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Las Vegas 350 News and Notes

Las Vegas 350 News and Notes

Smith's Las Vegas 350 at LVMS Preview
TruckSeries.com

Bowyer Joins The Club: Clint Bowyer had no luck in Saturday’s New Hampshire 200, exiting the race on the 57th lap when his No. 2 Camping World Chevrolet was involved in an accident. Bowyer, however, came back on Sunday to win his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event and become the 18th competitor to win in all three of NASCAR’s national series.

Perfect No Longer: Ron Hornaday Jr. became New Hampshire International Speedway’s first repeat winner Saturday with a convincing performance in which the two-time series champion lead 174 of 200 laps. Ironically, Hornaday’s 1996 victory saw the Californian lead only the final lap – the first series winner to lead only the last serial.

Moving – again: Dennis Setzer will drive the No. 18 Fastenal Dodge subbing for Ken Schrader, who is competing in the Dodge Dealers 400 at Dover International Speedway. Clay Rogers remains in the No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet following his 12th-place finish in New Hampshire.

Indianapolis 500 Winner, IRL Champion Lazier To Make NASCAR Craftsman Truck Debut At LVMS

If former Indy Racing League champion Tony Stewart can win a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, why not Buddy Lazier? Lazier, who won the IRL championship in 2000 and the Indianapolis 500 in 1996, is the latest open-wheel star to sit in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck. The Vail, Colo., native will drive Billy Ballew’s No. 15 Flanders Beef Patties Chevrolet. Lazier tested with the team in 2005 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Lazier will join Jacques Villeneuve in the Smith’s Las Vegas 350, marking the first time two Indianapolis 500 champions have started the same series event.

“IROC really was an eye-opener for me into the world of stock car racing,” said Lazier, whose four IRL starts at LVMS include a third-place finish in 2000. “Racing with the best in the NEXTEL Cup, Busch Series and others was a blast.

“It was probably the most fun racing experience for me in my 20 years of professional motorsports.” azier is the second Indianapolis 500 veteran to drive Ballew’s Chevrolet. John Andretti made four starts for the team in 2005. “I look forward to a good start and finish and see what develops from there,” said the 39-year-old competitor. Larry Foyt is the most recent of 21 “500” veterans to compete in the series. He finished 32nd at Daytona in February.

Compton Eyes 100 - Stacy Compton (No. 09 Zaxby’s Ford) will make his 100th series start at Las Vegas – the 24th driver to do so. “One hundred will be more important if we win,” said Compton, whose last series victory came in 1998.

This Week’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Leaders

(Through 18 races of the 25-race season)
Points leader – Ron Hornaday Jr. (2,964)
Driver Rating – Mike Skinner (120.4)
Winnings – Mike Skinner ($585,600)
Laps led – Mike Skinner (956)
Victories – Ron Hornaday Jr., Mike Skinner (4)
Bud Poles – Mike Skinner (9)
Top-five finishes – Mike Skinner (14)
Top-10 finishes – Ron Hornaday Jr. (17)
Raybestos Rookie Leader – Tim Sauter (4 points over Willie Allen)
Races led – Mike Skinner (17)
Weeks in Top 10 – Nine drivers tied with 18

Raybestos Rookie of the Year Standings - Willie Allen (No. 13 Pork Chevrolet) led six laps of the New Hampshire 200 but mechanical problems dropped him two laps behind Raybestos Rookie of the Year rival Tim Sauter (No. 07 Lester Buildings Chevrolet) at race’s end. Sauter, who finished 23rd, doubled his standings lead – from two to four points.

On Deck: Talladega Superspeedway
More than 80,000 fans turned out on a perfect autumn afternoon last year to see the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series tackle the legendary high banks of Talladega Superspeedway.

None left unsatisfied with the sometimes five-wide competition that ended with Mark Martin coasting under the checkered and caution flags after a Turn 3 melee on the race’s final lap spoiled what could have been the closest, multi-truck finish in series history.

Judged by the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway – where a similar rules package is employed – Talladega’s Mountain Dew 250 should be even more dramatic the second time around. Jack Sprague, Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota) and Travis Kvapil (No. 6 K&N Filters Ford) finished virtually side-by-side-by-side.

FAST FACTS

Next Race: Smith’s Las Vegas 350
The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The Date: Sept. 221
The Time: 9:00 p.m. (ET)
TV: SPEED 8:30 p.m. (ET)
Track Layout: 1.5-mile oval
Race Purse: $530,194
2006 Winner: Mike Skinner
2006 Pole: Mike Skinner

2007 Standings
No. Driver - Points
1. Hornaday Jr. - 2,964
2. Skinner - 2,935
3. Kvapil - 2,693
4. Bodine - 2,666
5. Benson - 2,491
6. Crawford - 2,481
7. Musgrave - 2,268
8. Crafton - 2,217
9. Darnell - 2,196
10. Sprague - 2,185

Schedule: Saturday – Practice 8:30–9:30 a.m.; Rookie practice 9:45-10:15 a.m.; Final practice 10:30–11:30 a.m.; Qualifying 3:00 p.m.

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Las Vegas: NASCAR Truck Series Loop Info
paddocktalk.com

The miniscule 29-point lead Ron Hornaday Jr. enjoys over Mike Skinner might evaporate if past Las Vegas Motor Speedway trends continue.

