Indy IRP: Skinner - NASCAR spotlight

Mike Skinner looks to regain form at Indianapolis Raceway Park DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 1, 2005) -- Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) personified the word "domination" at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1995 and '96. Skinner led all 350...

Mike Skinner looks to regain form at Indianapolis Raceway Park

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Aug. 1, 2005) -- Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) personified the word "domination" at Indianapolis Raceway Park in 1995 and '96.

Skinner led all 350 laps in winning the first two NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events held at the .686-mile oval.

But memories, no matter how sweet, are exactly that.

Skinner, among five former IRP winners entered in Friday night's Power Stroke Diesel 200, hasn't scored a victory in the season-and-a-half he's spent at Bill Davis Racing.

Maybe this will be the week; maybe not.

"I think IRP fits my driving style. I love short tracks," said Skinner. "I feel like I am a better short-track racer [but] I do not think our program is where it needs to be to capitalize on them."

"IRP was a race track that was good for me and it has been very frustrating this year because we have been so good on the short tracks in the past."

Skinner finished 13th in last year's IRP event. His best short-track finish of 2004 is ninth at Martinsville Speedway. Performances outside the top 25 at Mansfield, Ohio and most recently at Memphis Motorsports Park are among the reasons the 1995 series champion ranks only 11th in the current point standings.

The Susanville, Calif. veteran, who counts four fourth-place finishes in 2005, believes that can change.

"I think this race team has the potential to be as strong as my [Richard Childress Racing] team back in 1995," Skinner said. "We are not there yet. [Crew chief] Jeff Hensley and I are really working hard on trying to put our finger on the problem so we can get back in short track form."

Skinner, RCR and chassis specialist Todd Berrier -- now Kevin Harvick's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series crew chief -- probably shouldn't have been as good as they were. They won 16 races over a two-year span with chassis setups the driver called "outdated."

"The differences between 1995 and today are the shock packages that we run each week," Skinner said. "What I did was run the packages that I had on my late model car and Todd made it better and better. It really worked for the first couple of years and then everybody caught up.

"I think the trucks are a lot more aero dependent now than they were back in the early days. The tires and chassis have changed so much and the level of competition gets higher and higher each year that passes." One thing that hasn't changed over the series' first decade is the difficulty of winning. It isn't easy to win now; it wasn't easy then.

Many of this season's winners -- Dennis Setzer (No. 46 Chevrolet Silverado Chevrolet), Ted Musgrave (No. 1 Mopar Dodge), Bobby Hamilton (No. 04 Dodge), Jack Sprague (No. 16 Chevy Trucks Chevrolet) and Steve Park (No. 62 Orleans Dodge) -- are among the most experienced drivers in NASCAR competition.

Skinner remembers having to outrun NASCAR NEXTEL Cup stars Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Ken Schrader and Ernie Irvan. The regular series competitors included Sprague, Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 6 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) and Joe Ruttman.

"It was really good times when we started this thing," Skinner said. "We were really on our game."

And, Skinner hopes, he will be back on that game in the very near future.

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Ernie Irvan , Steve Park , Mike Skinner , Ken Schrader , Kevin Harvick , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Mark Martin
Teams Bill Davis Racing