Another racing season is underway, and once again, I am excited about the year ahead. The offseason was a bit difficult, leaving Red Horse Racing after another year together, but in this business, change is inevitable. The way the economy is right now, it’s hard on everyone. We raced nearly two years together without a sponsor, and were very fortunate and grateful to have Zachry come on board at the end of last season. This season, they wanted to continue getting their feet wet as a sponsor in NASCAR, but only wanted to do primary sponsorship for about half of the 2009 season. Unfortunately, my owners and friends Tom DeLoach and Jeff Hammond couldn’t make it work again this year without a full-year commitment.
As is the case with most NASCAR winter breaks, this one was filled with news of rule changes, teams closing their doors and driver shuffling. In an effort to help teams save money, NASCAR changed the number of crew members allowed over the wall during a pit stop. Only five crew members will be allowed over the wall, and teams are not permitted to get fuel and tires on the same stop. In addition, the crew chief must choose only 12 active crew members to travel with the team. Defending series champion Johnny Benson is one of the many drivers that find themselves with new teams. Prior to being crowned the 2008 champion, Benson announced he would be leaving Bill Davis Racing and might possibly retire from racing full time following the final race of the season. As it turned out, Benson got out at just the right time.
So, here we are, at the end of another season in the Craftsman Truck Series! It’s only been two races since my last entry. The race at Phoenix was just OK for us and we struggled a lot with front grip. Our Zachry Toyota Tundra wasn’t too bad, but right there at the end, Kyle Busch and about four or five other drivers pitted for tires, and then we had a caution that hurt us a little, too. We probably would have finished ninth or 10th, but we lost some spots at the end to the guys with newer tires. At Homestead, we decided to try something new set-up wise, and it wasn’t very good. We really struggled. We were moving forward and making some progress, but it wasn’t enough to get us the finish we wanted. When you try new things for a race, you learn a lot of stuff – sometimes good, sometimes bad. But in the end, that’s what will help us next year.
A lot of things must have been going through Johnny Benson’s mind Friday night at Phoenix. Chief among them was probably, “…why did I just do that…” midway through a race while preparing to absorb the impact of a blast into the wall between turns 1 and 2 – with innocent bystander TJ Bell in tow (or plow, as the case may be since Benson was in front of him… and he was driving a truck). He was also probably wondering what he was going to have to do in order to finish in front of Ron Hornaday this weekend at Homestead, to win the 2008 Craftsman Truck Series title that, for all intents and purposes, should have been on the shelf after Ron’s first-lap, self-induced wreck that same night. Instead, heading into the final races of the season, Johnny suddenly holds a scant three-point lead over Hornaday. But most important of all, he was also probably thinking, “…what am I going to do next year?”
Since the last diary, there have been a lot of changes for our Red Horse Racing team. At the end of September, Zachry Holdings Inc. joined our team as our primary sponsor for the rest of the 2008 season. I am so excited to have them on board. Zachry Holdings Inc. is an engineering construction company that is dedicated to the planning, building and renewing of our world’s most critical industrial facilities. They have over 25,000 employees nationwide and are just a really great, family company. Everyone at Red Horse Racing is excited to have them as a part of our family, and to have their name on our No. 11 Toyota Tundra. What’s really cool for us is that their No. 1 goal is their commitment to safety, and that really fits what we do in the Craftsman Truck Series. Obviously we are always trying to beat our competitors and get that extra edge, but one of the top priorities is safety.
4. Chicken Soup – On Saturday, NASCAR announced a new random drug testing policy beginning with the 2009 season. Beginning in January, all drivers participating in preseason testing in Daytona for the Sprint, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series will be tested — along with all racing officials and crew members planning to be at the track on a weekly basis. Thereafter, about a dozen drivers and/or crew members will be randomly selected for testing at most scheduled race events, with the process to be handled by an independent, third-party agency.
Fight! There’s one word that’s sure to send people flocking to a scene, and last Saturday, they flocked to pit road at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, specifically to the immediate vicinity of David Starr’s truck. There were several reasons for the sudden congregation. Several NASCAR officials also arrived on the scene, hoping to break up the fray before it became a brawl. They were outnumbered, and the fray became kind of a brawlette anyway. Some media and onlookers probably flocked to the scene as well, but that’s another story.
Sunday’s New Hampshire race featured a variety of incidents that relegated Chase contenders to poor finishes. Can Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth overcome their lackluster showings and contend — or are they NHMS’ annual victims who will never recover?
1. Not Keepin’ Up With The Times – This past week, Kyle Petty took on NASCAR for not being able to control the number of teams an owner operates, as well as keeping a level playing field for smaller organizations. Petty cited the recent alliance of Stewart-Haas Racing with Hendrick Motorsports as an example, nicknaming the new team “Hendrick South.” The son of NASCAR legend Richard Petty also made reference to “partnerships” between Roush Fenway Racing and Yates Racing, along with Richard Childress Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc., too.
Ron Hornaday Jr. took the checkered flag 0.960 seconds ahead of Johnny Benson to win the Camping World RV Sales 200 Saturday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet held off a hard-charging Benson in a three-lap shootout to win his second consecutive race. Travis Kvapil, Erik Darnell, and Rick Crawford rounded out the top five finishers.