Martinsville Woodwork (A Look At The NCWTS Young-Guns)By Chris Knight
Back to reality. This weekend, the series resumes action at Martinsville Speedway and while qualifying has been delayed this morning due to inclement weather from last night, it has allowed members of the media to really study the practice sessions and look at some of the familiar young-guns and then the others who are just looking to make a dream come true.
NASCAR held two practices yesterday and several names immediately grabbed my attention.
Jeb Burton: Despite limited experience in NASCAR, Burton has really shined this weekend. In the No. 27 State Water Heaters Chevrolet Silverado for Hillman Racing, Burton, the son of former Daytona 500 champion Ward Burton is showing that despite his rawness, the team has brought him a good -truck and the leadership of his father and the backing of State Water Heaters, a lot of eyes will be on the 19-year old when the green flag waives.
Ross Chastain: A Florida native with little backing in an unsponsored No. 08 Toyota Tundra for SS Green Light Racing posted the 11th quickest lap in the first practice and 13th overall in the final practice session. Chastain, who ran a limited truck schedule last year may be a rookie, but Martinsville is a track that fits his style and he should be considered a factor.
Jake Crum: No doubt that Jake Crum puts a lot of heart and soul into his racing. Missing Daytona with Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing was a heart-breaker, especially because they were ousted by just thousands of a second. This weekend, Crum has attached himself with SS Green Light Racing in the No. 07 BanditChoppers.com Chevrolet Silverado. His last tango with a short-track at Bristol Motor Speedway was nothing less than disastrous. However, I’ve seen a more confident Crum in the garage this year. He’s more focused and willing to lean on veterans to help him prove himself behind the wheel. He by no means has a winning truck for the Kroger 250, but if he can keep the fenders clean, he should spark some positive attention which would be more than welcomed.
Joey Coulter: Other than flipping his truck at Daytona while running competitively in the top-10, Coulter in his No. 22 Steak-umm / Kroger Chevrolet Silverado has rattled off the biggest wreck of his NASCAR career and has come to Martinsville with crew chief Harold Holly looking stout. Fifth and eighth quickest in practice on Friday has several pointing to the Richard Childress Racing development driver as a first-time winner this afternoon.
Clay Greenfield: Another graduate from the ARCA Racing Series who’s back for his second-race of the year and with some momentum. After an impressive top-10 showing at Daytona, this little team is fighting it out with the big boys and faring well. It’s another team that has to qualify on-time, but looking at his times from yesterday, he’ll have another opportunity to prove what his team is really capable of.
Caleb Holman: The seven-time winner in the CARS Pro Cup Series has accelerated his career back to NASCAR. Since last competing in the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2007, Holman has laid low running competitively in CARS with his Henderson Motorsports. With the current chaos of that series, Holman and his team purchased two trucks, a short-track truck and an intermediate truck. With backing from long-time supporter Food Country USA, Holman is just looking to see the checkered flag today. Having to qualify for the event is the prime factor for the driver of the No. 75 machine. The team has the speed, so his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut should easily occur. The team plans to run at Rockingham in two weeks and then later in the season at Charlotte Motor Speedway. UPDATE: With qualifying not yet complete, Holman, however has been bumped from the grid and will NOT compete in today’s Kroger 250.
Paulie Harraka: The former NASCAR drive for diversity pilot was a surprise pick for some when NASCAR icon Richie Wauters decided to form his own team. Harraka I believe has the talent and ability to get the job done, he just needs seat-time and confidence. Wauters will have to demonstrate patience, as would any owner with a rookie. The team has picked up sponsorship from MC10 for the Kroger 250, but ultimately the team’s goal is to improve on Daytona and let Harraka see the checkered flag.
John King: Obviously, it’s been a hell of a month for John King. The fairly unknown Late Model driver surged into the spotlight by winning the NextEra Energy Resources 250 for Red Horse Racing. Despite capturing the trophy, King has come to Martinsville with a modest approach and reminded everyone that he is thankful to be here and hoping to further prove himself as the season progresses. The point’s leader has shown improvement in his second showing at Martinsville. 20th quickest in the first practice then laying down 14th in final practice, King will be someone that everyone will be keeping their eye for a variety of reasons. By the way, Happy Birthday, John King who turns 24 tomorrow (April 1st) and that’s no joke.
Justin Lofton: The 2009 ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards champion is making noise this season and that’s not a surprise to a lot of people. Acquiring a majority of the assets of Kevin Harvick Inc., Lofton in his No. 6 CollegeComplete.com Chevrolet Silverado for Eddie Sharp Racing will be a team that will be able to contend for the championship. The 26-year old is eager to improve on his track best finish of 13th which occurred in his second trip to the .4-mile oval. Did I mention that Lofton is third in points entering today’s Kroger 250, just six points behind Daytona winner John King.
John Wes Townley: John Wes Townley had every reason to be exciting in January. After taking some personal time away from the scene, RAB Racing with Brack Maggard announced that the two would reunite for the entire ’12 NCWTS season. A bad decision however by JWT which included an arrest for DUI provided deep setbacks and severe consequences for the 22-year old. What would turn out to be a one-race suspension by his team, followed by a year-long probation by NASCAR, the former ARCA driver has a lot to prove. In his No. 09 RAB Racing Toyota Tundra was solid on Friday which puts Townley into a comfort zone where he can focus on racing and let the problems of his pass disappear. In a personal opinion, he does not have the experience to be a winning factor, yet. However with some momentum, guidance and self-confidence, the team can certainly pound out some knock-off finishes.
So, there’s a quick glance at just some of the drivers here on the ground today at Martinsville Speedway. There are others too, Natalie Sather, a 27-year old Late Model standout driving for MAKE Motorsports, but it doesn’t look like she’ll have the speed to get in on time. And there’s Tyler Tanner driving for Mittler Bros. Racing, a polite young-man but struggling to find speed in his No. 65 EF65 Handcleaner / Mittler Bros. Racing Ford F-150.
To get to Victory Lane today, these future stars of the sport will have to take on the series’ finest including Kevin Harvick, Todd Bodine, Timothy Peters and Ron Hornaday Jr. One thing is for sure, the Kroger 250 will be a race you don’t want to miss!
EDITOR’S NOTE: With qualifying delayed, the race will have a delayed start with a scheduled green flag at 2:02 p.m. live on SPEED.
Views expressed by the writers are not necessarily the views of Catchfence