NASCAR

Fine-tuning the trucks

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Lee Spencer

Lee Spencer is the Senior NASCAR Writer for FOXSports.com. She has provided award-winning coverage of auto racing over the last 15 years. Spencer has lent her expertise to both television and radio and is a regular contributor to SiriusXM Radio and the Performance Racing Network. Follow her on Twitter.

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SPARTA, Ky.

NASCAR met with representatives from all three manufacturers earlier this month at Dover to discuss the “facelift” to the trucks for 2014.

WHAT WAS THAT?

What are some of the wildest moments of the season? CHECK THEM OUT

The changes to the trucks come after NASCAR overhauled the Nationwide Series and introduced Pony Cars in 2010. This season, after six years of fans despising the Car of Tomorrow, the Generation 6 was introduced.

So what about the trucks?

“Trucks are a little bit trickier for us because we’re not afforded some of the foundations with trucks that we have for the cars — meaning the common or the consistent or the certified chassis,” said NASCAR Sprint Cup Series director John Darby, who attended the meeting.

“The Truck series still has a lot of variances and frames and chassis and all that which makes it a much more difficult project because you want an end product that is controllable and very cost efficient for the truck teams. At the same time, we don’t have an interest of tearing up every truck in existence.”

That’s a bonus for the Truck teams — many which lack the sponsorship dollars or significant contribution from the series’ purses to exercise a complete overhaul of their inventory.

As the lone full-time Truck team owner in the Ford camp, Brad Keselowski Racing will be responsible for the F150 build. Keselowski calls the project “an interesting situation.”

WILD TIMES

Things got a little crazy at Dover. CHECK OUT THE ACTION

“Ford puts a lot of effort in their trucks, and it’s been one of the highest-selling vehicles in this country for a long time,” Keselowski said. “It deserves to have a place in the Truck series.”

While the manufacturers will design the latest concepts and develop the trucks, Turner-Scott Motorsports will construct the Chevrolet Silverado and Kyle Busch Motorsports will handle the Toyota Tundras.

As a driver/owner who regularly competes in the Truck series, Busch would like to see some aerodynamic changes to the new trucks.

“We’d love to make them where they could race each other closer together and they could also run closer together in traffic,” said Busch, who finished third in Thursday night’s UNOH 225 Camping World Truck Series race at Kentucky Speedway.

“Today, it was so easy to get strung out. Any time you saw the leader get in traffic, he slowed down and the others caught up.

“These trucks are really, really tough to drive in traffic. They punch such a big hole into the air that it’s hard to get downforce on it when you’re the truck behind and make up ground on the guy ahead of you.''

Darby says he’d like to have all three trucks in the wind tunnel for base-line testing in the next two months before they are actually on track tests.

RILED UP

Brad Keselowski sparked the ire of Rick Hendrick and Joe Gibbs when he accused their teams of "stealing away" Penske Racing employees. FULL STORY

“The project is actually moving forward pretty nicely with a very nice aesthetic result,” Darby added. “It’s goal is to do the same thing that we’ve done with Nationwide and the Gen 6 Cup car, [which] is to put the correct look of the truck back into the trucks.

“The design concepts and some of the early (wind)-tunnel testing to see if we can achieve a balance there and everything have been very positive. All three manufacturers are working pretty diligently on the project — as well as we are — to prepare for when they get close enough to start bringing us some things to officially test and move forward on.”

DRAWING THE LINE

As teammates, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth have gotten along famously this year.

Sure, there was the time Kenseth sat in Busch’s car at the shop when he didn’t show up for a team meeting and texted the photo. And of course Busch felt inclined to return the favor.

Still, after the first 16 races of the season, Kenseth, who is fifth in the point standings, and eighth-place Busch have each won two poles and five races between them due to the cooperative spirit among the teams.

But outside of Joe Gibbs Racing Cup racing, that’s a different matter.

“At short-track events, I hate Matt Kenseth,” Busch said with a laugh. “He cheated at Slinger (Miller Lite Nationals) last year. I’m not going there. The hometown hero gets favorites. If that had been me at my home track, I would have been disqualified three times.”

Busch will have the opportunity to get even with Kenseth at the Milwaukee Mile — in the Howie Lettow Memorial 150 next Sunday. Although Kenseth could have an advantage — since he hails from Cambridge, Wisc. — Busch acknowledges, “It’s going to be fun.”

“I think it’s like 80 cars trying for 43 spots,” said Busch, who last ran the event in 2008. “It’s a big track. Guys like going to Milwaukee. It’s easy to get out of shape there. A lot of guys like going to that race. There are going to be a lot of 15-year-olds in the race. It’s going to be fun to see.”

SOCIALIZING

From NASCAR on Speed, excerpts from Kyle Petty’s thoughts on Danica Patrick: "She's come a long way ... I don't think she's ever going to be a race car driver ... it's too late to learn."

NUMBERS GAME

21 — years, plus 4 months. The age of Thursday's winner, Ty Dillon — the youngest truck victor ever at Kentucky.

1 — Nationwide Start for Matt Crafton, who made his 302nd truck start on Thursday but has never raced NNS.

FAST WOMEN

Meet the lovely ladies who get the NASCAR stars revved up.

167.468 — Best 10-lap average in Nationwide Series practice on Thursday, set by Nelson Piquet Jr.

SAY WHAT?

Crew chief Harold Holly is renowned not only for his leadership skills in NASCAR but also for rocking a legendary mullet back in the day. After acknowledging that his record has taken a hit lately, the veteran contemplated changing his locks again.

“I won 34 races with the mullet and five without,” Holly said. “The mullet is coming back.”

Tagged: Kyle Petty, Matt Crafton, Danica Patrick, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Brad Keselowski

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