NextEra Energy Resources 250 Preview: How Will NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Opener Unfold?

Since its inception, the Camping World Truck Series has always been a mix of emerging talent along with drivers who have experience racing in a national touring series.

As has been the case since 2000, that mix of old and new will be on full display Friday night in the season-opening NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

Among the more experienced drivers in the 36-truck field are Ron Hornaday Jr., Todd Bodine, Travis Kvapil and Mike Skinner. Coincidently, all are former series champions and all find themselves with new rides for 2012.

For Hornaday, the series' all-time leader in wins, a victory tonight on the 2.5-mile track would be his first on the historic superspeedway and would rank high on his list of accomplishments. It would also be the first win for his new team, Joe Denette Motorsports.

"It was just three months ago that I didn't have a job," Hornaday said in a team press release. "[Kevin Harvick Incorporated] was closing their doors and I was at a crossroads. I was introduced to Joe [Denette] through Hermie Sadler and the rest is history. Joe is a true race fan and all he wants to do is win. I believe he has put the right people in place and given this team all the tools they need to get the job done.

"Most of the guys that are working on the team were brought over from KHI. We are building our own chassis, have been to the wind tunnel and just put in a pull-down rig so I feel like I am picking up right where I left off. I'm really excited for the 2012 season.

"Hopefully, I can bring home my first truck win at Daytona as a driver, and Joe's first truck win as an owner."

Another veteran competing this evening is last year's championship runner-up, Johnny Sauter. With defending series champ Austin Dillon moving up to the ranks of the NASCAR Nationwide Series, Sauter, who lost the title by six markers, will be looking to make a statement tonight that he should be considered the favorite to win this year's championship.

"I'm the wrong guy to be asking about racing here at Daytona in the trucks, because I haven't even been able to hardly finish races here," said Sauter, whose best result in three series starts at Daytona is 17th. "I expect it to be action-packed like it always is. I expect there to be some wrecks. It's very important to just try to finish here and take what you can get."

On the opposite side of the experience spectrum, pay attention to James Buescher, who finished third in points last year and is still looking for his first Truck Series win; Parker Kligerman, driving a truck owned by Brad Keselowski; and Rookie of the Year contenders Cale Gale and Ty Dillon.

Dillon is replacing his brother Austin in the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet owned by their grandfather, Richard Childress. This will be Ty's first appearance in a truck at Daytona, but he does have three top-10 finishes in four series starts, all coming last year. Not to mention that he'll be wheeling the same equipment his brother drove to the title last season.

"I've got the trucks that won a championship last year, so I have all the resources and the ability to do it," Ty Dillon said in an interview with NASCAR.com. "I have confidence in myself and my guys that we can go out there and get it done. It's just going to be [about] overcoming our bad days and making them good."

As can be expected when you put drivers with varying degrees of experience on a superspeedway like Daytona, Friday's race will be an unpredictable affair where the winner is often in doubt until the second checkered flag drops. As it frequently happens whenever there's a race at Daytona and Talladega, avoiding "The Big One" is paramount to securing a good finish.

One driver who's proven he knows how to avoid trouble is Bodine, a two-time Truck Series winner at Daytona who in seven career starts has remarkably completed 698 out of a possible 705 laps.

"It's hard to say what the secret is," Bodine said when asked about steering clear of the big wrecks that frequently mar this race. "A lot of guys try to race in the back of the pack to avoid ‘The Big One,' but I like to stay out in front and try to miss it behind me. There is no telling with Daytona -- you can have a strategy but it is not always going to play out. I have been on the good side of the fence for seven races and hope to make it eight."

The NextEra Energy Resources 250 takes the green flag tonight at 7:30 p.m. ET and can be seen live on SPEED.

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