Kvapil Looking Stout In New Gig; Dominates Daytona (NCTS) Testing

NASCAR Preseason Thunder - 2007
NASCAR Preseason Thunder - 2007
Former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Travis Kvapil is coming to Daytona ready to pick off where former Roush Racing emblem Mark Martin left off. And by early predictions and looks, he is the man to beat. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series ended their three-day preseason testing session Sunday with Kvapil, in the famed No. 6 Ford F-150 for Roush Racing dominating the weekend, posting the fastest time during each segment and the final composite standings.

Kvapil, sporting the Dish Network uniform colors whipped his machine around the 2.5-mile speedway with a time of 48.252 seconds at 186.521 mph. Kvapil returns to the NCTS after netting a championship with Xpress Motorsports in 2003. He moved into the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series in 2004 with limited success. Now, returning to the division which brought him stardom and being associated with the team that triumphed six times last season, another championship could be in the works.

TOYOTA, who scored the 2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series manufacturers championship, is keeping their momentum rolling into the new season with newcomer and former open wheel star AJ Allmendinger taking the new reins of Darrell Waltrip Motorsports, who swapped numbers from the No. 17 to No. 00 and bolted to the second fastest lap.

Allmendinger, who will use the NCTS as extra practice for his full tenure in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series driving for Team Red Bull Racing turned a lap of 48.399 seconds at 185.954 mph. Allmendinger is expected to share the DWM (team located at Michael Waltrip’s shop in North Carolina) with fellow TOYOTA rookies, Josh Wise and Ken Buttler, III sharing the No. 00.

Jack Sprague, whose Wyler Racing team is expected to float between a full NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series schedule and some COT (Car of Tomorrow) races in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, wound up third quickest in the No. 60 Con-Way Freight TOYOTA.

Tyler Walker in a new entry for Bill Davis Racing in the No. 36 TOYOTA looked strong out of the box after turning the fourth fastest effort. Walker reunites to a full time gig after sitting on the sidelines for a couple years. Walker is expected to retain the owner’s points from the No. 22 TOYOTA formally driven by Bill Lester.

Mike Skinner, the second of three drivers for BDR (Bill Davis Racing) who recently signed a multi-year contract to continue driving the No. 5 TOYOTA rounded out the top-five.

Johnny Benson recovered nicely after losing crew chief Rick Ren to Kevin Harvick, Inc. to reel in the sixth fastest time in the third BDR entry. Benson had a remarkable year in 2006 scoring five wins and finishing second in the championship to fellow TOYOTA colleague Todd Bodine.

Terry Cook leaping from ppc Racing and a Ford took his new stab at HT Motorsports for Jim Harris and piloting a TOYOTA Tundra for the first time in his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career. Cook has been driving Chevrolets and Fords since he joined the series.

Peter Shepherd, the likable Canadian young gun racked in the eighth fastest time in what is expected to be a full year of competition behind the wheel of the No. 50 Ford F-150. Shepherd was ahead of fellow teammate and darkhorse Erik Darnell in the No. 99 Ford F-150 who took ninth.

Kraig Kinser in an entry fielded between Ginn Racing and Morgan-Dollar Motorsports rebounded after a poor speed in his first practice session of the weekend. Kinser is expected to run in a mixture of NCTS and share a ride with Regan Smith in the NASCAR Busch Series.

Reigning NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Todd Bodine led the Germain Racing brigade with the 11th fastest time in his No. 30 Lumber Liquidators TOYOTA. Bodine also announced last weekend at Daytona that his team will cut back their NNC efforts to focus on retaining the NCTS title.

Behind Bodine came teammate Ted Musgrave in the No. 9 Team ASE TOYOTA. Musgrave, the 2005 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion will look to add his name to TOYOTA winner’s list this season.

Cale Gale, KHI (Kevin Harvick, Inc.) newest top gun looked smooth and mature during his runs in the No. 2 Chevrolet Silverado. Gale, who will also run for the team in NASCAR Busch Series competition, will share this gig with boss Kevin Harvick and NASCAR Nextel Cup Series sophomore Clint Bowyer.

Ron Hornaday, Jr. tucked in behind Gale with 14th. Hornaday and Kevin Harvick are looking for the same magic that new crew chief Rick Ren brought to Johnny Benson last season.

Chase Miller was the fastest driver from Bobby Hamilton Racing’s stable last weekend. The team is still mourning the loss of their boss and leader Bobby Hamilton, Sr who succumbed to neck cancer earlier this month.

Chad McCumbee will start his sophomore season in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series full time with Green Light Racing behind the wheel of the No. 08 Chevrolet. McCumbee looked decent in testing after posting the 16th fastest lap. Green Light Racing has performed well at Daytona in past years. They are looking forward to continuing that success next month.

Shane Huffman, JR Motorsports driver in the NASCAR Busch Series returned to Curtis Key’s No. 40 Chevrolet for the test. Huffman was sharing the duties with USAR standout Clay Rogers. The team is expected to announce their 2007 driver lineup in the coming weeks.

