Gander Outdoors Truck Series News (6179)

Gander Outdoors Truck Series News

As had been said since the announcement was made, the world was waiting to see how 2007 Formula 1 champion Kimi Räikkönen would do in his NASCAR debut in the Camping World Truck Series at Charlotte Motor Speedway Friday night. As many expected, Räikkönen did not disappoint, bringing home an impressive top-15 finish in the No. 15 Perky Jerky Toyota Tundra.

Among swarms of media and the occasional Finnish flag, Räikkönen patiently listened to teammate Kyle Busch, KBM general manager Rick Ren and other members of his team as they advised him on the ins and outs of handling a truck on the 1.5-mile quad-oval during practice and qualifying. Räikkönen was careful throughout both morning practice sessions and turned in respectable best lap times of 31.265 and 31.471 seconds. Once qualifying rolled around in the afternoon, Räikkönen was feeling a little more comfortable behind the wheel and qualified the No. 15 in the 31st position.

As the green flag neared, the media continued to swarm and a few more Finnish flags popped up in both the garage area and the stands. It was clear that the big story of the evening would continue to be how Räikkönen would adapt to the NASCAR environment. Räikkönen was admittedly cautious but it was evident he was confident that he had what it takes to make the switch...and do it successfully.

As the race got underway, Räikkönen quickly got a feel for the handling of his Toyota, describing it as "loose on the outside." By Lap 5, he had scraped the wall just a bit and a Lap 8 caution caused by the No. 30 of Todd Bodine would give the No. 15 Perky Jerky team a chance to check out the damage. However, Räikkönen was happy with the car saying it "felt good" so the team decided that he should stay out.  The race restarted on Lap 11 and by Lap 17, he had moved up to the 26th position.

Another caution came out on Lap 19 and Räikkönen was reminded by spotter Mike Swaim to hold his line until crossing the start/finish line. The No. 15 again chose to stay out and by Lap 24, Räikkönen was in the seventh position.

Throughout the race, Räikkönen had questions regarding the different racing format and Swaim and Ren answered questions about things such as the "lucky dog", when to pit, positioning on restarts and pit strategy. Both were encouraging to Räikkönen throughout the entire race which only fueled his confidence as he continued to maintain strong track position.

Räikkönen remained quiet for the next 20 laps as he settled into the 12th position. By Lap 46, he noted that the truck was a "little bit tight."  Fortunately, the pit window was coming so the crew could make the proper adjustments to the Perky Jerky Toyota. Right before Räikkönen was about to pit, teammate Kyle Busch caused another caution to come out on Lap 52. Räikkönen executed his first pit stop on Lap 53 expertly with the No. 15 crew changing four tires and adding fuel along with a windshield tear-off. No other adjustments were made to the truck and when the race restarted on Lap 58, the "Iceman" was in the 13th position.

After cautions on Laps 61, 68, and 75, it was evident that Räikkönen was frustrated that just as he was getting comfortable with the truck, a caution would interrupt his plan of attack.  By the sixth caution on Lap 75, Ren was ready to bring in the truck for four tires and fuel.  Because some of the other teams took only two tires or no tires at all, Räikkönen ended up in the 20th position when the race restarted on Lap 81. Ren instructed Räikkönen to try and save fuel by running in third or fourth gear. Ren assured him that they could make it to the end of the race on fuel even though it would be close.

By Lap 84 another caution had come out as the No. 02 continued to have problems on the track. Räikkönen remarked that his truck was a "fast truck if I get the chance to drive it."  It was clear he was looking for a long green flag run in order to show everyone would he could really do behind the wheel of the No. 15 Perky Jerky Toyota.

