NCWTS: Less is more, 2012 season preview

Credit: Getty Images of NASCAR

As the 2012 NASCAR season quickly approaches, it is of the time of year when many teams and drivers are preparing for the upcoming season, and when we writers look into the crystal ball and attempt to predict what will happen in the upcoming season.

The 2012 season will be the seventeenth in the short, but exciting history of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Like many of the recent seasons, 2012 is filled with change for the series. Last year, the series saw what could have possibly been the healthiest field in series history, as well as an influx of new, young talent. The offseason leading into the 2012 season has had a taste similar to sour milk with a dash of stale bread.

Like every form of racing, NASCAR has been hit hard recently by economic struggles. With teams folding and sponsors pulling out, it has left questions about the 2012 season across the board, much less the series known as NASCAR’s “third” series.

Perhaps, a prime example of the hardships experienced during the offseason would be Todd Bodine. Bodine, a two-time champion of the series, saw his ride dissolve right before his very eyes due to a lack of sponsorship. “The Onion”, as he is referred to, encountered these struggles as recently as last season.

When Germain Racing expanded to a four truck team for the 2011 season, Bodine started out the season just as he has begun many others, without a full-time sponsor. But, as the season continued on, Bodine was still without a sponsor and was eventually forced from his long-time home of Germain to the Rand Moss Motorsports organization. At this point in time, Bodine has reached a deal with Red Horse Racing to drive their No.11 Toyota Tundra barring sponsorship to come on board for the season.

The 2012 season also presents fans with fewer Sprint Cup Series drivers taking their talents down to NASCAR’s third division. The move is welcoming to fans of the truck series that fell victim to “The Kyle Busch Show” and “Happy Time” by Kevin Harvick.

After numerous years of 25 races for the tailgaters, the schedule for the 2012 season has been scaled back to 22. With Darlington, Lucas Oil Raceway, Nashville Superspeedway and New Hampshire Motor Speedway announcing that they will not play a part in deciding the 2012 championship it places even more emphasis on making each race a good one for the teams that expect to contend for the championship at season’s end. Rockingham Speedway, more commonly known as “The Rock”, is making their return to NASCAR as they will play host to the track’s first NASCAR event since Feb. 2004 when the trucks visit on April 15.

With the defending series champion, Austin Dillon, jumping to Grandfather Richard Childress’ Nationwide team, it leaves the field “wide open” heading into this year’s championship chase. Drivers such as; James Buescher, Johnny Sauter, Parker Kligerman and many more all see 2012 as their opportunity to shine.

So without further ado, here are some of my predictions for the 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season.

James Buescher finally scores breakout victory- The 2011 season for the native of Plano,TX was saw Buescher transform from a driver with a bursting amount of talent to arguably the most consistent driver on the circuit. Rebounding from missing the field for the second race of the season, Buescher came charging back into championship contention over the summer months, even holding the points lead at a point in time. But, even with one of the most impressive come backs in series history, the first win still eludes Buescher.

As Buescher returns to Turner Motorsports for a third season, it’s time to put the No. 31 Chevrolet into victory lane. Showing strengths on a wide variety of tracks this past season, expect this win to appear at literally anyone of the 22 stops on the 2012 season.

Maybe even the first race at Daytona?

Parker Kligerman makes Dodge a championship threat- Remember the time when Dodge and Ford made the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series their personal playground? From 2000-2005, the two manufactures combined for three championships (Greg Biffle, Bobby Hamilton Sr., and Ted Musgrave). And, just as fast as a lap is turned around the Bristol Motor Speedway, the factory support in the series had disappeared for two of America’s iconic name plates.

With Brad Keselowski Racing fulfilling their commitment and faith in Kligerman, the No.29 team is ready for not only a breakout season but also to win races and contend for the season long championship.

Kilgerman showed is all last season how well his BKR team could compete in a less than ideal situation. With the No.29 BKR team acquiring full sponsorship for the 2012 season, as well as owner and fifth place finisher in the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Chase, Brad Keselowski running in select events, the 2012 season could be one filled with surprise for the Greenwich, CT native.

Ron Hornaday struggles in new ride- After numerous successful years at Kevin Harvick Inc. including championships in 2007 and 2009, Hornaday finds himself driving for Joe Denette Motorsports for the 2012 season. A team that has no wins to their credit in team history.

