Todd Bodine Finally Conquers Daytona International Speedway Last Year's Championship Rivals Take Detour In 2008 Historic NASCAR National Series Doubleheader On Tap Saturday Daytona Drought Finally Over For Todd Bodine It required 34 tries --...
Todd Bodine Finally Conquers Daytona International Speedway
Last Year's Championship Rivals Take Detour In 2008
Historic NASCAR National Series Doubleheader On Tap Saturday
Daytona Drought Finally Over For Todd Bodine
It required 34 tries -- over 17 years as a driver and three as a crew member -- for Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) to win a race at Daytona International Speedway.
Bodine held off the final lap charges of Kyle Busch (No. 51 NOS Energy Drink Toyota) and Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota) to win the Feb. 15 Chevy Silverado 250 and join elder brother Geoffrey as a winner at the World Center of Racing.
Geoffrey Bodine won the 1986 Daytona 500.
"Finally to get to Victory Lane, it was incredible," said Bodine, who joins Mark Martin as the only NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers with victories at the sport's two fastest tracks -- Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway.
Bodine, the 2006 series champion, has won 13 times since October 2004, the most by any competitor over the five-season span. The victory was the 13th for crew chief Mike Hillman Jr., whose five-year winning streak matches Danny Gill as second-longest in series history. Only Dennis Connor has a longer streak -- six years between 1996 and 2001.
Hornaday, Skinner Start The Season In Deep Hole
Last year's down-to-the-wire championship battle between Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet) and Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) took a bit of a detour in Daytona.
Both drivers failed to finish among the top 20, Hornaday's truck felled by mechanical trouble and Skinner the victim of a lap 18 backstretch melee.
The two will have to stage comebacks of dramatic proportions if they intend to reprise their epic 2007 struggle.
Hornaday trails Bodine by 77 points while Skinner is 89 back.
History shows it can be done. Mike Bliss (No. 07 ASI Limited Chevrolet) left Daytona facing a 121-point deficit in 2002 and won the championship.
Hornaday is facing another issue, the elusive back-to-back championship. While he and Kevin Harvick Inc. teammate Jack Sprague (No. 2 RVs.com Chevrolet) have won three titles apiece, neither they nor any other competitors have been able to fashion back-to-back championships.
Hornaday is in familiar territory. Only once has a champion gone to the second race of the season with a greater deficit. That would be Hornaday, 107 back in 1997. He wound up fifth.
Doing The Double 'Out West'
California Speedway hosts an historic NASCAR national series doubleheader Saturday when, for the first time, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series races are scheduled for the same day.
The NCTS event is the first of two races to be aired by FOX on broadcast television in 2008. The schedule: NCTS San Bernardino County 2:00-3 p.m. ET FOX NSS Stater Bros. 3:00-7:30 p.m. ET ESPN2
Kyle Busch and Mike Bliss are slated to compete in both races. Bliss won the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' inaugural race at the track in 1997.
Ted Musgrave, 'The Man' At California Speedway, Eyes Record-Matching Performance
Nobody's been any better at California Speedway than Ted Musgrave (No. 59 Team ASE/Harris Trucking Toyota).
Musgrave won the first three NASCAR Craftsman Truck races he ran at the 2.0-mile speedway from 2001 to 2003 and narrowly missed a victory the following year, finishing second to Jack Sprague.
Musgrave is perfect in one respect: He's seven-for-seven in top-five finishes in Fontana.
Last year's fifth-place performance -- pretty decent by most standards -- is the 51-year-old's "worst" finish. "Winning at California isn't always about having a good truck," said Musgrave, who comes to the track with his third different team. "There is a lot of strategy with pitting and fuel mileage and a good amount of luck is involved.
"Hopefully heading into Saturday's race we will have a little on our side again."
Musgrave had no "luck" at Daytona where he was part of an 11-truck accident and finished 28th. Thus, the trip to Southern California couldn't come at a better time.
Musgrave is driving for H-T Motorsports, a team still seeking its first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory. The Jim Harris-owned team, based in Virginia, collected back-to-back second-place finishes at Bristol and Richmond in 2003.
Then driver Robert Pressley was third in that year's three-wide Daytona finish with Rick Crawford (No. 14 Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford) and Travis Kvapil.
"I believe this team is now in a position with its personnel and equipment to win," said crew chief Danny Rollins, who headed Bobby Hamilton's drive to the 2004 NASCAR Craftsman Truck championship. "Of course with the addition of a driver the caliber of Ted Musgrave, that enhances our chances as well."
A victory would be a first for the team. It also would allow Musgrave to match a series record for victories at a single track.
The record is held jointly by Brendan Gaughan (No. 10 International MAXX Force Diesel Ford) and Todd Bodine. Both scored four victories at Texas Motor Speedway.
"We're looking for win No. 4 this time," said Musgrave. "We have a great truck that the guys have been working really hard on to get ready. We want to get out there and have a good performance and be in the position to challenge for the win at the end."
Todd Bodine wasn't the only Toyota driver celebrating at Daytona. In fact, the 2006-07 manufacturers' champion put a Tundra truck in the four top finishing positions.
That's the best Toyota has finished at Daytona since joining the series in 2004. A Toyota also won the Chevy Silverado 250 last year.
With the victory, Toyota takes a three-point lead in the 2008 Manufacturers' Championship. Ford is second followed by Dodge and Chevrolet.
Toyota is the defending winner at California Speedway with two victories in the past four races. Dodge counts four wins and could break a victory drought that extends to the early part of the 2005 season.
2008 Raybestos Rookie Class Off To Fast Start
It's rare when rookies excel at a track like Daytona International Speedway but this year's class of Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates were solid performers in last week's Chevy Silverado 250.
