* Second-Closest Title Battle With Five Races Remaining * Brian Scott One Of Series' Many New Faces * Battle For 10th Place Also Heating Up * Skinner Leads Most Major Loop Data Categories Don't Blink: Hornaday Leads Skinner With Five To ...
* Second-Closest Title Battle With Five Races Remaining
* Brian Scott One Of Series' Many New Faces
* Battle For 10th Place Also Heating Up
* Skinner Leads Most Major Loop Data Categories
Don't Blink: Hornaday Leads Skinner With Five To Go
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 8, 2007) -- Like an overheated potato, Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet) and Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) keep exchanging the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series standings lead every seven days.
Both drivers want it. But neither seems able to retain a tight enough grip, or distance himself from his closest pursuer.
"Ron and I are back and forth each week, and I just hope that I am the one on top at the end," Skinner said. "This No. 5 Tundra team has just got to get back to having consistent finishes, and then whatever happens will happen.
Last Saturday's event at Talladega Superspeedway upended the order for the third time in the past four races. And although Hornaday -- the latest leader -- and Skinner weren't involved in the three-wide finish, they found themselves affected.
Hornday, who finished seventh, now leads Skinner by 14 points, the second closest margin with five events remaining in NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series history. Skinner finished 13th.
"Everything is cool," Hornaday said. "We are just having fun. With five races remaining, it's going to come down to being consistent."
Enter Martinsville Speedway, one of the smallest and toughest venues on the series schedule. Following this week's off-week -- the season's final breather -- competitors embark on their last five events of 2007, beginning with the Kroger 200 on Saturday, Oct. 20.
Worth Another Look: Talladega Finish A Record-Setter
Last Saturday's last-lap battle between eventual winner Todd Bodine (No. Lumber Liquidators Toyota), Rick Crawford (No. 14 Power Stroke Diesel Ford) and Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota) wasn't just memorable -- it was history.
Bodine, the reigning NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, nipped the second-place Crawford by .014 seconds, good for fifth place on the series' Top-10 list of closest finishes.
It mirrored the finish of the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, where Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-Way Freight Toyota) beat the second-place Benson by .031 seconds.
That means two of the top-10 closest finishes are from the 2007 season.
And Crawford is now one-for-two in three-way finishes at Daytona and Talladega (he won at Daytona in 2003).
"There's not but one Daytona," the Mobile, Ala., native said post-race last Saturday. "I wish I was in Victory Lane and it would be some party but there's gonna be a party anyway."
The closest NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series finish?
It dates to the series' inaugural season, when Butch Miller beat Mike Skinner by .001 seconds at Colorado National Speedway on July 15, 1995.
Future Ahead: Brian Scott Working To Become Member Of '08 Rookie Corps
He has a mentor, a ride and high hopes.
What newcomer Brian Scott (No. 16 Xpress Motorsports Ford) needs is seat time.
He'll get it during the series' final weeks. The 19-year-old from Boise, Idaho is working toward 2008, when he plans to compete for Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors.
Scott's father, JB, purchased the majority interest in Xpress last month, with former owner Dave Fuge remaining as a minority owner, crew chief and competition director.
Through two races -- at New Hampshire International Speedway and Las Vegas Motor Speedway -- Scott's top finish is 21st at NHIS. Derrike Cope drove the No. 16 Ford on Saturday at Talladega; Scott returns Oct. 20 at Martinsville.
"He's a very intelligent kid," Cope said. "He's like a sponge and he seems to retain it. That's the key. He certainly has the speed. He's a pleasure to work with. He'll come along quickly in the equipment he's going to be in."
"It's gone way better than I ever thought," Scott said. "Everybody is there to help you. I was really fortunate to get hooked up with Dave Fuge and Derrick Cope. Jack Sprague and Ron Hornaday Jr. have also been there to help me."
NCTS, Etc: Key Motorsports Perseveres At Talladega
Chaffin, Key Motorsports Happy With Talladega Results ... Chad Chaffin's (No. 40 Key Motorsports Chevrolet) eighth-place finish last Saturday at Talladega marked the team's best result at the 2.66-mile track.
It was more like a marathon. Chaffin & Co., overcame engine problems in practice, a 33rd-place starting position, an overheating race engine, a balky cooling unit in the driver's helmet, a damaged right fender and a flat tire.
"This is what happens when everyone sticks together and doesn't give up," said crew chief Gary Showalter.
It marked the team's first-ever, back-to-back top-20 finishes (Chaffin finished 17th two weeks ago at Las Vegas).
No Slowing Down ... Reigning champion Todd Bodine might be a long shot to repeat his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series title, but he's hardly lifted off the gas. Bodine's dramatic victory last Saturday at Talladega was his second of 2007.
He also has five poles, 10 top fives and 15 top 10s. Fourth in the standings, Bodine trails leader Ron Hornaday by 262 points with five races remaining.
