* Skinner Taking 'Smart' Approach in 2007 * Champions Most Frequent Winners From Pole * Kroger 250 May Crown Martinsville's 16th Series Winne * Crawford Fourth In 250th Series Start 'New' Mike Skinner Isn't Talking ...
* Skinner Taking 'Smart' Approach in 2007
* Champions Most Frequent Winners From Pole
* Kroger 250 May Crown Martinsville's 16th Series Winne
* Crawford Fourth In 250th Series Start
'New' Mike Skinner Isn't Talking Championship Quite Yet
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (March 19, 2007) -- A year ago, Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) was the picture of frustration.
The 1995 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion won the most Budweiser Poles and led the second highest number of laps but won just a single race before squeaking into 10th place in final standings.
Skinner and his Bill Davis Racing team have a different outlook this year and it shows.
His March 16 victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway was the driver's second in a row. Adding to a fourth-place finish at Daytona, the 49-year-old Skinner is off to his best start in six fulltime seasons.
The California native, who resides in Daytona Beach, hasn't slowed down perceptibly -- he won Atlanta's American Commercial Lines 200 from the pole and led the most laps -- but Skinner's goal is to race smarter in 2007.
"Our whole attitude is a little different this year," he said. "We are focused on top-10 finishes and keeping the fenders on the trucks. We're just trying to be smart."
Nonetheless, Skinner says it's too early to think about winning a second title. He holds a 69-point lead over Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) marking the first time he's lead the standings since August 1996.
"There are about 15 trucks that are good enough to take that lead from us," he said.
Series' Top Winners Parlay Poles Into Race Victories
You might call it sealing the deal.
The top four drivers in career victories also top the list of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drivers winning races from the Budweiser Pole.
Skinner's Atlanta victory followed his record-extending 33rd series pole giving him seven pole/win combinations.
That's 33.3 percent of his 21 victories.
Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota) remains the all-time winner from a pole start with eight.
Greg Biffle, the 2000 series champion, has the best ratio of pole starts to total victories. Biffle's percentage is .385, with five of his 16 wins coming from a No. 1 starting position.
In fact, among the top five drivers in wins from the pole (see below), only Joe Ruttman has failed to win a series championship.
Each of the season's first three races has been won from a front-row starting position.
News & Notes: Part 2
Crawford Upstages Sprague In 250th Race ... Rick Crawford (No. 14 Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford) nearly scored a Cinderella victory when the Mobile, Ala. native -- along with Jack Sprague -- started his 250th series races in Atlanta. Crawford got within a half truck length of overpowering race leader Clint Bowyer (No. 2 Camping World Chevrolet) with 15 laps remaining, but the challenge fell short. Crawford settled for a fourth-place finish -- his first top five of the season. Sprague, meanwhile, was hit with transmission woes that turned a front-row start into a 23rd-place finish. Atlanta Motor Speedway's Record Intact ... Despite the widest victory margin in six series race -- .711 seconds -- Atlanta retained its reputation as one of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' most competitive tracks.
Numbers, numbers, numbers ... Terry Cook (No. 59 Harris Trucking Toyota) overcame a myriad of difficulties to finish 17th in his record-extending 225th consecutive start. Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards/Quaker State Chevrolet) became the ninth driver to reach 150 career starts and celebrated with a third-place finish. He moves to sixth in the standings.
Personnel Change Aids Setzer ... With veteran Tom Ackerman assuming the crew chief's role, Dennis Setzer (No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet) drove to his first top-10 finish with the Wayne and Connie Spears-owned team. Setzer was a solid seventh after finshes of 19th at Daytona and California. He is the only newcomer to the top 10, replacing Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford).
Bowyer Remains Perfect In Races Led ... NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series regular Bowyer, a series winner at Texas Motor Speedway last November, has started four races over the past season and has led laps in each event. Bowyer is three-for-four in top-10 finishes.
The June 30 O'Reilly 200 at Memphis Motorsports Park will be dedicated to the late series champion Bobby Hamilton, the track's 2004 winner. Tennessee Gov. Phil Bredesen has signed a certificate recognizing June 30 as "Bobby Hamilton Day."
Raybestos Rookie of the Year Standings
Candidates Joey Clanton and Kelly Bires finished ninth and 10th at Atlanta Motor Speedway, but Aaron Fike is the current standings leader after three races.
Martinsville Speedway's Kroger 250 Is Historic Track's 17th Series Event
Suppose that only a single driver has been able to win more than once at a track hosting 16 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races.
That's the case at Martinsville Speedway, where only Dennis Setzer has been able to visit Victory Lane on two occasions.
The .526-mile layout in southern Virginia is next on the schedule with the March 31 Kroger 250. David Starr (No. 10 International/MaxxForce Ford) is the defending winner.
Will Martinsville crown a 16th different winner? The odds say yes since only five drivers who are expected to compete have a Martinsville victory.
The race is the first of two in 2007 to be broadcast by FOX.
Skinner Rolling Up Rivals In Loop Data Statistics
Clearly, Mike Skinner has been the class of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. With back-to-back wins and a fourth-place finish in the season-opening Chevy Silverado HD 250 at Daytona, Skinner has amassed a 69-point lead over Todd Bodine in the series standings.
He also finds himself at the head of practically every Loop Data leads category. He dominates the all-encompassing and all-important Driver Rating category. With a Driver Rating of 129.2, Skinner tops the second-place driver by more than 18 points -- Bodine is runnerup with a Driver Rating of 110.5.
Another category that shows how consistently impressive Skinner has been is his Average Running Position -- 3.946. That means Skinner has spent an overwhelmingly majority of his laps in the top five.
His speed figures, too, are at the top of the charts. Skinner is the Fastest on the Straightway, Fastest in the Turns, and he has the most number of Fastest Laps Run -- 46. Along with that, he has the Fastest Green Flag Speed and the Fastest Speed in Traffic as well.
But maybe Skinner's most telling stat is his Laps in the Top 15. With 327 laps in the top 15, Skinner has spent 99.1% of the 330 total laps run this season at the front of the pack.
"The good news is I have got three more of these things to run and I'm going to have some fun." -- Clint Bowyer after losing the lead of the American Commercial Lines 200 with seven laps remaining.
"We just need to work on it a little bit more and get all the pieces of the puzzle to fit better." -- Todd Bodine, who picked up three positions in the standings, to second, in defense of his 2006 championship.
"There was some pretty crazy stuff going on out there tonight ... but that's truck racing. That's the reason it's so much fun." -- Stacy Compton, No. 16 Melling Engine Parts Ford, on a race that produced a record number of cautions and caution laps.
Toyota Still Perfect In Manufacturers' Championship
Toyota's third victory marked the first time since 2001 that the same manufacturer captured the season's first three races.
The number, however, is far off the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series record.
In 1995 -- the series' inaugural season -- Chevrolet won the first eight races. The record was duplicated by Dodge in 2001.
The victory matches Toyota's longest series streak -- the most recent in 2006.
Next Race: Kroger 250
The Place: Martinsville Speedway
The Date: March 31
The Time: 3 p.m. (ET)
TV: FOX 3 p.m. (ET)
Track Layout: .526-mile oval
Race Purse: $504,661
2006 Winner: David Starr
2006 Pole: Bobby Hamilton Jr
Schedule: Friday -- Practice 12:10 p.m. -- p.m. (rookies); 1 p.m.. --2 p.m. and 2:20 p.m. -- 3:30 p.m. (live on SPEED) Saturday -- Qualifying 11:10 p.m.