Although we saw glimpses of the Hornaday of old, the one that has won a total of 53 races in his NCWTS career, it was after maybe the most dismal streak of races of the California native’s career. While yes, Hornaday did claim two victories during that period of time, they weren’t in typical Hornaday fashion. Walking into victory at Texas Motor Speedway after Johnny Sauter was blacked flagged, and then winning on fumes at Atlanta Motor Speedway aren’t what many people would classify as the way you would expect the all-time series wins leader to be winning races in the best equipment in the series.

The Joe Denette Motorsports team has made great strides over the past couple seasons, mostly after receiving equipment from the now defunct KHI; they still have not proven that their trucks are capable of contending for wins week-in and week-out.

Joey Coulter, not Ty Dillon, is No.1 driver at RCR- After Austin Dillon won the 2011 NCWTS championship, many people appeared to put the “other” Richard Childress Racing driver Joey Coulter on the back burner. As most rookies are, they start off the season slow, and leave you wondering a little but as the season begins to roll along; they continually pick up the pace and remind you of why they are there. This is exactly the case for Coulter.

Coming into this season, it seems as though many fans are placing the “No.1 driver” tag onto rookie Ty Dillon, the youngest of Richard Childress’ racing grandsons. While yes, Dillon is in the premier No.3 truck, Coulter showed that over the last 3 months of the 2011 season that he is not only ready to win races, but also has proven that he can consistently run inside of the top 10 week-in and week-out.

No doubt that the entire RCR truck program will be strong this season, there is just too much talent and too good of equipment for the organization to not at least put forth quality trucks for their drivers. However, the experience of Coulter, and the chemistry he has with his No.22 team will outperform the young Dillon in 2012.

Thor Sport Racing’s manufacture switch pays off- Over the offseason, long-time supporter of the “bowtie brigade”, Thor Sport Racing, made the move over to the Toyota camp for the 2012 season. While seemingly always competitive team, the move to NCWTS powerhouse of Toyota could be that very last “edge” this team needs in order to claim their elusive championship.

TSR driver Johnny Sauter came within a mere six points from taking the 2011 championship after the season finale was shortened due to rain. Sauter proved last season that he wasn’t only a threat to win on NASCAR’s short tracks, but also taking the speedways of NASCAR’s third level with confidence and speed.

2012 will be a key year for the TSR team. Not only do they have to prove that the switch in manufactures was indeed the right choice, but also prove that they handle the pressure of being one of the favorites to take home the title this upcoming season.

Predicted 2012 NCWTS Season Points

(Note: Based off drivers who are scheduled to run full season as of 1/30/2012)

  1. Johnny Sauter 
  2. James Buescher 
  3. Joey Coulter 
  4. Parker Kligerman 
  5. Ty Dillon
  6. Nelson Piquet Jr. 
  7. Matt Crafton 
  8. Timothy Peters 
  9. Ron Hornaday Jr. 
  10. Cale Gale 
Regardless how the championship picture plays out, this 2012 season could arguably be one of the most defining season’s in not only NCWTS history, but NASCAR history for that matter. There is more hype heading into this season than seemingly in the past few combined. So kick back, grab your favorite snack and beverage, and enjoy another great season of NASCAR racing.
2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Schedule 
*Note: All times are Eastern with race broadcasts on SPEED*
Feb. 24 … Daytona, 7:30 p.m.
March 31 . Martinsville, 1:30 p.m.
April 15 … Rockingham, 1 p.m.
April 21 … Kansas, 2 p.m.
May 18 …. Charlotte, 8 p.m.
June 1 ….. Dover, 4:50 p.m.
June 8 ….. Texas, 9 p.m.
June 28 … Kentucky, 8 p.m.
July 14 …. Iowa, 8:30 p.m.
July 21 … Chicago, 8 p.m.
Aug. 4 …. Pocono, 1 p.m.
Aug. 18 .. Michigan, 12:30 p.m.
Aug. 22 .. Bristol, 8 p.m.
Aug. 31 .. Atlanta, 8 p.m.
Sept. 15 .. Iowa, 8:30 p.m.
Sept. 21 .. Kentucky, 7:30 p.m.
Sept. 29 .. Las Vegas, 8:30 p.m.
Oct. 6 ….. Talladega, 4 p.m.
Oct. 27 … Martinsville, 2 p.m.
Nov. 2 …. Texas, 8 p.m.
Nov. 9 …. Phoenix, 8 p.m.
Nov. 16 .. Homestead, 8 p.m.

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