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Bristol NASCAR Truck Preview

by Dave Grayson
Wednesday, August 19, 2009

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Arrangements have been made for a giant bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken to be picked up. The giant bags of Lays Potato Chips have been purchased and the Budweiser is already getting cold in the refrigerator. I'm going to be hosting my own private tail gate party. The party location will be at the tail end of my living room couch. That's where you'll find me watching Wednesday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race from the Bristol Motor Speedway.

Any racing format that you could name in racing on this concrete bullring is a fan's dream come true. But when you add the traditional elements of a Bristol race with NASCAR's truck series, and their definition of a tail gate party, then you've got the makings of a special evening.

SOME PRE RACE NOTES OF INTEREST.

All eyes will be on series points leader Ron Hornaday Jr Wednesday night to see if he can win his sixth, consecutive, race. Hornaday will be in his traditional #33 Chevrolet Truck, for Kevin Harvick Inc, with the not so traditional colors of Georgia Boot as the team's primary sponsor.

Hornaday is the only driver on the race entry list who is a multiple winner at Bristol. But that was accomplished quite awhile ago and since that time. his numbers on this concrete oval have slipped a little. His average finish there since 2005 ,when NASCAR began calculating these type of stats, is a 17.8 and he hasn't led a lap at Bristol since 1999. This could be the green light his competitors have waiting for so they can take a turn celebrating in victory lane.

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There are some rather interesting names and scenarios on the entry list for Wednesday's O'Reilly 200, presented by Valvoline.

Kevin Harvick Inc will be field two other teams in addition to the Hornaday entry. J R Fitzpatrick, who has alternating this seat with Ricky Carmichael, returns to the team's #4 Chevrolet with sponsorship from Equipment Express.

His team mate will be Sprint Cup driver Ryan Newman who will be doing a guest stint in KHI's #2 Chevrolet Truck with sponsorship from Pringles. Newman will be the driver to watch during the Bristol weekend. In a case of being an iron man, Newman will be running four different races at Bristol. He starts the quad run Wednesday afternoon in the NASCAR Whelen Modified event that precedes the Camping World Truck Series race later that night. Friday has him entered in the Nationwide Series race and of course Saturday he will perform his regular duties in the Sprint Cup race for Stewart Hass Racing.

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Billy Ballew Motorsports will also be in full force Wednesday night with three teams in the Bristol race. After a brief absence, Kyle Busch returns to the #51 Miccosukee Indian Gaming Toyota although many observers are saying that the driver should curtail extracurricular activities in order to focus on getting his Sprint Cup team into the Chase For The Championship.

Aric Almirola will be behind the wheel of Ballew's #15 Grace Pharmaceuticals Toyota. Almirola, a development driver for Earnhardt Ganassi Racing in the Cup Series, is using the truck events to get lap and seat time while waiting to hear about his Cup future with EGR for next year.

But the two teams will be working with new crew chiefs following a recent swap announced by team owner Billy Ballew. Richie Wauters will leave the Almirola team to guide the Kyle Busch effort. In turn veteran chief Doug George, who guided Busch to wins at Fontana and Atlanta, will work with Almirola.

The third Ballew Toyota, also sponsored by Grace Pharmaceuticals, will be driven by a young up and coming driver named Nate Monteith. Of particular interest here is the fact that NASCAR veteran crew chief Brad Parrot will be manning the pit box. It's being reported that this is a special one race deal only.

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Another interesting entry is the presence of former driver, now Speed Channel analyst, Hermie Sadler who will be donning a driver's suit for the first time in quite awhile but for a very worthy cause. Sadler will be driving an Andy Hillenburg owned Chevrolet with special sponsorship from the Victory Junction Gang Camp and the Hermie and Elliot Sadler Foundation.

Virginian resident John Denere will make a very prominent presence with this team Wednesday night. Denere was the recent winner of the Mega Millions Lottery last May and has pledged a $100,000 donation to each worthwhile charity.

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Other entries of interest in the Bristol race includes the presence of Brad Keselowski who will be making his first series start of the year while taking on the role of owner-driver. He has entered the BKR, Brad Keselowski Racing, Chevrolet into the event.

Italian "Mad" Max Papis, currently driving a part time Sprint Cup schedule, will be in this race in a Germain Brothers Toyota sponsored by Geico. Papis will be a team mate to Todd Bodine the team's primary driver.

NASCAR veteran icon Ken Schrader will be making his second truck series of the season in his self owned #52 Federated Auto Parts Chevrolet Truck.

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Also look for a highly anticipated visit from reigning series champion Johnny Benson Wednesday night. This will be Benson's first visit to a race track since his intense racing accident in Wisconsin earlier in the summer that result in the need for shoulder surgery.

Benson said that the physical therapy on his shoulder is working extremely well but doctors want him to wait until at least November before he attempts to drive a race car again. Benson has made it known that he's also busy laying the ground work for a 2010 return to racing and is seeking a quality ride in either the Camping World Truck or Nationwide Series.

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THE RACE BREAKDOWN

The O'Reilly 200, presented by Valvoline, is going to be a very intense 200 laps, 106.6 miles. around the Bristol Motor Speedway's 0.533 mile concrete oval.

The race has 39 entries for a 36 truck field meaning three of the teams will be going home after qualifying. Wednesday afternoon's qualifying session could also get a little intense because the entry list has 14 "go or go homers" meaning these are teams not guaranteed a starting berth based on owner's points and will need to race their way into the field on speed.

The defending race winner from August 2008 is Kyle Busch.

A good starting position is considered crucial for a Bristol race. Eight of the last eleven race winners started third or better in the field en route to the winner's circle. On three different occasions the race has been won from the pole position. Mark Martin did it last in 2006 while Ron Hornaday Jr pulled off this feat two times in 1997 and 1998. By the way Hornaday led all 200 laps in his 1997 win.

On track incidents, followed by caution flags, is often considered to be the norm at Bristol. The record for yellow flags, during a Camping World Truck Series race, is 12 set last year. That race also had a record setting 96 laps of caution which was nearly half the race.

The series' Raybestos Rookie Of The Year battle is skin tight. Young Tayler Malsam holds a slim one point lead over the veteran, but series rookie, Johnny Sauter.

The series' manufacturer's championship is also very close with Chevrolet leading Toyota by a single point. This is largely based on Hornaday's five consecutive wins.

The one advantage to crew chiefs, from this all concrete track, is the fact that the exterior roughness of the surface is not as heat sensitive as the traditional asphalt tracks. That means that a race starting in the daytime and concluding after dark will produce no real challenging track changes.

However the concrete surface does collect an abundance of tire rubber during the course of the race. Those vivid black rubber streaks, especially in the turns, could create a tight sensation in the truck's handling.

The one area that crew chiefs will be closely monitoring Wednesday night will be tire wear. Goodyear will be using a softer compound on their right side tires and that could make the element of tire wear an unknown factor. Some teams are saying that the race might require a second pit stop for tires instead of the traditional one and done stop in the past.

The O'Reilly 200, presented by Valvoline, will be aired lived by the Speed Channel Wednesday night beginning at 8 pm eastern time.

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