(Austin Dillon's move to the NWS opens the door for younger brother Ty to drive the championship-winning truck)
There will be a definite new-look to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2012.
But that’s not necessarily a bad thing.
Although former long-time organizations like Kevin Harvick Inc., Roush Fenway Racing or Germain Racing no longer participate in the truck series, several other teams have entered the fray to create an interesting landscape for the coming year, setting the tone for what should be a very competitive campaign.
Team owners Kevin and DeLana Harvick decided to dissolve their highly successful KHI operation last year but the remnants of the team are alive and well in other locations.
Richard Childress Racing acquired much of KHI’s assets for both its Nationwide and NCWTS programs and is set to defend its 2011 truck series title with a pair of full-time entries piloted by Ty Dillon, younger brother of last year’s champ, Austin, and Joey Coulter.
The team will also field a third truck with Brendan Gaughan, Elliott Sadler and Harvick rotating rides behind the wheel to complete a very potent line-up.
"I've got the trucks that won a championship last year, so I have all the resources and the ability to do it," said Ty Dillon, who inherits the No. 3 truck ride his brother piloted to the 2011 crown. "I have confidence in myself and my guys that we can go out there and get it done. It's just going to be overcoming our bad days and making them good."
The younger Dillon turned in a successful ARCA Series effort last year as well as making a handful of truck starts. He believes he’s ready to take the next step in his career.
“I learned a lot last year and have a great deal of resources and support at my fingertips,” Dillon said. “I’m looking forward to taking this challenge on full-time this season.”
While RCR found a home for some of the previous KHI properties, Eddie Sharp Racing also wound up with much of the team’s equipment.
Sharp took over KHI’s No. 8 and No. 33 trucks from last season, which were driven by Nelson Piquet Jr. and Ron Hornaday, and added them to his own entry to create a three-truck stable for 2012.
Justin Lofton and Cale Gale team up in the operation’s full season program while former truck champ Mike Skinner has inked a deal to drive the third entry in the Daytona season opener.
Sharp thinks the addition of the veteran Skinner to his effort at Daytona will help his goal of building the race team for the future.
"ESR has made a significant investment over the winter and the vision is to have three full time teams," said Sharp. "We have two down and one to go, and now with the opportunity to race Daytona with Mike, we're inching closer to that happening. The goal is to keep Mike in the truck all year and run for a championship. If you miss Daytona winning a championship is no longer possible-you have to be there."
ThorSport Racing will also support a three-truck program for 2012 in hopes of capturing its first series title. One of the longest-tenured teams in the series, the ThorSport trio of Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton and former USAC star Dakoda Armstrong is set to compete for the championship.
“This team is committed to getting the crown this season,” said Crafton, who starts his twelfth season with the team in 2012. “The ingredients are there for all three of us to have solid years. We had fast trucks last season but unfortunately ran into more than a few speed bumps along the way that we hope we’ll avoid this year. Confidence is pretty high right now for this race team.”
(Hornaday's 2011 season with KHI included his controversial incident with Kyle Busch at Texas Motor Speedway)
As it is for Joe Denette Motorsports, another organization that is sporting a different look in 2012.
Four-time series champ Hornaday and young Max Gresham will team up for the organization, owned by Denette who struck a fortune when he won the Virginia State Lottery a couple of years ago and bought himself a race team.
Hornaday is hoping to hit the jackpot again this year with an unprecedented fifth series championship.
“It’s impressive how much this race team has come together in a relative short period of time since I can on board,” said Hornaday, who spent last year with KHI. “There’s no reason we cannot contend for multiple wins and the championship this year and I’m really excited about the future with Joe Denette Motorsports.”
Hornaday of course was involved in last year’s celebrated incident with Kyle Busch during the Texas truck race. After Busch ran Hornaday into the wall under caution after the two had already made contact, NASCAR parked Busch for the remaining Nationwide and Sprint Cup races that weekend.
While Busch will still operate his Kyle Busch Motorsports team he will only drive a select number of Nationwide races and sit out the truck season portion of the program.
Former Turner Motorsports driver Jason Leffler will drive the KBM No. 18 race in at least 14 races with sponsorship dictating how many more events the truck will compete.
"As a racer, your ultimate goal is to win races, and driving the No. 18 Dollar General Tundra for KBM is definitely an opportunity where I expect to achieve that goal," said Leffler, who has made 46 career truck series starts. "Kyle has put together a first-class organization that builds top-notch equipment. I'm honored that he has the confidence in me as a driver to come in and carry on the winning tradition that his team has established.”
There are a number of other teams planning to make an impact in 2012 including Turner Motorsports, which will compete with Piquet Jr., James Buescher and Miguel Paludo for the full campaign, Red Horse Racing’s combo of Timothy Peters and rookie John King with veteran Todd Bodine in a Daytona entry and Brad Keselowski’s truck team with Parker Kligerman behind the wheel.
Although the series schedule has dropped to 22 events, NASCAR expects that number to climb back to the traditional 25 races in the near future. A first-time visit to historic Rockingham Speedway, which had hosted the Sprint Cup Series racing until 2003, is a highlight of this year's slate.
There may not be as many races to watch this year but the competition level in the Camping World Truck Series has the potential to be very high.
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