NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Truckin’ Thursdays: A Trio Of Favorites With Something To Prove

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This weekend, the Camping World Truck Series returns to action at Martinsville after more than a month off-track. Do you remember what happened at Daytona? Don’t worry, I had to think about it for a moment before I remembered that it was Kyle Busch who came out victorious with an impressive last-lap pass on Timothy Peters. Having grabbed the points lead with that runner-up finish, Peters looks to return to his home track and repeat his 2009 performance, where he led 84 laps en route to his first career Truck Series win.

“Out of all the races we run, I’m more comfortable, more in my element [at Martinsville] than anywhere else,” Peters said. “I know things can change quick. I’ve seen the best truck not win here; I’ve seen the best truck get wrecked here. As much as I love this place, I consider it in the same category as Talladega or Daytona. You can be involved in somebody else’s doing, and it will take you out for the day, but that’s what makes Martinsville so exciting.”

McCUBBIN: Truckin’ Thursdays: Five Young Guns To Watch At Martinsville

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Johnny Sauter looks for a repeat trip to Victory Lane at Martinsville this weekend.

But the driver of the No. 17 Red Horse Racing Toyota isn’t the only one looking forward to this weekend. No discussion about drivers with a shot at Martinsville Victory Lane would be complete without Johnny Sauter. He’s won two of the last three spring races at the facility (2011 and ’13) while finishing fourth and eighth in the fall events those same years. Following a solid third-place run at Daytona last month, Sauter is already sitting pretty, just two points behind the leader, and there’s no reason to believe he won’t contend for the victory again this weekend.

“Last year (Martinsville) was a pretty awesome win,” Sauter said this week. “Obviously, we came off Daytona winning and came to Martinsville, which is one of my favorite — if not my favorite — racetracks and to pull off another win was incredible.

“I grew up in the midwest and short-track racing was always my deal. I love it to this day and actually have some short-track cars of my own. Martinsville reminds me a lot of a track I used to race at (Raceway Park) up in Shakopee, Minnesota. The first time I came to Martinsville, I took to it really well because it’s a unique racetrack where ultimately, you have to be real patient but you have to be aggressive.”

Sauter’s teammate Matt Crafton is no slouch at Martinsville, either. Though he’s never visited Victory Lane, the defending champion posted a runner-up finish to his teammate last season in this very race. While his numbers at the facility aren’t that great (12 top 10s in 24 starts), the driver of the No. 88 ThorSport Toyota is likely still riding a wave of momentum following a solid championship season. After a quiet run at Daytona, where he finished 13th, the veteran will certainly be looking to make some noise in his effort to become the first back-to-back champion in the series.

Another veteran, Ron Hornaday, Jr., who has been without a full-time ride since being released by NTS Motorsports before the end of last season, will return with Turner Scott Motorsports this weekend. While Hornaday has struggled at this track as of late, reaching the top 10 once in just the last two seasons, he does have a victory at Martinsville and 14 top 10s. Coming off of a solid run at Daytona, the driver of the No. 30 Chevrolet could impress a potential sponsor enough to help secure a ride for the remainder of the season with a perfectly-timed trip to Victory Lane.

“I really enjoy short-track racing, and Martinsville is one of the best short tracks in the world,” Hornaday said. “The new qualifying format should be a lot of fun for us and the fans. I think if we can stay patient and work our way through traffic, we can come home with a great finish.”

Regardless of who ends up in Victory Lane, at the end of the day the Truck Series always puts on a great show at Martinsville, something it desperately needs to hold fan attention until the summer stretch where the series will actually be on track more than once a month. Add in the uncertainty of knockout qualifying, a large, diverse entry list and you’ve got the recipe for a gem of a race that will be used to highlight the series for many years to come.

News & Notes:

  • Kyle Busch will not be running this weekend at Martinsville Speedway. Instead, Erik Jones makes his return to the No. 51 KBM Toyota, hoping to continue his record of five top-5 finishes in five starts. In his last outing at Phoenix International Raceway last November, Jones led three times for 84 laps en route to Victory Lane.
  • A plethora of drivers will attempt to make their Truck Series debuts this weekend. Cole Custer, Ray Black, Jr., Gray Gaulding, Ted Minor, Ben Rhodes, and Raymond Terczak, Jr. will all take on the virtual unknown of knockout qualifying to make their first series starts.
  • Thoughts and prayers go out to Kay Wauters, wife of owner Richie Wauters. She underwent successful heart surgery last week in Charlotte, NC. John Wes Townley’s No. 5 Zaxby’s Toyota will feature a special decal wishing Mrs. Wauters a speedy recovery.

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