Toni Montgomery · Thursday February 2, 2006
Welcome to 2006! It’s time to get ready for another season of racing in the Busch and Craftsman Truck Series. First thing I’d like to do is let you know about some changes for this space for the new year. Second Fiddle will still be appearing every Friday, but there will be some new faces in this spot. I’ll still be putting in my two cents on both series from time to time but we will also have input from some of your other favorite Frontstretch columnists this year.
There are a couple of reasons for this. The first is that I have been doing this column full time for three seasons. After that amount of time I began to be concerned that I was repeating myself. In one sense it is because for the most part the same issues haunt both series. I began to wonder if you faithful readers would know what I was going to say before I even said it. That being said, Frontstretch is still committed to bring you the latest commentary on both Busch and the Trucks. So the best plan seemed to be simply to spread the wealth a little. I think it’s a great idea. I’m anxious to see what my fellow writers have to say, and maybe get a fresh perspective on things. I think you will enjoy it, too.
Now that business is taken care of, it’s onto an intro of what to expect in the Busch Series this season. Honestly, I have my concerns. There are a number of drivers running full time in both Cup and Busch this year. Drivers like Carl Edwards, Kyle Busch, Reed Sorenson, Denny Hamlin, and Clint Bowyer, some of the double dippers, are sure to contend for the championship. In fact, I have a feeling winning the championship itself will be a tall order for any of the Busch regulars this year. Still, there will be some that figure to be a part of the picture. Kenny Wallace and David Green return with the same teams they challenged with last year while Jason Keller, a perennial favorite, will be in the No. 1 James Finch entry this season. Johnny Sauter will move to the No. 00 Haas entry along with sponsor Yellow Transportation. That car was strong with Jason Leffler behind the wheel two years ago.
Still, when you put those guys up against the double dippers, they appear to fall short. The Buschwhackers are drivers that were challengers for the Busch championship in the past, and they will all be running in top-funded Cup-affiliated rides. The Busch regulars will have a battle on their hands, to say the least, maybe even to get spots in the Top 10 in points.
Not only will the Busch regulars need to fight the Cup drivers for the championship, they’ll be fighting them on a weekly basis as well. Of course, the double dippers intend to run all of the races, so barring an odd circumstance due to weather delays, there will be Buschwhackers in every race. On those weekends when the Busch races are companion events to the Cup races, expect to see even more Cup drivers. Since testing has been severely cut on the Cup side, Cup teams will be looking for more track time, and many hope to find that time in a Busch car. We may be looking at some races where half of the field will be Cup drivers. Smaller teams may face an uphill battle getting into the field in order to get enough points to lock themselves in.
The Craftsman Truck Series will not face as large of an assault from the Cup side, and some of the top contenders in that series will be returning with the same teams again this season. Dennis Setzer will be back, as well as Mike Skinner, Johnny Benson, Ron Hornaday, and David Reutimann. The most notable change is the closing of championship-winning Ultra Motorsports and the move of their driver Ted Musgrave to Toyota and Germain Racing, where he will be a teammate to Todd Bodine.
Few can argue that Bodine himself may well have been the champion if he’d been in the Germain truck for the whole season in 2005. Musgrave himself commented that he spent most of the later part of the season looking at the back of Bodine’s truck, part of what made him think of Germain when he was ride shopping. If Bodine continues his domination and Musgrave can get his team in comparable shape, does anyone else stand a chance? The issue with proposed super teams is always that they either fulfill expectations or fall drastically short. Still, this pairing has every potential for success; we’ll just have to wait and see. Toyota also picks up Top 10 contender David Starr as part of their lineup, as he moves to the No. 38 Red Horse Racing entry that Brandon Whitt drove to victory last season.
It should be another competitive and exciting season for the Craftsman Truck Series, while in the Busch Series, I’d love to see the regulars come on strong and put it to those Cup drivers. This is that wonderful time of the season where every driver theoretically has an equal shot at being the champion. Now’s the time to pick your favorite, and simply let "˜em race!
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