Skinner is the defending champion of the race, and has won three consecutive poles there. Over the past two Las Vegas races, Skinner holds top marks in Driver Rating (131.5), Average Running Position (3.3), Laps in the Top 15 (298). He also has 45 Fastest Laps Run, which is third-best.

But what has to grab Hornaday’s attention is Skinner’s Vegas performance of a year ago. He led 114 laps that race, earned a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 and an Average Running Position of 1.5.

Hornaday does have success at Las Vegas as well, however. In six career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts there, Hornaday has four top fives and five top 10s (his worst finish was 13th in 2005). Over the past two Vegas races, he has a Driver Rating of 113.1 (fourth-best) and an Average Running Position of 7.1 (third-best).

Though outside the championship hunt, defending series champion Todd Bodine could also make noise in Vegas. He won there in 2005, and finished second in 2004. Over the past two races there, Bodine has a Driver Rating of 116.2 (fourth-best), an Average Running Position of 10.0 (sixth-best) and a series-high 54 Fastest Laps Run.

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ENTRY LIST: Smith's Las Vegas 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

00 Josh Wise
1 David Green
4 Kevin Hamlin
5 Mike Skinner
6 Travis Kvapil
06 Johnny Chapman
7 Jason White
07 Tim Sauter
8 Chad McCumbee
08 TBA   
9 Ted Musgrave
09 Stacy
10 David Starr
13 Willie Allen
14 Rick Crawford
15 Buddy Lazier
16 Brian Scott
18 Dennis Setzer
21 Jon Wood
23 Johnny Benson
27 Jacques Villeneuve
29 Scott Lynch
30 Todd Bodine
33 Ron Hornaday Jr.
40 Chad Chaffin
47 Regan Smith
50 T.J. Bell
59 Terry Cook
60 Jack Sprague
61 Brett Thompson
75 Clay Rogers
76 Chris Wimmer
77 Brendan Gaughan
86 Dana White
88 Matt Crafton
99 Erik Darnell

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NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series News And Notes - Las Vegas

‘Intermediates’ Key To Championship LVMS 11 Years Later: Déjà Vu All Over Again Canadians Have Long, Rich History In Series IRL Champion Buddy Lazier Debuts in Las Vegas

Performance on the intermediate speedways – those measuring 1.5-miles in length – likely is the key to winning the 2007 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship.

Simply stated, four of the remaining seven races, beginning with Saturday’s Smith’s Las Vegas 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, will be contested on 1.5-mile ovals.

Who’s the favorite? Take your pick.

Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota), who trails Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet) by 29 points, is the defending winner at LVMS and blitzed the field at Kentucky Speedway in July – the most recent race on a 1.5-mile track.

Beginning with last year’s Las Vegas race, Skinner has three victories in the past nine 1.5-mile races. He also won in Atlanta in March.

Hornaday, who has yet to win at LVMS, won May’s race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The 49-year-old Californian counts four 1.5-mile victories – including wins at two remaining tracks – Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota), despite being 298 points behind Hornaday, shouldn’t be overlooked.

Bodine is the series’ intermediate track leader with eight victories – seven on the remaining tracks. He won in Las Vegas in 2005; at Texas Motor Speedway in June and four times overall; and in 2005 in Atlanta and Miami.

Eleven Seasons And 10 Races Later, Six Still Are Going Strong

The more the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series changes, the more it stays the same.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway was the fastest track when it joined the series in November 1996 but that speed – a lap of 157.909 mph – pales by comparison to this year’s Daytona top qualifying lap of 179.508 turned in by race winner Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota).

Sprague and four others – all series champions – share a common bond with Las Vegas Motor Speedway, host of Saturday night’s Smith’s Las Vegas 350. The race is the track’s 11th.

The five are among the six remaining active drivers who competed in the 1996 Carquest 420 won by Sprague. Mike Skinner clinched the first NASCAR Craftsman Truck title with a seventh-place finish.

Also in the field – and still racking up wins and top finishes – were Ron Hornaday Jr.; Mike Bliss (No. 4 Open Joist Dodge); and Ted Musgrave (No. 9 Team ASE Toyota). Joe Ruttman, 62, who runs a limited schedule for Bobby Hamilton Racing, also competed in the first event.

Bliss is absent this week competing in the NASCAR Busch Series at Dover.

Sprague is LVMS’ only two-time winner. Ruttman, Skinner – the defending winner – and Musgrave also have victories at the 1.5-mile speedway.

Villeneuve Isn’t First Canadian Competitor; Just The Next

Formula One champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve (No. 27 Bill Davis Racing Toyota) is set to make his NASCAR debut this week in Las Vegas.

But Canadian competitors are no strangers to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. In fact, Randy Churchill of Windsor, Ontario, competed in 1995’s seventh race at I-70 Speedway near Kansas City.

Churchill’s father, Jerry, joined his son at Bristol, making them the first father-son entry in a series race. Randy MacDonald of Oshawa, Ontario, is the Canadian leader in starts (94) and winnings ($953,783).

MacDonald and his sister, Teri, are the only brother and sister to compete in the same race. Their most recent of four concurrent starts came at Darlington Raceway in 2003.

