Monday, December 20, 2010

Naughty and Nice for 2010 Racing: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Kicking off the XSL Speed Reporter annual race season review, teh 2010 Naughy and Nice list starts with the 25 races, 2010 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.  

Nice: Young blood Austin Dillon's rookie season

In only a rookie year, Austin Dillon made the most of his grandfather's resources. Participating in a reactivated #3 Richard Childress Racing team, Austin Dillon arrived at Daytona with the guarantee the 19 year old would receive the best equipment possible. As in the case with any driver, the pressure was on for Dillon to prove he was deserving of the dedication. Gaining a pole in the first race of the season at Daytona, the die was casted for an interesting rookie campaign by Dillon and the #3 Chevrolet. Dillon would go on to clinch 4 additional poles over the course of the 25-race 2010 Camping World Truck Series season proving he was indeed a fast driver. However, at the Iowa Speedway's truck race in July, Austin Dillon took home his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory. Winning that time on a short track, Dillon would take a speedway event as well in September. Both times, Austin Dillon's #3 Chevrolet wins came after qualifying efforts resulting from pole. Following the 2010 run, Dillon finished 5th in the final standing certifying this driver as a potential threat to the 2011 truck and maybe a NASCAR Sprint Cup series contender in the near future.

Naughty and Nice: Daytona demolition

 The Nextera Energy Resources 250 compiled an anxious 36-truck field for the 2010 kick-off to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season. A race promising great action, competitors were eager to take on the 2.5 mile superspeedway with Austin Dillon's #3 Chevrolet leading them through what would be a short race for many prime contenders. A lap 2 caution resulted with a range of twisted and bent sheet metal as 10 trucks were part of a early big wreck. Very shortly after the race restarted another 10-truck crash saw the field slowly getting stripped down as more than half the field sustained major damage over the 250 mile race distance.

The good parts about the 2010 season opening race for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Daytona were many to count but is highlighted simply by the final lap. Timothy Peters aced a last-lap scramble for a slim 0.068 second lead over Todd Bodine. Peters, driving the #17 Red horse Racing Toyota, would go on to put together a successful year with the help of his team placing 6th overall in Camping World Truck Series points.

Nice: Todd Bodine and Germain Racing's Rise to the 2010 Championship

When earlier this season the prospect of seeing the #30 Germain Racing Toyota going the full season looked doubtful, Todd Bodine and team parlayed a 2nd place finish at Daytona into a solid 2010 campaign which would go on through the entire season. Taking the lead for the first time briefly after the Atlanta Motor Speedway race, Bodine assumed definite command of the Camping World Truck Series points lead following the Charlotte Motor Speedway's North Carolina Education Lottery 200. Thanks to a season which equated to 20 top-10 finishes and 4 wins, Bodine clinched his second NASCAR Truck Series title at Phoenix. Following the Ford 200 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Todd Bodine left with a 207-point lead over Aric Almirola.

Rusty Jarrett/ Getty Images for NASCAR
Naughty: Defending Truck Series Champion's title defense

As the 2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series closed, Ron Hornaday Jr and the #33 Kevin Harvick Incorporated were celebrated a championship after a 6 win season. 2010 proved to be a stark difference for the #33 Chevrolet team. While Ron Hornaday Jr's 2010 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ended with wins at O'Reilly Raceway Park and Martinsville Speedway to add up his tour-leading total of 47 victories, 9 race finishes of 24th or worse resulted in a his worse average finishing result. Defining his season, Hornaday had two sensational big wrecks at Atlanta and Talladega races where he was lucky to escape both times without injury. Hornaday's season ended with a 7th place in the final points standings 627 points away from the lead.

