Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Talkin' Trucks: Dover

The Truck Series race at Dover was quite interesting to say the least. Tire problems caused several favorites to drop out of contention and allowed a few new faces to pop up at the front of the field. Brian Scott, who looked like a dart without feathers the first time I ever saw him race in a USAR ProCup race at Mansfield a few years ago, stayed out when the leaders pitted with about 15 laps to go and held onto the lead to collect his first win. Scott has come a long way since that Mansfield race, and under the tutelage of Jeff Hensley he is becoming a weekly contender for top five finishes.

It was nice to see the Xpress Motorsports team back in victory lane, although there really is nothing remaining of the organization that was started by Steve Coulter and then led by Dave Fuge. Under Coulter's leadership, the team scored it's initial victory with Randy Tolsma at Mesa Marin back in 1997. The team went Busch racing for a couple years and then rejoined the Truck Series in late 2001 with Mike Bliss at the wheel. Bliss won five races en route to the championship in 2002. Travis Kvapil took over the ride in 2003, and despite only winning once (at Bristol when leader Kevin Harvick popped a tire coming to the white flag) he too won the championship. Coulter sold the team to Fuge for 2004 and three-time champion Jack Sprague took over and collected a handful of wins too. When GM's sponsorship went away late in 2005 Sprague departed and that allowed Bliss to hop back in and he gave the team it's final victory at Atlanta in 2006.

Ironically, the only two drivers from the state of Idaho to win in Truck Series competition drove for the same team: Xpress Motorsports. Randy Tolsma hailed from Meridian, Idaho while Brian Scott is originally from Boise, Idaho.

What more can be said about Dennis Setzer? Setzer isn't flashy, he doesn't seek out the spotlight, but he does deliver. He gave team owner Dave Malcolmsen his second runner-up finish (Chad McCumbee also finished second for MRD at Charlotte last year) by following Scott and staying out under the last caution. Setzer and this team have no sponsorship and are on a limited schedule, but have shown they are to be reckoned with every time they roll off the trailer.

The HT Motorsports team has delivered this year too, with drivers Terry Cook and David Starr both registering top-five finishes along the way. This weekend it was Starr's turn to battle at the front and he clearly had the fastest truck at the end after stopping for tires. He got mired in traffic and before he could break out Scott and Setzer broke away to a big lead. It's ironic that both of HT Motorsports' drivers, Cook and Starr, were both cast off from different teams in 2008 (Cook split with Wyler Racing with five races left last season while Starr was let go from Red Horse Racing with just four weeks left before the start of the 2009 season) yet both are consistently outperforming their old teams.

It was also a pleasant surprise to see Jason White come home with a top-five result, crossing the line in fourth. White has been a journeyman driver for years, but with the Truck Series grid now evolving with the loss of manufacturer support and some of the bigger teams of years past on the sidelines, White has shown flashes of competitiveness and promise. White also drives a Dodge, which provides zero support in the Trucks this season. Good job by Doug Howe and crew on getting the team's first ever top-five finish.

The save of the year so far: Terry Cook on lap one after getting clobbered by Mike Skinner. Cook was about 30 degrees sideways pointed towards the unforgiving inside wall on the frontstretch at Dover and somehow managed to keep it under control.

Race fans pay their money to buy tickets to see drivers push it hard and run fast. There certainly is no shortage of drivers willing to do that in the Truck Series, even when there are six start-and-parks on the grid. But sometimes running at the edge every lap doesn't get you into victory lane. Kyle Busch and Ron Hornaday are known for keeping the hammer down regardless, and they win more than their fair share that way. But Saturday that strategy cost them both as they had tire issues and slapped the wall. I can recall a time back in 2005 and 2006 that Mike Skinner was untouchable when it came to raw speed but his hard charging style punished the right front tire and he had numerous bouts with the outside wall as a result. With the seeming unpredictability from the Goodyear tires and their durability, that could open the door for drivers that conserve their equipment a little more to pick up some race wins and contend for the championship.

1 comment:

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