World class road racer Ron Fellows, however, remains the highest profile Canadian in the series – at least until Villeneuve’s debut.

Fellows, a Toronto native, won twice at Watkins Glen International in 1997 and 1999. He was the Bud Pole starter at WGI in three consecutive seasons.

Two Canadians have competed in 2007: Pierre Bourque of Ottawa and Peter Shepherd of Brampton, Ontario.

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Canadian Competitors Driver Starts Winnings Randy MacDonald 94 $953,783 Ron Fellows* 15 196,000 Teri MacDonald 7 53,925 Jerry Churchill 7 18,075 Peter Shepherd 7 71,966 Trevor Boys 6 50,794 Jason Thom 6 44,920 Randy Churchill 3 9,100 Pierre Bourque 1 7,720 Darren Law 1 5,420 * Two wins and three Bud Poles

NCTS, Etc:

* Bowyer Joins The Club. Clint Bowyer had no luck in Saturday’s New Hampshire 200, exiting the race on the 57th lap when his No. 2 Camping World Chevrolet was involved in an accident. Bowyer, however, came back on Sunday to win his first NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series event and become the 18th competitor to win in all three of NASCAR’s national series. * Perfect No Longer. Ron Hornaday Jr. became New Hampshire International Speedway’s first repeat winner Saturday with a convincing performance in which the two-time series champion lead 174 of 200 laps. Ironically, Hornaday’s 1996 victory saw the Californian lead only the final lap – the first series winner to lead only the last serial. * National Anthem. Mary Wilson, one of the original Supremes, will sing the National Anthem prior to the Smith’s Las Vegas 350. * Moving – again. Dennis Setzer will drive the No. 18 Fastenal Dodge subbing for Ken Schrader, who is competing in the Dodge Dealers 400 at Dover International Speedway. Clay Rogers remains in the No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet following his 12th-place finish in New Hampshire.

Indianapolis 500 Winner, IRL Champion Lazier To Make NASCAR Craftsman Truck Debut At LVMS

If former Indy Racing League champion Tony Stewart can win a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race, why not Buddy Lazier?

Lazier, who won the IRL championship in 2000 and the Indianapolis 500 in 1996, is the latest open-wheel star to sit in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck.

The Vail, Colo., native will drive Billy Ballew’s No. 15 Flanders Beef Patties Chevrolet. Lazier tested with the team in 2005 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

Lazier will join Jacques Villeneuve in the Smith’s Las Vegas 350, marking the first time two Indianapolis 500 champions have started the same series event.

“IROC really was an eye-opener for me into the world of stock car racing,” said Lazier, whose four IRL starts at LVMS include a third-place finish in 2000. “Racing with the best in the NEXTEL Cup, Busch Series and others was a blast.

“It was probably the most fun racing experience for me in my 20 years of professional motorsports.” Lazier is the second Indianapolis 500 veteran to drive Ballew’s Chevrolet. John Andretti made four starts for the team in 2005.

“I look forward to a good start and finish and see what develops from there,” said the 39-year-old competitor.

Larry Foyt is the most recent of 21 “500” veterans to compete in the series. He finished 32nd at Daytona in February.

Manufacturers’ Standings: Win No. 5 For Chevrolet

Ron Hornaday Jr.’s New Hampshire 200 victory snapped a two-race Toyota win streak at the 1.058-mile track. It was the GM brand’s fifth victory of the 2007 season.

Toyota, however, has won nine times and continues to hold a solid lead of 16 points in the 2007 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Manufacturers’ Championship.

2007 Manufacturers' Championship Point Standings Toyota 127 Chevrolet 111 Ford 103 Dodge 55

In The Loop:

The miniscule 29-point lead Ron Hornaday Jr. enjoys over Mike Skinner might evaporate if past Las Vegas Motor Speedway trends continue.

Skinner is the defending champion of the race, and has won three consecutive poles there. Over the past two Las Vegas races, Skinner holds top marks in Driver Rating (131.5), Average Running Position (3.3), Laps in the Top 15 (298). He also has 45 Fastest Laps Run, which is third-best.

But what has to grab Hornaday’s attention is Skinner’s Vegas performance of a year ago. He led 114 laps that race, earned a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 and an Average Running Position of 1.5.

Hornaday does have success at Las Vegas as well, however. In six career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts there, Hornaday has four top fives and five top 10s (his worst finish was 13th in 2005). Over the past two Vegas races, he has a Driver Rating of 113.1 (fourth-best) and an Average Running Position of 7.1 (third-best).

Though outside the championship hunt, defending series champion Todd Bodine could also make noise in Vegas. He won there in 2005, and finished second in 2004. Over the past two races there, Bodine has a Driver Rating of 116.2 (fourth-best), an Average Running Position of 10.0 (sixth-best) and a series-high 54 Fastest Laps Run.

Compton Eyes 100

Stacy Compton (No. 09 Zaxby’s Ford) will make his 100th series start at Las Vegas – the 24th driver to do so.

“One hundred will be more important if we win,” said Compton, whose last series victory came in 1998.

