Everything new again for Truck stars at Daytona

By Ryan Smithson, NASCAR.COM

The offseason for the Craftsman Truck Series lasts a mere 53 days, but David Starr has spent every minute thinking about the next stage of his career.

On Friday, it finally comes to fruition. Starr is one of two dozen drivers who hit Daytona for the start of a three-day test for the Daytona 250 on Feb. 17.

Drivers attending this weekend's test session at Daytona include: 

•  Ted Musgrave  
•  Dennis Setzer  
•  Todd Bodine 
•  Ron Hornaday 
•  Mike Skinner 
•  Bobby Hamilton 
•  Jack Sprague 
•  David Starr 
•  Matt Crafton 
•  Johnny Benson 
•  David Reutimann 
•  Terry Cook 
•  Rick Crawford 
•  Bill Lester 
•  Brendan Gaughan 
•  Robert Pressley 
•  *Aric Almirola  
•  *Erin Crocker 
•  *Erik Darnell  
•  *Kraig Kinser  
•  *Kyle Krisiloff  
•  *Joey Miller 
•  *Boston Reid 

* -- Rookie 
He is also one of a handful of top drivers who will be using the test to get used to new surroundings -- in Starr's case, a move from Chevrolet to Toyota.

Starr knows the move is a huge adjustment. He's spent a large part of this decade driving Wayne Spears' familiar No. 75 Chevy, but an off year in 2005 caused him to move to Red Horse Racing's No. 38 Toyota.

"Not only am I going to Daytona to test to get ready, for me I am going to get acclimated with a new crew chief," said Starr. "This will be our first time to work together. Been to the shop, but it will be the first at the racetrack."

Starr traded a one-truck team for another, but that is where the similarities end. He'll need every minute of the three-day test at Daytona to get used to it.

The Craftsman Truck Series teams follow the usual agenda of working to get the truck fast for qualifying before working on the truck's draft capabilities and handling. The final day isn't without its dangers, especially since trucks are not designed to bump-draft.

"Last year, when you went into Turn 3 and 1, if you had a truck on the right side of you, there was a sweet spot," said Starr. "When you turned, you had to really be careful."

Craftsman Truck Series drivers have a lot to work on this weekend. For the first time, teams will be running at Daytona using a spacer mounted between carburetor and intake manifold that controls the flow of air. Right-side windows will also be required.

"This year, the Truck Series has a lot of new rules -- some that we know absolutely nothing about, and some we do know about," said Dodge driver Brendan Gaughan. "We have a new right-side window for the first time ever in the truck. Nobody, except for a few teams, went to test Talladega."

Gaughan's Orleans Racing outfit scaled back from a two-truck to a one-truck operation over the winter. He says the test is not about going though the motions.

"There is actually a lot the driver can do. I like it now," said Gaughan. "There is a lot more to be learned than people realize."

The test is about finding the fine balance between speed and handling. A super-slick truck is of no help if it won't handle well over the course of a 100-lap race at Daytona.

"We found that a slick truck can also be on the edge in the draft," said Starr. "We found last year that we want a fair amount of drag on it because during the race, drag means grip. There's kind of a fine line. I think you want to build a truck that has a little bit of drag."

Unlike the Nextel Cup or Busch Series, most Craftsman Truck Series drivers go almost a full year without running on Daytona's 2.5-mile surface -- the series races there just once a year.

The upcoming Daytona test is also made more critical by the fact that the series visits Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 7.

"Through the year, you only have one shot at Daytona," said Starr. "Your career is never complete unless you won at Daytona. It is weird that we haven't been then in a year, but man, when I drive though the tunnel in January, it's like magic."

The test is especially critical for rookies, some of which have never even driven at Daytona.

The Craftsman Truck Series will have seven rookies at the test, including Kraig Kinser, who has just two career starts in stock cars.

"I am looking forward to the upcoming test at Daytona," Kinser said. "It is going to be a learning experience and I feel l am ready to take on the challenge."

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