’s practices. Hornaday was joined by owner Kevin Harvick in the top 5, as Harvick will start third. Also disappointed with their time trial was the Moss Motorsports No. 5 team and Mike Skinner, who will line up eighth on the grid. Skinner reported that his team was far too conservative in taping up the grill for the run, reporting oil and water temperatures more than 60 degrees cooler than other competitors after his qualifying effort.
In comparison to Cup qualifying last night, handling complaints were far less prevalent through the field. Well over half the field reported being able to hold their trucks wide open through time trials. Where most drivers lost time to Kyle Busch was in their entry to the corners. Busch managed during his lap to shorten the track by taking a much lower angle arch into the turns and keeping his tires right on the lower white lines through all corners of the track. A number of drivers, including Ricky Carmichael, tried to emulate this line but, as in Carmichael’s case, “couldn’t get to the white line” as early or consistently as Busch.
Busch may be the favorite, but Todd Bodine may well be the horse to bet on this afternoon. Bodine and his Germain Racing No. 30 emerged this morning not only to a top 5 qualifying effort, but more importantly with a new sponsor on the hood. Tilted Kilt Irish Pub is sponsoring the No. 30 team this weekend, and Bodine and several members of his crew were seen in the drivers’ meeting donning their new colors. Details of the new sponsorship deal are still forthcoming, but the Germain crew was fired up this morning about having new logos on their Tundra.
36 trucks took time, allowing every entry present to qualify for this afternoon’s race. There were no incidents on track.
The drivers’ meeting was held at noon in the AMS media center. The meeting was highly uneventful with the only uncharacteristic reminder an emphasis to the drivers that if they are forced down pit road by contact on the race track that they are to reduce their speeds immediately and for the duration of the pit road. NASCAR officials were adamant in preaching both patience and good decision-making by drivers given the high speeds seen at Atlanta, encouraging drivers pitting under green to begin signaling the instant they exit Turn 2.
The green flag is scheduled to drop on today’s 200 mile Truck race at 2:19 PM.
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