This Week’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Leaders (Through 18 races of the 25-race season) Points leader – Ron Hornaday Jr. (2,964) Driver Rating – Mike Skinner (120.4) Winnings – Mike Skinner ($585,600) Laps led – Mike Skinner (956) Victories – Ron Hornaday Jr., Mike Skinner (4) Bud Poles – Mike Skinner (9) Top-five finishes – Mike Skinner (14) Top-10 finishes – Ron Hornaday Jr. (17) Raybestos Rookie Leader – Tim Sauter (4 points over Willie Allen) Races led – Mike Skinner (17) Weeks in Top 10 – Nine drivers tied with 18

Raybestos Rookie of the Year Standings

Willie Allen (No. 13 Pork Chevrolet) led six laps of the New Hampshire 200 but mechanical problems dropped him two laps behind Raybestos Rookie of the Year rival Tim Sauter (No. 07 Lester Buildings Chevrolet) at race’s end. Sauter, who finished 23rd, doubled his standings lead – from two to four points.

Driver Points 1. Tim Sauter 134 2. Willie Allen 130 3. Blake Bjorklund 110 4. Joey Clanton 109 5. Jason White 105

On Deck: Talladega Superspeedway

More than 80,000 fans turned out on a perfect autumn afternoon last year to see the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series tackle the legendary high banks of Talladega Superspeedway.

None left unsatisfied with the sometimes five-wide competition that ended with Mark Martin coasting under the checkered and caution flags after a Turn 3 melee on the race’s final lap spoiled what could have been the closest, multi-truck finish in series history.

Judged by the season-opening race at Daytona International Speedway – where a similar rules package is employed – Talladega’s Mountain Dew 250 should be even more dramatic the second time around. Jack Sprague, Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota) and Travis Kvapil (No. 6 K&N Filters Ford) finished virtually side-by-side-by-side.

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Skinner Favored to Win Saturday's Smith's Las Vegas 350
TruckSeries.com

Defending Smith's 350 Race winner Mike Skinner is the odd's on favorite this Saturday in Las Vegas. (VPS Motorimages Photo)

Mike Skinner, winner of the 2006 Smith's Las Vegas 350, is favored by Station Casinos' oddsmaker Micah Roberts to repeat in Saturday evening's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Current series points leader Ron Hornaday is next at 4-to-1. Todd Bodine, who has won at LVMS in both Craftsman Trucks and the NASCAR Busch Series, goes off at 6-to-1.

Roberts believes LVMS' high-speed highbanks will be tough to tame and so "rookie" Jacques Villeneuve - an Indianapolis 500 winner and Formula 1 World Driving Champion - has been relegated to 25-to-1.

Hometown hero Brendan Gaughan's No. 77 South Point Chevrolet is listed at 20-to-1.

Race fans are invited to meet the stars of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at a free autograph session at The Stratosphere Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas Friday evening from 7-8 p.m. Drivers scheduled to participate include: Ken Schrader, Todd Bodine, Ted Musgrave, Kenny Wallace, Jacques Villeneuve, Mike Bliss, Stacy Compton, Jon Wood, David Green, Terry Cook, Scott Lynch, Chad Chaffin, Kevin Hamlin, Matt Crafton, Willie Allen, Chris Wimmer, Brandon Miller, Dennis Setzer and Josh Wise. The Stratosphere Hotel & Casino is located at 2000 Las Vegas Blvd. South, near Sahara.

Odds to win Smith's Las Vegas 350
Mike Skinner 3/1
Ron Hornaday 4/1
Todd Bodine 6/1
Johnny Benson 6/1
Travis Kvapil 8/1
Ted Musgrave 15/1
Jack Sprague 15/1
David Green 15/1
Buddy Lazier 18/1
Rick Crawford 18/1
Erik Darnell 18/1
Ken Schrader 20/1
Dennis Setzer 20/1
Jon Wood 20/1
Brendan Gaughan 20/1
David Starr 20/1
Mike Bliss 25/1
Terry Cook 25/1
Jacques Villeneuve 25/1
Matt Crafton 25/1
Regan Smith 25/1
T.J. Bell 30/1
Stacy Compton 30/1
Chad Chaffin 35/1
Scott Lynch 75/1
Chris Wimmer 75/1
Dana White 75/1
Willie Allen 75/1
Tim Sauter 75/1
Chad McCumbee 75/1
Brett Thompson 100/1
Field (all others) 30/1

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Craftsman heads to Vegas
By Micah Roberts
VegasInsider.com 

Performance on the intermediate speedways – those measuring 1.5-miles in length – likely is the key to winning the 2007 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship.

Simply stated, four of the remaining seven races, beginning with Saturday’s Smith’s Las Vegas 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, will be contested on 1.5-mile ovals.

Who’s the favorite? Take your pick.

Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota), who trails Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet) by 29 points, is the defending winner at LVMS and blitzed the field at Kentucky Speedway in July – the most recent race on a 1.5-mile track.

Beginning with last year’s Las Vegas race, Skinner has three victories in the past nine 1.5-mile races. He also won in Atlanta in March.

Hornaday, who has yet to win at LVMS, won May’s race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The 49-year-old Californian counts four 1.5-mile victories – including wins at two remaining tracks – Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota), despite being 298 points behind Hornaday, shouldn’t be overlooked.

Bodine is the series’ intermediate track leader with eight victories – seven on the remaining tracks. He won in Las Vegas in 2005; at Texas Motor Speedway in June and four times overall; and in 2005 in Atlanta and Miami.

