Billy Ballew has been an owner in the Camping World Truck Series since 1996 and began racing full time in it in 2002. He typically has used multiple drivers each season, preventing his team from winning that championship.
NASCAR also has an owners' championship and, in the 14 previous truck seasons, it has gone to the owner of the team with the champion driver. Ballew, with Kyle Busch's invaluable help, wants to become the first to win the owners' title without
having the champion driver.
Busch's #51 Billy Ballew Motorsports Toyota enters Friday's WinStar World Casino 350 at Texas Motor Speedway trailing Ron Hornaday Jr.'s #33 Kevin Harvick Inc Chevrolet by 100 points and, with only three races remaining, including Texas, it's a big deficit for Busch and crew chief Richie Wauters to overcome. Big, but not impossible, however, especially as Busch chopped 78 points off the gap with his victory - and Hornaday's 17th-place finish - at Talladega last week.
It was Busch's fourth straight win in truck races he has entered and his sixth victory in twelve starts this season. He has also finished second three times.
“Is [the championship] possible? Yes, but it might not be probable
,” Ballew admitted, “We'll give it our best effort and see where it shakes out after Texas, Phoenix and Homestead. It is definitely something we think about, and it would mean the world to me and the Billy Ballew Motorsports team to win a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner championship after 14 years competing.”
Busch, who will drive the #51 in the final two races of the season at Phoenix and Homestead, began driving for Ballew, a 50-year-old businessman from Blairsville, in 2005 and has 15 of the team's 16 victories. He made a concerted effort to help Ballew win the owners' title last year, when he drove in 18 races, but the team finished third in owners' points.
“We want to win the owners' championship for Billy Ballew,” Busch said early in the season, “He does everything he can to keep this team going.”
Brian Ickler, who has run six races having been recommended by Busch, as well as Aric Almirola (two), Denny Hamlin (one) and Travis Kvapil (one) have driven the #51 this season, and all have made productive contributions. Ickler was third at Michigan and fifth at Kansas, Almirola was second at Iowa and eighth at Las Vegas, Hamlin sixth at the second Martinsville race and Kvapil was eleventh at Nashville.
Hornaday, meanwhile, has a 202-point lead over second-placed Matt Crafton in the drivers' championship, but also wants to bring home a title to Kevin and DeLana Harvick.
“Matt Crafton isn't our worry,” Hornaday said, “We are worried about the #51. He is fighting for the owners' points, and he's the guy we're racing too.”
There are also bragging rights for most wins this season at stake over the final three races, as Hornaday also has six.
by Tim Tuttle / Special to the Sporting News NASCAR Wire Service