The New York-New York Las Vegas Hotel & Casino will be an associate sponsor of Brian Ickler's No. 18 Toyota Tundra for Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Smith's 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The 2,417,643-square-foot property, which features a roller coaster with towering drops and multiple loops overlooking the Las Vegas Strip among its many amenities, is a fitting partner for Ickler, whose NASCAR career has been a real-life roller coaster ride filled with twists and turns, ups and downs, and uncertainty about what lies around the next corner.
Saturday's 146-lap race at the 1.5-mile D-shaped oval will be the final scheduled start of 2011 for Ickler, who has collected two top-five finishes in three Truck Series starts this season.
Despite seeing his seat time decrease, Ickler's results have been on the upswing since joining Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) in 2010. In his first 11 Truck Series starts for Billy Ballew Motorsports in 2009, he finished in the top 10 just three times and posted an average finish of 14.6. In 10 starts for KBM over the last two seasons, the former off-road racer has collected five top fives, eight top 10s and registered an average finish of 8.8.
The San Diego native's career appeared to be on the fastrack after he signed a long-term contract with Roush Fenway Racing last May. Ickler made five starts for Roush Fenway in the NASCAR Nationwide Series last but has been relegated to test sessions and practicing Carl Edwards No. 60 car in Nationwide stand-alone events this season as the team searches for sponsorship in a struggling economy.
The story at KBM is a similar one for the 26-year-old driver. Ickler's race schedule has decreased as owner-driver Kyle Busch has been forced to increase the number of races he drives in order to secure sponsorship and keep the team on the track. When the Las Vegas native ventured into Truck Series ownership before the 2010 season, his plan was to run a very limited schedule of races to help attract sponsors and provide Ickler and other up-and-coming drivers with an opportunity to further develop their careers driving the majority of the races.
With companies expressing their need to maximize exposure in a poor economic climate, Busch has found out that the only way to secure funding for his team is to put himself behind the wheel of the No. 18 for the majority of the races.
"Sponsors want the guaranteed chance of going to victory lane," said Busch, who has collected six wins in 14 Truck Series starts this season. "I can't get partners to come in here and help support our program without me behind the wheel. Moving forward, we've got to make sure that we can live and strive off of somebody besides myself. We're working towards that and we're trying really, really hard."
Brian Ickler, Driver of the No. 18 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra:
If you were to hit it big while the team is in Las Vegas, what would you do with the money?
"I'd probably put some of the money toward being able to drive more truck races at KBM. If you look at my results with this team on a limited basis and compare them to guys that are in the top 10 in the standings, given the opportunity to drive full-time in this series I'm capable of being in that mix of drivers competing for a championship."
This is your last scheduled race for KBM this season, what lies around the corner for Brian Ickler?
"Kyle and I have been working hard to try and find sponsorship money, but it is really tough out there right now. Hopefully, we can find something that would allow me to run the last few races this year, but it is more likely at this point in the season that anything we can put together would be for next year."
Eric Phillips, Crew Chief of the No. 18 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra:
The Las Vegas race has typically been at night, will it make a big difference running the race during the day?
"I think grip will be at more of a premium Saturday. In the past, we've gone to Las Vegas a little earlier in the fall or late in the summer, so it was hotter and it helped having the race at night. It is suppose to be fairly warm Saturday, so I think that the track will be a little slicker than normal, but it shouldn't make a huge difference."