Off-week news of note 2007-02-26

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series News and Notes - Week of Feb. 26 Lester Merges Science, Experience For Racing Success California Speedway Winner Skinner Joins '20' Club Champions Still On Roll Through Season's Second Event For Bill Lester, ...

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series News and Notes - Week of Feb. 26

Lester Merges Science, Experience For Racing Success
California Speedway Winner Skinner Joins '20' Club
Champions Still On Roll Through Season's Second Event

For Bill Lester, Knowledge And Science Work Together

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 26) -- What works the best setting up a truck for the race to the checkered flag -- a computer or old-fashioned, seat-of-the-pants feel?

Bill Lester (No. 15 Bowen Family Homes Chevrolet), one of NASCAR's few national series drivers holding an engineering degree, believes it's a combination of both.

"I have been racing for a long time and rely on the old school way of communication through feel and track knowledge," said the University of California-Berkeley graduate. "But because of my Electrical Engineering and Computer Science degree, I understand the mechanics of what the truck is doing.

"I understand why the tires might grip better on different parts of the race track, why to run certain lines on the track and when to ease up on the throttle."

Crew chief Richie Wauters, a five-time series winner, thinks Lester's engineering background will pay dividends as the season progresses. The Billy Ballew Motorsports team finished 11th at Daytona in an auspicious start to the 2007 season.

"No computer could give you the feedback that a good driver communicates to you," said Wauters. "But, yes, it helps that Bill has an engineering background because his feedback is more thorough, technical and precise."

Adds Lester, "Overall, though, it is feel and intuition that gives the best feedback."

Mike Skinner Strikes Gold In California For 20th Series Victory

Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) rewrote history on Friday when he became the first California native to win a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at California Speedway.

In fact, Golden State drivers finished one-two in the track's 11th series race as fellow champion Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 AES HR Solutions Chevrolet) chased Skinner to the checkered flag.

Skinner, 49 and the winner of the series' first race in 1995, added his name to an elite list of drivers who have won 20 or more races. The victory was Skinner's fourth driving for Bill Davis Racing.

Hornaday, one of four former champions to finish among the top five in the San Bernardino County 200, continues to head the roster of all-time winners with 29 victories.

Three-time champion Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota), third at California Speedway, has one fewer win after his victory in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway.

News & Notes: Part 2

Nine In A Row After California ... Skinner was the series' ninth consecutive different winner at a two-mile track -- Michigan and California speedways -- a streak that began in 2003.

Shepherd Continues As Series' Oldest Starter ... Morgan Shepherd (No. 40 Key Motorsports Chevrolet) became the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' oldest starter -- 62 years, 24 days -- at Homestead-Miami Speedway in 2003. Shepherd's four-lap California appearance upped the record to 65 years four months and two days.

First And Last West Coast Visit Until ... California's 25th series race was the last in the west until Sept. 22 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Numbers, Numbers, Numbers ... Sprague's third-place finish was his 175th series top 10 -- 41 more than the category's No. 2 driver Dennis Setzer (No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet). Ted Musgrave (No. 9 Team ASE Toyota) garnered his 100th top-10 finish to become the sixth different competitor to reach the century mark.

Champions Prevail -- Again ... All seven of the series' former champions have scored at least one top-10 finish this season. As in Daytona, there were six titleholders among the race's top 10.

No Repeat For Mark Martin ... A late-race tangle kept Mark Martin (No. 21 Bad Boy Mowers Ford) from defending his San Bernardino 200 victory of last season. The last to successfully repeat as a race winner was Kyle Busch at Lowe's Motor Speedway in May 2006.

ETC. ... California Speedway's race has seen 20 or more lead lap finishers in four consecutive runnings. Twenty-four completed all 100 laps on Feb. 23. ... Carl Edwards (No. 50 Roush Fenway Ford) captured his first Budweiser Pole since Darlington in 2004. Edwards was the seventh consecutive California pole winner failing to parlay the start into a victory.

