BRISTOL, Va. -- This is one time John King doesn’t want to be mentioned in the same sentence as Carl Edwards, Mark Martin and Michael Waltrip.
Unless a deal comes together at the last moment, however, the Kingsport driver will join those Sprint Cup drivers on a list of drivers who won the NASCAR Truck Series opener at Daytona and missed the race the next year.
There is a big difference. Each of those drivers chose not to come back and defend their title. King would love the opportunity, just the right opportunity hasn’t come along for the 24-year-old driver.
“We have a couple of things we’re working on, but nothing concrete yet,” King said Tuesday at the Kettlefoot Rod and Gun Club. “Honestly, it’s past the last minute, so it’s crunch time for sure.
“It would be pretty disappointing to be the defending champion and to miss that race. I want the chance to go back and defend that title, but if we will do it next year if we can’t this year.”
King led the final six laps of last year’s race, beating then teammate Timothy Peters to the finish line. King followed the upset win with a top-10 place at Martinsville, but it wasn’t enough to land the sponsorship necessary to run the rest of the season.
His No. 7 Toyota was parked by Red Horse Racing until another deal came through for driver Parker Kligerman to run some races at the end of the season.
King had a pair of one-race deals after losing the No. 7 ride, but nothing full-time developed. Over the past few months, King has talked to a pair of Nationwide Series teams and as multiple Truck Series teams, but there hasn’t been that right opportunity, leading to some frustration.
“It’s tough. I’m a racer, I love to race and I think I can do it,” King said. “I believe in myself, but there’s a whole lot more than just driving a car. You have to put the right team together, have the sponsorship, but we haven’t stopped working on it since Daytona.”
If nothing opens up in one of the major NASCAR series, King plans to run some local races, possibly the season-opener at Kingsport Speedway.
As for Daytona, the memories of last February remain fresh.
“It’s still hitting me on what we were able to do the first trip down there,” King said. “I was driving through Kingsport today thinking about being a Daytona winner in one of the NASCAR’s top three series. It’s not that I didn’t appreciate it, but I didn’t appreciate it like a lot of people who had been going down there 20 years. Now that I’ve had time to think about, I understand how it’s such a big deal and I think about it every day.”
Outside of racing, much of his time is spent taking care of 90 head of cattle which includes different breeds like Holsteins and Black Angus. Besides his life on the farm, King can say he is one of the few people with a key to the city of Kingsport.
“We were awarded the key to the city and that was overwhelming,” he said. “You don’t expect all the notoriety. When you get it, it blows you out of the water.”
Plenty of tickets remain for the Food City 500 on March 17 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Anyone who buys a ticket is eligible for “Bruton’s Big Bristol Giveaway” where speedway owner Bruton Smith is giving away 10 new Ford Mustangs to lucky fans.
Fans purchasing multiple tickets can be entered as many as 20 times, depending on the number of tickets they purchase. (For example, a fan who buys eight tickets is given eight entries in the contest.)
To purchase tickets and enter the chance to win one of the Mustangs, fans may call 877-801-3945.
Atlanta Motor Speedway President Ed Clark released his annual predictions for the Sprint Cup season on Tuesday.
Last season, Clark ended up being accurate on 81 percent of his picks. His 2012 season forecast included several bold proclamations. Among those were that Brad Keselowski would be in the championship mix, Denny Hamlin would win five
races and that Michael Waltrip Racing would experience a breakout season, all of which came true.
Some of his predictions for this season include that Ricky Stenhouse will win a race and win Rookie of the Year, that all three Joe Gibbs Racing teams will make the Chase and that Kasey Kahne will beat out Jimmie Johnson and defending champion Brad Keselowski for the series championship.
However, before Kahne fans prematurely start celebrating a title realize that Clark whiffed badly on last year’s championship pick. He picked Carl Edwards to win the championship, and the driver of the No. 99 Ford didn’t even make the Chase.
East Tennessee dirt track legend Scott Bloomquist is already a winner at Speedweeks.
The Mooresburg driver started on the pole and led flag-to-flag at East Bay (Fla.) Speedway on Tuesday to earn his sixth win in the DART Winternationals.
Bloomquist survived a green-white-checkered finish for the 46th win of his career in the Lucas Oil Late Model Series. A two-time champion in the series, Bloomquist also finished second in a Monday night feature.