Former NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) has noticed several changes since his return to the series and not just all of the former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers who are currently making a home for themselves in the series.
"When I ran in the series in 1995 and 1996, I could start in the back and get to the top 10 really easily," said Skinner, who will also attempt to qualify for the Daytona 500. "Now, if you start 25th, it takes a while to get to the top 15. It used to be drivers would use the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series as a stepping stone to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series; now it seems like it's reversed."
Skinner isn't the only driver to notice the changes. Brendan Gaughan (No. 77 Dodge), who was leading the championship point standings in 2003 heading into the last race of the season and finished the year in fourth, has also noticed how much more competitive the series has become in just a couple of years.
"If you look at Martinsville the last couple of years, Dennis Setzer has been able to start in the back of the field and ended up winning the race," said Gaughan. "This year, he started in the back and finished in the top 10."
"Toyota has added a lot to the series with everything they've brought to the table."
This year for testing, a change was made to allow teams to spend the afternoon sessions drafting. Both drivers agree that this change will help the Raybestos Rookie of the Year class.
"This is a tough track for rookies, and you have to have confidence in them to draft with them on race day," said Gaughan.
Another change for the test has been the addition of a .990-inch spacer between the intake manifold and carburetor.
"The new aero stuff will bring everybody together," said Skinner. "It means you don't have to be fast to run up front. NASCAR didn't have a choice; they needed to slow us down a little. The new (right) side window is helping too, it's keeping things tighter."
NASCAR will evaluate test results before determining a final package of specifications for the Daytona 250.
Skinner noticed one more change in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series
"It's become really hard to win in this series," said Skinner.