Off-week news and notes 2007-07-02

* Skinner's 12th Consecutive Race Lead Matches Record * Brad Keselowski Shines In Last-Minute Relief Role * Bill Davis Racing Lands Three Drivers In Top 10 * Raybestos Rookie Leader Fike Nabs First Top Five Skinner Leads 12th Consecutive Race To...

* Skinner's 12th Consecutive Race Lead Matches Record
* Brad Keselowski Shines In Last-Minute Relief Role
* Bill Davis Racing Lands Three Drivers In Top 10
* Raybestos Rookie Leader Fike Nabs First Top Five

Skinner Leads 12th Consecutive Race To Match Series Record

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 2, 2007) -- Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) joined Jason Leffler in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series record book last weekend when he took the lead on the 61st lap of the O'Reilly 200 at Memphis Motorsports Park.

The 50-year-old Skinner's move around Ron Hornaday Jr.'s No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet marked the 12th time in a dozen races that he's held the top spot.

Leffler set the record in 2002. Skinner can take the record alone on July 14 at Kentucky Speedway.

Skinner and Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota) previously shared the No. 2 spot, with the latter driver having led the first 11 races of the 2001 season -- a year in which Sprague captured his third NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship.

The races led record is important in this respect: Five bonus points are awarded for each race led.

Skinner now has accumulated 75 bonus points -- 30 more than closest rival Hornaday, who led his sixth race of the year at Memphis en route to a third-place finish.

"Even if we don't win these races, we are still competitive, can lead a few laps and bring home a good finish," said Skinner, the race's fourth-place finisher. "Hopefully, we can keep up this momentum throughout the season because it's been pretty good so far."

Keselowski Shines In Last-Minute Stand-In Role

They say the best way to judge a young driver's talent is to put him in competitive equipment and drop the green flag.

Brad Keselowski had one top-10 finish in 41 starts prior to the June 30 O'Reilly 200. That obviously was not indicative of the 23-year-old Michigan driver's abilities.

Keselowski, a late-week replacement in the No. 9 Team ASE Toyota for the suspended Ted Musgrave, won his first Bud Pole with a near-record lap of 119.771 mph around the .75-mile speedway.

He proceeded to lead the race four times for a combined 62 laps and came within nine laps of joining his father, Bob Keselowski, as a NASCAR Craftsman Truck winner.

Unfortunately for Keselowski, the Cinderella story ended short of Victory Lane. A Turn 4 tangle with O'Reilly 200 winner Travis Kvapil (No. 6 K&N Engineering Ford) dropped Keselowski to 16th -- a finish hardly indicative of the race he ran.

Where does Keselowski go from here?

He obviously hopes what amounted to a high-profile audition will lead to a permanent seat in equally competitive equipment.

"Hopefully, I'll get more opportunities in trucks of this caliber," said Keselowski during his post-race interview. "We had a strong truck all night but it just didn't end how we wanted it.

"As disappointed as I am about the finish, this is certainly the best run I've had. There comes a point when that's all I care about. I just want to run well, lead some laps and that's what we did tonight."

He added: "We earned every bit of it and that was really cool."

Kvapil, Beam Get Second Win; Roush His Third

Don't look now, but here comes Travis Kvapil.

The No. 6 K&N Engineering Ford team, one of three Roush Fenway entries in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, definitely was underachieving through much of the early season -- at least compared to Mark Martin's achievements in 2006.

June, however, has seen a huge turnaround for the Mike Beam-led unit. Kvapil's O'Reilly 200 victory was the Wisconsin veteran's second in three races.

Kvapil's performance marked his sixth consecutive finish in the top 10, compared with just one finish -- third at Daytona -- higher than 13th in the season's first six races.

During the Mansfield to Memphis stretch, Kvapil has climbed from eighth to fourth in the standings. He trails leader Mike Skinner by 263 points but is within 35 of third-ranked and defending champion Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota).

"Our team has come a long way," Kvapil said. "We were not a contender at all. We were running 15th and 16th and kind of embarrassing Jack Roush. He did an awesome job sitting all of us down. He cut the trucks up for me and got them to the wind tunnel and changed the setups for me, adapted to what I needed and what (teammate) Erik Darnell needed, and Kansas was a big turnaround where my teammate won the race. Ever since then, we've been rolling."

Kvapil believes he can win a second title to go with his 2003 crown but figures Skinner, Hornaday and Bodine will have to cooperate.

"It's going to come down to those guys having a couple of bad days and we're just going to have to be there in the top five to capitalize on it," Kvapil said.

Bill Davis Racing Squad Struts Its Stuff In O'Reilly

With all three of his trucks finishing among the top 10 in Memphis, team owner Bill Davis enters the season's off-week with a smile on his face.

Skinner finished a solid fourth, newcomer Ryan Mathews (No. 36 The Lilly Company Toyota) -- whose contract was extended the previous week -- took sixth and Johnny Benson (No. 23 360 OTC Toyota) backed up his Milwaukee victory with a seventh-place finish.

The top 10 "triple" was the team's second of 2007, having its trucks finish first, eighth and 10th at Martinsville Speedway in March.

