IRWINDALE — NASCAR “King Taco” Super Trucks kicked off their 2009 15-race series on March 21 at Toyota Speedway in Irwindale. Opening night produced a packed grandstand and an impressive field of 21 trucks showed up to take the green flag.
The weekend started out with a bang for Fallbrook’s Grant Hebner Racing. Hebner, 20, earned the pole position for the race with a blistering lap of 19.784 seconds around the half-mile progressively banked oval but thanks partially to a “throw of the dice,” race one of the series ended with a lukewarm semi-satisfying top 10 finish.
The race weekend began with Friday night practice sessions and Hebner’s #31 Super Truck was at the top of the time sheets by night’s end.
“We ran quicker in Friday night’s practice than we ever have before,” Hebner said. “It was a combination of me beginning to understand what kind of setup we need on the truck to run fast and some adjustments to my driving style.”
Hebner’s crew consisted of team owner and crew chief Jason Bowles, his father Kevin Bowles and Travis Irving. Jason Bowles is a frontrunner in the NASCAR Camping World West series and Irving currently competes in Late Model Stock Cars at Irwindale.
“With Kevin ‘wrenching’ on the truck I never have to worry about reliability,” Hebner said. “The truck is always immaculately prepared and ready to run. Jason comes from a road racing background, like myself, and has an incredible amount of stock car driving and set-up experience. He knows what I’m up against and is incredibly helpful. The final piece of the puzzle is Travis Irving. He and I go way back to my karting days. He was my race engineer and mechanic and we have had a lot of success together.”
Saturday’s schedule included one practice session, qualifying and the 40-lap main race.
“We were optimistic that we could run our Friday’s fast time in qualifying,” Hebner said. True to his word, Hebner reproduced his 19.7-second run to earn himself a first place starting position for the main race. However, NASCAR decided to invert the top 10 runners hoping to “mix things up” for the fans during the race.
“It was extremely disappointing to have to start the race midfield after such a successful qualifying effort by the team, but it is what it is,” Hebner said.
In the 40-lap main race Hebner was mired in traffic and could only manage to work himself up to seventh place by the checkered flag.
“It was somewhat frustrating because we never got a chance to run in the clear and show the truck’s speed,” Hebner said. “I’ve still got a lot to learn about running on ovals, and we did manage to stay out of trouble and bring the truck home in one piece for a seventh-place finish. I’m really excited to build on this and I’m confident or results will improve.”
To follow Hebner’s racing career, visit http://www.granthebnerracing.com.