Eleven Seasons And 10 Races Later, Six Still Are Going Strong

The more the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series changes, the more it stays the same.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway was the fastest track when it joined the series in November 1996 but that speed – a lap of 157.909 mph – pales by comparison to this year’s Daytona top qualifying lap of 179.508 turned in by race winner Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota).

Sprague and four others – all series champions – share a common bond with Las Vegas Motor Speedway, host of Saturday night’s Smith’s Las Vegas 350. The race is the track’s 11th.

The five are among the six remaining active drivers who competed in the 1996 Carquest 420 won by Sprague. Mike Skinner clinched the first NASCAR Craftsman Truck title with a seventh-place finish.

Also in the field – and still racking up wins and top finishes – were Ron Hornaday Jr.; Mike Bliss (No. 4 Open Joist Dodge); and Ted Musgrave (No. 9 Team ASE Toyota). Joe Ruttman, 62, who runs a limited schedule for Bobby Hamilton Racing, also competed in the first event.

Bliss is absent this week competing in the NASCAR Busch Series at Dover.

Sprague is LVMS’ only two-time winner. Ruttman, Skinner – the defending winner – and Musgrave also have victories at the 1.5-mile speedway.

In The Loop:

The miniscule 29-point lead Ron Hornaday Jr. enjoys over Mike Skinner might evaporate if past Las Vegas Motor Speedway trends continue.

Skinner is the defending champion of the race, and has won three consecutive poles there. Over the past two Las Vegas races, Skinner holds top marks in Driver Rating (131.5), Average Running Position (3.3), Laps in the Top 15 (298). He also has 45 Fastest Laps Run, which is third-best.

But what has to grab Hornaday’s attention is Skinner’s Vegas performance of a year ago. He led 114 laps that race, earned a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 and an Average Running Position of 1.5.

Hornaday does have success at Las Vegas as well, however. In six career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts there, Hornaday has four top fives and five top 10s (his worst finish was 13th in 2005). Over the past two Vegas races, he has a Driver Rating of 113.1 (fourth-best) and an Average Running Position of 7.1 (third-best).

Though outside the championship hunt, defending series champion Todd Bodine could also make noise in Vegas. He won there in 2005, and finished second in 2004. Over the past two races there, Bodine has a Driver Rating of 116.2 (fourth-best), an Average Running Position of 10.0 (sixth-best) and a series-high 54 Fastest Laps Run.

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Can Hornaday win at track that's made him a champ?
Las Vegas Sun

Twice Ron Hornaday has rolled into Las Vegas Motor Speedway atop the points standings in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series , and twice he has emerged as the series champion.

In both instances - 1996 and 1998 - the Las Vegas race was the season finale. So even though Hornaday comes into Saturday night's Smith's Las Vegas 350 with a 29-point lead over Mike Skinner, he won't be celebrating a third championship this weekend - because this year, six more races follow.

But that Hornaday is in contention for the championship nine years after winning his last title speaks not only to his perseverance, but to the fact that he has, once again, hooked up with a team owner every bit as committed to win as Hornaday.

In the mid-'90s, Dale Earnhardt Sr. plucked Hornaday from the West Coast, where he was running NASCAR Southwest and West Series races, and put him in a Chevrolet in the upstart Truck Series. Hornaday responded by winning 25 races and two championships for Earnhardt from 1995 to 1999.

After forays into the NASCAR Busch and Cup Series from 2000 to 2004, Hornaday was hired by another passionate racer, Kevin Harvick, to return to the Truck Series in 2005 and drive Chevrolets for Kevin Harvick Inc.

Hornaday, 49, credits team owners Kevin and DeLana Harvick for his resurgence in the Truck Series.

"Kevin and DeLana have built an organization where no one ever says die - that is what makes us run hard," he said. "It is a pleasure to drive this stuff."

Hornaday is coming off a victory last weekend at New Hampshire International Speedway - his fourth of the season, seventh with Kevin Harvick Inc. and 33rd of his Truck Series career. He will have to be considered one of the pre-race favorites to visit victory lane this weekend.

Although he has an average finish of sixth in six career starts at LVMS, including a fifth-place effort last year, Hornaday has never won on the 1.5-mile LVMS oval.

Two for the show

Jacques Villeneuve won't be the only Indianapolis 500 winner making his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series debut Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Buddy Lazier, who won the 1996 Indy 500 and the 2000 IndyCar Series championship, is scheduled to start Saturday's Smith's Las Vegas 350 in Billy Ballew Motorsports' No. 15 Chevrolet Silverado.

Lazier, who finished third in the IndyCar race at LVMS in 1998, said his interest in NASCAR began while he was driving in the International Race of Champions Series in 2001 and 2002.

"IROC really was an eye-opener for me into the world of stock-car racing," he said. "Racing with the best in the Nextel Cup, Busch Series and others was a blast.

"It was probably the most fun racing experience for me in my 20 years of professional motor sports."

Kyle Busch, a Las Vegas native, has made five starts in the No. 51 truck this season and recorded a second-place finish in June at Michigan International Speedway - the truck's best finish in 11 outings this year.

Off the track

All the on-track activity for this weekend's Smith's Las Vegas 350 truck race will be confined to Saturday, but race fans will have several opportunities to meet some of the drivers away from the track in the days before the race.

