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Spring Break Over; Trucks Are Back

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 30 2010

The Camping World Truck Series will be racing again this weekend after four-week layoff. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Nick Bromberg | Senior Correspondent

Kansas City, Kan. – You can forgive yourself if you’ve forgotten about the Camping World Truck Series. After all, it’s only been a month since the last race at Nashville.

“I’d rather be racing…I’m tired of doing honey-dos for my wife,” defending series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. said. “I’m tired of cutting trees down, painting garage doors, doing that stuff. If I race, I can pay somebody to do that and not have to do that. I just enjoy racing, I worked all my life to race and get an opportunity to do it.”

However, Mike Skinner, who won last year’s race at Kansas Speedway, the site of Sunday’s race, says that he enjoyed the break, but understands that the length of the break may not be the greatest thing for the series’ visibility.

“That’s a really, really valid question and I would have to say for the series it’s probably a little bit too long of a break,” Skinner said.

“I would rather see less break, run every other week, get your 25 weeks in or whatever and maybe stop our season – our season is the same length as the Cup season – do we really need to wrap our championship in Homestead in November? Or do we maybe need to be down in September or October?”

And because the Cup Series is in Richmond this weekend, this is the first race of the season that Kyle Busch will not be in and the second that Kevin Harvick will not race in. When asked about Harvick and Busch, Hornaday was surprised that Busch wasn’t flying in for the race on Sunday but said that the lack of Cup drivers didn’t make the race any different.

“They’re beatable, that’s what they’re there for. That just makes us turn up our wick more,” Hornaday said.

Skinner agreed that Cup drivers provide a great challenge, especially for young drivers in the series, but also said that he feels the series needs to build its own identity away from NASCAR’s top two series.

“The Cup Series has its own identity. Let these other series, even if we have to shorten the field up to 25 or 30 cars… if we have to do that to make the show right, then do it. In my opinion, and I’m just one person, I would much rather see us have much less companion races. We do need a handful of companion races because if you have a young driver coming up, say we have a Landon Cassill or someone else coming up, he needs to run against Kevin Harvick so we can see how he can do. But not every other race,” Skinner said.

Recently, Kevin Harvick Inc. has been the identity of the Truck Series, as Hornaday and Harvick have won 11 of the last 29 races. Todd Bodine, the 2006 CWTS champion, attributes that to coilbinding, a setup that utilizes soft front springs and stiff rear springs.

“The biggest thing in the setups is the advent of coil binding. Back when we ran so well every week on these mile and a halfs we were probably the only guys that were almost coil binding. We weren’t quite doing it but we were right there and everyone else hadn’t caught on and once they started doing that on the Cup side and everyone figured it out, obviously it trickles down to what we’re doing. The biggest thing that I think changed that was when they went from having a valence on the front of the trucks to just having a true splitter, then the coil binding became a necessity an, you know, that took our advantage away,” Bodine said.

“That kind of happened in the middle of ‘06, right in the middle of our championship run and we really got behind almost half a season because we couldn’t change the things that we were doing that put us in a position to win the championship. We couldn’t do those things when guys who where fifth and sixth and fourth, even, they all started doing it and learning it and figuring it out.”

Hornaday agreed.

“Well I was very surprised to see Todd come in here… usually we started to have a war finally five years ago against Toyota with Chevrolet. They have more horsepower, we have more horsepower, and they got better bodies, we got better bodies. When Todd was winning that championship we had to go do our homework and we figured out how to beat them. It took a lot of people to do that and Todd Berrier (currently Jeff Burton’s crew chief in the Sprint Cup series) was probably one of the pluses that helped KHI. It took a while,” Hornaday said.

“When I went to Nashville and wrecked our Nationwide car trying to qualify with coil bound and we changed it all over and we ran good in the race. It takes an act to learn how to drive these things. I was fortunate enough, just like Todd said, I got started early because Kevin made us drive it that way. I didn’t like it but he made us drive it that way and once you learn it, it’s a lot of fun.”

KHI has also had stable sponsorships over the past few seasons, something that Bodine’s team, Germain Racing, has struggled to find.

“It’s tough when you don’t have the money. This year, the truck we’re running here, it’s actually its second race but it’s the first new truck that we’ve had since the beginning of 07 because of our funding situation and that makes it tough to keep up with Ron and everything they do at KHI because they have new trucks every other week because Kevin is able to cycle them out and sell them off and that keeps Ron in great equipment and that makes them hard to beat,” Bodine said.

– Nick Bromberg is a former sports writer for the Kansas City Star and a frequent contributor to RacinToday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, April 30 2010