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Well fans, it’s that time again. Time to shake off the winter rust and look forward to yet another exciting Camping World Truck Series season. Here we are, just a little over a week away from the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, typically the most exciting race on the schedule! So for those of you that have completely disconnected from NASCAR during the break, I’m here to ensure you’re all caught up in time for next Friday night’s NextEra Energy 250 with a full season preview.
Plenty of changes have occurred since the last time we saw the Trucks in November. Kyle Busch Motorsports leads the way with a brand new lineup for 2013. Joey Coulter, who came within 19 points of the championship last season with Richard Childress Racing, will pilot KBM’s No. 18 Toyota. In 22 races last season, Coulter impressed with 15 top 10s, eight top 5s, three poles and a lone victory at Pocono Raceway in August.
“To say that I am excited about the opportunity to drive for KBM would be an understatement. Kyle Busch is a driver that I have always had a lot of respect for and looked up to because of his raw talent,” Coulter said last November when the announcement was made. “Since I was eight years old, winning races and championships in one of NASCAR’s top three series has been a dream and a goal of mine. I feel that joining KBM gives me a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to accomplish those goals. They are a team that has a winning attitude and have proven numerous times that they are capable of getting to Victory Lane. It is an honor to be given the chance to bring them their first driver championship.”
Alongside him, NASCAR Drive For Diversity and Joe Gibbs Racing Development Driver Darrell Wallace, Jr. will pilot the No. 54 KBM Toyota in hopes of earning Rookie of the Year honors. Though he’s never piloted a truck, the 19-year-old has already impressed. In 36 starts over three years of competition in K&N Pro Series East, he racked up six victories, 16 top 5s and 25 top 10s. And if that’s not enough, Wallace made four Nationwide Series starts last season, scoring a top 10 in three of those events.
“I can’t wait to get started. I appreciate everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports for working this out and providing me the opportunity to compete for Rookie of the Year and the championship in the Truck Series,” Wallace said. “Having the opportunity to run a full season in the Tundra is exciting. I also appreciate NASCAR for the work they’ve been doing to help drivers like me get these opportunities. Toyota has been a great partner with JGR on their diversity efforts as well and I look forward to continuing our relationship with them. I can’t wait to get on track at Daytona.
Moving on to the team that showed some of the biggest improvements last season, Turner Motorsports has now become Turner Scott Motorsports. Longtime minority investor in the organization, Harry Scott, expanded his ownership to join Steve Turner as a co-owner this winter. Additionally, the team has added rookie Jeb Burton to their stable with a two-year contract, replacing in theory Nelson Piquet, Jr. who moves up for the team into the Nationwide Series. Having made just five starts last year before sponsorship woes sidelined his rookie effort, the 20-year-old looks to pick up right where he left off.
“I’m really proud that I can race for Turner Motorsports over the next two years,” Burton said in a release on the team’s website. “This team has had so much success, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to work with such a quality team.”
But perhaps the most intriguing change is where Homestead-Miami winner Cale Gale ended up for this season. Instead of piloting a truck, he’s joined TSM to serve as crew chief and mentor for Brandon Jones, who is currently set to run two races for the organization. There has been no word yet as to what Gale’s role will be when he’s not serving as head wrench.
KBM and TSM aren’t the only teams dealing with major changes. Having come up just six points shy of the championship with Timothy Peters, Red Horse Racing looks to continue on the success they found throughout the 2012 season — but with a new driver lineup surrounding their star. With the departure of Parker Kligerman to the Nationwide Series, along with Todd Bodine due to a lack of sponsorship, RHR has brought in John Wes Townley, who will pilot the No. 7 Toyota with backing from Zaxby’s.
“I’m a competitive race car driver, and I want to race and compete for wins. Red Horse Racing has worked hard and continues to excel in the Truck Series,” Townley said. “The success that this Red Horse Racing organization was able to accomplish last season is the same success we are looking forward to.”
Paired up with Townley’s arrival, rumors have flown that NASCAR Mexico driver German Quiroga, who made four starts last year with KBM will pilot the No. 77 Toyota for RHR. The move, however, has not been confirmed by the team and Quiroga is not yet listed on their website, so only time will tell whether it actually occurs. In both cases, the drivers bring funding to the table which should help the organization remain financially secure.
Having left RHR after joining the team last year, Todd Bodine has found a home for at least the Daytona weekend. He’ll pilot the No. 13 Mattei Air Compressor Toyota as a teammate to Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter, who will pilot the relabeled No. 98 this season. Where Bodine will end up for the remainder of the year is still up in the air, but my best guess is he’ll stay at ThorSport should he succeed in nailing down sponsorship to keep a third team running.
“Obviously, we’re really excited to have Todd Bodine join ThorSport Racing for Daytona because he gives us a third legitimate shot at winning this race,” ThorSport Racing general manager David Pepper said of the signing. “Teaming Todd with Matt and Johnny gives us three of the best drivers in the field. Running and finishing at the front is a big deal for our two guys that are running the full season for the championship because it’s always important to get off to a good start to the season.”
And speaking of ThorSport, Dakoda Armstrong, who ran much of the season behind the wheel of the organization’s No. 98 before sponsorship sidelined him, will be back full-time with Turn One Racing. He’ll pilot the No. 60 Chevrolet with backing from WinField, a Land O’Lakes company that offers seed and crop protection products at Daytona. Additionally, he’ll run a handful of races for Richard Childress Racing in the Nationwide Series.
In other news, Joe Denette Motorsports and NTS Motorsports announced a merger in early December that will result in three full-time trucks this year. Joe Denette will remain the owner of Hornaday’s No. 9 Chevrolet while Bob Newberry will maintain ownership of Brennan Newberry’s No. 14. The two will co-own a third entry, the No. 24 Chevrolet with Kevin Harvick behind the wheel at both Martinsville events. The driver lineup for the remainder of the season will be announced at a later date.
“This is a monumental next chapter of NTS Motorsports. The team just completed our 12th year in the sport but with all the changes, 2013 should prove to be our best year so far,” Newberry said. “NTS has made its mark on being a developmental race team, moving our up-and-coming drivers from series to series.”
Now, this youngster will fill that role. Last year, he ran in just ten events and failed to qualify for the series’ second visit to Martinsville in the fall. It wasn’t exactly the season the driver had hoped for with five DNFs and a best finish of 19th. However, he hopes to capitalize on the knowledge of veteran teammate Hornaday, Jr. throughout the year.
“I am just so excited for the opportunity that 2013 brings in my first full season in the Truck Series,” Newberry said. “To be able to work with Dan Deeringhoff as my crew chief for the second year in a row, the opportunity to work with veteran and proven champion, Ron Hornaday, to learn and gain knowledge from our new director of competition, Bruce Cook and the amazing opportunity to be working out of the same shop that Kevin Harvick, Inc. became so successful in is a dream come true.”
Now that you’ve been all caught up with the offseason moves, you’re all set for the season opener at Daytona. Despite being just a 22-race season, there are plenty of things to look forward to even if the NextEra Energy Resources 250 is followed by a month-long break before the next event. The only thing that’s guaranteed at this point of the year is that we should once again be treated to exciting racing that all lead up to another tight championship battle.
_Who do you think will come out on top in this year’s championship? What about the rookies? Come over and tell me on “Facebook”:http://www.facebook.com/writerbeth or leave it in the comments below and I’ll feature some of your responses during the extended break, when I take a look at the championship contenders and attempt to separate them from the pretenders._
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