NASCAR Memphis Truck Preview
This Saturday the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to the very format that made them famous back in 1995: short track racing. NASCAR's definition of a tailgate party will make its annual return to the Memphis Motorsports Park for the running of the Memphis Travel.Com 250 an event that is guaranteed to be loaded with paint scraping, bumper banging, action.
Before the green flag falls on Saturday there's one thing that we already know for sure: who is not going to win the race. That would be Kyle Busch who normally drives the Toyota prepared by Billy Ballew Motorsports. The "Rowdy" one is busy in New Hampshire where he will race in the Nationwide Series Saturday night followed by the Sprint Cup event on Sunday.
That means that Brian Ickler, Ballew's development driver and Busch's stand-in, will be behind the wheel of the #51 truck. Ickler has been impressive in the truck series this year and could very well be a factor in Saturday's race.
Needless to say all eyes will be on three times series champion Ron Hornaday Jr and his Chevrolet prepared by Kevin Harvick Inc. Hornaday literally beat up the competition last weekend in Milwaukee and re-stablished himself as the series points leader. He's equally as good at Memphis Motorsports Park. He's the defending race winner and also won this event back in 1998.
By the way, Hornaday leaving Milwaukee as the new points leader marked the fifth change in points leadership in ten races. It's another viable sign of how competitive the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is going to be this year.
Also expected to be a major factor Saturday is Matt Crafton. Despite the fact that he's still looking for his first win in 2009, Crafton has been a model of consistency this year and held the points lead prior to Hornaday's Milwaukee dominance last week. He will arrive in Memphis 36 points out of first. This is exact type of track that Crafton cut his racing teeth on during the early days of his career in his native California and that will be another major plus for him.
Never to be overlooked is the presence of another former series champion. Todd Bodine, aka "The Onion", has a very strong Toyota fielded by the Germain Brothers. This team is also re-fired by the presence of new sponsorship from Copart. He's currently third in the championship standings only 88 markers behind Hornaday. Look for the "Onion" to be strong at Memphis.
The same goes for former series champion Mike Skinner the driver of the Toyota team owned by NFL football great Randy Moss. Skinner was the only truck who could run with Hornaday last week but, unfortunately, got caught on pit road when a caution flag came out. He went two laps down and took a hit in the points standings. He goes into Saturday fourth in the championship rankings only 89 points from the top.
One driver to watch Saturday is veteran Dennis Setzer the driver of the #8 MRD Motorsports Chevrolet. At the beginning of the current season Setzer did not have a ride and wasn't sure what his racing future was going to be. He took over his present ride in March at the Atlanta race. Since that time Setzer has accumulated five top ten finishes, including two seconds, and has moved the team from 14th to 10th in the championship standings. Setzer has 18 career series wins including one at Memphis back in 2001.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO TAKE ELVIS HOME.
The trophy presented to race winners over the years at the Memphis Motorsports Park is considered to be a treasure. It's a bronze statue of Elvis Presley: the king of rock n roll. The trophy is a replica of the life sized Elvis statue that can be seen on the famed Beale Street in downtown Memphis. Collecting the Elvis statue this Saturday will be especially important. It's the last of its kind before the track debuts a new trophy with a completely different design next year.
THE RACE BREAKDOWN
The Memphis Travel.Com 250 marks the 12th race held by the NASCAR Nationwide Series at the Memphis Motorsports Park.
The track is a tightly wound .75 of a mile oval that will present plenty of challenges for the drivers.
The race has 36 entries meaning the "go or go home" qualifying procedure based upon owner's points standings will not apply.
The crew chiefs will be earning their paychecks in a big way Saturday night because they will have to be prepared to come up with some radical changes to keep their trucks competitive. Qualifying for the race will be in the afternoon, under bright sunshine. The race starts at sunset and will end under the lights. This format is often referred to as a crew chief's worst nightmare.
The Raybestos Rookie of the Year battle will also bear watching Saturday. Young Tayler Malsam, from Randy Moss Motorsports, holds a slim seven point lead over series rookie, but NASCAR veteran, Johnny Sauter who represents owner Mike Curb.
Toyota continues to lead the manufacturer's standings with 78 points followed by Chevrolet-67, Ford-44 and Dodge-31. However Chevrolet has posted five wins at this track. The other three manufactures has visited victory lane here two times each.
The Memphis Travel.Com 250 will be aired by the Speed Channel beginning at 5:30 pm eastern time.
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