Off-week news of note 2007-04-02

* Skinner Still Red Hot; Sets Records At Martinsville * Hometowner Hensley Goes 14 Years Between Wins * Kelly Sutton Returning To Series At Kansas * 2007 Owner Points Set Field For Remainder of Season * Spring Means Golf, Baseball For Some ...


* Skinner Still Red Hot; Sets Records At Martinsville
* Hometowner Hensley Goes 14 Years Between Wins
* Kelly Sutton Returning To Series At Kansas
* 2007 Owner Points Set Field For Remainder of Season
* Spring Means Golf, Baseball For Some Competitors

No Hiding Favorite's Role As Skinner Wins Again, Sets Records

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (April 2) -- Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) downplayed his status as favorite in the 2007 championship chase following last month's victory in Atlanta. Now, there's no hiding the fact that Skinner has established himself as the driver to beat as teams head into a four-week break in the schedule.

Skinner became a two-time winner at Martinsville Speedway on March 31, posted his 22nd career victory and ran his victory streak to three. He became the first series driver to own a pair of three-win streaks matching his 1996 performance.

Oh, and the 49-year-old driver led a whopping 246 of 253 laps at the .526-mile Martinsville Speedway. That's the most any driver has led in a single race, erasing Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 AER HR Solutions Chevrolet) from the record book.

Hornaday's record, 225 laps, had stood since the Californian led wire-to-wire at the old Louisville Motor Speedway on July 12, 1997.

Skinner, who earlier set a Martinsville Speedway qualifying record of 95.985 mph, matched Jack Sprague's series mark of eight races won from the Budweiser Pole.

"I guess it wasn't a fluke," said the winner in more than an understatement.

Crew chief Jeff Hensley isn't surprised. "Mike is the biggest change in this deal. He's driving smart and not asking more of the truck than what it can do."

The victory, Hensley's sixth with Skinner, was a hometown affair. "Our family-owned team won some Busch races here back in the early 90s," he said. "It's been 14 years since I've won here as a crew chief and this is big."

Kelly Sutton Returns

A female driver will be part of a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series entry for the sixth consecutive season when Kelly Sutton (No. 51 Team Copaxone Chevrolet) suits up at Kansas Speedway for the first of four races on April 28.

Sutton has the most starts, 51, and largest winnings, $442,882, by any of eight females competing in the series.

"I am looking forward to returning to racing especially with this Billy Ballew Motorsports team," said Sutton, absent from the series since last August. "This team has championship caliber equipment and I'm excited to drive one of his trucks."

News & Notes: Part 2

Bill Davis Racing En Fuego ... Since Johnny Benson (No. 23 360 OTC Toyota) won at Michigan in June 2006, a Bill Davis-entered truck has scored a top-10 finish in 16 of 18 races with a .500 winning percentage. "It is all coming together," said Mark Chambers, who runs the three NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series entries for Bill Davis Racing. "We had a plan when we started the season in 2006 and it seems to be working."

Former Series Owner MacDonald Passes ... Marrell "Doc" MacDonald, who fielded trucks for his son Randy and daughter Teri among others, passed away March 26 after a long illness. MacDonald, 67, placed 18th in 2003 series owner standings with son Randy 15th as his driver.

Raybestos Rookie Fike Cracks Top 10 ... For the first time in a year -- following the April 1, 2006 Kroger 250 -- a Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate has moved into the top 10 of the championship standings. Aaron Fike (No. 1 Red Horse Racing Toyota) is 10th after finishing seventh at Martinsville. The last freshman to grace the elite 10 was 2006 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford). Musgrave Lurking ... Later this month, Ted Musgrave (No. 9 Team ASE/Germain Toyota) hopes not to celebrate a dubious anniversary. It's been two years (Gateway, April 30, 2005) since that year's champion last visited Victory Lane. Musgrave, 51, is getting closer, posting his second top five and fourth top 10 of the season at Martinsville. The last series victory by a driver over the age of 50? That would be Joe Ruttman's May 20, 2001 triumph at Pikes Peak International Raceway when he was age 56 years six months. And Speaking Of Ruttman ... Now 62, he returns to the series to drive Bobby Hamilton Racing's No. 18 Fastenal Dodge at Kansas. Starting Spots, Bonuses Shift To '07 Points

The 2007 season "officially" begins at Kansas Speedway when starting positions and bonus monies shift to current Truck Owner Championship Points.

