One year after leaving the Nextel Cup for the Craftsman Trucks series, Lockport native Mike Hillman Sr. came to Daytona International Speedway leading perhaps the strongest truck team.
Hillman is the general manager of Germain Racing, which has Todd Bodine and Ted Musgrave driving Toyotas. Last year was Hillman's first year with the trucks after a long career as a crew chief in NASCAR's top series.
Bodine went from 15th to third in points after joining the team in June, and he closed the season with three straight wins. Meanwhile, Bodine's crew chief, Mike Hillman Jr. -- also born in Lockport -- won the series' top crew chief honor.
Musgrave came on board recently when his former owner closed his shop. All Musgrave did last year was win the trucks series championship.
Around the tracks
*Speaking of the trucks series, Erin Crocker enters her first full season in NASCAR as a developmental driver for Evernham Motorsports and will run the entire 25-race trucks schedule. Crocker, who once raced for Eden's Woodring Racing, had two poles and four top fives in six ARCA races last year.
*Former Buffalo Bills quarterback Jim Kelly has teamed with a name very familiar to Western New York racing fans in Champ Car series driver and Toronto native Paul Tracy. Tracy will join Chemung's Todd Bodine and yet-to-be-named drivers on the team primarily owned by Frank Cicci, an Elmira native entering his 18th season on the Busch series. Tracy, who will still run a full Champ Car schedule, will make his debut for the "Frank Cicci Racing with Jim Kelly" team in Saturday's Busch race at Daytona and is scheduled to run five races; he's guaranteed a spot in the first three thanks to the team's owner points in 2005.
*The good news at Watkins Glen International is that it has a great date for its Indy Racing League race, which on June 4 is the week after the Indianapolis 500. The not-so-good news is the track is still seeking title sponsors for that event and the Nextel Cup race Aug. 13. Argent Mortgage sponsored the inaugural IRL race in a one-year deal last year, while four-year sponsor Sirius Satellite Radio dropped its naming rights of the Nextel Cup race.
*NASCAR racing will return to Holland Speedway on June 24, but the series has changed its name from Busch North to Busch East. NASCAR is reorganizing its touring series, and further changes are on the way for 2007. . . . Toronto will host the Champ Car series for the 21st year. The July 9 race has been renamed the Molson Grand Prix of Toronto after the event was bought by Champ Car owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe.