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Camping World Trucks drivers preparing for Martinsville
Danville's Peters hopes for hometown victory
NASCAR’s Camping World Trucks drivers (from left, wearing black shirts) Johnny Sauter, Timothy Peters, and John King look over a cut-away racecar from Patrick Henry Community College on display at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. Shown with them is Ryan Barber (third from right), director of marketing and external affairs at the museum. (Bulletin photo by Mike Wray)
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
By DAVID REYNOLDS - Bulletin Sports Editor
Since sending shockwaves through NASCAR’s Camping World Trucks series with a win at Daytona International Speedway in only his eighth career start, 23-year-old trucks rookie John King has been a pretty busy guy.
King has made a multi-day appearance for fans at Bristol Motor Speedway, the site of last week’s Nationwide and Sprint Cup races. He’s discussed politics on national television with another John King — this one a CNN anchor and chief national correspondent. And, of course, he’s been peppered with phone calls and emails from media members, all wanting him to recount the night in Daytona Beach, Fla., that thrust him into the spotlight.
But there’s been one activity conspicuously absent from his last few weeks, and it just so happens to be the thing he’s best at — racing trucks.
Thanks to three fewer races on the circuit this season, the Camping World Trucks series is on a five-week break between Feb. 24’s NextEra Energy Resources 250 in Daytona and March 30’s Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway.
“Can’t wait to get back in the truck.” King said during a preview of the “Rocks to Racing” exhibit on Tuesday at the Virginia Museum of Natural History. “That’s what we do.”
The 35-day layoff is the longest stretch between truck races all season, and it’s safe to say the series regulars are a little antsy to get back on the track.
But with a challenging short track awaiting those drivers, last year’s Kroger 250 champion and 2011 series runner-up Johnny Sauter hopes the excitement doesn’t get too out of control.
“It’s not so hard to keep my rhythm. It’s the other 34 competitors out there that you have to trust, you know,” said Sauter, who also attended the preview. “They’re the ones who make it difficult for you to keep things in shape sometimes. But short track is what it is, and you can either come out of here feeling like a hero or feeling like a zero.”
Sauter and King already have a history, as King wrecked Sauter during a green-white-checkered finish before coming away with the victory in Daytona.
King apologized immediately after the race, but March 30’s race will be the first time the two have been together on a track since the incident.
For his part, Sauter said he will be racing the track rather than going after any personal vendetta. He hopes others will do the same rather than losing their heads on the final 50 laps.
“I feel like I race everybody pretty fair, and I think maybe you get into situations where some of the guys you are racing against are in over their heads a little bit,” Sauter said. “In my opinion, I’ve always raced well here (in Martinsville), and a lot of times that I’ve had trouble here has been someone else’s mistake.”
King credited teammate Timothy Peters, a Danville native and the runner-up at Daytona’s truck race, for helping him end up in Victory Lane. King said Peters answered every question he had about Daytona beforehand, and King will again bounce ideas off Peters about Martinsville Speedway.
But though he is willing to help out his teammate, Peters isn’t willing to concede another win to him.
“To come home, it means the world,” said Peters, who has competed against King before at Martinsville during late-model races. “Anybody up and down the garage area, when they come home, they want to win.”
But with fewer races this season, Peters hinted that he might not take every chance possible for the win. Doing so may end up knocking him out of the race for the points championship early, he said.
“Do we think we can win it? Yes. But you’ve got to drive smart. You look at 22 races now versus last year we had 25 races. So now the way the points system is, last year you could have a mulligan maybe, but you still needed to run well, even though you had that mulligan,” Peters said. “Minus three races, you’re going to need to be on your toes.”
And while King and Sauter echoed Peters’ remarks about minimizing risks at Martinsville, all acknowledged it will probably require a little bit of luck to stay out of trouble at the half-mile oval all day.
“The last 50 laps of this race are usually pretty crazy,” Sauter said. “That’s when people start to lose their minds and start running over each other.”