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VAR team making step up to NASCAR Truck Series

by Dave Grayson
Tuesday, January 04, 2011

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VAR Pepsi Super Late Model Series Hauler
Since November there has been whisperings regarding the Las Vegas based Vision Air Racing, (VAR), and their plans to fly east and upgrade their operation to NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series.

In early December there was a report that indicated VAR had purchased a race shop facility in Mooresville-North Carolina and were planning to race Toyota Tundras supplied by Kyle Busch Motorsports.

However, that report was completely upstaged by a December 22nd announcement that proclaimed the news that VAR was going to merge with Billy Ballew Motorsports, (BBM), one of the premiere truck teams in the series.

The master plan calls for the new team format to run Ballew's #15 and #51 Toyota Tundras with full factory support from TRD, Toyota Racing Development. While the operation will be under the VAR banner, Ballew will retain an ownership stake in the two teams. The new merger plans on running at least one truck full time in the Camping World Truck Series with the second team running a part time schedule, or a full time schedule if funding is available. Las Vegas based VAR drivers Justin Johnson and Dusty Davis will be behind the wheel. BBM plans on moving into the newly acquired VAR shop which should not be an issue because they are located across the street from each other.

Despite an impressive effort during the 2010 Truck Series season, BBM endured the stress of the financial side of NASCAR racing and ran their operation on virtually a race to race sponsorship program. In a live interview on Sirius Satellite Radio's NASCAR Channel last month, Ballew said "I needed help”. “From a financial standpoint, I couldn't continue to do it on my own. A merger seemed to be the best way to insure that we could continue on in the Truck Series. The biggest part of the puzzle was finalized last night, (December 21st), and we'll take care of the minor details after the holidays."

During the course of that same interview a seemingly rejuvenated Ballew stated " I'm going to be very involved in the operation for at least the next 12 months. I'm also exploring a couple of options in the Cup Series next year."

Despite having to deal with the sponsorship roller coaster, BBM actually had a very good year during the 2010 season. Their primary team, driven by Aric Almirola, finished second in the Truck Series final standings based on two wins, 11 top five finishes and 21 top ten finishes including 13 consecutive top tens. Ballew also finished third in the final owner's points standings.

On the other side of this new merger stands VAR General Manager Tom Davis who is equally exuberant regarding the future of his teams. From a company prepared statement, Davis said "this is an exciting time at Vision Air Racing and we're thankful for Billy's support with making this deal possible. We've built a winning operation with Justin and Dusty in late models, and moving to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Billy delivers the level of excellence on the track that we're used to."

Some very impressive team stats clearly indicates that VAR also had a very good 2010 racing season. The twin teams campaigned in the Pepsi Super Late Model Series at the California based Toyota Speedway at Irwindale, one of the most challenging half mile ovals in the country, where they finished one-two in the final points standings. En route to that impressive accomplishment, the VAR drivers compiled a start/win ratio of 74 percent.

Justin Johnson was formidable last year and easily won the series' championship based on his ten feature wins, which calculates to roughly 53 percent of his starts, along with 18 top five finishes. Twice during the season he enjoyed two different streaks of four feature wins in a row. Dusty Davis' contribution to the VAR season included four feature wins and 15 top five finishes. He also holds the Toyota Speedway record for being the youngest feature winner in the super late model division.

While the team is now busy preparing for a debut in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, a lot of the series' avid followers are likely asking exactly who are these guys from Las Vegas? Those of us who dwell out here on the "left coast", (the western states for those of you not into geographic slang), have known for quite a long time who and what Vision Air Racing is.

25 year old Justin Johnson began his career as a teen driver in the small, but very fast, Bandolero cars back in 1999. He's living proof how well the Bandolero program works in terms of developing future driving talent. The Las Vegas native soon began working his way through the progression of the stock car divisions eventually leading to last year's success in the super late models. Along the way he accumulated 100 career wins and eight division titles. When he's not strapped in the driver's seat of his VAR Ford Fusion on the weekends, Johnson spends his week days as a driving instructor for the Ron Fellows Driving School.

After completing his high school education last year, 18 year old Dusty Davis is now completely free and clear to pursue his racing dream which began at the age of seven in karts. By the age of 13 Davis won the championship for the World Karting Association Junior Division, for drivers age 13 to 16. From karts to super late models he has since amassed 75 career wins. Davis has two big picture goals for his racing career. The first is to represent America in the Formula One Series, the second is a winning and lucrative career in NASCAR racing.

No matter what speedway they're racing at, it's very easy to locate the Vision Air Racing team in the pit area. From the array of equipment needed to run the operation on race night to their mammoth double car hauler, this state of the art set up is eye popping and immediately noticeable. That's largely due to the resources Vision Airlines provides this team.

The story behind the team's primary sponsor is equally as impressive as the accomplishments of the team. According to their official website, the Las Vegas based Vision Airlines was formed by Steve Acor back in 1994. At the time the company was operating a lone, nine seat, Piper aircraft that provided personal charter services as well as aerial tours of the Grand Canyon. That was approximately 16 years ago. Now Vision Airlines owns a fleet of Boeing 767's and 737's as well as Dornier 328 and 228 planes and, in that short amount of time, they have become the premiere charter airline service in the country. Their clientele now includes presidential candidates, heads of state, "A" list celebrities and executives representing major Fortune 500 companies. After establishing an administrative base in Suwannee-Georgia, Vision Airlines began the process of providing airline commuters affordable public transportation without sacrificing quality and safety amenities. They are currently flying passengers out of airports located in North Las Vegas, Gulfport and Biloxi-Mississippi and Miami-Florida with plans underway to expand flights and facilities in other key cities.

Now the stage is set for VAR to join Ballew Motorsports and make their mark on NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series when the new season begins at Daytona in February. However before that can happen, drivers Johnson and Davis will have to get official approval from NASCAR to run the full series. This includes insuring that their respective experience levels will allow them to safely perform on the super speedways, such as Daytona, the Truck Series races at.

This process should not present any problems. Anyone who has ever seen Justin Johnson and Dusty Davis drive their VAR super late models already knows that obtaining NASCAR approval is simply going to be a matter of formality.

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