Whew, Glad That's Over. ... Jacques Villeneuve (No. 27 Bill Davis Racing Toyota) competed in both NASCAR-sanctioned events at Talladega last week. He finished 30th in only his second NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday and 21st in his NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series debut on Sunday.
Mike Skinner A Driving Instructor At Phoenix. ... No, it's not for extra credit, but the 1995 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion will be doing many good turns on Saturday, Oct. 13 at Phoenix International Raceway.
Skinner will be a guest at the Toyota Driving Expectations event at PIR, which teaches defensive driving techniques to teenagers and their parents. The clinic pits teens against current-day distractions like listening to loud music and talking on cell phones. They'll also complete braking exercises in wet and dry conditions and challenge a slalom driving course.
Skinner's No. 5 Toyota will be on display during the Oct. 12-14 Toyota Driving Expectations clinic. Battle For 10th
While much focus (rightfully so) goes to the title battle between first-place Ron Hornaday and Mike Skinner, another contest rages further down the standings.
And it's no less intense.
Only the top 10 drivers in the final NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series are recognized during post-season award ceremonies, and the battle for 10th rivals the current battle for first.
Jack Sprague currently holds 10th place following last Saturday's event at Talladega.
He's followed by David Starr (No. 10 International MAXX FORCE Diesel Ford), who's 11th, and Dennis Setzer (No. 18 Fastenal Dodge), who's 12th.
Starr -- who finished 11th at Talladega -- trails Sprague by seven points.
Setzer, who finished fifth, trails Starr by 71 points and Sprague by 78.
Even 13th-place Brendan Gaughan (No. 77 South Point Hotel Chevrolet) isn't completely removed from 10th-place possibilities.
Gaughan trails the 12th-place Setzer by 57 points and the 10th-place Sprague by 135 points. He finished 16th at Talladega.
Setzer's fifth-place finish came at an opportune time. Only his second top five of 2007, it was his first since a May 26 victory at Mansfield Motorsports Park.
All three, however, will be chasing Sprague next week at Martinsville, where he won from the pole last October -- his first Martinsville victory in 13 series starts there.
Manufacturers' Standings: One Win 'Til '07 Toyota Title
Entering last week's event at Talladega, Toyota needed two wins to clinch the 2007 manufacturers' championship. Todd Bodine's last-lap victory cut that margin in half, which means the truck maker could clinch next week when the series resumes at Martinsville Speedway. Toyota has won 10 of the season's first 20 races and leads Ford by 24 points.
In The Loop: Second-Place Skinner First In Important Statistical Categories
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races at Talladega clearly have gotten better with age.
Last Saturday's race was only the second time the series raced at the historic Alabama track, and lessons learned from a year ago dramatically improved the show.
The margin of victory was a by-a-nose .014 seconds (last year's race ended under caution), and the number of Green Flag Passes for the Lead jumped from 14 last year to 23 this year.
Reigning series champion Todd Bodine won the race, and earned a robust 140.9 Driver Rating in the process. He also had an Average Running Position of 2.3 and was one of only two drivers to spend all 94 Laps in the Top 15 (Rick Crawford was the other).
With a seventh-place finish, Ron Hornaday retook the series standings lead by 14 points over Mike Skinner. Still, Skinner leads the way in practically all season-to-date Loop Data statistical categories.
Skinner heads the list in Average Running Position (5.7), Driver Rating (117.2), Fastest Laps Run (398) and Laps in the Top 15 (3,047).
Hornaday is close behind in each, though, with an Average Running Position of 7.6, a Driver Rating of 112.8, 306 Fastest Laps Run and 2,922 Laps in the Top 15.
All of those stats rank second behind Skinner. He leads the series in with 3,206 Laps on the Lead Lap (Skinner is second with 3,152).
On Deck: Martinsville Speedway
The series returns to historic Martinsville Speedway for the Oct. 20 Kroger 200. Martinsville is the second of three tracks to host two races in 2007 and is one of just four tracks to stage races in all 13 seasons of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-way Freight Toyota) won last year's Kroger 200 in his "lucky" 13th trip to the .526-mile paper clip-shaped track. In March, Mike Skinner won his third consecutive race of the 2007 season and first at Martinsville since 1996. Skinner was just the second series competitor to post multiple wins at Martinsville joining Dennis Setzer, whose victories came in 2002-03. Up to a half dozen former winners are expected to compete in the Kroger 200.
Next Race: Kroger 200
The Place: Martinsville Speedway
The Date: Oct. 20
The Time: 4:00 p.m. (ET)
TV: SPEED 3:30 p.m. (ET)
Track Layout: .526-mile speedway
Race Purse: $451,204
2006 Winner: Jack Sprague
2006 Pole: Jack Sprague
Friday: Practice 11-11:50 a.m.; Rookie practice 1:40-2:10 p.m.; Final practice 2:15-3:30 p.m.
Saturday: Qualifying 11:10 a.m.