Mesa Marin: Notes of Interest, schedule

NEWS AND NOTES: * First time winners at Mesa Marin -- but not lately ... Mesa Marin Raceway produced back-to-back, first-time winners in 1997-98. Randy Tolsma went to victory lane, followed the next year by Dennis Setzer. Setzer (No. 46 ...


* First time winners at Mesa Marin -- but not lately ... Mesa Marin Raceway produced back-to-back, first-time winners in 1997-98. Randy Tolsma went to victory lane, followed the next year by Dennis Setzer. Setzer (No. 46 ACXIOM/Computer Associates Chevrolet) and Musgrave are the only Mesa Marin winners expected to compete in the Lucas Oil 250.

* The long and the short of it ... Mike Skinner led just two laps -- the last two -- when he won for the second time at Mesa Marin in 1996. Musgrave is Bakersfield's winner while leading the most laps -- 119 of 250 -- in 2001. Most leaders in the final 10 laps at the track? That would be three, in 1997 -- Mike Bliss (lap 191), Mike Wallace (292-296) and Tolsma (297-300).

* Etc. ... The past four events held at Mesa Marin Raceway have seen no fewer than 11 lead changes. ... None of the drivers entered in the Lucas Oil 250 have posted more than one top-five finish at the Bakersfield track ... The margin of victory in the first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race held at Mesa Marin was 1.3 seconds. Each of the seven events run since have featured margins of less than one second. ... The Lucas Oil 250 figures to be an action-filled race. On three occasions the caution flag has consumed 60 laps or more, topped by 2001's total of 72. There were 15 cautions in the series' last trip to Bakersfield.


* Two streaks for the price of one ... Rick Crawford's (No. 14 Circle Bar Motel & RV Ford) consecutive start streak reached 150 at Darlington Raceway. That's the longest among active drivers and just 20 races short of Jack Sprague's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series record. Crawford also owns the current longest run without a DNF -- 14 -- after Setzer's Darlington engine failure ended a 22-race skein. Crawford will become the season's first $100,000 winner by starting the Lucas Oil 250.

* New challenge for NASCAR Craftsman Truck points leader ... Darlington Craftsman 200 winner and new points leader Bobby Hamilton (No. 4 Square D Dodge) will be making his first start at Mesa Marin, a track where Bobby Hamilton Racing's fortunes have been so-so. Joe Ruttman finished sixth in the 2001 edition of the race and 16th the previous year. Butch Miller was ninth in 1999.

* Mesa labeled Brendan Gaughan a definite comer ... 2002 Raybestos Rookie of the Year Brendan Gaughan (No. 62 Orleans/Dodge Dodge) finished a surprising third in Mesa Marin's most recent NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series event. That was the Las Vegas competitor's best finish until later the same season, when he ran second at Texas Motor Speedway -- a track on which he won twice last year. Gaughan placed third March 14 at Darlington Raceway.

* Former Mesa winner to coach Roush drivers ... In keeping with the NCAA "March Madness" theme, it's only appropriate that at least two drivers in the Lucas Oil 250 answer to a coach. Jon Wood (U.S. Navy Ford) and Carl Edwards (No. 99 Roush Racing Ford) -- two competitors who've never seen the track -- will get plenty of useful advice from 1999 Mesa Marin winner (and former track champion) Rick Carelli. The Colorado driver chased down Ron Hornaday Jr. and Harvick to make the winning pass with 12 laps remaining.


* "It will be a slipping, sliding type of race and the guy who slides the least will be the guy who wins the race." -- Terry Cook (No. 29 Power Stroke Diesel/Oil Mate Ford).

* "I remember coming (to Mesa Marin) as a little kid when my dad (Danny) was racing. I always loved going to the end of the grandstand and playing on those hills. There's nothing else I could do. They wouldn't let me go in the pits." -- Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards/Enzyme Solutions Chevrolet).


* Three-time NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion Jack Sprague never finished outside the top 10 at Mesa Marin Raceway. Yet Sprague was unable to find the winner's circle. He finished second in 1998 and 2001.

Lucas Oil 250 (NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race No. 3 of 25).
Mesa Marin Raceway, Bakersfield, Calif.

Race: 5 p.m. ET, Sunday, March. 23.
TV: SPEED Channel, 5 p.m. ET.

Pre-race schedule (all times local):
Practice, 12:10-1:45 p.m. and 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Qualifying, 6 p.m.


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Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Mike Skinner , Mike Wallace , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Jack Sprague , Terry Cook , Rick Crawford , Matt Crafton , Joe Ruttman , Randy Tolsma , Rick Carelli , Brendan Gaughan , Mike Bliss , Carl Edwards , Butch Miller