From NASCAR Public Relations Office =B7
NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES NOTES AND QUOTES WEEK OF APRIL 15, 1996
FROM OWEN KEARNS JR ( 4 0 8 ) 4 3 8 - 3 3 9 2
DAYTONA Beach, Fla.--Mike Skinner was the dominant competitor at Phoenix International Raceway in 1995, winning both stops on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. As the only driver among an entry of more than 40 with two top five finishes, Skinner is the obvious favorite to win Sunday's (4 p.m KIT, live TNN and TBN Radio) 186-lap/mile Chevrolet Desert Star Classic 300 at PIR. Skinner won last years series debut on Feb. 5, from the 16th starting position -- the deepest in the field any NCTS winner has started. The Susanville, Calif. driver's GM Goodwrench Service Chevrolet suffered an electrical problem during time trials.
* Skinner is the top lap leader at PIR, pacing 119 of 204 laps contested at the one-mile super speedway in 1995. Other previous lap leaders among likely Phoenix entrants include Ron Hornaday Jr. (26) and Jack Sprague (10). Hornaday and Sprague won Busch Poles at PIR last season, with the latter's one-lap record being 124.478 mph.
* Despite the defending series champion's strength at Phoenix, just 0.44 second comprised the total margin of victory for last season's two events there. Skinner's 0.09-second triumph over Terry Labonte stood as the closest series finish until mid- July and remains fourth tightest in 21 races. His 0.35-second ''cushion'' over Ernie Irvan merely is one of 14, one-second-or- less decisional
* Sprague, who finished runner up to Dave Rezendes in the March 17 NCTS opener at Homestead, Fla., recorded two sixth- place efforts at PIR last season. Sprague drove for the now- disbanded Bruce Griffin Chevrolet team in February, then returned in the Gordon-Hendrick Motorsports Quaker State/Slick 50 Chevrolet in the fall. Four competitors boasted top-10 finishes in both Phoenix stops last year: Skinner, Sprague, Joe Ruttman (8th twice) and Hornaday (9th/5th). Butch Miller (7th/February) and Bill Sedgwick (10th/October) complete 1995's top-10 finishers likely to make an appearance in Sunday's $261,875 event. Of interest, the February race found 19 of 33 starters completing all 80 laps. That remains a NCTS high.
* Rezendes was a 14th place finisher in October's PIR edition. The Homestead winner was Geoff Bodine's crew chief during 1995's Skoal Bandit Racing Copper World Classic. The QVC Ford team figures to be impressive at Phoenix: Bodine finished fifth and third in '95; the team's three finishes all were lead-lap efforts. "I don't believe Homestead was a one-shot deal," says Rezendes.
* Ten NCTS competitors who have entered the Chevrolet Desert Star Classic 300 boast victories at PIR, led by four-time winners Mike Bliss, Rick Carelli and Ruttman. Bliss and Carelli already have visited victory circle there in 1996, winning USAC Silver Crown and NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour events, respectively, during February's Skoal Bandit Racing Copper World Classic. Other previous Phoenix International Raceway winners are Walker Evans, Skinner and Hornaday (two each), Doug George, Kenny Irwin Jr., Butch Miller and Lance Norick. Carelli has the flashiest overall record in the Valley of the Sun, posting 11 top three finishes. Ironically, his finishing average for two NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starts at PIR is 17.5. Evans' two wins came on dirt, in 1980 and 1981 High Desert Racing Association (HDRA) off-road events.
* Dodge, no doubt, holds high expectations in its first, full-scale assault on Phoenix International Raceway. Joe Bessey finished fourth last February, driving the Mopar Performance Ram 1500 now guided by Jimmy Henley. That stood as the manufacturer's best effort until Dennis Setzer garnered a runner up finish for the Grier Lackey-owned team at the Milwaukee Mile.
* QUICK SHIFTS: The Chevrolet Desert Star Classic 300 is the first of three stops by the NCTS in Arizona during 1996, a single- state high. The circuit returns to Tucson Raceway Park on May 25 and revisits PIR on Oct. 26 ... George, a Cintas rookie contender in the Qrtho Lawn & Garden Racing Ford, led all 50 laps in winning the NASCAR Featherlite Southwest Tour portion of PIR's 1993 Skoal Bandit Racing Copper World Classic ... Chandler, Ariz. resident T. J. Clark will sit in the Rosenblum Racing Chevrolet at PIR Clark's previously driven Ford has been transformed into an interactive video game and will be on display at Phoenix's Incredible Universe store and, on Sunday, at PIR ... Ronald Weiner, president of the National Institute for Automotive Service Excellence (ASE), recently explained his group's sponsorship of Bliss. ''After all, racing is to (vehicle service) technicians what rodeos are to cowboys,'' Weiner noted ... first- time NCTS entrants for PIR include SCCA Shelby Pro racer Paul Dallenbach, younger brother of NASCAR Winston Cup Series veteran Wally Dallenbach: NASCAR Winston West Series veterans Rick McCray and Ernie Cope, the latter the cousin of former Daytona 500 winner Derrike Cope and USAC'c Irwin ... five divisions of racing pack the Phoenix International Raceway weekend. SCCA TransAm and UPS. Formula Ford 2000 spotlight Saturday's activities, with Sunday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event backeted by USAC Stoops Freightliner Sprint Cars and SCCA World Challenge race PIR Will utilize both one mile super speedway and 1.51-road course... NCTS competitors celebrating birthdays prior to the PIR event include Ron Barfield Jr. (April 20, 25), Mike Bliss (April 5, 31), Geoff Bodine (April 18, 47), Bob Brevak (March 28, 49), Mike Chase (April 17, 41), Joe Gaita (April 2, 38), Mike Hurlbert (April 3, 37), Bob Strait (April 12, 47). ###
Jack Durbin firstname.lastname@example.org Motorsport News International email@example.com (Moderators for "rec.autos.sport.info") Homepage http://www.freenet.tlh.fl.us/users/indy500/index.html