The race restarted on Lap 88, with Räikkönen in the 14th position. He remained quiet again as he fought to maintain his position on track. The ninth caution of the night on Lap 96 did nothing to interrupt the quiet as Räikkönen continued to concentrate on moving through the field.  By Lap 104, Räikkönen complained that the truck was "a little bit too tight" and he ended up hitting the wall "quite hard." Ren asked Swan to inspect the damage from the spotter's stand and Swaim reported back that all looked ok.  Räikkönen again mentioned being frustrated about the excessive amount of cautions after the record-tying 10th caution came out on Lap 106 after David Starr's Toyota smacked the wall. The race restarted on Lap 111 with Räikkönen in the 14th position. He came on the radio to say that the truck was still "too tight" but remained quiet and focused as he completed the remaining laps of the NC Education Lottery 200, finishing an impressive 15th.

Kimi Räikkönen on his NASCAR debut:

"The racing was fun. Too many cautions. Every time that I would feel like the car would start to run better then you would have a caution and then it would take the track a long time before the handling comes back. You would rather be more high up, but how it felt this morning, now I was pretty pleased with how it felt in the race. For sure, there is still a lot to learn and improve, but I think when we have another race it will be better."

KBM General Manager Rick Ren on Räikkönen:

"I was really pleased with his (Kimi Raikkonen) performance during the race. It took about five laps for our truck to start coming in. He would lose quite a few positions in that first five laps. Then as soon as he got the tire temperature up - and I told him as soon as the tire temperature would come up that we would be better off and keep getting better. Actually, if we could have ran a really long green flag run at the end, our truck actually could get better the longer it went. It's one of those things where we just kind of did some guess work looking at the notes and anticipated on what the track would do at night. I actually felt like I had to treat him like he's a young guy who had never raced here before. A young guy can drive a tight race car, but can't drive a loose one. I tightened her up pretty good to start the race."


Kyle Busch Motorsports PR

The smile on her face in the picture above the passenger side door of Kyle Busch's Toyota shined brighter than the Tundra's neon green-and-yellow NOS Charged Citrus paint scheme. It was Zahra Baker's spirit that helped lift the No. 18 to a third-consecutive win in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

Busch paid remembrance to Baker, a 10-year-old Hickory, N.C., who was found slain last year, by winning the N.C. Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday night. After Busch collected the checkered flag, he immediately walked to Zahra's picture on the side of his truck and was "kissed by an angel."

"I had an angel riding with me in that last run of the race with Zahra Baker," said Busch. "We didn't have the truck to beat tonight - Clint Bowyer did. Somehow I found some more out of it and I'm going to say that I had some help tonight. It's weird how things work. When you believe in it, you trust in it, and you have faith in it - it will repay you. I can't say enough about NOS Energy Drink and this Kyle Busch Motorsports team. Toyota, M&M's, Flexco, and Dollar General.  It was a great night for all of us. To come out here with a win and with a special name on the side of the truck - it means a lot to Kyle Busch Motorsports, Speedway Children's Charities and the North Carolina community. Especially the people from Hickory - who knew and loved Zahra. It means the world to me to be able to pay remembrance to her with a win tonight."

Friday night's win was monumental for the 26-year-old driver. Busch, who drove into victory lane for the 97th time in NASCAR's top three series, moved into a tie with NASCAR legends Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip for third on the all-time combined national touring series wins list. The victory was the Las Vegas native's 28th career NCWTS Series win, moving him into a tie for second all-time with series legends Mike Skinner and Jack Sprague.

Busch, who an hour before the start of the truck race captured the pole for the NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race, started the N.C. Education Lottery 200 from the fifth position. In the early stages of the race the defending race champion communicated to crew chief Eric Phillips that the No. 18 NOS Energy Charged Citrus Toyota was extremely loose.

On lap 53, the extremely loose became uncontrollably loose as the back end of the Las Vegas native's Toyota snapped around coming off turn four. The rear end of the No. 18 slid up the banking, nearly collecting the outside wall then slid back down the banking and just before the nose of the truck was about to make contact with the inside retaining wall Busch got the truck back headed in the right direction to complete the miraculous save.

When pit road opened, Busch brought his No. 18 to the attention of his team for four fresh tires, a full tank of fuel and wholesale adjustments to try and tighten the truck. He was scored in the ninth position when the race restarted on lap 59.

