The tough trucks of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series recently made a stop at Atlanta Motor Speedway and spent two days feverishly tweaking and tuning in preparation for the March 7 American Commercial Lines 200. While there were several hot topics during the January 22-23 test, none caused a bigger stir than recent rule changes for the Craftsman Trucks.

            Approved Spacer - New for 2008, NASCAR has implemented a cone-shaped spacer that sits between the intake manifold and carburetor, limiting air flow into the engine and resulting in a loss of approximately 60 horsepower. Both drivers and crew chiefs at the AMS test all agreed the recent addition has sent teams scrambling for more power.

"With this new spacer, we are challenged to find ways to modify our set-up to make up for the loss of horsepower we are experiencing," said Rick Ren, crew chief for defending Craftsman Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. "One thing is certain though, this will bunch up the competition and at a track like Atlanta, we're going to see a heck of a great show; that's a good thing."

Todd Bodine, winner of the 2006 spring Truck race at AMS echoed Ren's sentiments.

"Fans aren't going to notice," Bodine noted. "It has made another obstacle for the crews, but it is going to be some great racing."

            Hard Tires and Low Gears - It is estimated that the use of the approved spacer along with a harder Goodyear tire and a NASCAR mandated lower rear end gear ratio will create up to an 80 horsepower drop. These changes could help most internal parts of an engine last longer than one race, possibly saving teams hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.

Veteran driver Rick Crawford admits the new harder tire compound has caused some headaches for teams, but after the tire loses some grip, seems similar to compounds the teams have used at AMS in the past.

"Goodyear has brought a really hard tire to this test," Crawford noted. "Atlanta is tough on tires, so they fall off quicker than most tracks. That makes trucks pretty equal throughout a long run, because everyone's tires are doing about the same thing."

Ren agreed with Crawford and added that the victor of the American Commercial Lines 200 on March 7 will likely be the team that conserves their tires.

"The winner of the race is probably going to be the guy who can save his tires at the beginning of a long run," Ren said. "All of these new rules have created a struggle for us, but racing is racing. The team that takes care of their equipment throughout the race is going to be in contention at the end. The challenge of creating a strategy that wins the race is why we do this."

            Smaller Fuel Cells and Extra Tires Mean More Pit Stops - The Craftsman Truck Series will be using a smaller, 18-gallon fuel cell for the 2008 season. The smaller fuel cell will result in more pit stops and NASCAR has allowed teams an extra set of tires to help with the added stops.

This will force crew chiefs to make strategic decisions throughout the race.

"The smaller cells and extra set of tires could make things a little dicey there at the end," Wren said smiling. "If a caution comes out at the end, which is likely to happen at AMS, everyone is going to have new tires and be bunched up. If that happens, watch out because it's is going to be a show."

            Extra Motivation - Drivers got a preview of an added bonus they will be racing for during the American Commercial Lines 200. A 14-carat gold, 31 diamond encrusted championship ring was displayed in the garage area, drawing the attention of both drivers and crews.

Jack Sprague, who will sport an ACL paint scheme and sponsorship on his Chevrolet Silverado was energized about the prospect of claiming the piece of hardware in March.

"Winning that ring at AMS, with my title sponsor also being the race sponsor would really be special," Sprague noted. "With this test we are confident heading into the season and the ACL 200 at AMS."

Tickets to the American Commercial Lines 200 Craftsman Truck Series race, as well as the entire Kobalt Tools 500 event weekend are available by calling the AMS ticket office at (877) 9-AMS-TIX (877-926-7849), 770-946-4211.