* Atlanta Motor Speedway and trucks guarantee excitement * Ted Musgrave overcomes huge deficit to lead points standings DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 24, 2005) -- Excitement guaranteed. That's Atlanta Motor Speedway and Saturday's EasyCare Vehicle...
* Atlanta Motor Speedway and trucks guarantee excitement
* Ted Musgrave overcomes huge deficit to lead points standings
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 24, 2005) -- Excitement guaranteed.
That's Atlanta Motor Speedway and Saturday's EasyCare Vehicle Service Contracts 200 that marks the return of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series to the scene of March's closest superspeedway finish in series history.
Ron Hornaday Jr. pushed the nose of his No. 6 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet just far enough ahead of the bumper of Bobby Labonte's No. 47 Econo Lodge/Rodeway Inn Chevrolet to win by .008-second.
"It was awesome," said Hornaday, recalling his 27th NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory. "We even made a little contact right before we crossed the stripe.
"The fans had to enjoy it."
And oh, by the way, last year's edition of the EasyCare 200 was decided in the final turn of the last lap around the 1.54-mile track.
Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) took the white flag in the lead, lost the advantage to Bobby Hamilton (No. 04 Bailey's Dodge) on the backstretch and spun backwards across the start-finish stripe after his low-groove challenge wasn't quite successful.
"It's the best side-by-side racing you'll ever see," said Skinner of competition at Atlanta and on the series. "We see it every week."
Labonte, who captured his first series victory a few weeks later at Martinsville Speedway, said there's a simple explanation for Atlanta's tight competition.
"Atlanta creates great racing because of the fact you have multiple groove racing," said the former NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion. "You can run high or low and that is what really does it. There is grip in both grooves so it doesn't seem to matter as long as your car or truck works in one or both of them."
Hamilton concurs -- although he still can't believe he won the series debut at Atlanta in March 2004.
"I didn't ever expect to win the race when he got by me," Hamilton said of Skinner's pass for the lead on Lap 126 of an eventual 133. "There's a huge draft there -- the closest thing to Daytona."
Expect to see a competitor with the experience level of a Hornaday, Skinner, Hamilton and Labonte battling at the front of the pack when the checkered flag flies late Saturday afternoon.
"A veteran knows what the feel of the draft is and how and when to take advantage of it," said Hamilton, a winner earlier this year at Daytona.
Two months ago, Ted Musgrave (No. 1 Mopar Dodge) figured his chances of winning the 2005 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series title were pretty close to nil. Following his fourth victory of the season, Dennis Setzer (No. 46 Chevrolet Z71 Silverado Chevrolet) owned a huge, 227-point lead exiting Indianapolis Raceway Park.
On Saturday at Martinsville Speedway, on an afternoon Musgrave finished fourth and Setzer 19th, the points battle rotated full circle.
Musgrave regained the championship lead he lost on June 18 in Michigan and heads to Atlanta with a 54-point advantage.
Surprise might be an understatement.
"After Indy, it was like 'engrave the trophy and give it to him,'" said Musgrave.
But the 49-year-old veteran told his Ultra Motorsports team that the season wasn't over.
"I've got a lot of faith in these guys and we weren't completely down and out," said Musgrave. "We just wanted to keep working real hard. It's very seldom that a driver gets good luck all year long and we still had the capability to come back."
With six consecutive top-six finishes and an assist by Setzer's sour fortunes, Musgrave did exactly that.
Said Setzer, who's had but a single top-10 finish since Indianapolis: "We've been having some tough luck this fall and we can't get out from under it. Maybe it's going to be better to be the chaser in these last four races."