Mike Skinner finished 24th in at the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway on Friday night in his 12th NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) start at the one-mile track.
Skinner started from the 36th position in the No. 45 Cushman / Paytas Homes Toyota Tundra after using a past-champions provisional to get into the main event. "We have a lot of work to do boys to get up to the front this race, but I appreciate all of your hard work up until now," Skinner said on the radio to the team.
The green flag waved on the event, and Skinner quickly jumped up to the 29th position by the end of the first lap. He continued to gain spots and held steady in the 27th position. On lap 22, the race leader Clint Bowyer passed him and put him one lap down. With no early cautions, the leaders were able to catch the No. 45 again on lap 32 to put the Tundra two laps down.
The first caution of the night flew on lap 43 for debris on the track. Running in the 26th position, the No. 45 Cushman / Paytas Homes Tundra came down pit road for four tires, fuel, and track bar and air pressure adjustments.
The green flag waved on lap 48, and Skinner battled from the 27th position as the sun set on the Avondale, Ariz., track.
The field slowed again on lap 57 when the No. 5 of Travis Kvapil spun in turn 2. The No. 45 came down pit road to top off with fuel. Unfortunately, the Tundra pitted before pit road was open for cars a lap down. The No. 45 was served with a penalty from NASCAR and had to start from the tail end of the field when the green flag waved on lap 62.
Skinner quickly moved up from the 32nd position to 30th by lap 63. Working with a tight truck, he battled his way through the field and found his way to the 28th position by lap 28.
The caution flew on lap 102 for an accident involving Kvapil in turn 3. When pit road was open on lap 103, the No. 45 crew put on four tires and fuel and made adjustments to help with the tight truck.
The yellow flag dropped again on lap 108 for a two-car incident involving the No. 7 of Miguel Paludo and the No. 07 of BJ McLeod. Crew chief Jefferson Hodges called for Skinner to stay out, and he took the restart on lap 110 in the 27th position.
The field was slowed for a three-car accident on lap 112 with Skinner in the 27th position. When the green flag waved on lap 119, Skinner worked hard to get into the 23rd position.
"The truck is tight, but we are definitely going to learn something this race," said Skinner.
The No. 45 came into the pits for a final change on lap 134 with the field under caution, and the crew put on four tires and filled the Tundra with fuel. Skinner tried to battle his way up through the field in the final laps but would cross the finish line in the 24th position.
"This is a new team, and there are a lot of growing pains," said Skinner. "These guys are learning the NCWTS. It takes time, and it is a learning curve. I have to thank Cushman and Paytas Homes for supporting us over these past few races. Thanks to Eddie Sharp for working with me, and we are going to have to put our heads together to figure out future plans, sponsorship and strategy."
Sharp, who enters his first complete season as a truck owner with ESR in the NCWTS, took time to reflect on the race. "It has been a huge learning experience over the first two races of the season," said Sharp. "I shoulder the blame for the problems that we had over these past two races with Skinner, and I know that we are better than what we have shown over the past two weeks. I truly appreciate everyones support in our first season in the NCWTS, and our team is working hard and learning from our mistakes. I have to thank Mike Skinner for working with us and sharing his veteran experience with our young team, Toyota, who has been so supportive with helping to build our program from the ground up and to the sponsors of the No. 45, Cushman and Paytas Homes, for sticking with us. I am excited to have a week to focus on working on things at the shop, and we will go forward on a high note."