Matt Crafton, the first of the ThorSport Racing entry’s burst onto the charts with an 18th fastest effort. Crafton was rumored to possibly head to the NASCAR Busch Series with ppc Racing, but Crafton remains under contract with the Ohio-based NCTS operation for 2007.

Ken Schrader taking the reins of the familiar No. 18 Dodge for Bobby Hamilton Racing garnished 19th. A nice feeling to have a veteran taking the place of a veteran in Hamilton, Sr whom many will never forget.

Clay Rogers wasn’t that far behind teammate Shane Huffman in Curtis Key’s sponsorless entry. Rogers, a successful USAR competitor and former NASCAR Busch Series driver appears to be auditioning for the full time ride of the No. 40 in 2007.

Tim Sauter, driver of the No. 07 Lester Buildings Chevrolet Silverado makes a leap from the NASCAR Busch Series to the trucks after running with McGill Motorsports in 2006. Sauter will be teammates with Chad McCumbee.

Circle Bar Racing will expand to a two-truck operation in 2007 and leading the way in that group was the second team driven by Texas’s David Starr. Acquiring the assets of the No. 10 ppc Racing entry, Starr posted the 22nd fastest effort. Starr joins Rick Crawford, a former winner at Daytona.

Another driver switching teams was Bill Lester. Formally Lester could be seen driving his familiar No. 22 TOYOTA Tundra, but Lester has found a new home at Billy Ballew Motorsports driving the No. 15 Chevrolet. Full sponsorship for this effort has not been announced, but this is expected to be a championship effort.

He didn’t switch teams, but manufacturers. Las Vegas’s Brendan Gaughan and his South Point Racing team hoisted their No. 77 Chevrolet in the 24th position. While it wasn’t actually the placement the team was looking for, it wasn’t the same engine package the team will bring back for race week. Expect better things for this team in time for the season opener.

2006 ARCA RE/MAX Series Rookie-of-the-Year Blake Bjorklund in his new effort for HAAS/CNC Racing maneuvered the 25th fastest time last weekend. This effort is expected to run at least the first eight to ten races before possibly expanding to a full effort.

Rick Crawford, the first of the two-truck team for Circle Bar Racing took 26th fastest overall. Another team not showing their full potential and will be a factor by race week.

Willie Allen, a darkhorse for the season and my pick for the 2007 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Rookie-of-the-Year clinched the 27th fastest effort overall despite turning some competitive laps in the draft. Allen, will shine this season, guaranteed. This is one driver and team that I think was sandbagging a little and will show their force in February. Allen will have a drafting partner in Matt Crafton which could lead to explosive results for the duo.

Dennis Setzer in his new endeavor with Spears Racing didn’t take off as he wanted after only consuming the 28th fastest lap. Setzer and crew chief Dave McCarthy have a lot of work to do before returning for the big show.

JTG Racing-Wood Brothers Racing newest addition Kelly Bires brought in the 29th fastest lap. Bires replaced Bobby East. Bires teammate Stacy Compton who will take over for Marcos Ambrose in 2007 did not participate in the test.

Aaron Fike in his new ride for Red Horse Racing wasn’t racing towards the front like many thought. Fike only posted the 30th fastest lap overall (despite some solid times in other testing sessions) and was the slowest TOYOTA of the field. RHR is familiar to winning and changes will be made to the truck before Daytona to ensure that they will be chasing this new horse.

Wayne Edwards in Jim Rosenblum’s No. 28 Chevrolet will attempt Daytona and consider the funding of this team; they have all the kudos in the world from me. Even though the team only turned in the 31st fastest time, many hope this team will be the Cinderella story of Daytona in 2007.

Georgia’s Joey Clanton was a lot faster throughout the weekend that the final overall standings showed putting Clanton a sour 32nd fastest on the sheets. I scrub this speed off because Clanton will be competitive during race week.

Bringing up the field in 33rd and 34th were the Mittler Bros. Racing team driven by Scott Lynch and John Mickel. Both timers were nearly identical but it has been rumored that Mickel will get the nod in the seat as he is bringing additional funding to the organization.

Teams who are expected to enter Daytona but elected not to participate in the open test session include Woodard Racing and Xpress Motorsports.

Author: Chris Knight

Chris Knight (@Knighter01) has served as senior staff writer, news editor and director of driver communications for CATCHFENCE.com since 2001. In his 17 years with CATCHFENCE.com, Knight has covered NASCAR's top-three series often breaking news, exclusive at-track content, while also providing in-depth race weekend coverage. He also offers insider coverage of the ARCA Racing Series and NASCAR K&N Pro Series divisions and more. In addition to his active duties at CATCHFENCE.com and other racing endeavors, he is also a frequent contributor to SiriusXM Satellite Radio NASCAR Channel 90.