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New Point System Has Truck Series All Shook Up

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 10 2011

Cole Whitt will head to Darlington for this weekend's Camping World Truck Series race third in points. (Photo by Jason Smith/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series has historically been dominated by seasoned drivers. But two races into a new season, a handful of newcomers to truck racing have snatched the headlines from the seasoned competitors.

Heading into Saturday’s Too Tough to Tame 200 in Darlington, S.C., five of the top 10 drivers in the points standings were barely on the truck series radar a year ago.

Clay Rogers, a longtime fixture in the old Hooters Pro Cup Series, is making a full-fledged run at the truck series title. The North Carolinian sits just one point behind championship standings leader Matt Crafton.

Fresh off a sixth-place finish at Phoenix, 19-year-old Cole Whitt finds himself in third, just three points out of the lead for the title.

Second-year driver Austin Dillon, the grandson of legendary NASCAR team owner Richard Childress, is sixth overall. Other new names in the top 10 in the driver standings include Jeffrey Earnhardt in seventh and Miguel Paludo in ninth.

Whitt admitted during Tuesday’s NASCAR teleconference that he’s benefitted from the new championship system, where drivers are awarded points in only one of NASCAR’s top three series.

Daytona race winner Michael Waltrip and Kyle Busch, the winner at Phoenix, weren’t

Clay Rogers is just one point out of the Camping World lead. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

awarded points following their early-season victories.

“Honestly, I really love the new point system the way that it’s come out,” Whitt said. “It gives guys like us a chance. You’ve got me running third in points. Clay Rogers is sitting second right now and he was the points leader out of Daytona.”

“Guys like that, really we wouldn’t have a chance if it was dominated the way it was before by the bigger teams. So the new points system kind of gives us a chance. Guys that are more on a budget deal and trying to make our way through racing and trying to get up to where Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer and all those guys are.

“It’s really kind of shaking things up.”

But the new faces in the truck series garage will face a monumental task on Saturday when they tackle what is arguably NASCAR’s toughest track, the 1.366-mile egg-shaped oval in Darlington.

A one day show where drivers will practice, qualify and race on Saturday should give the oldtimers an upper-hand.

But Whitt plans to lean on Red Bull Racing teammate Kasey Kahne, who will pilot the No. 18 Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports this weekend, as he tries to come up to speed on the treacherous track known as the “lady in black.”

“I like the one race day,” Whitt said, when asked about Saturday’s packed schedule. “It’s kind of cool

Matt Crafton sits atop truck standings at the moment. (RacinToday file photo)

to get in there and you kind of hustle through your day. It’s fun and it keeps you entertained and keeps you going.

“At the same time I do like to have a little time off the track. You go and run that first session and you’re like I would like to sit down just for a second and think about what did I do right? What did I do wrong? It’s hard to dissect that kind of stuff when you’re slamming through your day.

“I really wish we could have a little bit more time, but at the same time it’s the way the racing should be. I feel it should be the one-day deal. It shouldn’t be drawn out. At the same time it’s hard for a rookie to come in and jump out there and try to do everything. But that’s part of being a rookie.”

The red-headed Whitt wasn’t surprised that he was able to nail down a sixth-place finish in the second race of the year. In fact, he narrowly missed his goal of finishing in the top five, which he sees happening in the near future.

“You know, honestly I expected to run well,” he said. “I was hoping for Top 10, but I’m a realist.

“I understand how tough it’s going to be. I realize that our equipment is limited to what it is, but it’s still really good stuff. I was really looking forward to going out and running Top 10, and so far we backed that up at Phoenix.

“I think we’ll continue on to do that and hopefully progress into a Top five team as the year goes on.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, March 10 2011
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