It's Not the Same: Trucks Return to NHMS
Absent from the Magic Mile since 2011, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the running of the UNOH 175 on Sept. 20. It will be part of a raucous and wild weekend of racing, as the F.W. Webb 100 Whelen Modified Tour and Bond Auto Parts ACT Invitational American-Canadian Tour races will also be on the card for Saturday, while the SYLVANIA 300 Sprint Cup Series race will be run on Sunday, Sept. 21.
The Camping World Truck Series had run 16 consecutive years from 1996 through 2011. The trucks made their NHMS debut back in 1996 in a race won by Ron Hornaday Jr., who was also the last driver not named Kyle Busch to win a truck race in Loudon. Busch won the last three truck races at NHMS, sitting on the pole in 2010 and 2011.
But a lot has changed since the Camping World Truck Series last unloaded here at the 1.058-mile oval. But maybe the biggest changes that fans will notice aren't the trucks, but the drivers. Here are some of the biggest Truck Series differences that certainly prove that it's not the same:
From Champ to Rookie
Back in 2011, Austin Dillon was the man in the Truck Series. Then a 21-year-old pilot for Richard Childress Racing, Dillon finished second in Loudon and went on to win the season championship in the No. 3 Chevrolet Silverado. Dillon won two races, including 10 top-fives and six more top-10s that season.
Three years later, Dillon is still in the No. 3 for Richard Childress Racing. But the car number is represented on the side of a Sprint Cup Series car, as Dillon is in a hotly-contested Rookie of the Year battle with Kyle Larson. It's possible the No. 3 Silverado will be on-track Sept. 20, though, as Dillon is 1-for-1 in Truck starts in 2014.
Making His Mark
In 2011, Ryan Blaney was busy winning the PASS South Super Late Model Series championship. Then a hard-charging 17 year old who was following in his father Dave's tire marks, Blaney also made debuts in the ARCA Racing Series, NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and K&N Pro Series East series', garnering top-10 finishes in every start he made - event winning his first-career West start in the season-finale at Phoenix International Raceway.
Flash forward to today and Blaney is the reigning Rookie of the Year in his second full season driving the No. 29 Cooper Standard for BK Racing, leading the point standings by seven points over veteran Truck Series pilot Johnny Sauter.
In 2011, Darrell Wallace Jr., also known as Bubba, was coming off his first season in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East. Not only did he win his very first race in the series, he became the youngest pilot to ever win at the track (Greensville Pickens Speedway); the first African-American driver to win there; and first African-American driver to win in the history of the series Finishing third in the series by season's end, he became the first African-American to win the Rookie of the Year award in a NASCAR series.
Today, Wallace ranks fifth in his second full season in the Camping World Truck Series, having already won three races and recorded 18 top-10s in 33 career starts. Wallace has to third-place finishes in three (K&N Pro Series East) starts at the Magic Mile.
From 2009-11, Kyle Busch reigned supreme over the Magic Mile, winning three consecutive Truck races. During that span, Busch led 396 of the 525 (75 percent) laps run, winning the last two from the pole. In fact, the victor of the last six Truck races has won from the front row.
It's a guarantee Busch won't be winning this time around, as Rowdy won't be in the field for the UNOH 175. Here is a list of the top drivers that could find their way into Sunoco Victory Lane:
- Ron Hornaday Jr. - the veteran driver has won two of the last five races at the Magic Mile, and was the first-ever winner at the track in 1996.
- Johnny Sauter - With a 5.7 average finish in three-career starts, Johnny Sauter has been a very reliable driver at the 1.058-mile oval. Now all he needs is a win.
- Ryan Blaney - The sophomore pilot doesn't have a lot of experience at the Magic Mile, but given his consistency so far this year (seven top-fives in 11 starts), it's a safe bet Blaney will be in a position to contend.
- Darrell Wallace Jr. - One of only two drivers to win multiple races this year, Wallace is going to be a factor.
- Matt Crafton - A two-race winner himself this year, Crafton has never been to Sunoco Victory Lane at New Hampshire. But there's a first time for everything.