* Skinner's 11-Point Edge Closest With 4 To Go * Toyota's Kroger 200 Win Clinches Manufacturer Crown NCTS, Etc: List Of Title Contenders Dwindle ... The biggest enemy of title hopefuls is plain, old mathematics. With four races remaining, all...
* Skinner's 11-Point Edge Closest With 4 To Go
* Toyota's Kroger 200 Win Clinches Manufacturer Crown
List Of Title Contenders Dwindle ... The biggest enemy of title hopefuls is plain, old mathematics. With four races remaining, all but those within 780 points of the lead have been eliminated. That leaves just seven contenders. Ted Musgrave (No. 9 Team ASE Toyota) is in the "bump" spot, 767 points behind Mike Skinner.
Not For The Championship But Important Nonetheless ... The competition for the 10th and final place on the stage at the Nov. 19 Champion's Awards Banquet in Hollywood, Fla., is as hot -- or even hotter -- than the one for the title itself. Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota) held the position by finishing second in the Kroger 200 but that doesn't mean Sprague is safe by any means. David Starr (No. 10 International MAXXFORCE Diesel Ford) is just 22 points back in 11th. Complicating matters are eighth and ninth places. The trio of Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet), Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool+Equipment Ford) and Sprague are separated by six points.
And Speaking Of Starr ... The newest member of the Circle Bar Racing team has played No. 2 to veteran Rick Crawford (No. 14 Power Stroke Diesel Ford) through most of the season -- but not on Saturday. Starr finished fourth to Crawford's fifth marking the first time the Texan had beaten his teammate when each finished among the top five. It was a nice way to celebrate Starr's 40th birthday that fell on the same Saturday as the Kroger 200.
Martin Has One More Chance ... Mark Martin (No. 21 Bubba Burgers/Bush's Beans Ford) won six times in 2006 but has yet to reach Victory Lane this season. Atlanta will be his final start in the Wood Brothers/JTG Racing entry and could break a tie among crew chiefs. Martin's crew chief, John Monsam, has won with five different drivers -- a series record matched earlier this year by Rick Ren, crew chief for driver Ron Hornaday Jr. at Kevin Harvick Inc.
Bliss Absent ... Atlanta's defending winner Mike Bliss won't drive the No. 16 Strutmasters.com Ford because of NASCAR Busch Series commitments. "The biggest difference between last year when we won the race at Atlanta and this year going into Atlanta is that we are in more of a driver training mode now," said crew chief and Xpress Motorsports general manager Dave Fuge. His driver, Brian Scott, will be making his AMS debut. Atlanta Rewind
Atlanta Motor Speedway, like Martinsville and Texas Motor Speedway, is different in that two races a year are held at the 1.54-mile speedway.
Mike Skinner's victory in March's American Commercial Lines 200 was his second of a record-matching, three consecutive wins.
Other title contenders -- the top five -- had mixed results. Ron Hornaday Jr. was 11th; Travis Kvapil (No. 6 K&N Filters Ford) 15th; Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) second and Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota) 28th.
No driver has been able to sweep both Atlanta races in the brief time the track has held two races (2005-06).
Three former AMS winners expect to compete this week: Skinner, Hornaday and Bodine.
"The only guy that leaves Martinsville happy is the winner. Everyone else leaves here ticked off." -- Terry Cook, No. 59 Harris Trucking Toyota, who led 108 laps of the Kroger 200 but finished 29th.
Manufacturers' Standings: Toyota Clinches Second Craftsman Truck Championship
As the only competitor to drive a Toyota in all 96 races from 2004 to present, Mike Skinner was the appropriate driver to lock up the truck maker's second Manufacturers' Championship.
His Kroger 200 victory was the 11th of the year for Toyota -- only one fewer than last season's 12 contributing to the manufacturer's first title.
"Winning this manufacturers' title during the same month as Toyota's 50th anniversary in the United States makes it even more special," said Jim Aust, Vice President -- Motorsports, Toyota Motor Sales USA.
Each of the series' four brands has won back-to-back championships.
