The Frontstretch: Tearing Apart the Trucks: Meet the Future Stars of the Series by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Thursday June 10, 2010

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Tearing Apart the Trucks: Meet the Future Stars of the Series

Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday June 10, 2010

 

When the Camping World Truck Series started out as a simple idea from Jim Smith, Frank Vessels, Jim Venable and Dick Landfield, no one dreamed it would be around nearly 16 years later. The series has largely been used as a development ground for drivers looking to work their way into the Sprint Cup Series, and has seen drivers like Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch start their NASCAR careers. But there are other drivers that have made their career out of the Truck Series alone.

As these drivers age, it’s hard to imagine there will one day be a Truck Series without the likes of Todd Bodine, Ron Hornaday, Jr. and Mike Skinner. Thanks to a question in Mirror Driving on Wednesday, I started thinking of who would be best to step up into that role. There are quite a few young drivers that have joined the circuit over the last few years, and here are my picks for future stars in no particular order.

(Author’s Note: This list is in no way all inclusive. Had I talked about every single driver that has potential to become the next face of the Truck Series, you would be reading all day. Enjoy the list, and feel free to comment below or shoot me an email with who you think should have been included and why. I’ll share your picks in the next Tearing Apart the Trucks that runs on July 9th, so feel free to form an opinion and send it my way.)

Aric Almirola

Aric Almirola isn’t exactly a new face in the Camping World Truck Series, but he’s worth considering as a future star of the series. He made his first series start in 2005 at Memphis Motorsports Park where he was involved in a crash and credited with a 30th place finish. He followed that race up with back to back top-10 finishes at O’Reilly Raceway Park and New Hampshire Motor Speedway before his season ended short after a wreck at Texas Motor Speedway.

Having now broken into victory lane in the Truck Series, Aric Almirola stands poised to leave a significant mark on the tour.

Almirola has 30 Sprint Cup Series races under his belt with only one top-10 finish to show for it—he finished eighth at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2008. But his numbers in the Truck Series show he just might be suited to stay put where he is. In 57 starts, he has 21 top-10 finishes, and 16 of those have come since the he joined Billy Ballew Motorsports at Texas Motor Speedway in mid-2009.

This season, Almirola has yet to finish outside the top 15, with a pair of 12th place finishes at Daytona and Texas being his only finishes outside the top 10. He’s shown that Billy Ballew Motorsports can run well without Kyle Busch on their team, and it’s likely the driver of the No. 51 Toyota will still be in the hunt for the championship throughout the remainder of the season.

Jason White

He joined the series in 2001 but didn’t race the full schedule until the 2008 season when GunBroker.com and Bobby Dotter teamed up to field the No. 08 Dodge (two races were run under the Toyota banner at New Hampshire and the fall race at Martinsville). It wasn’t until 2009 that the 31-year-old driver finally scored his first top-10 finish, a fourth at Dover International Speedway. He went on to score three more top-10 finishes that season.

The 2010 season started out with a bang for Jason White, who sat on the pole and brought his No. 23 GunBroker.com Ford (the team switched to Dodge starting with the second race of the season at Atlanta) home fourth after leading eight laps at Daytona. He has just one finish outside the top 20 this season, a 29th at Martinsville, and currently has four consecutive top-15 finishes, including a 13th last weekend at Texas.

Though the results have been mediocre for someone who could potentially become a star of the future, Jason White is showing he has the resiliency and persistence to stick with his racing and continue to improve.

Jennifer Jo Cobb

She made her Truck Series debut at Kansas Speedway in 2008, where she ran just 31 laps before parking her No. 74 Derrike Cope owned Dodge for a 33rd place finish. She followed that start with a 26th place finish at Kentucky eight races later, making two additional starts in 2009 where she completed just 49 laps.

This season didn’t start off well when Cobb was involved in a first lap crash in the opener at Daytona. It was the first race behind the wheel of her self-owned No. 10 Ford. In an effort largely funded out of her own pocket, she has just two top-20 finishes—an 18th at Charlotte and a 14th at Texas last weekend. Though she has three DNFs this season, I can’t help but wonder what she could show on the track if she were to pilot some decently funded equipment.

In between races, Jennifer Jo Cobb is probably one of the busiest drivers out there. Between sponsor appearances, she’s also a public speaker, runs her own business and works for the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Cobb is certainly a well-rounded driver any owner should be happy to have on their team.

