* 'Intermediates' Key To Championship * LVMS 11 Years Later: DejÃ Vu All Over Again * Canadians Have Long, Rich History In Series 'Intermediate' Tracks Could Determine 2007 Champion DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 17, 2007) -- Performance on the...
* 'Intermediates' Key To Championship
* LVMS 11 Years Later: Dejà Vu All Over Again
* Canadians Have Long, Rich History In Series
'Intermediate' Tracks Could Determine 2007 Champion
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 17, 2007) -- Performance on the intermediate speedways -- those measuring 1.5-miles in length -- likely is the key to winning the 2007 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship.
Simply stated, four of the remaining seven races, beginning with Saturday's Smith's Las Vegas 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, will be contested on 1.5-mile ovals.
Who's the favorite? Take your pick.
Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota), who trails Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet) by 29 points, is the defending winner at LVMS and blitzed the field at Kentucky Speedway in July -- the most recent race on a 1.5-mile track.
Beginning with last year's Las Vegas race, Skinner has three victories in the past nine 1.5-mile races. He also won in Atlanta in March.
Hornaday, who has yet to win at LVMS, won May's race at Lowe's Motor Speedway. The 49-year-old Californian counts four 1.5-mile victories -- including wins at two remaining tracks -- Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota), despite being 298 points behind Hornaday, shouldn't be overlooked.
Bodine is the series' intermediate track leader with eight victories -- seven on the remaining tracks. He won in Las Vegas in 2005; at Texas Motor Speedway in June and four times overall; and in 2005 in Atlanta and Miami.
Eleven Seasons And 10 Races Later, Six Still Are Going Strong
The more the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series changes, the more it stays the same.
Las Vegas Motor Speedway was the fastest track when it joined the series in November 1996 but that speed -- a lap of 157.909 mph -- pales by comparison to this year's Daytona top qualifying lap of 179.508 turned in by race winner Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota).
Sprague and four others -- all series champions -- share a common bond with Las Vegas Motor Speedway, host of Saturday night's Smith's Las Vegas 350. The race is the track's 11th.
The five are among the six remaining active drivers who competed in the 1996 Carquest 420 won by Sprague. Mike Skinner clinched the first NASCAR Craftsman Truck title with a seventh-place finish.
Also in the field -- and still racking up wins and top finishes -- were Ron Hornaday Jr.; Mike Bliss (No. 4 Open Joist Dodge); and Ted Musgrave (No. 9 Team ASE Toyota). Joe Ruttman, 62, who runs a limited schedule for Bobby Hamilton Racing, also competed in the first event.
Bliss is absent this week competing in the NASCAR Busch Series at Dover.
Sprague is LVMS' only two-time winner. Ruttman, Skinner -- the defending winner -- and Musgrave also have victories at the 1.5-mile speedway.
Villeneuve Isn't First Canadian Competitor; Just The Next
Formula One champion and Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve (No. 27 Bill Davis Racing Toyota) is set to make his NASCAR debut this week in Las Vegas.
But Canadian competitors are no strangers to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. In fact, Randy Churchill of Windsor, Ontario, competed in 1995's seventh race at I-70 Speedway near Kansas City.
Churchill's father, Jerry, joined his son at Bristol, making them the first father-son entry in a series race. Randy MacDonald of Oshawa, Ontario, is the Canadian leader in starts (94) and winnings ($953,783).
MacDonald and his sister, Teri, are the only brother and sister to compete in the same race. Their most recent of four concurrent starts came at Darlington Raceway in 2003.
World class road racer Ron Fellows, however, remains the highest profile Canadian in the series -- at least until Villeneuve's debut.
Fellows, a Toronto native, won twice at Watkins Glen International in 1997 and 1999. He was the Bud Pole starter at WGI in three consecutive seasons.
Two Canadians have competed in 2007: Pierre Bourque of Ottawa and Peter Shepherd of Brampton, Ontario.