Taking Care of Business: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Edition
BY DAVE GRAYSON
NASCAR’s national tail gate party will officially wind up their 2013 season this Friday night, at Florida’s Homestead-Miami Speedway, with the running of the Ford Eco Boost 200.
DO YOU THINK THAT MATT CRAFTON HAS BEEN SMILING ALL WEEK LONG?
The one driver in this series who has absolutely been taking care of business all season long is Tulare-California’s Matt Crafton, the driver of the #88 Toyota for ThorSport Racing. Crafton has collected a win, seven top five finishes and 19 top tens this year. That level of consistency has created a lead of 46 points over two time winner Ty Dillon, the driver of the Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. That points lead has, in turn, guaranteed Crafton the 2013 series’ championship. All he has to do is just qualify for and start Friday night’s race.
Crafton also plans to take care of business regarding the series’ owner’s points championship as well to insure that team co-owner Rhonda Thorson takes that coveted trophy home. ThorSport Racing’s #88 team has a lead of 23 points, over Kyle Busch Motorsports’ #51 team, going into Friday night’s race. To clinch the owner’s championship, Crafton will have to finish 18th or better, 19th with a lap led bonus point or 20th with the most laps led. Busch originally wasn’t scheduled to drive his own truck in this event. However, he recently changed his mind and hopes to steal the owner’s title on the final night. Any miscue by Crafton during this race could make that happen because we all know how good Busch is when he’s driving one of his own trucks.
ASK KYLE BUSCH WHAT A DIFFERENCE TWO TRUCK RACES MAKES.
All through this year Kyle Busch Motorsports, (KBM), has fielded four teams: three in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and one in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Throughout much of the season he proclaimed that 2013 was the organization’s most prosperous year.
Unfortunately, by late October, a different picture began to develop for KBM. It’s was a case of national economics that made the sponsorship potential for his team’s 2014 campaign a rather bleak situation. That reality check led to company downsizing to the point of having to endure the painful experience of even laying off some employees.
Commenting on the situation last month, to “Fox Sports”, Busch said: “For the truck series, it’s very tough. For Kyle Busch Motorsports, it’s been very tough. You know obviously without the support of Toyota that we get, we probably wouldn’t be here, so we appreciate them as much as they do for us, as much as they do for JGR, MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing) and all the Toyota teams. “It’s a little frustrating to not have a better plan organized right now, and I’d certainly like to keep it the same if not better than what we’ve got, but it doesn’t look like much is materializing and it’s really late in the game. [For] trucks especially, it’s year to year, whether it is even year to year if you can keep yourself afloat.”
But, what a difference two history making races can make. A major upswing for KBM came on October 26th when Darrell Wallace Jr parked a team Toyota in victory lane following the series’ event at Martinsville-Virginia. Wallace became the first African American driver to win a NASCAR national series race since Wendell Scott’s win back in 1963.Two weeks later, on November 8th, 17 year old Erik Jones parked his KBM Toyota in the victory lane at Phoenix International race and became the youngest race winner in series’ history.
KBM now has six wins on the season with four of them coming from Kyle Busch who shares the driving duties of the #51 truck with Jones. However, the wins from Wallace and Jones has proven a very major point that says KBM’s win capability is longer dependent on the driving talent of the team owner. The effort and resources that KBM put into these two young drivers are clearly starting to pay off in a big way.
It also has to be believed that the success of these two young drivers could also create potential sponsorship opportunity for the 2014 season. In some comments made to “Auto Week” last Monday, Busch touched on that point and said: “from a sponsorship prospective, you hope it would be very rewarding (because) it shows that our team is capable of running up front. We’re capable of winning with younger drivers, younger talent, not just Cup guys like me or Denny (Hamlin). It proves our capabilities and what KBM is all about. We’ve understood and now recognize that the Truck Series is a capable playground where we can be competitive. We feel we have a good handle on the Truck Series, so that’s where we’ll put our focus.”
A RATHER SURPRISING, NOT TO MENTION LAST MINUTE, SEAT CHANGE
NTS Motorsports, who fields the #9 Chevrolet for driver Ron Hornaday Jr, announced a sudden driver change last Friday night prior to the Phoenix race. It was a move that many observers felt could have, and should have, been handled with a little more respect towards a driver of Hornaday’s caliber.
Ten minutes prior to the start of the series’ Phoenix race, Hornaday was informed by team management that this was going to be his last ride with them and he would not be driving their truck at next Friday night’s season finale at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. Unfortunately, that final ride concluded with a 28th place finish when a blown tire sent Hornaday’s truck hard into the retaining wall. It was another example of the frequent hard racing luck this team has experienced this year.
In yet another surprise move, prior to the start of the Phoenix event, Harry Turner, the co-owner of Turner Scott Motorsports offered Hornaday a ride in one of his team trucks for the Homestead-Miami season finale. Hornaday will drive the TSM #34 Chevrolet, with sponsorship provided by Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff, this Friday night.
The following day, NTS released an almost obligatory, boiler plate, press release that read: ”We at NTS Motorsports appreciate everything Ron (Hornaday) has done this year to help build NTS Motorsports in its first year competing at the national level in NASCAR,” said team owner Bob Newberry. “Ron has been a great asset to our organization and we wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
Last Wednesday, in another surprise announcement, NTS said that “Brazilian Nelson Piquet, Jr. will take over driving duties of the #9 NTS Motorsports Chevy for the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, making his first career start for NTS Motorsports. Piquet has two previous starts at the 1.5-mile Florida track, finishing fourth in both the 2011 and 2012 races while running the full NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. This weekend will mark Piquet’s second NCWTS start of the 2013 season, as well as the 90th NASCAR race that he has competed in after moving over from Formula One racing in 2010.”
In a sheer note of irony, Piquet happens to be campaigning in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for Turner-Scott Motorsports.
Following his unfortunate accident at Phoenix, Hornaday granted a live television interview with “Fox Sports 1″. It was inevitable that the subject of his release was going to be broached during this interview. After being informed of his status with the team ten minutes before the start of the race, Hornaday had every right to be angry. If he would have blasted NTS during this television interview no one would have really blamed him. However, Hornaday has always been a class act and chose to take the high road by saying: ”We left on good terms. If you don’t want me there I don’t want to be there. We shook hands. We’ll go on.”
Regarding his future, the 55 year old driver from Palmdale-California said he still wants to continue racing and will immediately begin the process of searching for a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ride for the 2014 season.
Ron Hornaday Jr is a four time series champion and, with 51 trips to victory lane in NASCAR’s truck series, is ranked first on the series’ all time win list. That alone suggests that NTS could have, and should have, handled his release with a little more finesse and respect.