Several Truck Series drivers, including Brendan Gaughan, reigning series champion Todd Bodine, current points leader Ron Hornaday and NASCAR veteran Johnny Benson, will take part in a charity bowling tournament at 7:30 tonight at the South Point bowling center. A $10 donation to Speedway Children's Charities will get fans a free ticket to Saturday night's race.

Gaughan will host an open house from 3 to 7:30 p.m. Friday at the South Point Racing team's race shop at the Speedway Commerce Center adjacent to Las Vegas Motor Speedway (6975 Speedway Blvd., Building D-104).

Many of the series' drivers, including Bodine, Ted Musgrave, Kenny Wallace, Villeneuve, Mike Bliss, Jon Wood and Dennis Setzer, will take part in a free autograph session from 7 to 8 p.m. Friday at the Stratosphere.

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Who to Watch: Las Vegas
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The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has always gone big in Las Vegas. The inaugural Truck Series event at LVMS in 1996 brought one of the largest entries in series history, and also had the largest starting field in history as well when 40 drivers took the green flag. For three seasons, from 1996 through 1998, the series champion was crowned in Las Vegas and the 1998 championship - won by Ron Hornaday, Jr. over Jack Sprague by just three points - wasn't settled until the last lap. Hornaday's three point margin of victory remains the closest in series history.

Recently, the track has hosted one of the largest crowds of the season for the series. The track's unique driver introduction ceremony has each of the drivers in the starting field walk through the nearly 60,000 people in the grandstands. Once it gets down to brass tacks out on the track, those in attendance are promised one of the better events of the season.

Last year they witnessed the very first race on the newly reconfigured track. The banks were raised from 12 degrees to 20 degrees, and the speeds jumped nearly 15 miles per hour as a result. With a year of racing on the new asphalt there should be more available racing room, and speeds could be a tick higher as well.

While all eyes were on the Las Vegas event last year because of the new surface, this year media from all around the world will converge on the track to watch former Formula 1 World Driving Champion and 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve make his stock car racing debut. Villeneuve will have company from the open wheel ranks as 1996 Indy 500 winner Buddy Lazier will also be in the field.

Here are our driver capsules for the Smith's Las Vegas 350, round 19 of the 2007 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season:

Josh Wise, No. 00 Aaron's Lucky Dog Toyota: Wise has gained experience in ARCA and Trucks this season, and has started to come around. He looked good in ARCA outings at Pocono and on the dirt miles, but took a hard hit last time out at Chicagoland. Wise is at his most comfortable on the intermediate tracks and should qualify and race well. If his ARCA owner Eddie Sharp is back helping the flow of information between Wise and crew chief Randy Goss this weekend, it could produce the same type of performance Wise has shown in the ARCA cars this year.

David Green, No. 1 Red Horse Racing/RFMS Toyota: Green has a total of 12 starts at LVMS spread out in the Cup and Busch Series, but has just two top-10 finishes to show for it. This team's performance has been slightly off in recent races, and its best performance of the season at Gateway was cut short by a tire problem and subsequent crash in sight of the checkered flag. In past seasons this team would be a legitimate challenger for poles and wins at intermediate tracks, but a top ten start and finish would get their season back on track.

Kevin Hamlin, No. 4 Dodge Motorsports/Open Joist Dodge: Hamlin gets the call to take the seat this week as Mike Bliss handles his Busch duties across the country in Dover. Hamlin couldn't be getting in this truck at a better time: Bliss has racked up a series of strong runs and finished fifth last week at New Hampshire. It might be much to ask for a Dodge win right now, but Hamlin is a solid enough performer to bring the truck home in one piece. And if the truck is capable, Hamlin should wheel it home in the top ten.

Mike Skinner, No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota: Skinner is the defending winner of the Las Vegas 350, and odds makers in Sin City are naming him the favorite this week as well. Why shouldn't they? Even with the hiccup at Gateway, Skinner is averaging a 5.8 finish and a 2.3 average start. He's led 956 laps this season, and based on his performances on the intermediates this season he should reach that 1000-lap milestone this week.

Travis Kvapil, No. 6 K&N Filters Ford: Kvapil isn't out of the championship hunt just yet, but his chances took a big hit in New Hampshire. Kvapil has excelled on a variety of tracks this season from short tracks to intermediates to superspeedways, but this will be his first time to the "new" LVMS. He was not a part of the Truck race last season as he was busy racing in the Cup Series, and he wasn't a part of the Cup/Busch doubleheader in March as he was back in the Truck Series. His lack of laps shouldn't hinder him much at all, and Kvapil should return to the top five.

Johnny Chapman, No. 06 People Against Drugs Chevrolet: Chapman gets the call to wheel a third Green Light truck to fill out the field this week. Look for a couple of laps and then for Chapman to pull off and head for the garage.

Jason White, No. 7 Hooter's Energy Drink Dodge: White's team has made more changes this year than some do in a span of three: four drivers, three crew chiefs, and two manufacturers. It has yet to pay dividends as White is still looking for the team's first top-10 finish.

