The Camping World Truck Series rolls into Michigan International Speedway for a companion weekend with the Sprint Cup Series. As a result, Cup drivers Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch and Mark Martin will all participate in the VFW 200 Saturday afternoon (Aug. 20). But before they do, let’s take a few minutes to catch up on the latest news in the series.
ThorSport Racing to Honor Fallen Police Officer
This weekend at Michigan International Speedway, ThorSport Racing will honor a fallen police officer from Sandusky, Ohio, home of their new race shop. Back in March, 30-year-old Officer Andrew “Andy” Dunn stopped a man on a bicycle and was fatally shot as he approached. There was no clear reason for the shooting, and the small community was hit hard by Dunn’s death. He is survived by his wife Julie and their two sons – a five-month-old and a two-year-old.
The Dunn Family were special guests at the Grand Opening Ceremony of the new ThorSport Racing shop, and they were also presented a donation check from the team.
According to a story in the Sandusky Register in March, friends and family remember Officer Dunn as a happy-go-lucky person who managed to make everyone around him happier.
“He was just a very sweet person, caring, loving,” family member Beth Lawrence said. “If someone fell he would run to get there to help them up. He was just full of life and full of love and full of heart.”
All three ThorSport trucks – Johnny Sauter‘s No. 13, Matt Crafton‘s No. 88 and Dakoda Armstrong‘s No. 98 – will feature a decal honoring Officer Dunn this weekend at Michigan.
Billy Ballew Motorsports, Braun Team Up at Michigan
Billy Ballew Motorsports announced earlier this week that they will field the No. 51 Bullet Liner Ford for 2008 Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year Colin Braun. Braun took his No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford to victory lane last time he visited the 2-mile track in 2009 before moving to the Nationwide Series for the 2010 season, while BBM scored the win with Aric Almirola behind the wheel last August.
“I’m thrilled to get back behind the wheel of a Ford truck, especially at MIS,” Braun said. “To do this with a team the caliber of Billy Ballew Motorsports and with Richie Waters as the crew chief, it’s a terrific opportunity. A big thanks to Billy, Richie and Bullet Liner for their belief and support.”
Team owner Billy Ballew looks at the partnership with Bullet Liner and Braun as a way to kickstart the sponsorship that has lagged for the team this season.
“We have worked extremely hard over the past several months to get this program up and running,” Ballew said. “With the support of Bullet Liner and our collective success at the track, we are really looking forward to the weekend. Hopefully this will serve as a springboard for more races with Colin in 2011.”
Last December, Billy Ballew Motorsports merged with the newly formed Vision Aviation after being unable to continue to field his trucks on his own financially. The team opened the season with Michael Waltrip and Almirola behind the wheel of the No. 15 and No. 51 respectively, and Waltrip picked up the victory at Daytona.
Dusty Davis and Justin Johnson were pegged to drive the two trucks starting the following week at Phoenix, but in May the team was forced to shut down thanks to sponsorship issues. The two have a combined seven starts between them, including a best finish of eighth by Johnson in his debut race at Phoenix. Neither has entered a race since Nashville in April.
Gibbs Interested in Truck Series Teams
Earlier this week, Joe Gibbs Racing announced a new engine partnership with Toyota Racing Development, and as a result, they’re also interested in fielding additional Nationwide and Truck series teams starting in 2012.
“If we can add a couple of Nationwide programs and a Truck program, I don’t think there’s a person here who will have to worry about their job,” JGR President JD Gibbs said. “That is one of the things that made this worth looking at.”
Though the partnership came with TRD, the new ventures would run under the JGR banner instead.
“We will continue to do all our (current) Nationwide teams, and if we add new teams, it will give us spots to put guys in so no one has to worry about their job,” Gibbs continued. “Additional motor programs are one of the easiest things to do. (The new teams) are something we think we can add and do a good job with.”
Should JGR field at least one Truck Series team, that will add another competitive team to a series that’s struggling to fill fields at this point in the season.
KHI Signs Multi-Year Partnership With Champion
Earlier this week, Kevin Harvick Inc. announced a multi-year partnership with Champion, a Federal Mogul brand. The deal includes a personal services agreement with team owner Harvick; the leading spark plug manufacturer will also serve as primary sponsor for Ron Hornaday Jr. this weekend at Michigan and again at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Oct. 15.
“We are really excited to have Champion as a primary sponsor on board this No. 33 Chevrolet,” Hornaday said. “Champion makes excellent, trustworthy products and we are thrilled to have them as part of the KHI family.”
Harvick will also become the spokesperson for Federal-Mogul and Champion.
“I am really proud to partner with Champion and to serve as their brand spokesperson,” Harvick said. “Not only have they been in NASCAR since day one, I’ve always trusted and used their products.”
The Champion brand represents an extensive line of products including spark plus, oil, air and cabin filters, wiper blades and chemical additives for automotive, lawn and garden, marine, motorcycle, ATV engines and more.
New Fueling Procedures
Last week, NASCAR announced a rule change to pit-road procedures. Previously the crew member fueling the car would often make adjustments to the car at the same time, but that’s no longer the case.
“The fuel handler must be in control of the fuel can at all times when fuel is being added to the car. The fuel handler will not be permitted to perform any adjustments or other pit-stop procedures while the fuel can coupler is engaged with the car-mounted adapter.”
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby states the rule change is yet another safety measure the sanctioning body has put into place.
“In an ongoing effort to keep pit road safer, we had made this adjustment to the duties of the fuel handler,” Darby said. “If the fueler’s only responsibility is to fuel the car, he will do a better job and make fewer mistakes on pit road.”
“Michigan is a great place to race. We can run side-by-side all the way around the speedway which is exciting for both the competitors as well as the fans. As a driver, I can move my line around trying to find speed.” – James Buescher
“I really, really like running at Michigan, not just because it’s so fast, but it’s so wide and we can race all over the track. I’ve been lucky at Michigan and I’ve been just plain good. I’ve gotten a lot of wins there. The last win was a fuel-mileage win and we took it on the backstretch of the last lap – I loved it. I haven’t been able to win there yet in a truck, but I’m hoping that changes this weekend with Turner Motorsports.” – Mark Martin
“You’re definitely going to see a great race. The track has the same drafting tendencies as Daytona and Talladega, and it’s a really fast racetrack. There is a fine line between drag and downforce. You have that at the bigger tracks we run. The drivers are going to be running wide open for their qualifying lap and then the trucks will probably pick up about a second during race time.” – Jeff Hensley, crew chief for Ron Hornaday
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