Here’s a hodge podge of news and notes from the Atlanta Motor Speedway garage on Saturday, straight from the desk of our at-the-track correspondent Doug Turnbull. And wait, there’s more… sign up for our FREE Frontstretch newsletter for some exclusive info from your Frontstretch insiders on which teams might check out early during the 500-miler this afternoon. Last but not least, don’t forget to come back for our LIVE blog run by Doug during the race!
Matt Crafton Never Forgets: Saturday’s Camping World Truck Series race featured some elements that most race fans like. There was a big wreck (Colin Braun slammed into the inside wall and was briefly airborne), a close finish (Kyle Busch edged Kevin Harvick in the closing laps after their final pit stop left them fighting from the back of the top 10 for the win), and a good fight (Crafton vs. Ron Hornaday). But it was the fight that ended up as one of the day’s bigger highlights.
Crafton, driver of the No. 88 Tide/Menards Chevy, took offense to Hornaday blocking him late in the race after he gave Hornaday a good shove that improved both drivers’ positions. After the event, Crafton had words with the driver of the No. 33 VFW Chevy, sparking the 2007 Truck Series champ to get in Crafton’s face and shout back. Crafton told Hornaday that he should’ve wrecked him over the whole thing — but chose not to.
Hornaday did take responsibility for the incident, saying that Crafton had the better truck and that he misjudged the No. 88’s placement on the track. Hornaday also says the drivers’ frustrations were made worse by an on-track incident the two had two weeks ago at Auto Club Speedway.
Both drivers, after letting their tempers cool, seem to be back on better terms as of Saturday night.
The Cup Series tires are still terrible: Following over two hours of practice time Saturday, Sprint Cup teams are still struggling to find the perfect setup to compliment a not-so-perfect tire. Greg Biffle led the morning practice, a 45 minute session, as the only driver topping 184 mph. Carl Edwards, David Stremme, Denny Hamlin, and Matt Kenseth rounded out the top five. In the Happy Hour session, another Roush Fenway Ford set the pace, with Edwards approximately two tenths of a second faster than second fastest driver Kasey Kahne. As the sun baked the track in that early afternoon session, teams lost grip and the speeds dropped significantly. Edwards’ fastest lap clocked in at only 179.522, almost five mph slower than Biffle’s hot lap in the earlier practice. When asked about today’s tires after placing second in the Truck Series race, Harvick simply said that drivers shouldn’t complain until they actually ran a race on them. Maybe Harvick just didn’t want ruin the buzz he had by running well in the Truck race by complaining… because virtually everyone else in the Cup Series garage was.
Todd Bodine keeps Trucking: Bodine has had a strange 2009 in the Camping World Truck Series to date. After winning in Daytona and finishing second at Auto Club Speedway, the 2006 Truck Series champion finished third in the American Continental Lines 200. Finishes of first, second, and third leave the No. 30 Germain Racing team only 25 points behind leader Kyle Busch in the standings. But will the team even be running for the season championship this year? Bodine himself is still not sure.
Primary sponsor Lumber Liquidators bolted the No. 30 team after the 2008 season, leaving plenty of doubt about the team’s future in their wake. Tilted Kilt Pub and Eatery appeared on Bodine’s truck for this race, but if they or another sponsor do not show up on the No. 30 by Martinsville, Bodine says they will not run. The veteran has to be frustrated, as his Germain Racing team has a Nationwide Series program full-time with Michael Annett in the No. 15 Pilot Travel Centers Toyota, as well as part-time Cup and Truck programs with GEICO and Italian driver Max Papis. Bodine is by far the most decorated stock car driver of those three… but all he has to show for it on his truck is a whole bunch of nothing on the quarterpanels. Maybe championships and wins are not enough, after all…
Truex has kidney stones: Shortly after Saturday’s Truck Series race, EGR officials informed the media that Martin Truex, Jr., driver of the No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevy, was in the emergency room of an Atlanta area hospital with kidney stones. According to their message, Truex got out of his car after Saturday’s practice sessions, feeling ill and with sharp stomach pains. Those officials have confirmed that he will race Sunday, but there is no word on if a substitute driver will be needed as of 6:15 p.m.