Talladega: Round 20 preview

*Variables Make Mountain Dew 250 Exciting Race *Highest Finishing Title Contender May Have Edge One Way Or The Other, Talladega Won't Lack Excitement DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 1, 2007) -- The most unpredictable weekend of the NASCAR Craftsman...

*Variables Make Mountain Dew 250 Exciting Race
*Highest Finishing Title Contender May Have Edge

One Way Or The Other, Talladega Won't Lack Excitement

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 1, 2007) -- The most unpredictable weekend of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season is on tap Saturday as competitors head to Talladega Superspeedway for the second running of the Mountain Dew 250.

The race could be a rerun of Daytona International Speedway's three-truck photo finish in February.

Or it could mirror last year's inaugural Talladega race in which a multiple truck incident in Turn 3 of the final lap allowed Mark Martin to win under caution.

Two things are certain: Martin won't be defending his victory and Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) owns the slimmest of championship leads -- three points -- entering the 20th of 25 scheduled races.

"I like Talladega; it is a track where you have to be on your toes at all times," said Skinner, whose best NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series finish of second came at Talladega in the spring of 2000. Skinner finished second to Martin a year ago.

"The key to this race is just try and stay out of trouble."

Skinner will have help in Bill Davis Racing teammate Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota).

"Skinner is doing a great job and we'll do whatever it takes to help him out," said Benson, who finished second at Daytona.

Rick Ren, crew chief for championship runnerup Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet), is understandably wary.

"There are too many variables and things that are out of your control that can cause you to have a bad day," said Ren.

Hornaday, like Skinner a four-time winner this season, finished 10th in last year's race.

"Our current program is completely different from last year and we should be even faster this year," he said.

Third-place Travis Kvapil (No. 6 K&N Filters Ford) didn't compete in last year's race but has momentum coming off his fourth victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Kvapil has competed in three NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races at Talladega with a best finish of 16th in the fall of 2005.

Mountain Dew 250's Finish Could Predict The '07 Champion

Daytona and Talladega are unlike any other tracks on the NASCAR Craftsman Truck schedule.

The speeds are higher, packs of trucks are larger and the rules governing aerodynamics and engine performance are different.

And statistically, the two tracks have become predictors of the season's champion.

In four of the past five races at the two tracks, the higher-finishing driver among the top two in the championship standings won the title.

A year ago, champion Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) finished fourth to Benson's ninth at Talladega.

He also beat Benson at Daytona.

There are, of course, exceptions to every rule. Mike Bliss (No. 4 Open Joist Dodge) overcame a 33rd-place Daytona finish to win the championship in 2002.

And in 2000 -- the first season Daytona appeared on the schedule -- Greg Biffle was 11th to Roush Fenway Racing teammate Kurt Busch's second. Biffle and Busch finished one-two in final points.

Since 2003, only Bobby Hamilton has overcome a poorer Daytona finish than his closest championship rival.

Here's how the current top three finished at Daytona in February: Kvapil, third; Skinner fourth and Hornaday seventh.

Setzer's Las Vegas Finish Earns Second Drive For BHR

Fresh off Saturday's victory in Martinsville Speedway's Bailey's 300 late model stock car race -- his fourth in the prestigious race -- Dennis Setzer has been tabbed to drive Bobby Hamilton Racing's No. 18 Fastenal Dodge at Talladega Superspeedway.

Setzer, who won May's event at Mansfield Motorsports Park in the No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Co. Chevrolet, drove the BHR entry at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where the Newton, N.C., native finished a solid seventh.

Setzer, a free agent of sorts, is attempting to hold or improve on his 12th-place ranking in NASCAR Craftsman Truck point standings.

The 47-year-old Setzer, three times a runnerup in series championship standings, drove for Green Light Racing at New Hampshire International Speedway in mid-September.

He'll team with Mike Bliss (No. 4 Open Joist Dodge), whose fifth-place finish at NHIS was the 2002 champion's fifth top 10 for BHR.

"It's an exciting opportunity. It gives you a chance to see what different teams do. You see new ideas and even some things you wish you would have done differently in the past," said Setzer. "I am looking to make the most of this weekend for BHR and Dennis Setzer."

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Todd Bodine , Kurt Busch , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Dennis Setzer , Mike Bliss , Mark Martin , Travis Kvapil
Teams Roush Fenway Racing , Bill Davis Racing