In The Loop:
The back-and-forth battle between Mike Skinner and Ron Hornaday Jr. for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship shifted toward Skinner with his season-sweep of Martinsville last Saturday afternoon.
Now, there's more good news for Skinner -- Atlanta Motor Speedway. Skinner dominated in the season's first Atlanta race, leading a race-high 67 laps and notching a Driver Rating of 145.0. This weekend, he'll hope for a repeat performance that will put some distance between he and Hornaday (Skinner currently leads by 11 points).
But a top-10 finish is no guarantee for Skinner. Though he comes into Saturday with back-to-back top 10s at Atlanta, Skinner struggled with finishes of 34th and 35th in 2005 and 2006.
Overall, Skinner's numbers are impressive. In the past five Atlanta races, he has a Driver Rating of 104.7, an Average Running Position of 13.8, 36 Fastest Laps Run and has run 65.9% of the total laps run in the top 15.
Hornaday, however, has struggled of late at Atlanta. After winning in his first trip to Atlanta in 2005, Hornaday has failed to crack the top 10. His best finish since the win was 11th earlier this year.
Overall since 2005, Hornaday has a Driver Rating of 84.2, an Average Running Position of 14.4, 10 Fastest Laps Run and has spent 47 percent of the total laps run in the top 15. All those stats rank below Skinner.
A side story this weekend will likely be the performance of Kyle Busch, who is one-for-one at Atlanta in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. He won in his only appearance at Atlanta (2005), earning a Driver Rating of 136.2, an Average Running Position of 2.9 and spending all but one of the 130 laps in the top 15.
Atlanta Fun Fact:
Mike Skinner's age when he won the American Commercial Lines 200 in March was 49 years eight months.
Atlanta's youngest winner is Kyle Busch, age 20 years seven months in October 2005.
Ted Musgrave is the oldest driver expected to compete in this week's race at age 51 years 10 months.
The youngest is Brian Scott, age 19 years nine months.
Although Willie Allen (No. 13 ThorSport Chevrolet) added two points to his lead over Tim Sauter (No. 07 Lester Buildings Chevrolet), it's obvious the battle for the 2007 Raybestos Rookie of the Year will go down to the final race. The ultimate decision could be based upon bonus points
On Deck: Texas Motor Speedway
Mike Skinner and Ron Hornaday Jr. may be in hand-to-hand combat when it comes to settling the 2007 championship, but the driver to beat at Texas Motor Speedway -- hands down -- is Todd Bodine.
Bodine won June's Sam's Town 400 and will be gunning for an Unprecedented fifth victory at the 1.5-mile track. Bodine's fourth win (in the past six races) matched Brendan Gaughan's (No. 77 South Point Hotel Chevrolet) total at TMS. Those two winning totals are a record for a NASCAR Craftsman Truck track.
The Chevy Silverado 350 is the final of three return visits to tracks on the 2007 schedule. The race is the 20th at TMS -- the most at any series facility.
The Race: EasyCare Vehicle Service Contracts 200
The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway
The Date: Oct. 271
The Time: 1:00 p.m. (ET)
TV: SPEED 12:30 p.m. (ET)
Track Layout: 1.54-mile oval
Race Purse: $548,555
2006 Winner: Mike Bliss
2006 Pole: Mike Skinner
Friday: Practice 12 noon -1:15 p.m.; Rookie practice 1:30-2:00 p.m.; Final practice 2:20-3:20 p.m.
Saturday: Qualifying 9:45 a.m.
NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES NEWS AND NOTES – ATLANTA
· Title Contenders Leave Rivalry At Garage Gate
· Setzer, On Roll With New Team, Nears Milestone
· Skinner’s 11-Point Edge Closest With 4 To Go
· Toyota’s Kroger 200 Win Clinches Manufacturer Crown
Skinner Vs. Hornaday: Fierce Competitors Who Also Are Friends
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 22, 2007) – Few competitors in the 12-plus seasons of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series have battled each other more ferociously than Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) and Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet).
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