Tim Sauter, No. 07 Lester Buildings Chevrolet: In 2001 and 2002, Sauter ran strong in two Busch starts at Vegas, coming home with two top-20 finishes. His last start in 2006 ended in a hard crash not of his doing. This team has run very well this season, but is still looking for that first top-ten result. That might be a little too much to ask this week on the high speed Vegas track, but Sauter's consistency should be able to rack up another top-20 run.

Chad McCumbee, No. 8 TheGPSStore.com/Garmin Chevrolet: McCumbee only has one start at LVMS, with an oil leak sending him to the garage early. The team change McCumbee made after the Nashville race hasn't produced the results anyone would have anticipated, and McCumbee is still looking for his first top-ten of the season.

Ted Musgrave, No. 9 Team ASE Toyota: Musgrave came as close as anyone can to winning last year at LVMS, coming home second just three-tenths of a second behind Mike Skinner. Since a 36th-place finish at LVMS in his first race there in 1996, Musgrave hasn't been out of the top-ten since. He has been the runner-up the last two years. Musgrave is hungry for that first win with the Germain team, and Vegas offers as good a chance as any track on the schedule.

Stacy Compton, No. 09 Zaxby's Ford: Compton has three NCTS starts at Las Vegas. He earned the pole for his final start in 1999, and drove to his best finish in that race as well, a 6th. He also has one top-ten in six Busch Series starts. Compton needs to get back on the positive side of things after getting tied up in a wreck last week at New Hampshire.

David Starr, No. 10 International MaxxForce Diesel Ford: Starr's first career win came at Vegas in 2002. This team has struggled for consistency all season long. Starr has scored double-digit top-ten finishes in every NCTS season since 2002, but has just three top-tens to this point.

Willie Allen, No. 13 ThorSport Chevrolet: Allen led some laps at NHIS and looked like he would at least match his season-best 12th-place finish at Gateway, but tire problems sent him to pit road. There are plenty of teams that have fought Lady Luck this season, but Allen and the ThorSport team seem to have had more bad luck than most. Allen looks to better his season average on the 1-2 mile speedways, which is a 22.3 average finish.

Rick Crawford, No. 14 Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford: In nine previous starts at LVMS, Crawford has never finished better than fifth. He was one of the first to taste trouble here last year on the new asphalt, throwing a truck away in the open test on Friday. He came back to finish 14th, but would like to get back into the top-five here this year.

Buddy Lazier, No. 15 Flanders Provisions Co. Chevrolet: Lazier hops in one of the most competitive rides in the series to make his NASCAR debut. He might not get the attention that Jacques Villeneuve will, but make no mistake: Lazier is out to make his mark. They didn't call him "The Bulldog" for nothing in his Indy Car days for nothing.

Brian Scott, No. 16 Xpress Motorsports Ford: Scott acquitted himself well in his series debut last week at New Hampshire. He stayed out of trouble, took a few nudges from the competition, and didn't make any glaring rookie mistakes. The speeds will be about 40 miles per hour quicker at LVMS, and it will be a real test of Scott's mettle. Another race in which he completes all the laps and stays out of trouble will be seen as a success.

Dennis Setzer, No. 18 Fastenal Dodge: Setzer hops into his third ride in as many races, taking over for Ken Schrader who will be busy in the Cup race at Dover. In eight races at LVMS, Setzer has three top-five and six top-ten finishes and a worst finish of 14th. Look for Setzer to contend for a top-ten.

Jon Wood, No. 21 Wood/jtg Racing Ford: Wood has four NCTS starts at Las Vegas, and with each race he has gotten progressively better. He's gone from 29th in his first start back in 2001 to 12th in his last start in 2004. He made his only career Cup Series start at LVMS in March and just like he did in his first Truck race at the track he raced home to a 29th-place finish.

Johnny Benson, No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota: The numbers at Las Vegas show that Benson is very strong in even-numbered years. In 2004 and 2006, Benson finished fourth. But in 2005, he finished a disappointing 33rd. We're in an odd-numbered year. Does that mean another finish outside the top-30 for Benson? His performances on track of late indicate otherwise.

Jacques Villeneuve, No. 27 Bill Davis Racing Toyota: Villeneuve comes in with one of the most storied resumes in the history of the NCTS. But he also knows what this is all about. It's not about doing all he can to get to the front, it's about learning. Villeneuve is one of the most cerebral drivers in the sport, and he won't do anything silly to throw the truck away. It the truck has a shot to go to the front, he'll take it there.

Scott Lynch, No. 29 Jasper Engines Dodge: Lynch has two top-20 finishes in three previous LVMS starts. He also has a lot of experience in the NASCAR West Series at the 1.5-mile oval, which should come to his benefit come race time. Another top-20 is very possible for this family-owned team.

Todd Bodine, No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota: Bodine won this race in 2005 during one of the most incredible hot streaks in series history. However, his first race on the new configuration last fall resulted in a 12th-place finish. Even when this team is off, they find a way to work through it and more often than not they pull off a good finish. So even if they have a hard time coming to grips with the new LVMS for the second straight year, look for them to wind up in the top ten.

Ron Hornaday, No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet: Hornaday may have conceded this race to Mike Skinner in a playful exchange following the New Hampshire race, but it's doubtful that anyone believes Hornaday won't be a strong contender for the win. He was dominant at Charlotte and has been consistently fast on all the intermediate tracks this season.

