Off-week news and notes 2007-07-16

* David Green Makes Splash In '07 Series Debut * The Numbers Say It All: Skinner Is The Top Dog * With 10 Wins Overall, This Is A Champion's Season * Wood Is Fourth Driver To Log Top 10 For No. 21 Team Green Proves To Be Quick Study DAYTONA ...

* David Green Makes Splash In '07 Series Debut
* The Numbers Say It All: Skinner Is The Top Dog
* With 10 Wins Overall, This Is A Champion's Season
* Wood Is Fourth Driver To Log Top 10 For No. 21 Team

Green Proves To Be Quick Study

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 16, 2007) -- The first thing David Green could say after climbing from the No. 1 RFMS/Red Horse Racing Toyota was, "Whew!"

The 1994 NASCAR Busch Series champion hadn't been in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race in a decade -- but Green raced his way to a fifth-place finish in the July 14 Built Ford Tough 225 at Kentucky Speedway despite landing the ride a few days earlier.

"Things have changed," said Green, "a lot."

"The races I won in the Busch Series and races that were very mentally stressful don't even hold a candle to what it takes to run these things," said the 49-year-old Owensboro, Ky., competitor. "We ran 16 laps tonight before the first caution and the crew told me it was 16 laps down and I thought it should have been 200.

"I've never been in a race that fast and (at that) pace."

Green will drive Tom DeLoach's Toyota in the remaining 12 events and appears destined to win his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck race. Green won nine races and $8.9 million in the NASCAR Busch Series.

Still ...

"I have to be careful not to put too many expectations on myself," Green said prior to the race. "Every ingredient is going to be new to me. I probably should have three rookie stripes instead of one, but they didn't put any on (the truck)."

Make That Four Wins For Championship Leader Skinner

Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) is making 2007 look a lot like 1995.

At the season's mid-point, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' inaugural champion is on the sort of tear that shouts, "Here I am. Come and get me."

Skinner, who won Saturday's race, has led all 13 races this season -- a series record. The Susanville, Calif. native, 50, also joined Joe Ruttman as the only post-50 series winner.

With nearest championship rival Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet) finishing 10th, Skinner enjoys the largest point lead of the year -- 164.

In 1995, Skinner won eight times and sat on the Bud Pole 10 times. With 12 races to go, his current numbers are four and seven.

"We've been beat lately but we've been steady," said Skinner after recording his 13th top-10 finish.

To Become A Champion, A Competitor Will Have To Beat A Champion

At the mid-point of the 2007 season, one thing is crystal-clear as far as the championship race is concerned.

To become a champion, a competitor will have to beat a champion.

Here's why:

Four former titleholders -- Mike Skinner, Ron Hornaday Jr., Travis Kvapil (No. 6 K&N Engineering Ford) and Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) occupy the first four spots in the point standings.

Two more champions aren't far behind: Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota) and Ted Musgrave (No. 9 Team ASE Toyota) rank seventh and eighth.

A seventh champion, Mike Bliss (No. 4 Open Joist Dodge), isn't running a full schedule but the Milwaukie, Ore., driver is running often enough -- and well enough -- to be a spoiler.

In sum, the septet counts 10 of the series' 12 championships.

And their records in 2007 are formidable to say the least.

They count 10 wins, 10 Bud Poles and 39 top-five and 62 top-10 finishes.

Led by Skinner's $479,300, the seven won $2,080,400 of the $8.1 million posted through the first 13 events of the 25-race schedule.

Only three non-champions have been able to win in 2007: Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota) at Milwaukee, Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool+Equipment Ford) at Kansas and Dennis Setzer (No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet) at Mansfield.

Unsurprisingly, every race winner ranks among the top 10 in the championship.

Twenty-six different drivers boasted winnings of at least $100,000 through the first 13 races. Thirty-two competitors posted at least one top-10 finish

NCTS Etc.

A memorial service for NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starter Dennis James was held Monday, July 16 in Granite Falls, N.C. James, 57, passed away unexpectedly last week. Trucks competing at Kentucky Speedway carried a "DJ" decal on their B posts in honor of James.

A long dry spell -- 27 races to be exact -- ended when Bill Lester (No. 15 Bowen Family Homes Chevrolet) finished eighth in the Built Ford Tough 225. Lester hadn't cracked the top 10 since November 2005 in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Earlier, Lester missed his second Kentucky Speedway Bud Pole -- he holds the track record -- by .001 second. An amazing .007 second covered the top four qualifiers. "You know, we felt confident from the time we unloaded and hardly had to change a spring," said Lester, whose crew was directed by Doug George. "The guys did their homework at the shop to give me a great truck and everyone with Billy Ballew Motorsports just did an outstanding job."