The top 30 eligible owners, following the March 31 Kroger 250, are guaranteed a starting position among the top 35. Owners ranking among the top 30 in 2007 standings also qualify for participation in a pair of bonus plans worth $42,500.

Racing their way into the top 30 for Kansas are the teams of Curtis Key (No. 40), Dave Malcolmson (No. 8) and J.L. Pennington (No. 7).

Eligible in 2006 -- but having to make the Kansas lineup via speed-- are Gene Christensen (No. 07) and David Dollar (No. 46).

The top 30 "resets" following each event.

Raybestos Rookie Of The Year Standings

Two Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates -- Aaron Fike (seventh) and Tyler Walker (eighth) - finished among the top 10 in the Kroger 250. That's a first in 2007.

Not surprising, David Starr (No. 10 MaxxForce Ford) of Houston is rooting for his Astros to go all the way to the World Series as Major League Baseball opens the 2007 season this week.

"I grew up playing baseball and fell in love with the Houston Astros," said Starr. "I thought those multi-colored uniforms were cool. As a catcher, I enjoyed watching Alan Ashby catch some of the best pitchers in baseball: Nolan Ryan, J.R. Richard (and Don Sutton)."

Meanwhile, Starr's teammate Rick Crawford (No. 14 Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford) is focusing on golf's first major of the year at Augusta National.

And he isn't picking Tiger Woods to win.

"I think Vijay Singh has his game going in the right direction to pick up another green jacket."

Skinner Scores Third Perfect Driver Rating

In the Loop

When Mike Skinner wins, he makes it count. A look at past performances proves that Skinner's not content with merely winning. He wants to dominate.

Really, all the proof you need was in Saturday's stunning win at the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway. Skinner earned a maximum Driver Rating of 150.0 and had an uncanny Average Running Position of 1.087. Also, Skinner's No. 5 Toyota Tundra had the highest number of Fastest Laps Run with 79 (Kevin Harvick was second with 21). He had some of the fastest speed figures in the field as well. He was the Fastest on the Frontstretch, Backstretch, Turn 1 and Turn 3. Skinner also had the field's Fastest Green Flag Speed.

But Saturday's performance was not the first time Skinner showed such brilliance. It wasn't even the second time. This was the third race in which Skinner scored a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0. The first time he did it was at Bristol on August 24, 2005. The second was last year at Las Vegas on Sept. 23. At Bristol, Skinner had an Average Running Position of 1.125. At Vegas, it was 1.548.

Quotable

"Growing up in Mobile, Hank Aaron's hometown, you had to be a Braves fan. Aaron was the man and always will be. The ordeal (he) went through to break Babe Ruth's homerun record was unbelievable." -- Rick Crawford, who along with Aaron, is a member of the Alabama city's sports hall of fame. "Bobby Hamilton and I had a great friendship. I am not here to fill Bobby Sr.'s seat; I don't think anyone can do that justice as he did. But to have this opportunity to come back home to work with his organization and Dodge again is a real dream come true. All of the core people who were here the first time I raced with them are still there." -- Joe Ruttman, who scored five of his 13 series victories in Bobby Hamilton Racing trucks. Toyota Halfway To Matching Manufacturer Record

Toyota won for the third time in a row at Martinsville Speedway and the fourth race of the 2007 season.

The truck maker is halfway to the series mark of eight straight wins that Chevrolet recorded to start the 1995 season.

Three different teams -- Red Horse Racing, Wyler Racing and Bill Davis Racing -- have scored Martinsville victories with BDR's No. 5 Tundra the latest to grace Victory Lane.

FAST FACTS

Next Race: O'Reilly Auto Parts 250

The Place: Kansas Speedway

The Date: April 28
The Time: 6 p.m. (ET)

TV: SPEED, 5:30 p.m. (ET)

Track Layout: 1.5-mile paved oval

Race Purse: $624,951

2006 Winner: Terry Cook
2006 Pole: Mike Skinner

Schedule: Friday -- Practice 11 a.m. -- Noon; 12:05 p.m. -- 12:35 p.m. (rookies) and 2:30 p.m. -- 3:30 p.m. Saturday -- Qualifying 1:30 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Mike Skinner , David Starr , Kevin Harvick , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Jack Sprague , Terry Cook , Rick Crawford , Joe Ruttman , Kelly Sutton , Aaron Fike , Erik Darnell
Teams Bill Davis Racing , Red Horse Racing