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Gaskins hopes it's home sweet home Saturday

He could use a victory at Citrus County Speedway to soothe what has been a somewhat frustrating season in the Southern Pro Truck Series.

Bruce Gaskin's rookie campaign in the Southern Pro Truck Series has gone about as well as could be expected of a first-year effort. There have been high points and low points and, in between, a lot of what-ifs and what-could-have-beens.

But that's not uncommon, even for a veteran like Gaskins. Surely there have been worse rookie efforts than the one turned in by Mike Sims' No. 1 driver, whose five top-five finishes have helped him maintain fifth place in the points standings.

Yet that doesn't ease a sense of frustration for Gaskins, whose No. 37 Southern Performance Coatings Ford might be in a better position had a few breaks come his way. It's hard to forget about the missed opportunity at Charlotte County Speedway, where an overflowing fuel tank cost him a sure win; or the crash at New Smyrna Speedway that cost him another top finish.

"Oh yeah, we've been doing pretty good. But if not for bad luck, we'd probably be in the top three," Gaskins said. "We've had three DNFs, but we've just been getting used to the new series."

Gaskins is looking forward to Saturday's homecoming at Citrus County Speedway, where he has spent most of his career and finished in the top five in the Late Model division last year. That experience helped him pick up his first truck win in March, when he dominated the field in the series' second visit to Inverness.

Beyond Gaskins, his team would seem to have a distinct home-track advantage for Saturday's 75-lap shootout. It is owned by Citrus County Speedway owner Sims and includes several current and former speedway veterans on the crew. Gaskins further pitches in by building the engines and helping with chassis setups on his truck and that of teammate Terry Woodard, currently fourth in the series' rookie standings.

"That had a lot to do with me selecting Bruce," Sims said. "We do everything in-house and we'd like to think that gives a distinct advantage to our team. He builds our engines and our chassis and helps with the gear settings. He's a mechanical genius. There is nothing he can't fix. He knows it all."

Yet, the advantage isn't what one might think due to the fact that several other drivers in Saturday's main event cut their racing teeth at Citrus County Speedway. Butch Yoakam, the truck series points leader and winner of two races (including the season opener in Inverness) has done well at the quarter-mile oval, as have his son Robbie, Richy Powers (21st in points), Jeff Sloan (fourth) and George Receveur Jr. (ninth).

"Hopefully, it will be an advantage for us," Sims said. "It's our track, but there are a lot of other drivers in this race that know their way around this track. It should be a very competitive race."

Speaking of competition, only 68 points separate the top six in the standings, while three drivers (Butch Yoakam, Jimmy Cope and second-place Scott Bramlett) share the lead in wins with two apiece.

The series also seems to be catching on in popularity and held its first televised race on July 10 at New Smyrna. The next televised event will be on Sept. 18 at Summerville Speedway outside of Charleston, S.C., and another special event has been planned for December in Aruba.

Gaskins and Sims plan to continue their relationship with the series next season, though they are looking to improve their sponsorship situation.

"We're looking to secure a major sponsor for next year," Gaskins said. "They plan to televise eight races next year and we figure it will cost around $200,000 to run the full season. That's a lot of money and it's a little too much for most of the people around here."