Rookie Mathews Motors to NCTS Kentucky Speedway Pole
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rookie Ryan Mathews turned a quick 172.955-mph (31.222 seconds) lap at Kentucky Speedway today in his No. 22 Bill Davis Racing Toyota and won the "Built Ford Tough 225 Presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers" pole award.
Matthews takes his first series pole award and becomes the eighth different series pole award winner through as many events at the track. His previous series-best starting spot was sixth on the Milwaukee Mile June 22. The 27-year-old Lake Geneva, Wis., driver posted the series third-quickest pole-winning speed at Kentucky Speedway.
"We're a little surprised, but (crew chief) Doug Wolcott and the team did an awesome job like they always do," Mathews said. "We got something going in the last 15 laps of practice yesterday, and we were getting faster every time we went out, basically picking up a tenth (of a second) every lap. Then practice ended, so we continued that trend overnight. That's what we came out with for qualifying today.
"It was loose on the first lap, then on the second lap the tires came in and it was quite a bit better. Usually, it's hard to pick up that much on these mile-and-a-half tracks on your second lap, but it just comes down to Bill Davis, the No. 22 Team and Doug Wolcott and the guys never giving up on me. Each week we're getting better and better with our communication and the results are starting to show."
He will start tonight's race ranked 28th in the series standings and earned his only top-10 finish of the season with a sixth-place performance in the series June 30 race at Memphis Motorsports Park.
"The main thing here is trying to find out how the truck needs to feel at the beginning of a run to be good all the way through a race," Mathews said. "If it's perfect at the beginning of the run, it tends to tighten up as the race goes on and it starts to fall back. Tonight, I want to drive it as free as I can from the start and hopefully it will balance as we go through the run.
"Obviously, it would be awesome to win the race, but it's only my seventh start in a NASCAR event of any kind. It's a possible goal, but I'm trying to be realistic. Our goal as a team, though, has been Top 10s and I think this truck can get us a Top 10/Top 5 finish. It's more important to me to have good races and good race finishes. We've exceeded our qualifying goal by getting the pole, but it's the racing that really matters." Series track qualifying record holder Bill Lester will share the "Built Ford Tough 225 Presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers" front row after turning his best of two qualifying circuits at 172.949-mph (21.223 seconds).
Three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Jack Sprague backed up his leading Kentucky Speedway practice lap from yesterday by qualifying third with a 172.992-mph (31.228 seconds) lap, but will start tonight's race from the rear of the field after his No. 60 Con-way Toyota was damaged when it connected with the outside retaining wall during its second qualifying run. Current series points leader Mike Skinner took the fourth spot on the grid after turning a 172.916-mph (31.229 seconds) lap in his No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota.
The top four in the 36-truck field will be separated by .039 of a second when drivers take the green flag at 8:00 p.m. The previous three series events at the track have been decided by an average of 0.338 of a second.
Taylor Hicks will be in concert on the Turn 1 Concourse next at 6:30 p.m.
Tickets for tonight's race are still available and can be reserved at the speedway main entrance.
Story by Mike Schmaltz
~ Kentucky Speedway ~