All three of the team's drivers celebrated birthdays between June 27 and July 1 -- Benson (44), Skinner (50) and Mathews (27).

NCTS Etc.

Jack Sprague and financee Amy Schellenbach plan to exchange wedding vows on Tuesday, July 3 in Hilton Head, N.C. The pair headed for their nuptials after Sprague finished second -- his 130th series top five -- in the O'Reilly 200.

Three series competitors posted career-best finishes at Memphis. Aaron Fike (No. 1 RFMS/Red Horse Racing Toyota) was fifth, Ryan Mathews sixth and Tim Sauter (No. 07 Lester Buildings Chevrolet) 11th.

Kvapil broke his own Memphis Motorsports Park race record with an average speed of 91.806 mph. The race was the first in which the leader has averaged in excess of 90 mph. The night's 10 lead changes matched the MMP record established in 2003.

It wasn't roses for every series competitor, especially Dennis Setzer (No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet), whose finish of 19th was the driver's first outside the top 10 and off the lead lap in nine trips to Memphis. Nine among the current championship top 10 have occupied a top-10 position after each of the year's 12 races. Matt rafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet) finished 10th at Memphis to move up a spot (to ninth). With the season not yet to the halfway-point, Crafton has seven top 10s vs. five in 2006. With his drive in the No. 40 Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet at Memphis, Stacy Compton has performed for four different teams in ten 2007 appearances. Hamilton Boulevard Named In Memphis

Members of Bobby Hamilton Racing assembled during this past weekend for the naming of Bobby Hamilton Boulevard at Memphis Motorsports Park.

The renamed street leads directly to the track's grandstand entry gates.

Hamilton's widow, Lori Hamilton, and crew members from both the No. 4 Open Joist Dodge of Kevin Hamlin and No. 18 Fastenal Dodge of Ken Schrader served as grand marshals for the O'Reilly 200.

They rendered the traditional "drivers, start engines" for a race Hamilton won in 2004.

Ford Nears No. 2 Spot With Third Win Of 2007

Ford remains third in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Manufacturers' Championship following Travis Kvapil's Memphis victory but is only a single point behind current runner-up Chevrolet with the 2007 season nearing its mid-point.

Kvapil's victory was the third of the season for Ford -- the same number as its closest rival.

Toyota continues to lead the rankings by a 15-point margin.

In The Loop: Sprague, Darnell And Setzer Strong In Memphis

Gaining ground on NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series leader Mike Skinner has thus far been an impossible task.

It's not that those playing catch-up have struggled; it's that Skinner has been so consistent. He has finished in the top 10 in each race this season (his worst finish was eighth at Lowe's Motor Speedway), and this past weekend he tied the record for consecutive races with a lap led to start the season.

Skinner's statistics are equally impressive -- and revealing.

He leads the series in a number of categories. He has the top marks in Driver Rating (122.9), Average Running Position (4.132), Fastest Laps Run (260) and Laps in the Top 15 (1,954).

Coming close is Ron Hornaday Jr., who sits second -- 103 points behind Skinner. Hornaday has the second-best Driver Rating at 112.8, the third-best Average Running Position of 8.138, the second-most Fastest Laps Run at 181 and the third-most Laps in the Top15 at 1,729.

Defending NASCAR Craftsman Truck champion Todd Bodine has racked up impressive stats this season, but still trails Skinner by 228 points in the standings.

Bodine has a Driver Rating of 103.1 (fourth-best), an Average Running Position of 7.4 (second-best), 90 Fastest Laps Run (fifth-most) and 1,795 Laps in the Top 15 (second-most). He also leads the series in Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 while under green) with 303.

Aaron Fike added to his Raybestos Rookie of the Year lead at Memphis with a fifth-place finish -- the first top five for the Galesburg, Ill., native.

"We probably should have had a couple top fives already this year but we caught a couple of bad breaks," he said. "This means a lot.

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series reaches the mid-point of the 2007 season on Saturday, July 14 with the eighth edition of the Built Ford Tough 225 presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers.

Ron Hornaday Jr. is the defending winner of the race -- the first of three wins on 1.5-mile speedways during the past 12 months.

FAST FACTS

Next Race: Built Ford Tough 225 presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers

The Place: Kentucky Speedway
The Date: July 14

The Time: 98 p.m. (ET)
TV: SPEED, 7:30 p.m. (ET)

Track Layout: 1.5 mile oval

Race Purse: $767,050

2006 Winner: Ron Hornaday Jr.
2006 Pole: Marcos Ambrose

Schedule: Friday -- Practice 2:30 p.m. -- 3:40 p.m.; 3:50 p.m. -- 4:20 p.m. (rookies) and 6:30 p.m. -- 7:30 p.m. Saturday -- Qualifying 4:00 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Todd Bodine , Jason Leffler , Mike Skinner , Ken Schrader , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Marcos Ambrose , Aaron Fike , Jack Roush , Brad Keselowski , Kevin Hamlin , Erik Darnell , Mark Martin , Travis Kvapil , Ryan Mathews
Teams Bill Davis Racing , Red Horse Racing