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King of the road ready to get back on track

March 30, 2012, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com



King of the road ready to get back on track
MARTINSVILLE, Va. -- Daytona winner credits Bill Elliott among those who helped him get his start

For John King, this Saturday's Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway cannot get here quickly enough.

It's been more than a month since King won the season-opening race in the Camping World Truck Series at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 24 in stunning and surprising fashion. And not surprisingly, King wishes it hasn't been so long since he's been able to get back on the race track.

"It's been neat. It's almost taken that long for it to sink in -- just exactly what we've been able to accomplish."

--JOHN KING

"It's been long. That's about the only thing you can say about it," King said. "I was ready to load up and go somewhere again [that following] Monday morning when we got back to the race shop."

Instead, he's had to spend nearly five full weeks waiting and basking in the glory of winning a race at famed Daytona to take the early points lead in the series. King, a CWTS rookie, has indicated that he's well aware that isn't likely to last much longer.

"It's been neat. It's almost taken that long for it to sink in -- just exactly what we've been able to accomplish," King said. "I'm just really excited to be here and can't wait to get this No. 7 Toyota Tundra going."

For those still trying to get a handle on exactly who John King is and how he seemingly came out of nowhere to win the 2012 Truck opener on NASCAR's most famous track, he's the typical overnight sensation who has been years in the making. He said he owes much of his success to family friend Bill Elliott, the NASCAR legend who still drives part-time in the Sprint Cup Series where he owns 44 career victories and won the championship in 1988.

"Him and my dad have been friends for a long time. I did kind of a driver development deal with him," said King, whose father met Elliott during a promotional event at the elder King's auto dealership in the mid-1980s. "At the end of 2007, Dad and I were driving through Georgia. He was like, 'Let's stop in and see Bill.'

"We did and [Elliott] was like, 'Hey, what are you doing next year?' I said, 'I don't know. Racin' like this year, out of our house.' And he said, 'Why don't you move down here and race out of my shop?' It took me about a minute to think about it and say yes."

So at the age of 19, King packed up what little personal stuff he owned and all of his racing equipment and drove to Dawsonville, Ga., where he lived with the Elliott family and raced out of Elliott's race shop for the following year.

"It was a neat experience. There is so much history there. We got to make a lot of friends and learn a whole lot -- not just on the track but on the business side as well," King said. "It was something I hadn't seen on a large scale yet, as far as on the Cup side and their whole engine program and all that. I learned a whole lot from the whole deal."

King, a native of Kingsport, Tenn., who will celebrate his 24th birthday this Sunday, had not been racing very long when Elliott took him into the Dawsonville fold.

"I started late. I didn't start driving a race car until I was 16. I guess I had just gotten my driver's license because I drove to Kingsport Speedway to do it. We started late but got right into crate late models and then moved to super late models," King said. "We started moving from race track to race track almost every weekend and we got pretty quickly into running on asphalt, because we thought that would be my best opportunity to be successful."

King admitted he isn't certain what to expect during this Saturday's race at Martinsville, but said he will lean heavily on Red Horse Racing teammate Timothy Peters for help. Peters finished second to King at Daytona and won his first CWTS race at Martinsville in 2009.

Peters said he has become fast friends with King since they've become teammates this season.

"Me and John are kind of on the same page. He works hard for what he's got and he's very appreciative. He listens," Peters said. "I can help him and he can help me and that's what teammates are all about. I'm glad he's at Red Horse -- not only as a teammate, but as a good friend."

King said he has modest goals for the rest of this season.

"We've had a lot of time to sit and think about all that went on [at Daytona and afterward], and what we plan to do in the future -- which is just finish races and run all the laps," King said.

Then again, that was sort of the modest goal heading into Daytona as well.

"Winning there, that was definitely unexpected," King admitted. "I'm going into the rest of the races with the same intent. I'm a rookie. I've got limited laps or no laps at all at the majority of these tracks and I just need to gain the most amount of experience that I can. My intent is to finish all the laps and finish the race every week. I feel like if we do that, we'll get in the groove where we'll have consistently good finishes."