As the race progressed, the man who had led the most laps en route to dominant victories in the last two NCWTS races seem destined to run just inside the top five. He was running in the fourth position when a three-car crash on the backstretch brought out the seventh caution of the race on lap 77. Crew Chief Eric Phillips made the decision to come for a fuel-only pit stop when pit road opened.

When the race restarted on lap 82, the No. 18 NOS Charged Citrus Tundra was scored in the fifth position. The race continued to be slowed by numerous cautions as the laps wound down. Busch tried to force his way to the front of the field at times making things three and four wide on the numerous restarts.

On lap 107 David Starr brought out a record-breaking 10th and final caution of the race after spinning off Turn Four. Although he had the dominant truck in Friday's race, Bowyer knew that Busch was lurking in the third spot. Bowyer chose the outside lane for the final restart of the race to try and get a jump on the inside lane where the No. 18 was lurking.

Bowyer's decision appeared to have paid off as Busch fell to the fourth position when the race restarted on lap 112. NASCAR's winningest active driver dove to the inside of Ron Hornaday Jr. and James Buescher going into turn three with 22 laps remaining and moved into the second position.

The No. 18 NOS Charged Citrus Toyota slowly chipped away at Bowyer's lead as the race headed into the final 10 laps. On lap 127, Busch made a big run on Bowyer off the top side of turn two. As Bowyer's No. 2 moved up the track to try and slow Busch's momentum, the No. 18 quickly dove to the inside making it a side-by-side challenge for the lead down the backstretch. The 26-year-old was able to complete the pass off of turn four and hold off Bowyer for the last seven laps en route to his fourth NCWTS victory in seven races at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Rookie Cole Whitt finished third followed by Buescher and Hornaday Jr. Rounding out the top 10 were Johnny Sauter, Austin Dillon, Parker Klingerman, Justin Marks and Brad Sweet.

Kyle Busch Motorsports PR

Cole Whitt, still more than a month from his 20th birthday, finished third Friday night and became

the first rookie and youngest driver to lead the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series points standings.

After his second consecutive top-three finish in Turn One Racing’s No. 60, Whitt leads Johnny Sauter by one point (260-259) entering race No. 8 of the season, the June 4 event at Kansas Speedway.

“Our team has been consistent all year long,” said Whitt, who’ll turn 20 on June 22. “The Cup guys have been running so strong. We were second to them last week (at Dover), third here. We’ve just been consistent, and we’re out-running the guys we need to. This team has been spot on, and the Red Bull/Fuel Doctor truck has been fast. I feel like we’ve won the race — to come home third to those guys and be as fast as we’ve been.”

It was a messy race under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway, with an event record-tying 10 caution flags. It wasn’t messy for Whitt, however, as he avoided a slew of smoke and sparks to keep his truck clean as can be in his first Charlotte start and second on a 1.5-mile track.

He started 11th, ran as low as 22nd and led laps 77-81 after staying out during a series of mid-race caution periods.

But Whitt was eventually forced to pit for fresh tires under the sixth yellow. He restarted 19th with 46 laps to go, quickly gained six spots, then three, then four. After dispatching veteran Ron Hornaday Jr., Whitt sat third but was out of time to make a run at Clint Bowyer and race winner Kyle Busch.

Whitt is the only Truck Series driver to complete all 1,134 laps this season, and he’s yet to finish lower than 14th with five top 10s.

“We’re right there,” Whitt said, “but at the same time we take it race by race. Every race is a like a lap. We just need to make every lap and race for wins.”

Earlier Friday, Red Bull Racing Team announced that Whitt will drive Pastrana-Waltrip Racing’s No. 99 Toyota in the May 28 Nationwide Series race at Charlotte. Kimi Raikkonen, a Red Bull athlete, former Formula One champion and current World Rally driver, finished 15th — on the lead lap — in his NASCAR debut.

Red Bull Racing PR

As he put it, Kyle Busch had an angel on board in Friday night's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway—an angel that helped him find a way to win.