Nobody knew how many races Ryan Mathews would spend in the seat of the No. 22 Bill Davis Racing Toyota when Davis tapped the 27-year-old Wisconsinite to drive at Mansfield in mid-May. Davis, however, liked what he saw and signed Mathews for the remainder of the season. Mathews repaid the support by winning the Bud Pole at Kentucky Speedway, from which he finished fourth with a final lap pass of David Green. "I just can't thank Bill and Gail Davis enough for giving me this opportunity," said Mathews. "This is a great truck and a great team and I'm just happy to be part of it." Jon Wood Solid In Series Return

This has not been a season to remember thus far for Jon Wood, whose NASCAR Busch Series schedule was cut short by illness several months ago.

But the silver lining appears that Wood may be able to finish off 2007 with superlative performances in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

Wood became the fourth driver of the year in the No. 21 Wood Brothers/JTG Racing Ford at Kentucky Speedway and responded with a sixth-place finish.

Wood, a two-time series winner before his NASCAR Busch Series elevation, joins Kelly Bires, Stacy Compton and Mark Martin who previously scored top 10s for the John Monsam-directed team.

In reaching his Kentucky finish, Wood battled a loose truck and spotted the field a mid-race spin-out but recovered to pass teammate Joey Clanton in the waning laps.

"It was a decent night. Everybody did what they were supposed to do. I think we started the race a little too loose, but it's just me not knowing a lot of truck racing, I guess," said Wood. "We overcame a lot so it was a pretty decent night."

Toyota Conquers Kentucky In Fourth Attempt

All four of the series' manufacturers now count a Kentucky Speedway victory. Toyota's win came in its fourth trip to the 1.5-mile track.

Mike Skinner's win was the truckmaker's seventh of the season and fifth by Tundras prepared by Bill Davis Racing.

Ford moved to the No. 2 spot this week -- 19 points behind Toyota and one up on Chevrolet.

In The Loop: Skinner, No Surprise, Is Runaway First Half Loop Leader

Mike Skinner capped off a dominant first half of the season with another convincing win at Kentucky Speedway on July 14.

Through the first 13 races of the 25-race season, Skinner has four wins, 11 top fives and 13 top 10s. His average finish is 3.5 and his worst finish all year was eighth at Lowe's Motor Speedway. With the Kentucky win, Skinner increased his cushion over second place Ron Hornaday Jr. to 164 points.

Skinner's stats easily put him atop each key Loop Data category. Below are the stats Skinner leads, along with the second-place figure:

- Driver Rating (125.0 to Hornaday's 110.5)
- Average Running Position (3.9 to Todd Bodine's 8.0)
- Fastest Laps Run (323 to Hornaday's 182)
- Laps in the Top 15 (2,104 to Bodine's 1,875)
- Laps Led (789 to Hornaday's 364)

There is hope for those drivers chasing Skinner. One driver in particular has been coming on strong of late: Travis Kvapil. Kvapil has scored seven consecutive top-10 finishes and has two wins in the past four races.

Kvapil has a Driver Rating of 104.4 (third-best), an Average Running Position of 8.2 (third-best), 126 Fastest Laps Run (fourth-most) and 1,841 Laps in the Top 15 (fourth-most). After a two-year layoff from the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, Kvapil seems to have re-adapted this season.

Joey Clanton is running only a partial schedule in the No. 09 Wood Brothers/JTG Ford but nobody would have known based on the Georgian's performance at Kentucky speedway. Clanton finished seventh to log his third top-10 finish of the year -- only one spot off his best of sixth at Daytona International Speedway.

Tim Sauter (No. 07 Lester Buildings Chevrolet) holds a five-point lead over Willie Allen (No. 13 ThorSport Chevrolet) entering the second half of 2007.

Up Next: O'Reilly Raceway Park

It's back home in Indiana for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series on July 27 with the tour's 13th consecutive visit to the .686-mile O'Reilly Raceway Park.

The Power Stroke Diesel 200 presented by Ford and International kicks off NASCAR's annual Indianapolis speed fest that concludes with the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 29.

As many as seven former ORP winners will be in the starting field as Mike Skinner and Jack Sprague attempt to become the track's first three-time winner.

FAST FACTS

Next Race: Power Stroke Diesel 200
The Place: O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis

The Date: July 27
The Time: 98 p.m. (ET)

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

Track Layout: .686 mile oval

Race Purse: $539,930

2006 Winner: Rick Crawford
2006 Pole: David Ragan

Schedule:
Friday -- Practice 10 a.m. -- 11 a.m.; 11:30 a.m. -- 12 noon (rookies) and 12 noon - 1 p.m. Qualifying 4:30 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Stacy Compton , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Rick Crawford , Jon Wood , David Green , Joe Ruttman , Tim Sauter , Bill Lester , Mike Bliss , Joey Clanton , David Ragan , Willie Allen , Erik Darnell , Kelly Bires , Mark Martin , Travis Kvapil , Ryan Mathews
Teams Bill Davis Racing , Red Horse Racing