Nice: Johnny Sauter and Ron Hornaday dueling for Kansas Speedway win

The 5th race of the 2010 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series tour, the O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway provided one of the more thrilling lead battles between Ron Hornaday's #33 Kevin Harvick Incorporated Chevrolet and the #13 Thorsport Racing Chevy truck of Johnny Sauter. Both drivers were fighting for their first victory in 2010 season which has proved a harsh start. As Sauter's truck led with 21 laps to go, Hornaday surged on the #13 Chevy sizing up the Thorsport Racing driver for the valuable lead. As Ron Hornaday was able to get alongside Johnny Sauter into turn 3, impact resulted between the two truck. As consequence, both truck went into a sideways drift through the turn 3-4 complex. Amazingly, both Chevrolet trucks of Sauter and Hornaday were able to regain traction. Initially coming out the winner on the near wreck, Ron Hornaday's #33 truck lead across the line for lap 147. However, fatigue on the #33 Chevy through the incident apparently set on as Johnny Sauter was able to blast by Hornaday through the very next lap. With an over 5 second lead over the 2nd place Ron Hornaday, Johnny went on the win the Kansas event.

Naughty: Poor, Broke Busch Story

As much I respect Kyle Busch and the fact he should be considered one of the top driver in overall auto racing (not just NASCAR), his first venture into team ownership in NASCAR has not gone without some excitement. While Kyle Busch himself went on to win a season-leading 8 races and the #18 team were crowned the 2010 team champions in the series (points scored by the #18 team's result with any driver in the truck), issues off the track regarded the team's race shop with a contractor placing a lien on the building and the discontinuation of second truck driver Tayler Malsam's effort when his sponsor pulled out of the team.

I'm sorry to say I can not completely sympathize with a multi-million NASCAR Sprint Cup star crying poverty in running a race team. However, the situation points out a phenomenon almost every professional team owner accomplishes by not spending their own money to go racing. After all, auto racing teams are businesses before pleasure

Nice: Aric Almirola delivers a solid runner-up driver's points performance

The past few year have been a roller-coaster for Aric Almirola who once presided in a NASCAR Sprint Cup ride. Finding a chance to regroup in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Almirola immediately performed as a potentially forgotten talent. Collecting the most top-10 finishes of any driver on the 2010 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Almirola's full schedule with the #15 Toyota of Billy Ballew Motorsports resulted in 2 wins and a runner-up position in the series points standing. Aric Almirola is moving up to the NASCAR Nationwide Series for 2011 with the JR Motorsports' #88 Chevrolets.

Photo Credit: Jason Smith/ Getty Images for NASCAR

Naughty: Toyota's near uncontested manufacturer crown

The one problem in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is the absence of a firm manufacturer's championship battle. For the past several years, Toyota (who went on to win the series' manufacturer championship again in 2010) has optimize the possession of leading teams to win handsomely without any sizable opposition. In the final race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, for example, 12 of 36 trucks competing were Toyota Tundra race trucks. While economic troubles have led Chevrolet and Ford to scale back their support to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, the American three auto makers have have largely neglected the tour for many years. Chevrolet had a reasonable contingent led by KHI and Thorsport, Ford only had a limited effort the Dodge/RAM truck stable involved mainly one team (the #23 truck driven by Jason White). However, even Dodge's presence with the #23 team was not exclusive as the team experimented with other truck brand bodies throughout the year.

Nice: Elliott Sadler winning inaugural Pocono truck race

Fighting to assert himself in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series with as much bad luck as poor performances within the embattled Richard Petty Motorsports team, Kevin Harvick had been offered Elliott Sadler the chance to drive selected races in the 2010 Camping World Truck Series. Debuting at the Daytona with a strong run up until getting caught in a crash, Sadler and the #2 KHI team were able to piece together an outstanding performance at the first truck race held at the 2.5 mile Pocono Raceway. Leading 31 of the race's 55 total laps, Sadler found himself in a NASCAR winner's circle for the first time since winning the 2004 Pop Secret 500 at California Speedway.

While Elliott Sadler lost his Sprint Cup Series ride, the restored confidence and apparent chemistry with KHI his earned a multi-year pairing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series for 2011.

Photo Credit: Drew Hallowell/Getty Images for NASCAR

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