A Year of Transition for Trucks
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone on February 19, 2014 | 3:00 P.M. EST
Kyle Busch and Ryan Truex take to the high banks of Daytona in the new 2014 truck for their respective manufacturer. (Photo: Jeff Wackerlin)
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – It’s a year of transition as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series readies for the 2014 season.
There are more than a few familiar faces missing from the Truck Series garage this year with a number of new names ready to step in as well.
But the biggest change fans will notice immediately comes with the truck itself for the new campaign. All three manufacturers – Chevrolet, Ford and Toyota – made modifications to their body styles for the coming year in an effort to follow the lead of the Sprint Cup Series and Nationwide Series with vehicles more closely mirroring what consumers can find in the showroom.
Last month’s Preseason Thunder test session at Daytona was the first time for teams to shake down the new-style trucks and they appeared to pass with flying colors. Now, NASCAR is ready to unveil the new models as the Truck Series takes center stage Friday night at Daytona International Speedway.
"Each manufacturer has designed distinctly different trucks that they can use to promote their showroom models through their involvement with NASCAR racing," said Robin Pemberton, NASCAR vice president of competition and racing development. "We've worked closely with all three manufacturers for the past several years and we’re excited to unveil a new truck body that will make one of NASCAR’s most exciting series even better."
The 22-race schedule will kick off with the annual Daytona season opener, Friday night’s NextEra Energy Resources 250. Defending series champion Matt Crafton will be back to defend his crown with the ThorSport Racing team.
"We expect to be just as strong this year," said Crafton, who will have Johnny Sauter as a full-time teammate again this year with Jeb Burton in a third ThorSport ride for Daytona. "Nothing has changed in terms of personnel and resources with this No. 88 Menards team so I feel very confident that we’ll again be in the mix for the championship."
Brad Keselowski Racing figures to be one of the challengers to unseat Crafton and ThorSport. Ryan Blaney and Tyler Reddick will be teammates. Blaney, who will also run a handful of Nationwide Series races for Team Penske, believes what was accomplished last year provides a solid foundation for an improved 2014 effort.
"We were in position to win four or five races and it didn’t play out the way we wanted it to," Blaney said of last season. "We had parts breaking or contact with Kyle Busch in a couple of races. Going from Dodge to Ford kind of put us behind early in the year. By the end of the year, we were really strong, and could go out and win almost every race. I think we can make a really good run at a championship this year."
Kyle Busch Motorsports returns with Darrell Wallace set for a full campaign and Erik Jones splitting driving duties with team owner Busch in a second truck. Wallace, who won at Martinsville Speedway last season, has high hopes for 2014.
"This is a fresh slate for everybody," said Wallace. "The new-style Toyota looks great. I definitely learned a lot from the last year. I know what I need to do inside the seat to finish the races that I didn’t and improve on the races that weren’t that great."
Red Horse Racing brings back Timothy Peters for the new year, who was part of last year’s championship story until a late-season fade. He’ll team with German Quiroga in a pair of full-time entries.
"Things didn’t go our way down the stretch last year, for sure," said Peters, who finished 10th in points despite two wins, four top fives and 11 top 10s in the 22-race schedule. "I’ve got a new crew chief in Marcus Richmond and with the solid organization we have, we’re looking forward to this new season."
Other drivers and teams to watch in 2014 include Joey Coulter, who moves from Richard Childress Racing to GMS Racing; John Wes Townley, now a member of Wauters Motorsports; Mason Mingus, who takes over the Win-Tron Racing ride; and Ben Kennedy, now part of the Turner Scott Motorsports team.
"You need to be patient in this sport," said Kennedy, a graduate of the K&N Pro Series East. "If you take two steps ahead when you’re ready to take one step, you may put yourself in a bad situation and you may end up three steps behind. I want to make sure I take the right steps and get the right amount of learning as fast as I can."
The series schedule will not include Rockingham Speedway for the first time in two years while a return to Gateway Motorsports Park outside St. Louis is set for June.
Motor Racing Network - "The Voice of NASCAR" - will have live coverage of Friday's season opener at Daytona International Speedway starting at 7 p.m. (ET), with live streaming at MRN.com.