_This week, the Camping World Truck Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Good Sam Club 200. In a departure from the norm, I’m borrowing part of the format of fellow columnist Amy Henderson’s Big Six to touch on a few topics to keep in mind leading into tonight’s race._
*Who will win the Good Sam Club 200?*
Sprint Cup Series drivers have won ten of the 16 races run on the schedule so far this season, and with three of them in the field–Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer and Ryan Newman–it’s really hard to bet against them. In a combined eight starts at the 1.54-mile quad-oval, the trio has scored five wins–four by Busch and one by Newman–and eight top-10 finishes. The real question for tonight’s race seems to be which one of them will head to victory lane rather than whether it’ll be another win for a Cup Series driver.
*When will Todd Bodine make it to victory lane?*
Prior to this season, Todd Bodine has visited victory lane a minimum of twice per year since 2004. But after a rocky start to the 2011 season, the defending champion has yet to score a victory. With only nine races left on the schedule, the time for a visit to victory lane is rather short; however Bodine has won at least once at six of the nine track left–Atlanta Motor Speedway, Kentucky Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway (twice), Texas Motor Speedway (six times) and Homestead-Miami (twice). Since Bodine has been a mile-and-a-half track master for much of his career, I wouldn’t count him out this weekend as long as he can surpass the three Cup Series drivers in the field.
*How is the championship race shaping up?*
Simply put, the championship race is still wide open. Johnny Sauter remains out front, but he holds a slim seven-point margin over James Buescher, who failed to qualify for the second race on the schedule at Phoenix. But hot on their tails is Timothy Peters, who sits just 15 points behind Sauter and has five consecutive top-10 finishes, including a victory at Lucas Oil Raceway. Austin Dillon dropped a spot after Bristol, but he’s still only 29 points out of the lead. So, realistically there are at least four drivers–maybe as many as six depending on what happens in the next nine races–that can capture the big trophy at Homestead-Miami in November. Best part is, they don’t need a Chase to do so.
*Newman, Turner Motorsports to Honor Beau Slocumb in Atlanta*
Tonight, Turner Motorsports and Ryan Newman will pay tribute to Beau Slocumb, a former TMS employee who succumbed to cancer this past spring at the young age of 30, with a special paint scheme featuring the Macon, GA native’s car number. Newman will pilot the No. 08 BRANDT / Realtree Chevrolet.
Slocumb made just four ARCA Racing Series starts in 2009, averaging a seventh-place finish, including his career-best fifth-place finish at Kansas. Before making the move to ARCA, he spent several years racing Legends cars and Late Models, racking up 131 feature wins in the process.
“I look forward to driving the race that my good friend Beau Slocumb always dreamed of. This is his ride; I just wish he were here to drive it,” Newman said. “This is for his family and for the dream he always wished would come true. Beau ran a camo car and it will be great to honor him with a Realtree paint scheme and the Chevy Truck. Thank you Turner Motorsports, Team Realtree, BRANDT, and Chevrolet for giving us this opportunity.”
For Turner Motorsports, team members have always been treated more like family members, and they’re honored to run the No. 08 in Slocumb’s memory.
“We built this organization and race team as a family and we wanted to honor Beau in a special way,” Team Owner Steve Turner said. “The No. 08 was Beau’s car number and to have Ryan run that same number and paint scheme at Atlanta will be something special to all involved.”
Newman has just three Camping World Truck Series starts, and three top-5 finishes, including a victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2008. All winnings from tonight’s race will go to Slocumb’s widow, Jessica to help with medical expenses.
“Atlanta is high-banked and really fast. It’s a multi-groove race track. You have to be able to get through the bumps in Turns 1 and 2. If you can get through there, on the botton of the track without the bumps upsetting the handling on the truck, you’re setting yourself up for a good lap. Another thing is being able to run wide open as long as possible without building up too much heat in the right front tire.” _Ricky Carmichael_
“Atlanta Motor Speedway is a very fast race track with a lot of grip. You can run both the high and low side of the track which makes it a great place to race.” _James Buescher_
“It takes a lot of things [to be successful at Atlanta]. You have to have a lot of grip, you have to have a lot of downforce, you have to have tire management, a great engine and fuel mileage too. There are a lot of circumstances that it can come down to at the end and what it will boil down to.” _Kyle Busch_
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