Two drivers -- Justin Marks (No. 9 Construct Corps Toyota) and Brian Scott (No. 15 Shark Energy Drink/Albertsons Chevrolet -- finished eighth and 10th.
Five of the six entered freshman candidates finished 13th or higher, completing all 100 laps of the 250-mile race.
Marks is the first week standings leader by two points over Scott.
"My initial excitement came from just finishing the race," said Scott, a 20-year-old native of Boise, Idaho. "We did exactly what we wanted to do and it was great to finish in the top 10.
"It was exhilarating over the final laps. My feelings might be different if we had gotten tangled up in something but we didn't and we got a great finish. I couldn't be happier how things turned out."
Looking forward to this week, there's good news and bad for the freshman class. Kurt Busch won as a rookie in 2000 but a Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate hasn't posted a top-five finish since.
The most recent best finish, sixth, was turned in by David Reutimann in 2004.
In The Loop:
There were quite a few first-race jitters for some of the regular NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series front-runners. Reigning champion Ron Hornaday Jr., Mike Skinner and Ted Musgrave all failed to finish in the top 20.
This Saturday's race at California Speedway may provide an opportunity to right the leaky ship -- all three have solid statistics at the 2-mile track.
In seven starts there, Musgrave has never finished outside the top five. He won three consecutive races there from 2001-03. Since 2005, he has a Driver Rating of 108.0, an Average Running Position of 8.0, 17 Fastest Laps Run and a series-high 277 Laps in the Top 15 (90.5 percent). Musgrave will look to improve on a 28th-place finish at Daytona.
Skinner, who finished 29th at Daytona, usually fares well at the intermediate tracks -- he had a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0 at Kentucky Speedway last season. Last season, Skinner won at California and since 2005 has a Driver Rating of 106.4, an Average Running Position of 7.6, 28 Fastest Laps Run and 248 Laps in the Top 15.
Another eye-opening finish was the 25th-place result by 2007 series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. Hornaday looks to rebound with another solid finish at California -- he finished second last season and has placed in the top 10 in five of six starts there.
Since 2005, Hornaday has an average Driver Rating of 95.1, an Average Running Position of 13.2 and 203 Laps in the Top 15 (66.3 percent).
300 Just A Number
Roush Fenway Racing made its 300th consecutive start on Feb. 15 at Daytona International Speedway.
The number proved to be just a number -- without magic.
Although pole starter Erik Darnell led 45 laps and appeared to have the truck to beat, he was consigned to a DNF along with the team's other two trucks.
It has been six races since the series' most successful team has scored a top-10 finish.
California Dreamin' ... Three California drivers have won a total of seven races at four tracks since the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' inception in 1995. Two are entered in this week's San Bernardino County 200. Mike Skinner is a three-time winner at California Speedway, the old Mesa Marin Raceway and Infineon Raceway. Ron Hornaday Jr.'s three victories came at Mesa Marin and Infineon.
California Add ... Four of the 1995 schedule's 20 races were held at facilities in the Golden State. The series no longer competes at Infineon Raceway. Mesa Marin and Saugus Speedway no longer exist.
Chicken Or Feathers ... Last season's top 10 elite drivers were either at the top or bottom of the finish of the 2008 opener at Daytona. Four finished among the top 10; four finished outside the top 20. Two -- Johnny Benson and Rick Crawford -- go to the year's second race occupying the same positions, third and fifth, in which they concluded 2007.
This Time He's Old Enough ... The last time Kyle Busch showed up for a truck race at California Speedway, in 2001, the then-16-year-old driver was deemed too young to race because of sponsorship restrictions. If he wins, it will mark the second time that siblings have won series races at the same track. Kurt Busch won in 2000. Both Busch brothers have series wins at Dover International Speedway.
The Daytona-California Two-Step ... Since the two tracks went back-to-back on the schedule in 2005, Mark Martin is the only driver to win both races. Martin did it in 2006 and came close to making it three wins in a row a year ago before a late race restart skirmish took the veteran driver out of contention.
"Fontana will be the first real 'race' of the season in a way; it's the first opportunity we'll have to see how the trucks perform under the new engine rules. I believe that we'll see Daytona-style racing with big packs running together." -- Erik Darnell, No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford, who won the Keystone Light Pole at Daytona.
"We were probably lucky in some respects that we struggled early on as that seemed to keep us clear of the two big wrecks out there tonight." -- David Starr, No. 11 Red Horse Racing Toyota, Daytona's fourth-place finisher.
"If you told me we would come out of this race with a top-five finish, I'd be the happiest guy in the world." -- Johnny Benson, who convinced crew chief Trip Bruce to repair damage suffered in a final practice accident rather than roll out a backup truck. Benson, unable to qualify, started 35th, finished third and nearly won the Daytona race.
"Last year several times the trucks made only one pit stop or even no pit stops during the races (and) that really took away the importance of pit road for the drivers, teams and the fans. So, I think by making our fuel cell smaller it will only make our racing even better. Fuel mileage has always been an issue at California because it is a two-mile oval, but throw in the smaller fuel cell and it becomes a larger issue. It should be pretty interesting on Saturday." - Stacy Compton, No. 4 Carl Burgers Dodge, on the impact of the fuel cell size in 2008.
The Race: San Bernardino County 200
The Place: California Speedway
The Date: Feb. 23, 2008
The Time: 3:00 p.m. (ET)
TV: FOX, 3:00 p.m. (ET)
Race Distance: 200 miles/ 100 laps
Track Layout: 2.0-mile banked paved speedway
Race Purse: $675,476
2007 Winner: Mike Skinner
2007Pole: Carl Edwards
Thursday -- Practice, 12:30 p.m.--2:30 p.m. Final Practice 3:00 p.m.--4 p.m.
Friday -- Qualifying, 1:40 p.m.