Race Weekend Central

Tearing Apart the Trucks: West Coast Rookies

After an exciting season opener at Daytona International Speedway, the series heads out west for the San Bernardino County 200 at California Speedway. In 2000, a young rookie by the name of Kurt Busch won the Motorola 200 at California to close out the Truck Series season. That win was his fourth of the season, and Busch remains the only Truck Series rookie to score a win at the 2-mile track.

Since Busch’s win in 2000, no rookie has finished better than third, the result posted by Jon Wood in 2001 and Brendan Gaughan in 2002. The 2008 rookie class looks to change that on Saturday. Last week at Daytona, five rookies finished in the top 15 in the Chevy Silverado 250, and the only rookie to finish outside that top 15 was Colin Braun, who was caught up in the big accident on lap 24.

Before you say Daytona is a crapshoot and anyone who stays out of the wrecks will be around in the top 15 at the end, consider that it wasn’t just one or two rookies but rather five of the six in the race. This year’s rookie class has raised the bar over the last few years, and along with them comes a wealth of racing experience.

Justin Marks matched his career best finish of eighth in only his fifth race behind the wheel of the No. 9 Construct Corps Toyota Tundra. Marks comes to the Truck Series from the ARCA Re/Max Series and finds himself teamed with 2006 series champion Todd Bodine. Right behind Marks, 19-year-old Brian Scott finished in ninth, his first top-10 finish in eight Truck Series starts. He spent the 2007 season making the switch from super late models to the USAR Hooters Pro Cup Series.

Andy Lally, a three-time Rolex Grand Am Champion, has run the 24 Hours of Le Mans twice and finished 10th overall in the Rolex 24 at Daytona last month. The only thing standing in his way is becoming familiar with the tracks, but he has run in the Nationwide Series, ARCA, the Goody’s Dash Series and several others. Lally’s teammate Donny Lia will make his first start of the 2008 season with TRG. Lia won the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship last season and hopes to take that experience and translate it into success in the Truck Series.

Phillip McGilton fared rather well in his first ever Craftsman Truck Series race when he finished 12th. The 29-year-old comes to the Truck Series after running a full season in the ARCA Re/Max Series in 2007 where he scored a career-best finish of third at the Milwaukee Mile. McGilton definitely shows the drive to compete, and with Bill Davis Racing behind him, he certainly has the equipment it takes to win.

“The truck was great tonight,” McGilton said. “We turned the fastest lap six or seven times, which proves these guys know what they’re talking about. I had a lot of grip and could take the truck where it wanted to go. We ran in the top 10 for a long time tonight, and I was really hoping we’d get to challenge for a top-five finish. We were in the hunt but we’re a little disappointed with 12th.”

Marc Mitchell finished right behind McGilton in 12th in only his second race in the Truck Series. He ran at Talladega in 2007, but his night was cut short just 12 laps in with a vibration. Mitchell has run late models, ARCA and Nationwide Series races and looks to build off of his top-15 finish for a strong season.

With the help of teammates Johnny Benson and Mike Skinner, McGilton has what it takes to be the first rookie in eight years to visit victory lane at California. But look out because Marks has his own share of help in his teammate and points leader Bodine. Only time will tell if the performance of the 2008 rookie class at Daytona was a fluke or the real deal. Tune in tomorrow afternoon to see how they fare.

Around the Truck Series – News From This Week

Penalties Issued After Daytona

Earlier this week, NASCAR announced penalties and fines following rules infractions at Daytona International Speedway. The No. 30 of Bodine was found in violation of Sections 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing), 12-4-Q (truck parts, components or equipment that doesn’t conform to NASCAR Rules) and 2-B-12.9D (device designed to reduce the bed panel height at the points of inspection) during pre-qualifying inspection last Thursday. Bodine and team owner were both penalized 25 points, and crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. was suspended for four races and fined $10,000. In his place, Mike Hillman Sr. will step in as interim crew chief.

In addition, the No. 33 of Ron Hornaday Jr. had a few violations found during opening day inspection. Crew chief Rick Ren was fined $5,000 when the truck was found in violation of Sections 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing), 12-4-Q (truck parts, components or equipment that doesn’t conform to NASCAR Rules), and 20B-3.1.1 (spoiler braces exceeded the maximum one inch width).

Joey Clanton out of No. 09

Just a few days after finishing 32nd in his first start with Roush Racing, Clanton has “made the decision that it is time for me to pursue other opportunities. He said, “I have several business and family obligations and it is time to focus on them right now.” In his place, Travis Kvapil will run the No. 09 Zaxby’s F-150. Kvapil made his Sprint Cup Series debut for Yates Racing last weekend at Daytona.

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