The Frontstretch: Tearing Apart the Trucks: Rookie Austin Dillon Up To Speed Quickly by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Friday July 9, 2010

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It was almost a month ago when the Camping World Truck Series last took to the track at Michigan International Speedway. This weekend, they’re headed to Iowa Speedway for the Lucas Oil 200 on Sunday afternoon. The series first visited the 0.875 mile track last September, and Mike Skinner dominated, leading 180 of 200 laps after starting on the pole.

It also brought the debut of rookie Austin Dillon. Less than a year ago, the grandson of Richard Childress debuted his No. 3 Chevrolet, the first time in 10 years the No. 3 had seen the track in the Truck Series. Though the race didn’t go quite as planned—he brought out the fourth caution on lap 75—Dillon did manage to run in the top 10 for much of the time before that. Despite bringing out that yellow, the driver of the No. 3 Bad Boy Mowers / RCR 40th Anniversary Chevrolet managed to move up to 12th for a respectable finish in his debut.

Austin Dillon has had reason to smile in recent races, scoring a number of poles and top-5 finishes.

Fast forward to July 2010, and Dillon has shown great improvement. Though he has just four top-10 finishes in nine starts, it’s clear on the track that the 20-year-old driver has taken what he’s been learning to heart. Most recently, he’s scored back to back poles at Michigan and Texas, both of which resulted in top-5 finishes.

It’s amazing to look at the differences 10 months can make on the track. Though he may not have some of the finishes to show his remarkable improvement, Austin Dillon is headed in the right direction. Having made a start in the Nationwide Series for RCR earlier this season, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him moving up to race there in 2011 or 2012 at the absolute latest.

News and Notes: New Sponsors

It’s always encouraging to hear about new sponsors in the Truck Series, especially when you’ve got two prior champions who have been unable to score any kind of long term backing. But the last month has brought a few new financial partnerships to several drivers.

  • Timothy Peters just picked up Wiss, a partner company to Crescent Tools, as an associate sponsor for his No. 17 Toyota starting this weekend at the Iowa Speedway. The company has been making high quality cutting products for over 150 years and features a wide variety of tools including, but not limited to, scissors, utility knives, industrial shears and more.
  • Jason White and GunBroker.com have teamed up with Pheasants Forever for this weekend’s race. Pheasants Forever is a conservation organization focused on the preservation of pheasants, quail and other wildlife.
  • PC*Miler will be on board Mike Skinner’s No. 5 Toyota this weekend in what will be the only weekend the two will partner up. The company will be on board each of the other two Randy Moss Motorsports-prepared Toyotas throughout the season.
  • Kevin Harvick, Inc. has announced E-Z Go, a Textron Company, will sponsor the No. 33 Chevrolet for seven races throughout the remainder of the season. They’re teaming up to promote the newest street legal vehicle, the E-Z Go 2Five.

Did You Know…

  • There are 37 trucks entered for this weekend’s race at Iowa Speedway? Among those required to qualify on time are Chris Eggleston, Mike Harmon, James Buescher, Chad McCumbee, Greg Pursley, Paddy Rodenbeck, Brent Raymer, Jamie Dick, Chris Jones, Chris Lafferty, Mike Garvey and Clay Greenfield.
  • Brian Ickler returns to the No. 18 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports this weekend while Kyle Busch fulfills his Cup Series obligations at Chicagoland Speedway? The 24-year-old driver will also be on hand for next week’s Truck Series visit to Gateway International Raceway.
  • David Starr is set to make his 250th career Truck Series start Sunday afternoon, becoming only the sixth driver in the history of the series to surpass that milestone? In his previous 249 starts, the Houston, TX native has four career wins and 102 top-10 finishes.
  • Terry Cook will return to the series this weekend with Red Horse Racing in a different capacity? The veteran will take a new seat atop the spotter stand to assist Justin Lofton in his run this weekend.
  • Ken Schrader returns the Truck Series this weekend with Kevin Harvick, Inc.? Once again, Schrader will pilot the No. 2 Chevrolet, this time with Premier Chevy Dealers on board as a sponsor.
  • Matt Crafton is set to make his second career ARCA Racing Series start this weekend at Iowa? He made his debut in the series in May at Toledo, where he finished fifth.

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Author’s Note: In my last column, I wrote about the future stars of the Truck Series, and my list was in no way all-inclusive. I asked you to write and tell me who you could see as a star sometime in the future. Here’s what you had to say.

Ramblin’ Wreck: _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 No. 2 full-time next year?_

Well, it ultimately depends on what Elliott Sadler is interested in doing. As far as I know, Sadler is only signed through the remainder of this season with Richard Petty Motorsports, and after the breach of contract suit, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him move on. Add the recent partnership between KHI and JEGS, and you’ve got a recipe for a second full-time truck for the team. The real question would be whether Sadler would want to “step down” from the Cup Series to the Truck Series.

Quotables

“I’m really excited about going to Iowa. The racetrack is really neat…it’s a great facility and there’s great racing there. The fans are great—they get a huge turnout and the fan have always been great to me there. There are a lot of motorcross fans in that part of the country as well who come out to watch the NASCAR race.” Ricky Carmichael

I’m really excited to head back racing this weekend at Iowa. This month long break has given everyone time to relax before we head on this nine-week stretch, but I’m definitely ready to get back behind the wheel. Once of the best things about Iowa is the fan support that the Truck Series receieves. Last year it was awesome to see the amount of fans that came out, and hopefully it is the same this year as well.” James Buescher

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