Michigan: Toyota preview

THIS RACE: The Con-way Freight 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) race at Michigan International Speedway will be the seventh Craftsman Truck Series event at the track. There will be nine Toyota Tundras in the field at the two-mile Michigan...

THIS RACE: The Con-way Freight 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) race at Michigan International Speedway will be the seventh Craftsman Truck Series event at the track. There will be nine Toyota Tundras in the field at the two-mile Michigan oval.

LAST RACE: In the most recent race of the 2006 NCTS season at Texas Motor Speedway (June 9), Todd Bodine led just one lap -- but it was the final lap -- en route to capturing the checkered flag. Following Bodine to the finish line were Tundra drivers Mike Skinner (second), David Reutimann (fourth) and Johnny Benson (fifth).

TODD TAKES TEXAS: Todd Bodine's first-place finish in the No.30 Lumber Liquidators Tundra was his 10th career NCTS win and his third victory at Texas. All 10 of his wins have come while driving the No.30 Tundra for the Germain Racing team. "We were running Mike (Skinner) down at the end of the race, but if the caution didn't come at the end we weren't going to do anything with him," said Bodine, after the race. "The caution came out and gave us an opportunity -- and that's all we needed."

BODINE BACK FROM BEYOND: Halfway through the Texas race, Todd Bodine fell a lap down and wasn't sure he was ever going to catch the leaders. "We got a lap down and were hoping to be able to get back into the top-10, or maybe the top-five," explained Bodine, following the race. "We weren't going to be able to do anything unless everything fell the way we needed. I didn't know if we could get to the front, but we were able to make it happen. To be a lap down and come back to win -- I've never done that before."

MIKE JUST MISSES: While Todd Bodine was able to record the win at Texas, Mike Skinner crossed the finish line second -- just .116-seconds behind Bodine. Skinner, who started from the pole and dominated the race leading 113 laps, couldn't hold off a charging Bodine on the final circuit. "Until the caution came out with six or seven (laps) to go -- we were in pretty good shape," said Skinner, after the race. "We were running lap for lap with Todd (Bodine) and felt like we had a really good shot with our Tundra. I think if we had a few more laps we might have been alright. Todd had a little fresher tires than we did and that thing (Todd's truck) really stuck on the outside. I said if he can pass me on the outside -- he deserves this thing."

TOYOTA NOW HAS 17: Toyota now has 17 NCTS wins since the Tundra began competing in the Craftsman Truck Series at the beginning of the 2004 season. Along with four wins this year -- three by Todd Bodine (Texas, St. Louis and Atlanta) and one by David Starr (Martinsville) -- Tundras finished first nine times in 2005 and four times in 2004. Drivers who have recorded wins driving Tundras include Bodine (10), Travis Kvapil (two), Mike Skinner (two), David Reutimann (one), Brandon Whitt (one) and Starr (one).

POINTS PACE: After the first nine races of the 2006 season, Toyota drivers hold down the top-six positions in the NCTS championship point standings. Todd Bodine sits atop the championship standings with 1,490 points. Trailing Bodine in the standings are second-place Ted Musgrave (1,375 points), third- place David Reutimann (1,354 points), fourth-place Johnny Benson (1,258 points), fifth-place Jack Sprague (1,203 points) and sixth-place David Starr (1,187 points).

LAST YEAR HERE: A year at Michigan, Mike Skinner was the top finishing Toyota when he recorded a fifth- place result. Chad Chaffin (seventh), David Reutimann (eighth) and Todd Bodine (ninth) were the other Tundras among the top-10.

TWO YEARS BACK: Two years ago in Michigan, Toyota earned its first-ever NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory when Travis Kvapil captured the checkered flag at MIS in his No.24 Bang Racing Line-X Tundra. Toyota's inaugural series victory came in the 13th race of its debut season in the NCTS.

JACK'S BACK: There will be quite a bit of pressure on Jack Sprague in Michigan this weekend. The Spring Lake, Mich.-native will be returning home, and he will drive his No.60 Con-way Tundra in the Con-way Freight 200. "This race is the biggest race of the season because my sponsor Con-way is also the sponsor of the race," says Sprague. "We're going there with every intention of coming home with a win for the team and our sponsor, Con-way."

