Off-week news of note

Hornaday, Skinner Bouncing Back From Rough Start Testing, Testing One, Two...Round Three At Martinsville Rookies Keep Close Points Battle Series Veterans Always A Threat Kyle Busch (No. 51 Toyota) might be celebrating back-to-back wins and a...

Hornaday, Skinner Bouncing Back From Rough Start
Testing, Testing One, Two...Round Three At Martinsville
Rookies Keep Close Points Battle

Series Veterans Always A Threat

Kyle Busch (No. 51 Toyota) might be celebrating back-to-back wins and a lead in points, but hot on his tailgate are series veterans holding their own.

After a slow start, the defending series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World/VFW Chevrolet) hasn't been quiet. He's been right up front.

Hornaday, who finished 25th at Daytona, came back with a fifth-place finish at Auto Club Speedway. At Atlanta, the driver took the runner-up position after battling Busch for the lead throughout the night.

Hornaday's strong finishes have taken him from ninth to third in the series driver points standings in two races.

Mike Skinner has shared a similar start to the 2008 season. Skinner rebounded from a finish of 29th in the season opener with an eighth-place effort in California. He followed with a strong third at Atlanta.

In addition to past series champions, there are other series veterans sitting in the top 10.

Despite some hard luck, Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles/Exide Batteries Toyota) has bounced back from adversity to score two third-place finishes so far this season.

Benson, who brought home four wins last season, plans to continue to climb the points ladder.

The sole Dodge driver in the top 10, Dennis Setzer (No. 18 Dodge) is enjoying his start to the year.

"Anytime you can come out of the third race of the season and still be in the top 10 in points is a good thing," said Setzer.

Setzer isn't satisfied, though. "I am excited about being in the top 10 but am more excited about making the drive to get inside the top five over the next few weeks," he said.

Testing: Round Three

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will test this week at Martinsville Speedway. This will be the third and final NASCAR-scheduled test for 2008.

Testing at the .526-mile oval will be the only testing done on a short track. Teams will gather information that will help them with the short and flat tracks on the 25-race schedule.

Veteran NASCAR driver Stacy Compton (No. 4 Dodge), who joined the newly-relocated Bobby Hamilton Racing VA this season, is looking forward to the testing that literally is in the team's backyard.

"The testing schedule in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is very limited at the tracks we actually race at. So I think when they choose a track for us they try to make sure it is one a team can get a lot out of," he said.

Compton believes this week's testing will prove beneficial not only for the two races at the speedway, but others on the schedule as well.

Compton said, "Not only will you gain knowledge for races here, but you will be able to carry what you learned to Mansfield, Milwaukee, Memphis and even Phoenix late in the season."

"When you are able to test at a track and apply the knowledge you learn to that many tracks, it makes it worthwhile."

Etc. & Quotable

Truck Line-Up ... The No. 09 Zaxby's Ford of Roush Fenway Racing will have three drivers share the seat.

The 2003 Series Champion and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Travis Kvapil will take the lead for nine more races. Bobby East will pilot the truck for seven and John Wes Townley for six.

East, who has 24 starts in the series, will make his appearance in the truck at Kansas in April. The driver has a series-best finish of 11th at ORP (2006).

Townley will make his debut at Mansfield in May. The 18-year-old will also compete full-time in the ARCA RE/MAX Series where he hopes to capture the Rookie of the Year honors.

It's a Tie ... Two series veterans share 11th in the points standings and sit one point outside the top-10.

Terry Cook (No. 60 Wyler Racing Toyota), who made his 250th consecutive start at Atlanta, brought home an eighth place finish. The top 10 was his second of the season.

Fellow veteran driver Ted Musgrave, who pilots the No. 59 Team ASE/Harris Trucking Toyota, battled a cold and an early race penalty to finish seventh.

"I'm happy with the way the truck ran and proud of how hard the guys worked to come back from the early penalty," Musgrave said.

"If we continue getting top-tens, we will be right in the thick of it come Homestead this fall," he added.

Running Strong ... Roush Fenway Racing driver Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford) is looking forward to a strong season.

Darnell, who grabbed the first Keystone Light Pole of the season at Daytona, has battled back from a disappointing finish there to 11th- and 12th-place performances at Fontana and Atlanta.

The driver, who sits 13th in the series points standings, looks forward to continuing the momentum at Martinsville.

In The Loop:

There's little to no argument -- Kyle Busch has been the class of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series this season. With wins in the last two races, and a second-place finish in the season-opener at Daytona, Busch has opened up a 72-point cushion over Todd Bodine.

Busch's stats, not surprisingly, are likewise dominant. He leads the series in a number of categories, including Driver Rating (126.7), Fastest Laps Run (75), Quality Passes (121) and Pass Differential (+63). He's also second in the series in Average Running Position with a 4.7 and Laps in the Top 15 with 317 (97.6).

Another bright spot to the 2008 season has been the emergence of Roush Fenway Racing's Erik Darnell. After winning his first race last season (Kansas), many predicted a strong year from the youngster. He hasn't disappointed.

Darnell has battled back from an accident at Daytona that put him in a points hole and now sits in 13th place. But his stats tell that he's been one of the top performers in the series.

Darnell has a Driver Rating of 96.0 (fourth-best), an Average Running Position of 8.1 (fourth), 312 Laps in the Top 15 (94.5 percent, third-best) and 100 Quality Passes (passes of cars in the top 15 under green), which is second only to Busch.

Also, note the season Chad McCumbee is having. Fourth in the points, McCumbee owns a solid Driver Rating of 89.0 this season.

Rookie Points Shift, Keep The Battle Tight

Justin Marks (No. 9 Crocs Toyota) takes over the Raybestos Rookie of the Year points lead after Atlanta.

A single point separates Marks and Philip McGilton (No. 22 3Wide Life Toyota) and Brian Scott (No. 16 Shark Energy Drink/Albertson's Chevrolet).

While McGilton trails Marks in the Rookie points battle, he sits 10th in the series point standings.

Competition is close. Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford), holds a two-point lead over both Marc Mitchell (No. 15 Hyprene Ergon Chevrolet) and Andy Lally (No. 7 TRG Motorsports Chevrolet).

Donny Lia (No. 71 TRG Motorsports Chevrolet), who entered the series in California, rounds out the strong class of drivers.

Up Next:

The series will return to action with the Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway March 28--29.

Mike Skinner, who not only is the defending winner of last year's Kroger 250 but also last October's race, looks for an unprecedented "three-peat."

Toyota Still On Top

Toyota extends its lead with three wins in a row. The manufacturer is chasing Chevrolet's record at Martinsville Speedway. With six wins, Chevrolet holds the most wins by a manufacturer at the short track.


The Race: Kroger 250

The Place: Martinsville Speedway
The Date: March 29, 2008
The Time: 3:00 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 250 laps / 131.5 miles
Track Layout: .526-Mile Oval

TV: FOX, 3:00 p.m. ET

2007 Winner: Mike Skinner
2007 Pole: Mike Skinner

Friday: Practice, 11 - 11:50 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.
Saturday: Qualifying, 10:10 a.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Stacy Compton , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Colin Braun , Dennis Setzer , Terry Cook , Andy Lally , Justin Marks , Bobby East , Erik Darnell , Chad McCumbee , Brian Scott , John Wes Townley , Donny Lia , Kyle Busch , Travis Kvapil
Teams Roush Fenway Racing , TRG Motorsports