Skinner remembers inaugural series race and dramatic first victory DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 15, 2005) -- Few in the racing community knew what to expect when the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series kicked off a decade ago at Phoenix International ...
Skinner remembers inaugural series race and dramatic first victory
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 15, 2005) -- Few in the racing community knew what to expect when the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series kicked off a decade ago at Phoenix International Raceway.
But one thing was certain: Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) had his share of critics before the first green flag waved and through no fault of his own.
"I was running a black No. 3 truck with sponsorship from GM Goodwrench and the one thing that I do remember is that many people were upset that my truck looked just like Dale Earnhardt's car -- and that was sacred ground," Skinner said. "But it was Richard's (Childress) number and sponsor and I had nothing to do with that. "After (winning) the race in Phoenix and a few more races we established our own identity and that turned things around."
A "few" wins is an understatement. Skinner captured eight victories en route to the 1995 championship and eight more the following year before Childress promoted the California native to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series.
Ten years later, the wheel has spun full circle. This Friday's Florida Dodge Dealers 250 marks Skinner's second season back in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. His Bill Davis Racing-prepared Toyota ranks high among pre-season favorites to win the 2005 series title.
Skinner finished 11th in 2004 standings with two Bud Poles, a second-place performance at Atlanta Motor Speedway and third place in laps led with 448. The 47-year-old veteran is optimistic the coming year will be much better.
"I'm fired up for the season to start," Skinner said. "We tested at Daytona in the draft and my Tundra was phenomenal. At times last year we had a dominant truck and with a little bit of luck we might have had several wins."
Skinner has strong memories of the series' inaugural race -- and his last lap, .09-second victory over two-time NASCAR NEXTEL Cup champion Terry Labonte.
"Even though we had a valve spring break during qualifying and started sixteenth, I was running up front all day," he said. "It really looked like Terry was going to win the race because he was running strong. He was a Cup driver and really ran well at Phoenix."
Skinner raced his way to the lead at Lap 33, but gave the advantage back to Labonte after pitting for fresh tires late in the race. The strategy proved effective -- along with Skinner's will.
"On the last lap, I drove into (Turn) three so hard that when I came off the corner I was completely sideways," Skinner said. "For a second, I wasn't sure what was going to happen. But, I was able to get it straightened out and was able to pass Terry on the last corner. In my opinion, that's the best finish ever in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series history."
Skinner might get some argument on that count recalling, for example, the 2003 Daytona finish in which Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar Truck Corral Ford), eventual series champion Travis Kvapil and Robert Pressley (No. 59 Melling Select Oil Pumps Dodge) swept side-by-side beneath the checkered flag.
To celebrate the 10th anniversary of what's become America's No. 3 racing series, SPEED Channel will count down the 25 most memorable NASCAR Craftsman Truck moments during each race broadcast beginning with Friday's Florida Dodge Dealers 250.