Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – MARTINSVILLE, VA – Timothy Peters says he isn’t looking beyond this weekend at Martinsville Speedway and his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race of the year, though the temptation to do so might still be there.
A fixture in the series for more than a decade, Peters lost his ride last year when Red Horse Racing disbanded after the fifth race of the season and has competed in the series only three times since then.
Born in nearby Danville, Virginia, Peters returns to his home track with what has to be a modicum of nostalgia. After all, he scored the first of his 10 NCWTS victories at the .526-mile paper-clip-shaped speedway in 2009.
In Saturday’s Alpha Energy Solutions 250 (2 p.m. ET on FS1), he’ll be running a one-event deal for owner Ricky Benton. Though his focus will be on the race at hand, Peters can be forgiven if he’s hoping for more.
“I’m just glad to be back – first start of the year,” said the affable 37-year-old. “I cut my teeth on tracks around here with Late Model Stocks, so I just thank Ricky Benton for the opportunity to come up here with the BTS Ford F-150 to a place that I call home.
“I can’t wait to get out there and mix it up.”
A strong performance on Saturday could lead to additional opportunities in the series.
“Right now our focus is on (Saturday’s) race, and again, I’m thankful for what he (Benton) has done to let me drive this truck and work with (crew chief) Mike Hester,” said Peters, who finished in the top 10 in the series standings for eight straight years before last season’s abrupt hiatus.
“As far as going forward, we’ll just have to see how (Saturday) goes. Hopefully, there’s more opportunities to be back in the Trucks, and I’d really love to do it with Ricky Benton Racing.”
Saturday’s race will mark Peters’ 239th NCWTS start, but it will be his first in a Ford. Previously, Peters had driven Dodges, Chevrolets and Toyotas.
THORSPORT STILL PLAYING CATCH-UP AFTER SWITCH TO FORD
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series hasn’t raced since March 2 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but for ThorSport Racing driver Ben Rhodes, the break was welcome – and necessary.
ThorSport made an offseason manufacturer change from Toyota to Ford, with a small window of time to accomplish the changeover. That’s why Rhodes was fine with the pause in the schedule after Las Vegas.
“With our switch to Ford this year, we need all the time we can get,” said Rhodes, who finished fourth, fourth and seventh in the first three races. “We haven’t been to the wind tunnel yet. We haven’t done any of the other things that teams like Kyle Busch Motorsports and GMS Racing are doing.
“This time allows us to do some R&D on our side and really work off the track to get at speed. A lot of the speed you see these days is made at the shop, from the wind tunnel, the seven-post machine, stuff like that. It’s kind of a blessing, but the racer in me wants me to race every single day.”
Incidentally, Rhodes is also the poster child for the value of stage points in NASCAR racing. He finished fourth in the season opener at Daytona but failed to finish in the top 10 in either of the first two stages of the race and left the track 16th in the series standings, tied for the position with journeyman Norm Benning.
Three NASCAR Camping World Truck Series practices produced three different leaders on Saturday at Martinsville Speedway. Justin Haley topped the speed chart at 94.125 mph in opening practice, with Matt Crafton fastest in second practice at 94.571 mph and Crafton’s ThorSport Racing teammate, Grant Enfinger, quickest in final practice at 95.055 mph…
The engine in Todd Gilliland’s No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota blew after running six laps in second practice. Gilliland will make his first start of the season at Martinsville on Saturday, but he’ll do so from the rear of the field because of the engine change. With the new power plant in his truck, Gilliland was 12th fastest in final practice.