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DATE News (chronologically)
01/13/08
nascar
Road Racers Among 2008 Raybestos Rookie Class  DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – While road racers have been part of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series since its inception, none have won Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors.

Boris Said came close in 1997, finishing third to the late Kenny Irwin.

This, however, may be the season that breaks the string.

Three top road-racing veterans will be among the 2008 rookie class – each in equipment capable of winning both races and the Raybestos Award.

Colin Braun, a 19-year-old Texan, will drive the No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, a team that has produced five previous rookies of the year.

Rolex Grand Am champion Andy Lally will be behind the wheel of the No. 7 TRG Chevrolet. The Racer’s Group is one of the most successful contemporary professional sports-car organizations.

Justin Marks, who has a half decade of experience racing BMWs and Porsches, takes the seat in Germain Racing’s No. 9 crocs/Construct Corps Toyota. He’ll partner with 2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck champion Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota).

All figure to be quick learners. But the challenges are obvious.

“Everything is so completely different,” said Lally, a Daytona International Speedway veteran on the track’s 3.56-mile combination infield and banking road course. “You really do have to kind of separate one from the other. This well may be a different property in a different state.”

The Dacula, Ga., driver’s move from one course to the other appeared seamless on Day 1 of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series’ NASCAR Preseason Thunder test. Lally ranked second in Friday’s drafting speeds with a lap of 184.604, second only to the 184.638 of veteran Brendan Gaughan (No. 10 International MAXX FORCE Diesel Ford).

Braun got off to a good start as well before a Friday afternoon incident involving contact with teammate Joey Clanton (No. 09 Zaxby’s Ford) cut short his test. He’d earlier ranked second in single-truck runs at 176.790.

“Everybody at Roush Fenway Racing has been so helpful,” Braun said. “From the truck drivers and crew chiefs all the way up to the Sprint Cup drivers and crew chiefs, they have all taken time to help me.”

Braun admits that NASCAR racing is a world apart from his previous experience.

“In road racing, you race two or three other cars,” he said. “In NASCAR you might be racing 10 to 15 cars at the same time. It makes it a lot more fun for me since I get to race a lot more.”

Marks will rely on Bodine to accelerate his learning curve along with NASCAR Nationwide Series teammate and Daytona Chevrolet Silverado 250 winner Mike Wallace.

“That gives me two teammates I can really feed off of,” said the Rocklin, Calif., native, who recorded Saturday’s fourth fastest single-truck lap of 177.134 mph. “I’m in about as good a position as any rookie in the series this year.”

For Bodine, the 2008 season represents a 180-degree turn from 2006-07 when his teammate was 2005 series champion Ted Musgrave.

“I’ve always been one of the guys that rookies seem to gravitate to when they needed help,” Bodine said. “I was always there and they knew I would shoot them straight. (Justin) has shown that he has talent enough to drive so now he just has to learn the trucks and learn the tracks.

“We expect good things from Justin.”
  • Jim Murray No NASCAR Rookie …  At age 69, Jim Murray, a member of the Billy Ballew Motorsports team, has as much or more experience as anyone in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series garage. This week, Murray, a fabricator and “untitled” engineer, is working with Kyle Busch (No. 51 Toyota).

    Busch, 22, is young enough to be Murray’s grandson.

    Murray, who occasionally still goes over the wall to change tires, has been in the sport for 53 years working with – among others – Cale Yarborough, Benny Parsons, David Pearson, Buddy Baker, Rusty Wallace and Dick Brooks.

    “There are so many moments that stick out but winning the Daytona 500 three years in a row really sticks out and working with (team owner) M.C. Anderson and Buddy Baker,” he said.

    Murray, who celebrated his 69th birthday earlier this month, isn’t contemplating retirement any time soon.

    “I told Billy that I’d like to cut out the travel to all the tracks so I’m going to enjoy it this year,” he said.

