It seems like it’s been months since the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has raced, but in truth, it’s only been three weeks. That’s plenty of time off, though, as the Truck Series teams will end their early-season mini-vacation with the running of the Atlanta 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The race, the second NCWTS event of the year, will be televised live on SPEED, Saturday at 2 p.m. ET. And, as always, it ought to be a flat-out war at the 1.54-mile AMS oval, one of the fastest tracks on the circuit.
With only one race in the books so far in 2010, handicapping Atlanta won’t be easy.
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The prohibitive favorite going in should be Kyle Busch, who has four victories in just five NCWTS starts here. But Busch’s start-up team, Kyle Busch Motorsports is an unproven commodity at the moment. At the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway, both Busch and teammate Tayler Malsam were caught in crashes not of their own making.
That, and the fact that Daytona is a much different track than Atlanta, make it difficult to assess how good KBM’s pair of Toyota Tundras will be this weekend.
Busch already knows where he wants to be — in Victory Lane.
“Our short-term goals for this year are to just go out and try to win a race. I want to win a race, of course, but to go out and win multiple races would be a success,” said Busch, who is in his first year of NASCAR team ownership. “To win a race for Brian Ickler and to win a race for Tayler Malsam – we at least need three wins out of the shop this year, one for all three drivers – in order for it to be a success, in my book.”
Another potential Atlanta winner with questions is four-time and defending Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. out of the Kevin Harvick Inc. stables. Hornaday got a new crew chief this year in Dave Fuge, who lasted just one race before replaced by Doug George.
In nine races at AMS, Hornaday has one victory, four top-five and five top-10 finishes, and he and his No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet likely will be stout again on Saturday.
Then again, the toughest truck in the field could well belong to Hornaday’s boss, Kevin Harvick, who will pilot the No. 2 E-Z-Go Chevrolet. Harvick started third and finished second in his only Truck Series race at Atlanta last year.
Two other very familiar names are realistic threats to win as well: Former series champions Mike Skinner and Todd Bodine.
Skinner, driver of the No. 5 Toyota out of the Randy Moss Motorsports stable, has one victory, five top-five and six top-10 finishes at AMS.
“I love racing at Atlanta Motor Speedway,” said Skinner. “I’ve had success at the track in all three series, including a win in the Camping World Truck Series, a win in the Nationwide Series and some top-10 finishes in the (Sprint) Cup series. It’s a fast track and I am looking forward to the truck that Gene (Nead, crew chief) and the team have built for this weekend. I think we’ll have a good showing at Atlanta for the International Truck/Monaco RVs Toyota Tundra.” Interestingly, Bodine has an identical number of victories, top fives and top 10s at Atlanta as Skinner does. Todd will drive the No. 30 Night Train Toyota, named for the bobsled that just won Olympic gold for the U.S. Team.
“We are racing The Night Train Tundra in Atlanta to celebrate the gold medal win for the U.S. Bobsled team in the Winter Olympics,” said Bodine, whose brother Geoff spearheaded the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Project to build better bobsleds for the U.S. Bobsled team in 1992. “The special paint scheme is for all of the race drivers and celebrities that have donated their time to raise money by racing in the Bo-Dyn Bobsled Challenge over the past five years. They donated their time to raise money for the U.S. Bobsled team and this is their gold medal, too.”
Geoff will be in the race, too, driving Danny Gill’s No. 95 Dodge .
Keep an eye out, too, for Daytona winner Timothy Peters. Although Peters does not have a top-10 finish in three Truck Series starts at Atlanta, he likely will be a factor in the race.
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEEDtv.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com.