Well race fans, it’s that time again. The offseason is coming to an end very quickly, and we are close to going back to racing. But before we do, let’s talk about what to expect from the Craftsman Truck Series this season.
The offseason brought no big changes to the schedule. The season is still 26 races long and visits Martinsville, Atlanta and Texas twice each. As has been the case for several years, the Truck Series begins this season with the Busch Series and the Nextel Cup Series at Daytona. The season will end just like it started with a triple header, this time at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The Truck Series might look pretty much the same, but several team changes went on through the offseason. Tim Sauter will be racing the Lester Buildings No. 07 Chevy truck for Greenlight Racing. David Starr was replaced by Aaron Fike, who will race the No. 1 (formerly No. 11) truck. Starr will be racing in a second truck for Circle Bar Racing during 2007. Fike is also one of eight drivers eligible for rookie of the year. Willie Allen, Kelly Bires, Blake Bjorklund, Casey Kingsland, John Mickel, Peter Shepherd and Tyler Walker are also candidates for rookie of the year. Of those drivers, only three of them are currently scheduled to run a full season.
Kerry Earnhardt has been replaced by Allen in the No. 13 ThorSport Racing Chevy. Earnhardt has not yet committed to another ride. Mark Martin, who announced he was leaving Roush Racing at the end of the 2006 season, will share driving duties with Kelly Bires, with Martin running six races for Wood Brothers Racing. Dennis Setzer, who raced for Morgan-Dollar Motorsports in 2006, has been announced as the driver for the No. 75 Spears Motorsports Chevrolet.
The Truck Series is probably the most competitive week in and week out when it comes to points racing, and that makes it difficult to pick who might come out on top before the season even starts. It could be Ted Musgrave who, after winning the championship in 2005 and finishing third or better for five straight years, finished sixth in the final standings in 2006. It could also be defending champion Todd Bodine. For the majority of the 2006 season it seemed like Bodine could do no wrong. He and the No. 30 Lumber Liquidators team could find themselves in a bind early on in a race, but by the end, they would manage to pull out a top-10 finish.
But my pick for the 2007 champion is neither of those two. Johnny Benson had an incredible end to the 2006 season. Not only did Benson and the No. 23 Exide Batteries Toyota capture their first CTS win, but they also went on to win five races. Benson led a late-season charge for the championship but couldn’t quite make it; he finished second. He definitely has momentum on his side and could be a real threat to win the championship.