After a 6 week hiatus, the trucks return to action this weekend at Martinsville as 36 drivers hope to capture the checkered flag at the end of 250 grueling laps on the paper clip. Among them, we have the usual suspects like Timothy Peters, Kevin Harvick, Ron Hornaday, James Buescher and Johnny Sauter but we also have many not so familiar names. There are multiple drivers in the field for Saturday’s race that have little to no experience racing at the national level of NASCAR. Here are a few of them that you may want to keep an eye on throughout the race as they look to steal the spotlight from the big guns and maybe even take home one of those coveted grandfather clocks.
This may be his CWTS debut but a lot of fans already know this young man…especially by his last name. Chase is the son of the 1988 NASCAR Winston Cup (now Sprint Cup) Champion and future HOF’er, Bill Elliott. At just 17 years of age, Chase has already won the 2011 Snowball Derby, a K&N East race and will start 8th in his truck debut at one of the toughest tracks on the circuit. His #94 Aarons Chevrolet will certainty be near the front the whole day and maybe even in contention for the win late in the going.
Quiroga is a Mexican born racer and has already won 3 NASCAR championships in the Mexican Toyota Series. He hasn’t run many truck races but already showed some potential posting a top 10 finish in just his 3rd start and running fairly competitively in all the races he’s entered. He qualified an impressive 5th for the Martinsville race and pending he doesn’t get wrecked, I can easily see him staying top 5 throughout the day. German has plenty of experience racing stock cars and if you have ever watched one of those NASCAR Mexican races….you would see that those guys hold nothing back. They are door slamming and knocking one another out of the way every lap at every track which is exactly the kind of racing you will see at Martinsvile.
I had the pleasure of interviewing Erik after his surprise win in the 2012 Snowball Derby fending off a hard charging Kyle Busch in an epic battle for the win. By the way, the truck he is driving this weekend is fielded by Kyle Busch Motorsports so it looks like KB saw something in Jones after their battle. This will be his first ever start in a NASCAR sanctioned race and a truck race at Martinsville really isn’t the calmest place to make your debut. By the end of the day, he will most likely have all 4 fenders caved in, a few donuts on each door and maybe even a couple guys mad at him but that’s short track racing for you! If Jones has proven anything, it’s that he doesn’t choke under pressure…if you are a teenage kid and Kyle Busch beating on your back bumper doesn’t intimidate you, not much will.
Here is another familiar last name…Burton. Yes, this is the son of 2002 Daytona 500 winner, Ward Burton. Jeb made his CWTS debut last year and quickly garnered the attention of NASCAR nation. He came out of the box posting a 13th place finish at Martinsville and an 11th place finish at Rockingham for the underfunded Mike Hillman Racing team. His truck at the Rock was out of control and to this day I don’t know how he kept that thing out of the fence. He scored his first top 10 at Charlotte last fall and finished a solid 5th in the 2013 season opener at Daytona. By the way, he is your pole sitter for this race. Burton has a fast truck, great teachers and some natural talent which makes him a formidable competitor when the green flag drops Saturday. Kevin Harvick better hurry up and get to the front because by the time he gets there, Jeb Burton might be cruising to victory lane.
Darrell Wallace Jr
First of all, let me address the elephant in the room which is that Darrell is not just a CWTS rookie, he is NASCAR’s newest African American driver. Don’t be surprised if one day he wins race at the Cup level and maybe even championships. This may be the year 2013 but believe it or not, Wallace has had deal with racists his whole career. Even an official at a track hosting a late model race used a racial slur against him when he was just 14. Wallace didn’t let the hatred stop him from reaching his dreams as he fought through the adversity and now finds himself with a full time ride in the CWTS. In 4 NASCAR Nationwide series starts, Darrell has already posted 3 top 10′s and even won a pole. He is also the 2011 K&N East championship runner-up and a 6x winner in the series. The Alabama born driver starts 2nd at Martinsville driving for KBM and has plenty of experience racing stock cars at short tracks. In fact, he has excelled in practically anything he has gotten behind the wheel of so expect him to be a factor this weekend and in almost every race that follows.
Recently, the dynamic of NASCAR has changed with the older, more experienced drivers being overshadowed by the fresh, new talent that is storming up through the ranks. On the road to reach the pinnacle of this sport, a lot of superstars come from the truck series. The days of Mike Skinner, Ron Hornaday and Todd Bodine are fading away while the new faces of NASCAR rise to the top. Last year, only one driver inside the top five in CWTS points was older than 22. The trucks have a talent pool deeper than ever before and the drivers just keep getting younger. We are now seeing 16 and 17 year olds racing at the high banks of Daytona which was unheard of a few years back. The veterans will make sure these kids earn their stripes though and if they can persevere through it all, they may one day be hoisting the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series trophy.