Chad Chaffin, No. 40 Stratosphere Hotel Chevrolet: His first ride in the No. 40 truck ended in a last place finish last week at NHIS. That's the bad news. The good news is it can only go up from there. Chaffin will get as much out of this ride as possible. If the truck is capable, look for Chaffin to get up into the top 20 and maybe even contend for a top-15 finish.

Regan Smith, No. 47 Ginn Resorts Chevrolet: Smith has three Busch starts in his career at LVMS, but has never tasted much success. The Morgan-Dollar team has really rallied around Smith, so look for a strong race from this team this weekend.

T.J. Bell, No. 50 Heathcliff's Cat Litter Ford: Bell finished 23rd in his only previous LVMS Truck Series start back in 2003. He was 9th at Charlotte and the intermediates have traditionally been his strong suit.

Terry Cook, No. 59 Harris Trucking Co. Toyota: Vegas is one of Cook's favorite locations, but his record at the track has been a roller coaster. Cook has three top-10 finishes, but his best is a seventh-place run in 2003. His HT Motorsports team has been coming on week to week. Now that the track is similar to Kentucky and some of the other "cookie cutter" tracks look for Cook to be more of a factor.

Jack Sprague, No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota: Sprague has led more laps and earned more scratch at LVMS than any other NCTS driver. He has two wins and seven top-five finishes at the track. He was 13th last season, so he will be looking to get back among the top-five this season. The only question is will his luck hold off long enough to let it happen.

Brett Thompson, No. 61 Thompson Trucking Dodge: Thompson will be looking to make his second series start this week. He made his debut earlier this season at Indianapolis. He'll be looking to log as many laps as possible and gain as much experience as he can while not getting in the way or causing any trouble.

Clay Rogers, No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet: Rogers gets the call to wheel the No. 75 again this week. This combination looked good through most of the NHIS race, and they ended up 12th at the finish. Rogers has had success on the intermediates in the past, and this team has a winning background at LVMS. A top-10 finish is possible for this team.

Chris Wimmer, No. 76 Automotive Fabrication Chevrolet: Wimmer's Jeff Milburn-owned team is one of the true "little guys" of the sport. Milburn doesn't have a big budget and does everything he can to get to the track - including eating PB&J to pay travel and tire bills. They won't have a shot to win the race, but just getting there and making the show will be a win for this team.

Brendan Gaughan, No. 77 South Point Hotel Chevrolet: Is there a bigger race on the schedule for Gaughan and team? The South Point Racing shop is located in a business park on the track grounds, and everyone's eyes will be on Gaughan all weekend long. After a bump in the road at NHIS, this team is due for another strong run. Gaughan could be a contender for a top-5 this week.

Dana White, No. 86 Red Line Oil Chevrolet: White usually shows up when there is a need to fill out the field. He usually runs a handful of laps and pulls in. He might run more than some of the other field fillers but a finish in the 30s is most likely.

Matt Crafton, No. 88 Menards/Turtle Wax Chevrolet: Crafton has found frustration at Las Vegas. In seven starts, he only has one top-ten finish back in 2003. This team only has one top-10 run since June, and is due to click off a few more before the end of the season. He was third earlier this season at Atlanta so this team has shown it can run strong on the intermediate speedways.

Erik Darnell, No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford: A second-place finish at NHIS was a great way to start off his relationship with new crew chief Matt Puccia. Darnell dominated at Kansas, and Vegas is now configured very similarly. Darnell could pick up his second consecutive top-five finish this weekend.

Here at my predictions:

Pole: Ron Hornaday. He wants to get a pole on speed not due to weather. He's fast on the mile-and-a-half tracks.

Winner: Todd Bodine. It's been a while since Bodine has been to victory lane. He hasn't forgotten how, and he's hungry for more before moving to the Busch Series in 2008.

Rest of the top five behind the winner, in no particular order: Ron Hornaday, Erik Darnell, Mike Skinner, Brendan Gaughan.

Rest of the top ten behind the top five, in no particular order: Rick Crawford, Clay Rogers, Matt Crafton, Jack Sprague, Travis Kvapil.

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Re: Las Vegas 350 News and Notes

Driver to win the Las Vegas 350

Ron Hornaday +350     
Mike Skinner +400     
Travis Kvapil +600     
Todd Bodine +700     
Johnny Benson +700     
Jack Sprague +1000     
Jacques Villeneuve +1000     
Ted Musgrave +1400     
Rick Crawford +1400     
Matt Crafton +1800     
Erik Darnell +1800     
Brendan Gaughan +3000     
Jon Wood +3000     
Dennis Setzer +4000     
Field +1000     

@TheGreek

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Re: Las Vegas 350 News and Notes

Kvapil Vegas Pole Winner
RacingOne.com

Travis Kvapil captured his fourth career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series pole on Saturday in qualifying for the Las Vegas 350.

Driving the No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford, Kvapil circled the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway in 30.789 seconds (175.387 mph) to win his third pole of the season.

The Toyota's of Mike Skinner, David Green and Todd Bodine, respectively, completed the first four starters. Kvapil's teammate Erik Darnell rounded out the top five.

Jacques Villeneuve qualified seventh in his series debut while NCTS point leader Ron Hornaday will roll off from the 15th position.

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