Chase Austin

I know he hasn’t raced yet this season, but Chase Austin will make his first Truck Series start of 2010 this weekend. He’ll pilot the No. 46 “Forgotten Harvest”: Million Meal Challenge Dodge Ram for Team Gill Racing. Chase made just two starts at the beginning of the 2009 season before Trail Motorsports put an end to the full-time season the 20-year-old driver had been promised. He scored a best finish of 13th in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway. (Author’s Note: For more information on what happened to Chase Austin’s full time ride for 2009, check out this story from last season.)

For those of you wondering why I’d pull a driver who made his last start in the series more than a year ago, let me explain. Any driver who can make his Truck Series debut at Daytona International Speedway and keep the truck in one piece until the checkered flag flies deserves a chance to show what they’re made of. Add to that an impressive 13th place finish, and Chase Austin is a driver who definitely needs more track time in the Truck Series.

At this point, it’s hard to compare any of the above drivers to the veterans who have left their mark on the Truck Series, but each one has the potential to be the next star. The key will be whether they plan to stick around or move on to the next level in NASCAR, and only time can answer that question for us.

Did You Know…

  • There are 36 trucks on the entry list for Saturday’s VFW 200? Assuming none of the entered trucks withdraw before qualifying, this will mark the ninth consecutive race this season the series has seen a full field.
  • Chris Fontaine will make his 20th career Truck Series start Saturday afternoon? He has a brand new truck purchased from Kevin Harvick, Inc. and hopes to score his first top-10 finish this weekend.
  • Each of Jennifer Jo Cobb’s trucks is named after classic rock stars? This weekend “Jimi,” named after Jimi Hendrix will make its on track debut. She’ll also celebrate her birthday on Saturday.
  • Aric Almirola and Ricky Carmichael participated in Wednesday night’s Prelude to the Dream at Eldora Speedway? Almirola finished 14th and Carmichael finished 19th.
  • David Starr has picked up Cash America to sponsor his No. 81 Randy Moss Motorsports Toyota for Nashville and Phoenix? He’ll also pilot the No. 05 Cash America Chevrolet for Day Enterprises in the Nationwide Series at Daytona, O’Reilly Raceway Park, Phoenix and Homestead-Miami.
  • Nelson Piquet, Jr. will run both the ARCA and Truck Series races at Michigan this weekend? Piquet will start fifth in the Racing For Wildlife 200 Friday night, and qualifying for the Truck Series race is set for Saturday morning.
  • Hermie Sadler returns to the track again this weekend to once again pilot the Jeff Hardy designed No. 48 for Andy Hillenburg? He finished 12th at Martinsville and 19th at Charlotte earlier this season.
  • This weekend will mark Ron Hornaday, Jr.‘s final race with Longhorn adorning his No. 33 Kevin Harvick, Inc. Chevrolet? A new FDA rule takes effect June 22nd and prohibits cigarette and smokeless tobacco sponsorships for any athletic event.

Quotable

“At Michigan, the straighaways are really long. The track is incredibly wide. Drafting is really important there. Not only do you have to have a good handling truck, but it has to draft well. So, there’s a lot of different things that we do as a team to get ready for the weekend. Good aero packages and horsepower are a must.” Aric Almirola

“I’m really excited about Michigan. It’s a good, wide open track where you dig, dig, dig. I hear there’s not a lot of grip, but for some reason I have a good feeling. I have a lot of laps there from several years back with the Richard Petty Driving Experience. When you drive for RPDE at speeds designed for students, you think, ‘Man, I’d love to turn it loose and race here.’ Well, I’m finally getting that chance, and I can’t wait.” Jennifer Jo Cobb

“Michigan is very similar to a superspeedway. Yes, you heard me right. Just like at Daytona and Talladega, aerodynamics will be huge on Saturday and horsepower is key. The truck with the biggest horse under the hood has a good chance of crossing the finish line first.” Wayne Auton, CWTS Director

Contact Beth Lunkenheimer

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RamblinWreck
06/11/2010 01:12 AM
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I’d like to see Elliott Sadler in the truck series. It’s clear that his days in Cup are numbered, and I’d hate to see him disappear from the track entirely. There’s some precedent for that career path: Hornaday, Musgrave, Todd Bodine, Benson, and Skinner all had less than illustrious Cup records before recharging themselves and the Truck series.

Sadler has the talent and the personality to make a good Truck series ambassador, and the series needs to maintain a good balance of seasoned vets and up-and-coming new talent to keep its unique identity. Any chance he could take KHI’s #2 full-time next year?

Contact Beth Lunkenheimer