The Frontstretch: Tearing Apart the Trucks: Five to Watch at Nashville by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Thursday April 21, 2011

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Tearing Apart the Trucks: Five to Watch at Nashville

Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday April 21, 2011

 

After taking a couple weeks off, the Camping World Truck Series finds itself deep in the heart of Tennessee for the Bully Hill Vineyards 200 at Nashville Superspeedway. With the Cup Series off this weekend, the Truck and Nationwide Series companion weekend may just bring in some viewers who wouldn’t normally check out the racing on Friday or Saturday. So for those of you who may be new to watching the Truck Series—and for my longtime fans of course, here’s a look at five drivers to watch in tonight’s race.

Todd Bodine

After Todd Bodine’s 2010 performance, it’s hard not to think about him heading to victory lane in any of the races this season, and that’s no exception for this weekend. Bodine started on the pole and won at Nashville Superspeedway last August, beating out Austin Dillon by more than four seconds. But that’s not all. In seven starts at the 1.33-mile oval, Bodine has just two finishes outside the top 5—eighth in 2006 and 13th in 2009. He will definitely be around during the closing laps unless he gets caught up in an on-track incident before then.

Ron Hornaday, Jr.

During his 2009 championship campaign, Ron Hornaday, Jr. was virtually untouchable, scoring 20 top-10 finishes, 15 top 5s and six wins, including five in a row from the Milwaukee Mile in late June to Nashville in early August. Fast forward to 2010 when seasoned crew chief Rick Ren left Kevin Harvick, Inc. to become Competition Director at the newly founded Kyle Busch Motorsports, and Hornaday went through a series a crew chiefs, never fully finding a rhythm throughout that season.

This year, Jeff Hensley has joined the No. 33 team and has brought a stability that hasn’t been seen atop the pit box since Ren helped propel Hornaday to his fourth career Truck Series championship. That stability could be just what the doctor ordered to allow Hornaday and the No. 33 team to head to victory lane this weekend. The driver certainly has the stats—five consecutive top-10 finishes in seven starts at the track, including a visit to victory lane in 2009—and he’s got a good chance to score one of the coolest trophies in the series this weekend.

ThorSport Drivers Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton

ThorSport teammates Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton have turned up the heat this season, sitting one-two in the championship standings. Sauter is coming off of an impressive victory at Martinsville a couple weeks ago and has three top-10 finishes in four starts this season. And Crafton’s numbers are almost as good as he also has three top-10 finishes this season, with an 11th-place at Martinsville coming as his only finish outside the top 10.

Is this a face you might see in Victory Lane at Nashville? Beth Lunkenheimer says it is.

But the numbers continue to impress when you look at their stats at Nashville. The two have a combined 14 starts between them (three for Sauter and 11 for Crafton). Sauter holds two top-10 finishes while Crafton has six top-10 finishes. Sure, neither one of them has visited victory lane at the track yet, but they both have a fire underneath them that’s been unmatched by any of their previous seasons on track. I expect both of them to be in the thick of things as the action winds down tonight.

Kyle Busch

Even though he’s a not a Truck Series regular—though he might as well be with as many races as he runs—I can’t overlook Kyle Busch. Pretty much any time he’s on the entry list for a Truck Series race, it’s hard to ignore his presence. From his time with Billy Ballew Motorsports to the last year or so driving for his self-owned team, Busch has always been competitive and looked at as the one to beat when he is racing.

And Nashville is no different for the 25-year-old who scored a perfect driver rating in his only start at the track last April, having started on the pole and dominated the field, leading 131 of 150 laps on the way to victory lane. With Dollar General back this weekend, don’t be surprised to see that yellow and black No. 18 Toyota around when the checkered flag flies.

Now I’m not saying these are the only drivers who will find success on the concrete at Nashville this weekend, but they’re definitely worth keeping an eye on after the green flag flies.

My Pick: Since I’ve told everyone who they should be watching for this weekend, I’ll just throw my pick out there. I’ll stick with my prediction from Mirror Driving this week and go for a Kyle Busch sweep of both races. Love him or hate him, Busch is a very talented driver and he has a good chance to add another sweep to his accomplishments this weekend.

News and Notes

NASCAR Announces Banquet Date, Site

Wednesday afternoon, NASCAR announced the dates and locations for the post-season championship banquets for all three of its top series. The combined Nationwide / Camping World Truck Series banquet will be held at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel on Monday, November 21st. No word yet on when it will air, but SPEED will likely air it sometime around the Cup banquet on December 2nd.

Fuel Doctor Joins Turn One Racing

Less than a month after the finger-pointing and blame game between Jeffrey Earnhardt and Rick Ware Racing long-time RWR sponsor Fuel Doctor has joined forces with Red Bull at Turn One Racing. They will serve as an associate sponsor for rookie of the year contender Cole Whitt’s No. 60 for eight races.

Since missing the field at Daytona and running Shane Sieg’s No. 93 to a 14th-place finish, Whitt has scored his first career pole at Darlington, led 30 laps and has three top-10 finishes in eight starts this season. He currently leads the rookie of the year standings by a substantial 17 points over Miguel Paludo.

Quotable

“Nashville is one of those tracks that the Cup drivers don’t have an advantage over us. The Truck Series and the Nationwide Series are exclusive to that track, so with the exclusion of Kyle Busch in the spring last year, you usually have a full-time Truck Series driver in victory lane. That’s exciting for us.” Jeff Hensley, Crew Chief, No. 33

“It’s no secret that I really love asphalt tracks, and I’m pretty outspoken about it. Concrete is a challenge. But again, we really are not just competitive this year, but ready to win races at any track. We’re bringing the No. 35 chassis for the 88 team—used most recently at Darlington. It was strong there, and Bud and I have worked on it since. Time to race and show how we can make it happen in Nashville. I want a Gibson guitar.” Matt Crafton

“Nashville is a fun track and, yes, mile and a half tracks are definitely our forte even though we still like short tracks. We know we can go to a mile-and-a-half and win the race. We need to get going and get caught up in points, so Nashville should be a great place for us to do that with the Germain.com Tundra. I’ve always run well at Nashville and always loved going there, so it’s no different. I still want to win, that’s the reason we go to any race track.” Todd Bodine

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Championship Caliber? What Does That Even Mean?
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SHOEMAN
04/24/2011 05:45 AM
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Way to go ROWDY!!!

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