With the name of murder victim Zahra Baker of Hickory, N.C., on his No. 18 Toyota, Busch took the lead for the first time on Lap 128 of 134 and held off runner-up Clint Bowyer the rest of the way to win the North Carolina Education Lottery 200.

Busch crossed the finish line .317 seconds ahead of Bowyer. The victory was his third straight in the series, his fourth in six starts this season and the 28th of his career, bringing his aggregate victories across NASCAR's top three series to 97. That ties him with Dale Earnhardt and Darrell Waltrip for third all-time in total wins across all three national series.

Baker, who battled cancer before her untimely death at age 10, came to Charlotte Motor Speedway in May 2010 as a guest of Speedway Children's Charities. Baker was one of a group of underprivileged children who were given hearing aids at the racetrack.

Baker's stepmother has been changed with her murder.

"I had an angel running with me that last run of the race," Busch said. "We didn't have the truck to beat tonight. The 2 (Bowyer) did. Somehow I found some more out of it, and I'm going to say that I had some help tonight.

"It's weird how things work, but, man, when you believe in it and you trust it and you have faith in it, it'll repay you."

Kimi Raikkonen, the 2007 Formula One champion, finished 15th in his NASCAR debut. Raikkonen started 31st but gained track position under the second caution of the race when he missed pit road and remained on the track.

Raikkonnen was about to make a green-flag stop on Lap 51, when Busch, his car owner, spun off Turn 4 to cause the fourth caution and put Raikkonen back on pit sequence with the rest of the field.

Cole Whitt ran third and took over the series points lead. At 19, Whitt is the youngest driver ever to lead the series points and the first rookie.

James Buescher came home fourth, followed by Ron Hornaday Jr.

Jamie Dick's brush with the outside wall caused the ninth caution of the race on Lap 96, with Bowyer in the lead. Bowyer kept his No. 2 Chevrolet out front until David Starr's Toyota smacked the wall to bring out the record 10th and final caution of the race on Lap 106.

Bowyer led the field to the green flag for a restart on Lap 112 but surrendered the top spot 16 laps later.

Earlier in the night, Busch beat out Bowyer for the pole position for Saturday's Sprint All-Star Race.

With 28 wins, Busch is tied for second all-time in the truck series with Mike Skinner and Jack Sprague.

Being an owner of a Camping World Truck Series team, in itself is a full time job. However, Chris Lafferty not only drives for the team he owns, but has also embarked on a new business venture… a late-night TV show. Critics say his plate is too full, advocates embrace the marketing potential, however one thing is for sure- Lafferty is an entertainer.

After spending the early part of last weekend in Dover DE, most of Lafferty’s Monday and Tuesday consisted of working on his #89 NASCAR SpeedPark® Dodge Ram. Lafferty is a hands-on owner and is no stranger to getting his hands dirty in the shop, from turning wrenches to welding. He is known for working long after his crew has already left.

On Wednesday, Lafferty set up his late-night TV show, “The Last Lap with Chris Lafferty,” at Whisky River in Charlotte, NC. Whisky River, owned by NASCAR superstar Dale Earnhardt Jr., has joined up with Lafferty in hosting the venue for several of his late-night shows. The show follows a traditional late-night format, but has a racing twist that is one-of-a-kind.

Guests on Wednesday’s show included Nationwide Series Champion Randy Lajoie and ARCA Racing Series driver Chad McCumbee. With Lafferty hosting his shows, writing his monologue, screening guests, he controls most aspects of the show. Even after filming in front of a live audience for two hours Wednesday night, Lafferty still went back to his race shop and continued working on his NASCAR SpeedPark® Dodge Ram until early Thursday morning.

“I came to North Carolina to be in racing,” says Lafferty. “However, that Hollywood bug never really left me, so I said ‘Why not put the two together?’ So we did!”

Lafferty has grown both Lafferty Motorsports and “The Last Lap with Chris Lafferty,” to where marketing partners are now beginning to see just how much of an entertaining personality Lafferty really has.