Raybestos Rookie of the Year Standings

Aaron Fike (No. 1 Red Horse Racing Toyota) finished 18th at California to take over the lead in the rookie standings after Race No. 2.

They've arrived at the same place -- a record, 249 career starts - in two different ways but Rick Crawford (No. 14 Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford) and Jack Sprague will reach the 250 career start plateau when each competes in the March 16 American Commercial Lines 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

Crawford has missed only a single race since joining the series in 1997, starting 210 consecutive events before an injury caused him to miss at Kentucky Speedway in 2005.

His team, Circle Bar Racing, made its 250th consecutive start last week in California.

Sprague, conversely, got his 249 starts in two shifts. The Spring Lake, Mich. driver suited up for the series' inaugural race in 1995 and won three championships over a stretch of 122 consecutive races through 2001 driving for Hendrick Motorsports.

After two years in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series competition, Sprague returned to post a trio of top-10 championship efforts.

The pair's common bond is a Daytona victory - both races in dramatic, three-wide fashion.

No Surprise: 2007 Winners Top Loop Data Standings

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series gets a much-needed breather this weekend. With finishes like these, drivers -- and fans -- really do need to catch their breath.

A season that's just two races old has already seen an at-the-line photo finish and a bumper-thumping win-at-all-costs finish. You can figure that it's all a hint of things to come.

So far, Mike Skinner and Jack Sprague have been the class of the field. Not coincidentally, they are neck-and-neck in the Driver Rating standings -- well ahead of third place. Skinner -- who won last Friday's San Bernardino County 200 -- has a NASCAR Craftsman Truck-best 121.4 Driver Rating. Sprague, who leads the point standings, ranks second in the Driver Rating standings at 115.4. Next best is Johnny Benson at 105.3.

The two also lead in another telling stat -- the Average Running Position. Sprague has an Average Running Position of 4.765, while Skinner has a 5.035. That means so far this season, neither driver has spent much time out of the top five.

Mark Martin, who was in contention for much of Friday night's race at California Speedway, leads in the Fastest Laps Run category with 36, but not far behind sits Skinner. Skinner has a combined 27 fastest laps. The next-best driver on that list -- Carl Edwards -- has just six.

Quotable

"Man, I've lost so many of these races in the green-white-checkered deal. Doggone it, it's about time we won one of those." -- Mike Skinner, a loser to Todd Bodine, No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota, in a similar situation at Texas Motor Speedway last June.

"It is great therapy, actually, after the disappointment on the NEXTEL Cup side." -- Mike Bliss, No. 40 Curtis Key Plumbing Chevrolet, who failed to qualify for the Auto Club 500, on giving Key Motorsports its first top-10 finish in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

"But it's the age-old story: you never lost a race, you just ran out of laps." Three-time California Speedway winner Ted Musgrave on his last-lap battle for fourth with Carl Edwards.

Toyota Two-For-Two In Manufacturers' Championship

Toyota has two legs up on a second NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Manufacturers' Championship following Mike Skinner's victory at California Speedway.

Toyota has scored a perfect, 18 points.

Chevrolet, which struggled at Daytona, put its Silverado truck in the runnerup position and matched Ford for the No. 2 spot with 10 points.

***

Next Race: American Commercial Lines 200

The Place: Atlanta Motor Speedway
The Date: March 16

The Time: 9 p.m. (ET)
TV: SPEED 8:30 p.m. (ET)

Track Layout: 1.54-mile oval

Race Purse: $536,410

2006 Winner: Todd Bodine
2006 Pole: Todd Bodine

Schedule: Thursday, March 15 -- Practice 9:30 a.m.--10:30 a.m.; 11:50:1.m.--12:20 p.m. and 12:30 p.m.--1:30 p.m. Qualifying 5:15 p.m. (live on SPEED)

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Rick Crawford , Bill Lester , Mike Bliss , Morgan Shepherd , Aaron Fike , Carl Edwards , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin
Teams Hendrick Motorsports , Bill Davis Racing , Red Horse Racing