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Drivers Expecting A Hot Time In Las Vegas

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, September 28 2012

Truck Series points leader Ty Dillon says the heat is on this weekend. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Tom Copeland)

LAS VEGAS, Nev. – As temperatures soared into the low 90s, the air conditioning circulating throughout the neon garage at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Friday afternoon offered relief from the heat to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series teams as they began preparations for Saturday night’s Smith’s 350 at the 1.5-oval.

The mercury is expected to reach 97 degrees in Vegas on Saturday.

That could pose an issue for the drivers, who will see the green flag wave in the late afternoon just after 5:30 p.m. local time to begin the 146 lap event.

“I think being in shape and being hydrated is going to be a key in the race on Saturday,” points leader Ty Dillon said. “If you’re going to be able to drive the race hard, you’ll be able to run up front. And I think being in shape is going to be good for that.

“I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

But defending race champion Ron Hornaday Jr., a California native, is taking the weekend weather in stride.

“We get the humidity back (east), so when you get into the truck the shade will cover you,” he said. “The heat doesn’t seem to bother me because I’m from California. The hotter the better, if your truck handles. If not, it’s going to be a long day.”

Hornaday was caught off-guard Friday when asked by the media for his thoughts on longtime motorsports journalist Chris Economaki, who passed away early Friday at the age of 91.

“I was tied up in the motel the whole time today and was not really watching the news,” Hornaday said. “I hadn’t heard that. I can’t see that Chris was a close friend of mine, but he’s definitely talked about me a bunch on radio and TV. And what’s he done for our sport as an announcer is amazing.

“My thoughts and prayers go out to his whole family. He’ll be missed. He was one of the great guys.”

Fans tend to label some 1.5-mile tracks on the circuit as “cookie cutter” facilities.

But according to Hornaday, Las Vegas Motor Speedway doesn’t fall into that category. He said the setup that took him to victory lane last season likely won’t produce the winning combination this weekend.

“It’s just the weather,” said Hornaday, when asked how this oval is different from the other 1.5-mile layouts. “The way this track weathers with the sand and the wind we get out here, it ages faster. So what you think you had here last year is not going to work.

“This is the only track I felt comfortable enough where I could get to the top groove. We had a good enough truck last year where I kind of dominated the race and I could drive it anywhere. It’s a three-groove race track.

“It’s not your ordinary 1.5-mile race track. The banking is a little different from a lot of them we run. It ages different and is a fast race track.”

Dillon and Hornaday arrived early in Vegas to take in the sights and sounds of one of the country’s most popular destinations.

The 20-year-old Dillon, who birthday is in February, was asked if he had a chance to jump off the top of the Stratosphere on the strip yet. He chuckled and said he hadn’t conquered that feat just yet.

“Me and my girlfriend went around Las Vegas and walked around downtown (Thursday) night,” Dillon said. “We went to New York New York and rode the roller coaster, but we haven’t been to the Stratosphere yet.

“I’m definitely looking forwarding to coming back (when he turns 21) and experiencing Vegas the real way. But I’m having a lot of fun right now. I haven’t been out here since I was seven or eight years old.”

Hornaday, who arrived in town early in the week, laughed when asked if he felt the 3.8 magnitude earthquake that hit 29 miles northeast of Las Vegas on Tuesday.

“Uh, I thought I had too many beers,” he joked. “Nah…as long as we get the little ones, that’s fine. I just don’t want the 5.7. I went through that when I was in California.”

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

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, September 28 2012
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