After an off season of changes, the Ricky Benton Racing (RBR) Enterprises No. 92 BTS Tire and Wheel Distributors/National Watermelon Association/Goodyear FleetHQ Ford F-150 team is ready to tackle Daytona (Fla.) International Speedway and the 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) season.
When the truck hits the track on Wednesday for the first of three practice sessions in preparation for the NextEra Energy Resources 250 on Friday, Ross Chastain will be behind the wheel and veteran crew chief, Trip Bruce will be calling the shots. The team made the switch from Chevrolet to Ford this off season. A new paint scheme will also adorn the new F-150 in the team's first outing with the new manufacturer.
"(There were) definitely a lot of changes this offseason," said Ricky Benton, RBR Enterprises owner. "But in this sport, you have to grow and adapt or you get left behind.
"I can't wait to see what we have at Daytona. Ross (Chastain) and the three guys that we have working on the trucks have done a whale of a job getting this truck ready to come down here."
Chastain has played a larger role than most drivers do these days in preparing the team's truck for Daytona. Since the team has such a small group of employees, the driver has been pulling extra duty around the team's Cerro Gordo (N.C.) shop.
"RBR has two full-time guys, one part-time guy and me," Chastain said. "I am by no means a full-time mechanic but I know enough to help out in the shop. I have been helping mostly with the transporting the trucks from the RBR shop to where they need to be in Mooresville. I picked the Daytona truck up from the paint shop and brought it back to the race shop and then took the Martinsville and Charlotte trucks to the body shop. I'd say there are very few, if any other drivers that are as involved as I am, purely because of the short list of guys we have working on the trucks."
While RBR was busy making changes this offseason, NASCAR made a change to the qualifying format that Chastain and Bruce feel will be a boon to their chances of earning a good starting spot at Daytona.
"I think the new qualifying format has the potential to help us," Chastain said. "The draft is huge in this series and if you can time it correctly any truck could start up front."
NASCAR implemented a knock out style group qualifying procedure for its three national touring series this year, replacing the traditional single-car qualifying format.
"The qualifying format now focuses on drafting, eliminating a lot of the single car runs that required so much effort that hardly carried over to drafting," said Bruce. "In that respect this week's qualifying could even the playing for the smaller teams. It will be a strategy session of placing your truck in the right position to 'catch that perfect draft.'"
For Chastain, a native of Alva, Fla., the NCWTS's annual stop at Daytona's high banks is special.
"Daytona is my home track," Chastain said. "We used to come to every July race when I was younger. We couldn't come to the February races because we always had plants in the ground."
Before trying his hand behind the wheel of a NASCAR race truck, Chastain had an inauspicious beginning to his relationship with the 2.5-mile superspeedway.
"My first experience on the track was at 2 a.m. with my cousin on our bikes," Chastain continued. "It was after the cup race and security quickly escorted us off."
Despite the rocky beginning, the 21-year-old has an enduring fondness for Daytona.
"There are no words that can describe the feeling I get each time I get to come home and make a lap around Daytona," said Chastain.