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Atlanta Truck Race Preview

by Dave Grayson
Thursday, March 5, 2009


After a weekend off one of America's favorite tail gate parties, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, returns to action at the Atlanta Motor Speedway this Saturday. Here's the breakdown:
  • The American Commercial Lines 200 is 130 laps long around the speedway's 1.54 mile oval.
  • The race has 39 entries meaning three of the truck teams will be going home after qualifying Saturday morning. 17 of these entries will have to earn a starting berth based on their qualifying times.
  • There are some impressive names on the go or go home list for this race including Kevin Harvick who be driving his own truck. Series veteran Dennis Setzer, running a part time schedule this year, is also on this list. Italian road racer Max Papis is using the race as a ways and means to get more seat time while forging a career in NASCAR. Johnny Benson and Mike Skinner are on the go or go home list but they each have a past champion's provisional available to them if needed.
  • The defending race winner is Kyle Busch.
  • Chevrolet has the most manufacturers wins at Atlanta with five followed by Toyota's three trips to the winner's circle.
  • The race will be aired on Saturday by the Speed Channel beginning at 1:30 pm eastern time.


Rick Crawford, driver of the #14 Circle Bar Truck Corral/International Ford, will be making his 300th career start in the series at Atlanta. Crawford also has the prestige of being with the same team, Circle Bar Racing, and the same team owner, Tom Mitchell, for the past 13 years. Commenting on his career milestone, Crawford said "as I look back, I think I'm the proudest of the fact that I've reached 300 starts with one owner and one manufacturer. Mr. Mitchell and I have one of the longest owner driver relationships in the sport. He's much more than just an owner to me, he's made me part of his family and I could not be here without him. The perfect ending to our 300th start would be to deliver another trophy to the Circle Bar Corral in Ozona, Texas."

During his stint in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Crawford has collected five wins, 72 top five finishes, 150 top ten finishes and five Keystone Light Pole awards. He's finished within the series' top ten championship points standings six times including finishing second in 2002.

Kyle Busch's No. 51 Toyota truck
Billy Ballew, a native of Blairsville-Georgia, has been a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team owner since its beginning.  Saturday's race will be a home coming for Ballew because he owns a second home, a condo, located at the Atlanta Motor Speedway. But there's another special reason why Ballew considers this race track home. Kyle Busch, who drives Ballew's #51 Miccosukee/Nos Energy Drink Toyota Tundra has won three of the last four races at Atlanta.

Commenting on the pending home coming Ballew said "I'm always excited about going back to Atlanta. We've had some great finishes both in the #15, (driven by Shane Sieg), and the #51 truck and, of course, it's been exciting with Kyle winning three out of the four races he's ran there for us. To me, winning at Atlanta is bigger than winning the Indianapolis 500."


The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series currently has a high quality group of drivers competing for their Rookie Of The Year title. The series also has a very tight points battle for this prestigious award. Going into Saturday's race at Atlanta there are only 11 points separating the top five drivers in the standings. J R Fitzpatrick, who is seriously starting to impress a lot of series observers, leads the rookie standings with 26 points. But he only has a four point lead over AMA Motocross champion Ricky Carmichael whose transition from two wheel to four has been very impressive. Tayler Malsam and James Buescher are tied for third with 17 points each. Chase Austin and Johnny Sauter completes the top five with 16 and 15 points respectively.

Ricky Carmichael, driver of the #4 Monster Energy Drink Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc,  was not originally scheduled to race at Atlanta. However his solid eighth place finish at the Auto Club Speedway in California two weeks ago created his prominence in the series' close rookie battle. That led to Harvick's decision to field a third team truck so Carmichael can continue to make progress in the race for the rookie title.

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