Iron Thunder in Concord, NC will host one of Lafferty’s late-night shows on Monday, May 23rd. ARCA Racing Series driver Chad Hackenbracht will be a guest on that show. Show begins at 8pm.

On Wednesday, May 25th Lafferty will be back at Whisky River hosting his show during NASCAR’s biggest week in Charlotte. For the occasion, Lafferty will have 2010 Camping World Truck Series Champion Ron Hornaday as a guest on the show. Whisky River is promoting that May 25th show on Lafferty’s #89 NASCAR SpeedPark® Dodge Ram in tonight’s race.

Whether it’s entertaining fans on the track through racing or bringing big names to his late-night TV show- Lafferty is an entertainer. And this week, CHARLOTTE will be his biggest stage!

Lafferty Motorsports PR

People that know Brendan Gaughan know he has an enthusiasm level that many people can only muster on special occasions. Gaughan’s huge grin actually gets bigger when you mention a track like Charlotte Motor Speedway to the Las Vegas native. He has collected eight wins in his Truck Series career, four from Charlotte’s 1.5-mile sister track, Texas Motor Speedway. Gaughan is thrilled to get to the ‘big track’ section of the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule.

“Charlotte kicks off the stretch on the schedule that I had circled as the reason why I wanted to race for Germain Racing. The team has always been good on mile and a half and ‘big tracks.’ Those are the tracks that I have always loved, so, looking at Charlotte on the schedule means we’re here. I couldn’t be more excited to see how the No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino Tundra will do on Friday,” said Gaughan.

Gaughan will go so far as to say he sees this stretch as an opportunity for Germain Racing to catch its stride and win some races.

“Charlotte, Kansas, Texas, Kentucky are all coming up. I think it’s a big opportunity for this No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino Tundra team, I think it’s a big opportunity for Germain Racing as a team, to win a bunch of races,” said Gaughan.

The No. 62 driver just had a strong finish at the Monster Mile and looks forward to carrying some momentum from the Dover race weekend.

“Our truck did what Germain Racing is great at doing at Dover. We turned a decent truck, a decent race, into a good finish. The No. 62 South Point Hotel & Casino pit crew had great stops on pit road. We have a lot of good energy heading into my favorite part of the schedule,” said Gaughan.

Germain Racing PR

Germain Racing has long been established as the benchmark for performance at 1.5-mile race tracks. The team has earned 22 victories, 21 of which are credited specifically to Todd Bodine and the No. 30 crew. Of those victories, 17 fall within the ‘intermediate’ track or speedway category. Add to that the fact that no other driver entered in Friday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has raced more laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway than Bodine, and you have a team feeling confident, and maybe a bit overdue.

“Charlotte Motor Speedway is a track I’ve always liked. We’ve run well in the past. We need to get the whole package together and get the No. 30 Tundra into victory lane. There’s no reason we can’t do it. Our luck at Charlotte has been horrible but our performance has been good. We just need to keep doing what we’re doing,” said Bodine, who finished second at Charlotte last May, and has collected two third-place finishes there in the Truck Series.

In addition to Bodine’s 47 NASCAR career points-paying starts, the Chemung, NY, native has raced in the All Star event, winning the preliminary race, and has competed in the now-defunct Sportsman Series. Bodine has even raced against Jeff Gordon in a Legends Cars match race at Charlotte.

Crew chief Mike Hillman Jr., of Lockport, NY, long ago adopted Mooresville, NC, as his new home and loves Charlotte race weeks for the opportunity to compete and be home—at the same time.

“Charlotte racing is awesome because for me it means I get to be at home, spending extra time with my family. Winning in front of the home crowd would be a great way to head into the summer stretch,” said Hillman, whose crew has prepared chassis TRD-131 to race this weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Bodine concurs that being home is a huge perk of racing at Charlotte.

“My favorite part of racing Charlotte might be sleeping in my own bed,” smiled Bodine.

Bodine is ranked 9th in Truck Series championship points after six of 25 races.

