NCTS Drivers on Daytona Test NASCAR Preseason Thunder on SPEED Friday recapped the day’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series testing session at Daytona. John Roberts hosted the on-site special with assistance from Ray Dunlap and Phil Parsons. Additionally, SPEED will return to Daytona to cover the second session of Sprint Cup testing Jan. 14-17 at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Following are excerpts from Friday’s show, including interviews with Johnny Benson, Ron Hornaday, Mike Skinner and Jack Sprague, as well as analysis from Dunlap and Parsons.
Mike Skinner: “Every year we come down here and run really good at the test, qualify well and we’re good in practice, but as soon as that green flag drops, all 36 trucks are sideways loose. Pretty soon you’re supposed to figure that out so we’re trying to adjust our truck a little differently and thinking about how it will be when the green flag comes out in the evening.”
Ron Hornaday: “The trucks punch such a big hole in the air here at Daytona and we didn’t get in the draft today. A lot of guys did and I can already see that a couple of them got messed up and bent some fenders already. If you can put yourself in position on the last lap, you’ve got a shot at winning. I’ve tried it from seventh on the last lap to try to win and I’ve tried it from second on the last lap. It doesn’t matter. We’re just trying to get our truck to handle really well so we can go wherever we want.”
Johnny Benson: “We feel like we need to be a little bit better but we’re not horrible either. Single-truck runs were decent but in the draft we need to be a little better.”
Jack Sprague: “It’s a new situation for me but it’s not with people I don’t know or haven’t had communication with. It’s been pretty smooth. We’ve run the truck a few times and every time we go out, we get faster and I like it. We need a little bit more speed but haven’t even tried anything yet so I am sure we’ll get it.”
Ray Dunlap, SPEED reporter:
“For the first time in 13 years, the No. 75 Spears Manufacturing team will not be at Daytona. Wayne and Connie Spears have decided to close down their team. They’ve been around forever and will surely be missed.
“Roush-Fenway Racing was very fast once again at Daytona. Things started out well for them early but took a turn later in the afternoon. When we saw those guys race at Talladega last year, they tore up four trucks so they’ve had so much work to do. They get down to Daytona with high expectations and then the afternoon session didn’t go well. There was a big group of drafting going down through the center of the tri-oval and them ‘bam,’ right into the wall go two of the Roush-Fenway Racing trucks. The No. 09 and the No. 6 wrecked and didn’t have a back-up with them, so they actually loaded up on day one and headed back to Mooresville, N.C. So, there’s a lot of work for these guys to do before they get ready to come back in February. There is so much money involved with getting these race trucks ready so they’ve got to get back there and work on the ones they think are their very best. They’ll get those trucks ready and bring them back in February and try to win the race.
“Last year at Daytona and Talladega, the Truck series teams ran what was called a tapered spacer. This is our form of a restrictor plate. As the air and fuel mixture goes down to the intake manifold, it goes through a much smaller hole. In 2008, the engine guys have been very busy because we’re going to run a tapered spacer at every event. At Talladega and Daytona, we run an inch-and-a-sixteenth size but we’ll run an inch-and-an-eighth through the rest of the season. This should reduce the horsepower by about 80 horsepower. NASCAR also put in a different rear gear this year and we lost about 10 points on the rear gear. So, between the tapered spacer and the rear gear, we’ll lose horsepower. We’ll go from about 8700 rpm to about 8200 rpm. The idea is that if the engines live longer, you can run them in two races instead of just one.
“What I’m impressed with is the list of young rookies that are going to be competing in this series next year. We have guys moving to highly established teams like Bill Davis Racing and Roush Fenway Racing and Germain Racing. I think we’ll have a rookie win one or two races this year and that hasn’t happened since Carl Edwards won in 2003.”
Phil Parsons, SPEED analyst:
“Other than the engine rules, the only other major change these Trucks are going to a 17-gallon fuel cell just like the Cup teams did last year. What that means is we’ll have more pit stops and see the trucks on pit road more than we have in the past. That will be more of a challenge for the pit crews but it also puts more of a premium on them.”
“There is a lot of optimism in the Bobby Hamilton Racing camp. BHR decided to move out of the Nashville area and moved to Martinsville and joined up with Joey Arrington, who built the Dodge engines for a number of years … really since Dodge got back into NASCAR. Mark Mellling and Clay Campbell are going to be involved and Stacy Compton is going to be a part owner. He will drive one of the trucks fulltime, as well as Dennis Setzer. This is going to be a potent combination. I really look for this team to get back on track. I talked to Lori Hamilton and she said it was time and they had to move out of Nashville for a fresh start.”