BENSON BACK HOME: Grand Rapids, Mich.-native Johnny Benson is happy to be returning home for the Craftsman Truck Series race at MIS. "I'm really looking forward to it because MIS is the closest track to my hometown," says Benson. "I have a lot of support there from the fans and the track, as well as everybody around the area. Hopefully, we'll have a good run."

DOUBLE DUTY: Along with the NCTS race at MIS (June 17), Johnny Benson will compete in a 200-lap ASA Late Model Series race at Michigan's Berlin Speedway, June 14. Benson, who will be racing a brand new car at Berlin, is a partner in the track located near Grand Rapids.

MIS MEMORY: What is Johnny Benson's best memory of MIS? "I watched my Dad race there in the only Cup race he ever ran," says Benson. "I was just a little kid and it was kind of cool to go there. I was sitting in the stands because I wasn't old enough to go anywhere else. I was about 10." Benson's father, Johnny, started 36th and finished 21st in that NASCAR Cup race at MIS (June 24, 1973).

FATHER'S DAY PRESENT: Although Father's Day takes place on Sunday after the Michigan NCTS race, there are a couple of Toyota teams that would like to celebrate the holiday a day early in `Victory Lane.' Germain Racing general manager Mike Hillman works with two of his sons, Mike Jr. and Mark, at the team. Mike Jr. is Todd Bodine's (No.30) crew chief and Mark also works on Bodine's Tundra. At Darrell Waltrip Motorsports, team manager Bobby Kennedy has his son Nathan serving as the tire specialist for David Reutiman's No.17 Tundra.

FOLLOWING FATHER: "Both of my boys that work with me are really dedicated to racing and they've followed in my footsteps," says Mike Hillman. "I made Mike Jr. go to college for a couple years because I wanted him to be sure racing was what he wanted to do with his life. He got a business degree and when he got out of college he wanted to go racing. Mike Jr. started working with me at 19 and we worked together for five or six years before he went out on his own. When the opportunity came to put a crew chief in place on the No.30 truck, I knew he was the perfect fit for it. He had enough experience with being a car chief and setting up race vehicles that I thought he was ready."

MORE FOLLOWING FATHER: "When Mark graduated from high school, at first he didn't want to work in racing and be away from home every weekend and make the commitment it took to go racing," explains Mike Hillman. "However, last year when we were starting a second team at Germain Racing, he asked me about a job. I plugged him in working on the team and he's really caught on fast."

BOBBY'S BOY: "I love working with him," says Bobby Kennedy, talking about his son Nathan. "It's great to see him following in my footsteps and I'm happy to see how quickly he has learned and adapted to things. Hopefully, he can continue to grow and be as lucky as I've been and some day be a crew chief or run a team. There can't be a better situation than having your family with you at the race track. I'm proud to be able to watch him grow and achieve things."

THE SON'S SIDE: "At first, it was tough when I began working at the team," explains Nathan Kennedy, talking about working with his Dad at Darrell Waltrip Motorsports. "He'd come by and check on any work I did, but as I've progressed, he has lightened up a little bit. We spend a lot of time together now and that's the best thing about working together. He's been in racing his whole life -- and my whole life and there were times when I didn't see him very much. He's very knowledgeable and learning from him is pretty cool. My Dad gave me an opportunity to work in racing and I look at it as attending the Bobby Kennedy `College of Racing.'"

TOYOTA HAS 23: Mike Skinner's pole position at Texas was the 23rd NCTS pole position for a Tundra since Toyota began competing in the Craftsman Truck Series at the beginning of the 2004 season. Along with Skinner (11), Tundra drivers who have recorded poles include David Reutimann (six), Bill Lester (two), Brandon Whitt (two), Todd Bodine (one) and Travis Kvapil (one).


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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Darrell Waltrip , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , David Starr , Johnny Benson , Jack Sprague , Bill Lester , Chad Chaffin , David Reutimann , Brandon Whitt , Travis Kvapil , Bobby Kennedy
Teams Germain Racing