The first points-paying race of the 2012 NASCAR season takes place Friday evening, with the Camping World Truck Series opening their campaign in the NextEra Energy Resources 250. The popular NCWTS features vehicles styled after pickup trucks (the Chevy Silverado, Toyota Tundra, Ford F-150, and Dodge Ram), making it unique to NASCAR racing and a fan favorite. The season-opener is always one of (if not the) best races in all of Speedweeks. Michael Waltrip claimed last year's event, and he will be part of the team calling the 2012 edition from the SPEED TV booth beginning at 7 p.m. Eastern.
A who's who of Camping World Truck Series competitors have won the 100-lap, 250-mile race including series champions Todd Bodine, Jack Sprague, and the late Bobby Hamilton. NASCAR Sprint Cup star Carl Edwards won in 2004, the year before he jumped to the Cup ranks, while veteran Mark Martin drove to victory in the 2006 event. Other past event winners include Mike Wallace, who won the 2000 inaugural, Joe Ruttman, Robert Pressley, Rick Crawford, and Timothy Peters.
Brazillian Miguel Paludo will lead the field to the green flag in tonight's race, alongside countryman Nelson Piquet Jr. James Buescher starts from the third position, giving Turner Motorsports a sweep of the top-three spots. Ty Dillon, younger brother of last year's series champion, will roll off fourth, with Sprint Cup star Brad Keselowski starting fith.
2002 Daytona 500 champion Ward Burton makes his return to NASCAR competition this evening, piloting the No. 27 Chevrolet. Burton has not driven since 2007, but will run a handful of races this season to prepare his young son Jeb for his assault on the circuit. Burton qualified in the 25th spot.
Stockbridge's Max Gresham will start from the 29th position in the No. 9 Chevrolet. Gresham, the 2011 K&N Pro Series East champion, is part of the family that runs the legendary Gresham Motorsports Park in Jefferson, GA. Tonight's race marks his debut as a full-time driver in the Camping World Truck Series.
For the entire starting grid, visit Jayski.com. SB Nation Atlanta will provide in-race updates, and you can catch the race on SPEED beginning at 7 p.m. with their "Set Up" pre-race show.