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Trucks, History Are Headed To Pocono Raceway

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 29 2010

Denny Hamlin will be a happy and historic trucker this weekend at Pocono. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

To be blunt, not many Sprint Cup Series drivers get excited about racing at Pocono Raceway in Pennsylvania. It’s a long race on a track which some call dangerous.

But this weekend, the Camping World Truck Series will be racing at the bizarre 2.5-mile Pocono triangle for the first time ever and drivers from that series seem thrilled to get the chance.

“I’m really looking forward to our first race at Pocono,” Timothy Peters said. “I feel like my test there in 2006 will really help me acclimate to the track faster than some of the other guys. Having that extra track time will really help us prepare the truck for the race. It’s going to be critical to have it turning well in the center of the corners. One thing is for sure, the fans won’t be disappointed. It’s going to be a great race.”

Despite a general concern about the place on the part some Cup drivers – it has become a virtual punching bag for some – several top drivers from the top series have opted to drive trucks this weekend.

Like Denny Hamlin, who will drive a Billy Ballew Motorsports entry.

“Billy Ballew has always been really good to me and we’ve had a few good runs together in the truck series,” Hamlin said. “I only run about one truck race a year and this year I chose Pocono. I can’t wait to get there.”

Also doing double duty will be Kasey Kahne. He’ll be driving for the Kyle Busch-owned team.

“Kyle and I had been talking about it for a while and I told him I was interested in running a truck race or two for KBM this year,” Kahne said. “He had another obligation with the NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Saturday, so he asked if I could race his truck. It’s a great opportunity for me to come back to the series and compete with really good equipment. I’ve watched Kyle put the team together and it’s really been impressive how well they’ve done this year as a first-year team.”

Adding to the allure of the Pocono Mountains 150 is its length. It will be just 50 laps. Nobody was complaining about that this week.

“It’s a 50-lap shootout,” Hamlin said.

Also spicing up the trucks’ Pocono debut will be a unique qualifying system.

In the multi-truck system, the order in which trucks will qualify for will be based on their practice speeds from final practice on Friday. The trucks will be inverted with the slowest truck in practice the first out in qualifying on Saturday morning, with the fastest truck going out last. Trucks will be released from pit road in 25-second increments. Two laps of qualifying will be allowed with the fastest lap counting towards starting positions.

“I’m looking forward to it,” Hamlin said of the new qualifying procedure. “I think it’s a good thing. They could do stuff like that over here on the Cup side. I think it will be good because they’re going to group you based off your practice speeds. You know you’re not going to run up on a guy or a guy is not going to catch you. It’s well-thought out.”

Rick Ren, Kahne’s crew chief said he likes the procedure as well.

“The racetrack is so big,” Ren said, “it’s almost like cutting a lap at Daytona or Talladega and there’s not a lot of time up there. When we used to do the European-style qualifying at the road courses, it really wasn’t a bad way to do it. We really need to speed up the qualifying because it can be long on television. Having multiple trucks out there will spice it up a little bit and speed up the program a little. The truck series is known for being innovative and I think it’ll be something a lot of us will look back on and say, ‘Hey, we were part of the first time.’ ”

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, July 29 2010
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