After five weeks of sitting dormant, the Camping World Truck Series returns to action Friday night at Kansas Speedway. Following three practice sessions Thursday afternoon, drivers will qualify for the Toyota Tundra 250 this afternoon at 3:30 p.m. local time.
But before that, we might as well get caught up on the many things to watch in tonight’s race.
Ben Kennedy’s New Home
After a tumultuous few weeks between his departure from Red Horse Racing and joining GMS Racing, Ben Kennedy now finds himself behind the wheel of a new truck with new colors and a different manufacturer beginning this weekend. Now piloting the No. 33 Chevrolet for GMS as a part of a multi-race deal of at least 10 races, the team welcomes a sponsor new to NASCAR in Weber Grills.
“I am honored and privileged to work with a company like Weber,” Kennedy said in a team release. “Their products have been in our home as long as I can remember. So this partnership means a lot, and I have confidence that the entire GMS team is determined to make their entry into NASCAR successful. I look forward to much success this season and to winning on and off the track.”
During his tenure at Red Horse Racing, Kennedy made 26 starts, scoring just four top 5s and eight top 10s, including a trio of third-place results. The big question following the 24-year-old now is how he’ll perform in different equipment. With a team that has already scored a victory this season with Johnny Sauter and has seen Spencer Gallagher make a marked improvement in on-track performance, expectations for Kennedy behind the wheel will be high.
The question is whether he can meet – or even exceed – those expectations.
Clint Bowyer Returns to Trucks at Home Track
Speaking of GMS Racing, for the first time since he filled in for an injured John Wes Townley in 2014, Clint Bowyer will return to the Truck Series, this time as a fourth truck with the organization. Joining full-time drivers Sauter and Gallagher along with new teammate Kennedy, Bowyer will hop into the No. 24 Chevrolet at his home track.
“It’s always fun to have something new on your plate and something I haven’t done in a while. I’m looking forward to running the Truck race here at home in Kansas. I think we had a pretty good run last time we were here in it back in the old [Kevin Harvick Inc.] days,” Bowyer said Thursday afternoon at Kansas. “This GMS Racing, what a team, I was up there at the shop fitting the seat in the Truck and looking at the facility and met Spencer (Gallagher) and Joey (Cohen), the crew chief. Very impressed, built me a brand new truck. That thing is awesome. The work is there and hopefully, the driver filling the seat can get the job done and we can win this baby. That is what we are here for.”
Born and raised just about two hours from the speedway in Emporia, Kan., Bowyer found success the last time he raced a truck at the mile-and-a-half oval in 2011. After starting second, he dominated, leading 124 of 167 circuits en route to Victory Lane behind the wheel of a truck for the now-defunct Kevin Harvick, Inc.
Johnny Sauter, John Hunter Nemechek Locked into Chase
Unlike the rest of the field, John Hunter Nemechek and Johnny Sauter can come into Friday night’s race looking to experiment with different setup options that they may not normally have tried out in a race setting. But that’s simply because the pair each carries a win already, allowing them to take chances they might not normally take if the championship were still a season-long battle.
I’m not saying Sauter and Nemechek will go out there an put themselves in a bad spot, endangering themselves or their competitiors, but the latter did say that he was open to taking more chances, knowing he’s already notched the trip to Victory Lane. And remember, Matt Crafton won recently on a fuel-mileage gamble, so it’s certainly something that could end up playing out tonight.
Of course the caution clock might have something to say about that.