  • Hornaday Needles New Teammate Sprague … During a Friday lunch-break visit to Daytona’s infield media center. Jack Sprague (No. 2 American Commercial Lines Chevrolet) expounded on his rivalry with new Kevin Harvick Inc. teammate Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet), calling it mostly “media hype” saying the pair are good friends.

    On Saturday, Hornaday had his turn before the media and got in a couple of licks at Sprague’s expense.

    “When (Kevin) Harvick hired me, he hired two new fabricators,” he said. “When he hired Jack, he hired four more. Chevrolet gave us an allotment of more sheet metal than we are ever going to need.”

    Hornaday, the reigning NASCAR Craftsman Truck champion, reiterated that the so-called Hornaday-Sprague feud, 1995 through 1999 seasons, existed more off the track than on.

    “A bigger rivalry existed between our team owners (Dale Earnhardt and Rick Hendrick) and Richard Childress that Mike (Skinner) drove for,” he said. “Finally, Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Mr. Hendrick said, ‘Enough is enough guys, we have to work on these trucks.’ ”

    Hornaday said he knows how to motivate his new partner.

    “Jack is so funny,” he said. “When you can run into the back of him, his eyes turn red. I still like to do that no matter if he is my teammate or not. The madder he gets, the better he drives.”

  • Pit Stops … Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool × Equipment Ford) remained atop the single-truck speed charts for the second session on Saturday morning, boosting his fast lap to 178.547 mph. Darnell’s top speed on Friday was 177.420. Former NASCAR Camping World Series, West champion Scott Lynch (No. 29 Westward Racing Enterprises Dodge) advanced from seventh to second at 178.827 mph, while Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) was third with a lap of 177.792 mph. Skinner, who resides in Daytona Beach, was 10th on Friday. … Each of the series’ four manufacturers placed a truck among the six fastest speeds with Shelby Howard’s No. 13 ThorSport Chevrolet ranking sixth at 176.039 mph. … Scott Lagasse, who placed ninth in the 1995 championship standings driving a Chevrolet jointly owned by Rick Hendrick and Jeff Gordon, is returning to the series fulltime – just not in the cockpit. Lagasse will spot for his son, Scott Jr., who will drive the No. 20 JTG Racing Ford in 2008. … Ted Musgrave has driven the No. 59 HT Motorsports Toyota during this week’s test while continuing to search for a fulltime ride this season.

Fan Fest Offers Driver Q&As, Entertainment … Along with the opportunity to watch next week’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series edition of NASCAR Preseason Thunder, fans can enjoy an afternoon and evening at Daytona’s Sprint FANZONE on Tuesday, Jan. 15. Among the Fan Fest activities: Driver question-and-answer sessions, show cars, bands, a silent auction, displays and pit-stop demonstrations. Cost is $15 per session. Fans can watch each day’s test – Monday through Wednesday – at no cost, beginning at 9 a.m.

NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES INTERVIEW SCHEDULES (Tentative and subject to change)

All interviews will take place in the Daytona International Speedway media center.

Sunday, Jan. 13

Lunch – Erik Darnell, Scott Lagasse Jr., Scott Lynch, Noon-12:20 p.m.

Fast Facts

Session 2: NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series

What: NASCAR Preseason Thunder testing for the 2008 Chevrolet Silverado 250

Where: Daytona International Speedway.

Track Layout: 2.5-mile tri-oval.

When: Friday, Jan. 11 through Sunday, Jan. 13.

Times: 9 a.m. until 5 p.m.

Who: Ron Hornaday Jr., Jack Sprague, Mike Skinner, Johnny Benson, Phillip McGilton, David Starr, Colin Braun, Erik Darnell, Joey Clanton, Todd Bodine, Justin Marks, Rick Crawford, Brendan Gaughan, Matt

Crafton, Shelby Howard, Jason White, Shane Sieg, Terry Cook, John Wood, Scott Lagasse Jr., Dennis Setzer, Stacy Compton, Scott Lynch, Ted Musgrave, Kyle Busch, Wayne Edwards, Chad McCumbee,

Brian Scott, Derrike Cope, Justin Hobgood, Andy Lally.

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