Loudon: Round 18 preview

Battle At The Top: Hornaday Holds Four-Point Lead Titles Help, But Don't Guarantee, NHIS Success By A Nose: New Hampshire Known For Close Finishes Skinner Hopes To Rally; Benson Goes For Third Consecutive Win DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 10,...

Battle At The Top: Hornaday Holds Four-Point Lead
Titles Help, But Don't Guarantee, NHIS Success
By A Nose: New Hampshire Known For Close Finishes

Skinner Hopes To Rally; Benson Goes For Third Consecutive Win

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Sept. 10, 2007) -- Eight, and four.

Those are the numbers to remember this week as the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series embarks on its 2007 stretch run.

Eight races remain; only four points separate standings leader Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet), from second-place Mike Skinner (No. 5 XM/Toyota Tundra Toyota).

And if that weren't drama enough, Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota) -- currently fifth in the series standings -- is aiming for his third consecutive victory.

He'll attempt the feat in Saturday's New Hampshire 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway, and if successful, will duplicate Skinner's trio of consecutive wins posted earlier this season at California Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway.

Back to the standings battle: It's the series' second-closest margin after 17 events. Hornaday leads the standings for the first time since 1999 -- the third leader of '07 -- following Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota) and Skinner.

And with Skinner seeking to re-gain the series lead he lost last week at Gateway International Raceway, and Benson's bid for three consective victories, consider that Skinner finished second in this event last September -- to Benson. The two also started last year's event one-two: Skinner with the pole, Benson with the outside pole.

The "Champions" May Have It At New Hampshire

A NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series title isn't necessary for success at New Hampshire International Speedway, but statistics show it certainly doesn't hurt.

Nor is it a lucky charm.

Seven former series champions are scheduled to compete in Saturday's New Hampshire 200. They are Mike Skinner, Ron Hornaday Jr., Jack Sprague, Mike Bliss (No. 4 Open Joist Dodge), Travis Kvapil (No. 6 K&N Filters Ford), Ted Musgrave (No. 9 Team ASE Toyota) and Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota).

Hornaday, Kvapil and Sprague are the only former champions with New Hampshire victories.

However, former series champions have won 12 of 17 events thus far in 2007, and they rank first through fourth in the current standings -- Hornaday, Skinner, Kvapil and Bodine.

Hornaday's New Hampshire victory came in 1996. Skinner's best finish there was his runner-up effort last September. Kvapil won at New Hampshire in 2004. Bodine's top New Hampshire finish was fourth place last September.

Johnny Benson, who's fifth in the current standings, is the defending champion of Saturday's New Hampshire 200.

Close Calls: Down-To-Wire Finishes A New Hampshire Norm

If history holds, expect a tight finish in Saturday's New Hampshire 200.

Also expect the possibility of a fresh face in Victory Lane.

Saturday's event is the 12th NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at New Hampshire, where two statistics deserve a second look.

First, no driver has repeated as a New Hampshire winner.

Second, the largest margin of victory in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event there is 0.691 seconds, in 2006.

That was the distance between Johnny Benson, last year's New Hampshire winner, and second-place finisher Mike Skinner.

The total margin of victory in 10 races is 4.633 seconds, an average of 0.463 seconds (the 2004 event ended under caution).

The tightest New Hampshire finish? The 2002 event -- only 0.189 seconds separated winner Terry Cook (No. 59 Harris Trucking Toyota) from second-place finisher Dennis Setzer (No. 08 People Against Drugs Chevrolet).

Twice, this race has been won from the pole -- Jack Sprague in 2001 ; Jimmy Spencer in 2003.

-credit: nascar

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Series NASCAR-TRUCK