* Franchitti Latest Indianapolis 500 Winner To Compete NCTS, Etc: Strategy Pays Dividends At Martinsville ... Or, how far can you go on a 22 gallons of Sunoco fuel? Ted Musgrave (No. 9 Team ASE Toyota) was on a no-pit-stop strategy a year ago...
* Franchitti Latest Indianapolis 500 Winner To Compete
Strategy Pays Dividends At Martinsville ... Or, how far can you go on a 22 gallons of Sunoco fuel? Ted Musgrave (No. 9 Team ASE Toyota) was on a no-pit-stop strategy a year ago but couldn't quite make it and wound up buried in the pack. "There will be some folks that try to make it this year but I think you really need to stop," said Musgrave. Dennis Setzer won at Mansfield by going the 125-mile distance without visiting pit road. The Kroger 200's distance is 105.2 miles.
Champions Win At Martinsville But ... None of the three -- Mike Skinner (1996), Bobby Hamilton (2000) and Jack Sprague (2006) -- won in their championship seasons.
Quick Studies ... As opposed to Jack Sprague needing 13 races to claim a Martinsville victory, two drivers -- Joe Ruttman (1995) and Jamie McMurray (2004) won in their first trip the southern Virginia track.
Chase Drivers On The Same Team ... There will be three members of the 2007 Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup class competing in the Kroger 200, two on the same team. Kyle Busch (No. 51 Flanders Beef Patties Chevrolet) will partner with Denny Hamlin Hamlin (No. 15 Flanders Beef Patties Chevrolet) out of the Billy Ballew Motorsports stable. They'll be joined by Clint Bowyer (No. 2 Camping World Chevrolet.) "I think the truck race will be valuable for us in the Cup race on Sunday due to the COT and the Craftsman Trucks being very similar," said Hamlin. "On the competition side, it will be valuable for both Kyle and me as we can learn a lot on pit strategy and the draft with a vehicle that doesn't turn real well like the trucks because of the long wheel base." Added Busch, "We're going to be teammates next year but we're great friends off the track so it will be kind of the first time that we will be comparing notes and actually on the same team. It's going to be pretty cool."
Winners In The Field ... Six Martinsville winners are expected to compete in the Kroger 200. They are Mike Skinner (1996, 2007), Dennis Setzer (2002-03), Jon Wood (2003), Rick Crawford (2004), David Starr (No. 10 International MAXXFORCE Diesel Ford) (2005) and Jack Sprague (2006).
Top Five The Place To Be ... Ten of 17 Martinsville winners have started fifth or better. The Bud Pole driver has won three times including Skinner on March 31.
Franchitti Next '500'Winner To Test Series
If Dario Franchitti (No. 41 Target Dodge) qualifies for the Kroger 200, it will mark the first time a reigning Indianapolis 500 winner has started a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race.
Franchitti would join fellow "500" winner Jacques Villeneuve (No. 27Bill Davis Racing Toyota) in the field and become the fifth Indianapolis champion to compete in a series race. The others are A.J. Foyt, Buddy Lazier and Buddy Rice.
Foyt is the only driver to win the "500" and a NASCAR national series race in the same season -- 1964, when the Texan won at Daytona International Speedway a few weeks after his Brickyard victory.
Franchitti made his stock car debut in an ARCA race at Talladega Superspeedway. "Obviously, Martinsville will be a completely different animal than Talladega," he said.
Manufacturers' Standings: One Win 'Til '07 Toyota Title
Entering last week's event at Talladega, Toyota needed two wins to clinch the 2007 manufacturers' championship. Todd Bodine's last-lap victory cut that margin in half, which means the truck maker could clinch at Martinsville with a victory or by finishing ahead of rivals Chevrolet and Ford. Toyota has won three consecutive races at Martinsville.
In The Loop:
The 14-point cushion Ron Hornaday Jr. enjoys over Mike Skinner in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series standings has never been more tenuous.
The reason: Martinsville Speedway.
Back in March at Martinsville, Skinner won in as dominant a way possible. He led all but seven laps in notching a perfect Driver Rating of 150.0. His visit to victory lane was rarely in doubt.
Skinner's statistics that day were unparalleled. He had an Average Running Position of 1.1 (Kevin Harvick was second with a 4.5), 79 Fastest Laps Run (Harvick was second with 21), and a Fastest Green Flag Speed of 92.138 mph (second was Harvick with a 91.680 mph).
Skinner has two wins at Martinsville, and has finished in the top 10 in three consecutive races there.
Hornaday, while having solid career finishes at Martinsville, has never won there. He finished sixth at Martinsville in March, but failed to crack the top 10 in each of his 2006 visits.
Overall, Hornaday has a Martinsville Driver Rating of 99.6, an Average Running Position of 10.9, 40 Fastest Laps Run and has spent 78.8% of the total laps run in the top 15.
A possible sleeper at Martinsville is Ted Musgrave. He has yet to win there, but has finished in the top five in three of the last four Martinsville races. Of those drivers who have competed in each of the five Martinsville races since 2005, Musgrave ranks first in Driver Rating (114.4), Average Running Position (7.0) and Laps in the Top 15 (987).
Kroger 200 Last Short Track Race Of The 2007 Season
This week's Martinsville race caps this season's slate of six short-track races. The first five events have produced five different winners.
In fact, there hasn't been a repeat short-track winner in eight races beginning with Rick Crawford's (No. 14 Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford) Aug. 4, 2006 victory at O'Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis.
This year's winners are Mike Skinner, Martinsville; Dennis Setzer (No. 18 Fastenal Dodge), Mansfield Motorsports Park; Travis Kvapil (No. 6 K&N Filters Ford), Memphis; Ron Hornaday Jr. (O'Reilly) and Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota), Bristol.
The past two season's champions -- Bodine and Ted Musgrave -- won the title without a short-track victory.
Blake Bjorklund, among remaining eligible Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates, had the best freshman finish - 19th at Martinsville on March 31. The best finish at the track by a Raybestos candidate is second: Travis Kvapil (2001), Carl Edwards (2003) and Todd Kluever (2005).
On Deck: Atlanta Motor Speedway
Continuing the three-week run of return visits to tracks on which the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series has competed in 2007, Atlanta Motor Speedway plays host to the EasyCare Vehicle Service contracts 200 on Saturday, Oct. 27.
Mike Skinner won March's American Commercial Lines 200. The victory was No. 2 of Skinner's three consecutive wins. Mike Bliss (No. 4 Open Joist Dodge) pulled an upset of sorts when he won the 2006 edition of next week's race driving the unsponsored No. 16 Xpress Motorsports Chevrolet to Victory Lane.
The win was the 13th in Bliss' 188-race NASCAR Craftsman Truck career. Kyle Busch won in 2006, the first year in which AMS presented a pair of series races.
Next Race: Kroger 200
The Place: Martinsville Speedway
The Date: Oct. 201
The Time: 3:00 p.m. (ET)
TV: SPEED 2:30 p.m. (ET)
Track Layout: .526-mile oval speedway
Race Purse: $451,204
2006 Winner: Jack Sprague
2006 Pole: Jack Sprague
Schedule: Friday: Practice 11-11:50 a.m.; Rookie practice 1:40-2:10 p.m.; Final practice 2:15-3:30 p.m. Saturday: Qualifying 11:10 a.m.