Germain Racing PR

Four races into the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season David Starr found himself in a very unusual position of being outside the top-fifteen in the drivers point standings with some bad racing luck resulting in torn-up race trucks and disappointing finishes. Just two races later Starr and the SS Green Light team have righted the ship and Starr is now knocking on the top-ten in the standings, just two points behind Brendan Gaughan for tenth spot.

Star and the Jason Miller led team hope to continue to build that momentum on Friday night when the NCWTS North Carolina Education Lottery 200 kicks off one of the most exciting weekends of the year; the Sprint Cup All Star Weekend at the Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Friday night the Build Your Future Campaign will join primary sponsor Zachry on the decklid of Starr’s No. 81 Toyota. Originally developed by the National Construction Center for Education and Research, Build Your Future is a national education and recruitment campaign created to increase awareness of the rewarding careers available in the construction industry.

“It’s pretty cool to be involved with NCCER and the Build Your Future Campaign which gives opportunities to youngsters and people wanting to come into the construction industry. We’re excited that they have partnered with SS Green Light Racing and Zachry. We’re going to do everything we can to get the Zachry/BYF Toyota into victory lane for them, I’m excited and looking forward to helping NCCER get involved in NASCAR racing.”

The Charlotte race is always special one for all of the NASCAR teams as the majority of them are located within an hour of the racetrack and the teams will be racing in front of dozens of friends and family. “Everybody want to do well because your right here at home, it’s good for the guys to not have the stress of being on the road,” said Crew Chief Miller. “The race track is only 15 minutes from my house.”

“It’s always fun to go to the Charlotte Motor Speedway,” added Starr. “It’s right in the backyard of all the NASCAR teams so it’s pretty cool for all the guys on our SS Green Light/Zachry team who get to bring their family members the track and when they leave the race they get to sleep in their own bed. It’s a fun event for the team.”

“At Charlotte you need a good handling truck with plenty of power under the hood which we do with Arrington Engines. There is always a lot of action at Charlotte Motor Speedway especially with the Truck Series.”

“I feel like we have a lot of momentum and we are going to carry it into Charlotte. You know, it’s been a long time since we have been on a mile and a half, it’s a fast track and I like to go fast!”

In eight career NCWTS starts at the Charlotte Motor Speedway, David has one pole, one top-fives and three top-tens. He has completed 99.4% of the laps with an average start of 16.6 and an average finish of 15.1.

The North Carolina Education Lottery 200 is the 252nd consecutive NCWTS start for the SS Green Light Racing team and the 272nd career start for Starr in the Truck Series.

SS Green Light Racing PR

Johnny Sauter, driver of the No. 13 Safe Auto/Curb Records/Carrier Chevrolet Silverado, makes his third NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start in as many years for ThorSport Racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday, May 20th.  Sitting second in the driver points after teammate Matt Crafton, Sauter is comfortable reclaiming his self-proclaimed "underdog" status.  With two top 15 finishes at Charlotte in the Truck Series, his focus is off the points race and on the competition.

"Being at the top of the points this early in the season was a positive surprise to me, and it was a great feeling after Nashville," said Sauter.  "It's a lot of pressure though, when we have so many races ahead of us.  Charlotte has always been a track that has challenged me, and our 1.5-mile program is really stellar this year.  That's got to be my focus with (crew chief) Joe (Shear, Jr.) and my guys.  Perform on all fronts - from the truck setup to the pit cycles and fuel management.  I said it at the end of Dover and I meant it, with me and Joe it's back to basics and some tried-and-true setups we used last year for great finishes."

Sauter, long-known as a Series "outlaw" of sorts, feels his underdog hat fits well. "The best finishes I've ever had, all my wins, were coming back from behind or scraping to the top all the way.  That's how I love to race.  So the pressure is off right now, and I can get back to being the underdog.  There's nothing this team can't do this year with the right focus, and we're proving that every race.  Charlotte is no different - we're proving to the racing world exactly how consistent we can be at these tracks, using a lot of communication and strategy. ThorSport Racing is building championship-consistency teams this year, and we're going to show that at the racetrack."

ThorSport PR

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