* Sprague Conquers Martinsville Jinx, Leads 6,000th Lap * Atlanta Race Has Distinct International Flavor * Four NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Drivers In EasyCare 200 Field Express Route To NASCAR's Premier Division Isn't Unprecedented Two...
* Sprague Conquers Martinsville Jinx, Leads 6,000th Lap
* Atlanta Race Has Distinct International Flavor
* Four NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Drivers In EasyCare 200 Field
Express Route To NASCAR's Premier Division Isn't Unprecedented
Two current NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competitors -- David Reutimann (No. 17 Team Tundra Toyota), the series' 2004 Raybestos Rookie of the Year and David Ragan (No. 50 Roush Racing Ford) -- will go directly to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series in 2007.
The move is a big one but not unprecendented.
Kurt Busch, the 2004 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion, spent a single season in trucks winning four times.
Needless to say, owner Jack Roush gave him a battlefield promotion.
Sometimes it works; sometimes it doesn't.
Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota), the series' 1995 champion, received his promotion in 1997. He won the Budweiser Pole for the Daytona 500 in his first appearance for the Richard Childress Racing.
Skinner says there's no need to wait -- if the opportunity is right. "The trucks continue to be a great starting place," said Skinner. "If you can surround yourself with good people and are able to get into good equipment, moving up to Cup is an opportunity that shouldn't be passed up."
EasyCare Vehicle Service Contracts 200 News & Notes -- Part II
Sprague wins in 'lucky 13th' ... Add another champion to the list of winners at Martinsville Speedway. Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota), led 95 laps in winning the Oct. 21 Kroger 200 after 12 unsuccessful attempts to crack the .526-mile track's Victory Lane. Sprague is one of only three champions to win on the Virgina short track -- a series staple since 1995. He's also the first driver in series history to lead 6,000 laps. Sprague's total stands at 6,085.
Air goes out of Bodine's day ... While challenger Benson was racing to a solid, fifth-place finish, championship leader Bodine was forced to pit to change a cut tire at mid-race. The latter gave up a probable top-five and wound up 14th.
NEXTEL Cup drivers in the house at AMS ... Martin has unfinished business after losing March's race by a split second. Other campaigners from NASCAR's premier division also will compete in the EasyCare Vehicle Service 200. Jeremy Mayfield will be at the helm of the No. 15 Quest Global Chevrolet that carried Kyle Busch to victory a year ago. Derrike Cope (No. 40 Key Motorsports Chevrolet) and Joe Nemechek (No. 46 Silverado Chevrolet) will reprise their Talladega drives.
EasyCare 200 has international flavor ... Three foreign-born drivers are due to belt up for this week's race headed by Australia's Marcos Ambrose (No. 20 Team Australia/Aussie Vineyards Ford), who is locked in a tight battle for the No. 2 position among Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates. Michel Jourdain Jr. returns to Roush Racing's No. 50 Ford. Completing the international trio is John Mickel (No. 07 Dudman Group/DSI Group Chevrolet), a native of Cambridge, England in the United Kingdom.
Bodine has occupied the No. 1 position in series standings for a record-extending 17 consecutive weeks. The number matches Sprague (1998) for No. 2 among times having led the championship in a season. If Bodine continues as the leader following this week's race, he'll tie Ron Hornaday Jr.'s (No. 33 AES HR Solutions Chevrolet) record set in 1996. ... Sprague was the fourth driver in five races to win from the Budweiser Pole. He's only the second to win from the pole in a series race at Martinsville. Rich Bickle was the first in 1997. The pole was Sprague's 29th, one fewer than category record holder Skinner. ... The total margin of victory in four series races at Atlanta Motor Speedway is .920 second. ... A victory in Atlanta will clinch the 2006 manufacturer championship for Toyota.
On The Right Track
Three have completed every Atlanta lap ... Three competitors have run all 533 possible laps/799.5 miles in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series events held at Atlanta Motor Speedway. They are Bobby Hamilton, Ted Musgrave (No. 9 Team ASE Toyota) and Dennis Setzer (No. 85 E85 FlexFuel Chevrolet). Skinner is the all-time laps/miles leader at AMS with 117 laps/180.18miles. Skinner and Bodine are the only drivers to lead three different races -- Bodine the most recent three.
"Atlanta is about as opposite from Martinsville as you can get." -- Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar Truck Corral Ford), the AMS qualifying record holder.
"The thing I like there is you can't get held up. If your truck's not working in one line, you can try another, or if your competitor's using one groove, you can use another." -- Ted Musgrave on why he looks forward to competing at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
"These guys show you no mercy out here." -- David Ragan after finishing 25th in his second NASCAR NEXTEL Cup start at Martinsville Speedway. Ragan completed all 700 laps during the weekend's racing.
In the Loop
Todd Bodine and Johnny Benson are co-joined at Atlanta Motor Speedway in several key Scoring Loop categories. Bodine's average finish is 5.0 vs. Benson's 5.7. Bodine is fractionally better in average running position -- 6.118 vs. 6.208. Bodine and Benson boast the best Driver Rating among competitors running the most recent three races at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Bodine comes in with a rating of 115.8 vs. Benson's 112.3.
Mark Martin claimed the highest Driver Rating in March's John Deere 200 -- 144.5 -- despite finishing second to Bodine.
In March, Martin's Ford was fastest in turns 1, 2 and 3 with a fastest speed among all drivers of 185.311 mph in Turn 3.
From The Archives
Atlanta Motor Speedway has a history of close finishes, the first coming in the 2004 EasyCare Vehicle Service 200 when winner Bobby Hamilton and Mike Skinner exchanged the lead twice on the final lap.
Those tight endings have sent Atlanta's races into "overtime" on three of four occasions, most recently in March when Todd Bodine denied Mark Martin a record-matching third consecutive victory.
The Race: EasyCare Vehicle Service Contracts 200
The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway
The Date: Oct. 28, 2006
The Time: 5:05 p.m. (ET)
Race Distance: 200 miles (130 laps)
Track Layout: 1.54-mile banked paved oval
TV: SPEED, 4:45 p.m. (ET)
Race Purse: $528,620
2005 Winner: Kyle Busch 2005
Pole: Mike Skinner
Schedule: Friday -- Practice, 12:15 p.m. -- 1:25 p.m., 1:40 p.m. -- 2:10 p.m. and 2:25 p.m. -- 3:25 p.m. Saturday - Qualifying, 1:15 p.m.