Nationwide Series and Sprint Cup Series season previews will be posted within the next couple days.
2009 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Defending Series Champion: Johnny Benson
2008 In Review: Benson clinched the 2008 title when the checkered flag waved at Homestead, edging Ron Hornaday by seven points in what’s widely considered the closest championship race in series history. Hornaday won a series-high six races to Benson’s five, and both drivers finished the season with 14 top-5s and 18 top-10s.
So why did Benson win the title? Consistency.
Hornaday finished 23rd or worse seven times last season, including twice in the last five races. Benson, meanwhile, only had five finishes worse than 11th all season. Benson did finish 25th in the next-to-last race of the season at Phoenix, but Hornaday finished 26th in that same race. When Hornaday ran out of fuel in Memphis and finished 29th, Benson won the race.
Season Preview: A new title sponsor signals a new beginning of sorts for the Camping World Truck Series, and is a coup of sorts considering how tough sponsorship dollars are to find in these economic conditions. That Camping World was willing to spend dollars and resources to increase its exposure level and commitment to NASCAR by sponsoring one of the three national touring series says a lot about NASCAR’s commercial viability.
But let’s keep our focus on the track, shall we?
Johnny Benson may be the defending series champion, but he’ll come into the 2009 season with a bit of uncertainty. His No. 23 Bill Davis Racing team is no more, leaving Benson with the No. 1 Toyota fielded by Red Horse Racing. He will have crew chief Trip Bruce, but how Benson fares in the new, unproven ride remains to be seen.
Things will stay the same for Ron Hornaday this season, as he’ll pilot the Kevin Harvick Inc. No. 33 alongside crew chief Rick Ren. That combination led to a series-high six wins last year and a second-place finish in the season standings – which could’ve easily been a series title had Hornaday not finished 23rd or worse seven times.
Already a series champion, look for Hornaday to take advantage of Benson’s new surroundings and pounce on the competition this season. KHI’s trucks are often the class of the field – especially with Bill Davis Racing out of the picture – and with a little more consistency, Hornaday could very well be looking at series championship number three.
Also watch the KHI stable for Ricky Carmichael’s NASCAR debut. The motocross champion will be trying to break into NASCAR by driving the No. 4 truck for Kevin Harvick in 14 races in 2009, and is eligible for Rookie of the Year honors. He’s already cut his teeth in regional touring series, so look for Carmichael to show some teeth when it comes to stock-car (or truck, in this case) racing.
Team to Watch: Randy Moss Motorsports will switch to Toyotas in 2009, with Jayski.com reporting that Tayler Malsam will take over the No. 81. Team owner Randy Moss (New England Patriots wide receiver) is rumored to be trying to start a second team for veteran Mike Skinner. If true, Skinner gives RMM an instant competitive advantage – not to mention it give Moss a lot of credibility as a NASCAR team owner.
Predicted 2009 Champion: Ron Hornaday
Predicted 2009 Rookie of the Year: Ricky Carmichael
Feb. 13 - Daytona International Speedway
Feb. 21 - Auto Club Speedway
March 7 - Atlanta Motor Speedway
March 28 - Martinsville Speedway
April 25 - Kansas Speedway
May 15 - Lowe's Motor Speedway
May 29 - Dover International Speedway
June 5 - Texas Motor Speedway
June 13 - Michigan International Speedway
June 19 - The Milwaukee Mile
June 27 - Memphis Motorsports Park
July 18 - Kentucky Speedway
July 24 - O'Reilly Raceway Park
Aug. 1 - Nashville Superspeedway
Aug. 19 - Bristol Motor Speedway
Aug. 26 - Chicagoland Speedway
Sept. 5 - Iowa Speedway
Sept. 12 - Gateway International Raceway
Sept. 19 - New Hampshire Motor Speedway
Sept. 26 - Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Oct. 24 - Martinsville Speedway
Oct. 31 - Talladega Superspeedway
Nov. 6 - Texas Motor Speedway
Nov. 13 - Phoenix International Raceway
Nov. 20 - Homestead-Miami Speedway