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NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series News And Notes -- Phoenix * Six Points Separate Title Contenders Benson, Hornaday * Nothing Decided Among Many Top-10 Battlers * Busch's Texas Finish Gives Toyota Manufacturers' Crown The 2008 Championship: With...

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series News And Notes -- Phoenix

* Six Points Separate Title Contenders Benson, Hornaday
* Nothing Decided Among Many Top-10 Battlers
* Busch's Texas Finish Gives Toyota Manufacturers' Crown

The 2008 Championship: With Two To Go, It's Never Been Closer

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Nov. 3, 2008) -- Forgive Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 VFW Chevrolet) for experiencing dejà vu -- again.

Hornaday captured Friday's Chevy Silverado 350K at Texas Motor Speedway to draw to within six points of championship leader Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Vehicles Toyota) with two races remaining in the 2008 season.

A year ago, Hornaday left Texas trailing Benson's teammate, Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota), by 57 points but staged the second-largest comeback in series history to claim his third title.

Benson's lead, which was 65 points after his Oct. 18 victory at Martinsville Speedway, is the narrowest in the series' 14 years with two races remaining.

The previous closest contest at this stage of the season was 2004 when Bobby Hamilton led Dennis Setzer (No. 18 Dodge Dealers Dodge) by seven points. Hamilton went on to win the title.

Benson hasn't exactly rolled over, finishing third in Texas after his Martinsville victory and a seventh-place finish at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Oct. 25.

Hornaday has won six times in 2008 to Benson's five. Each has 14 top-five and 17 top-10 finishes.

"This is unbelievable; I just can't seem to shake him," said Hornaday looking forward to this Friday's Lucas 150 at Phoenix International Raceway.

"This is fun. This is what racing is all about."

Benson Vs. Hornaday At Phoenix: Pick 'Em

Don't expect any quick knockout when the 2008 NASCAR Craftsman Truck championship battle arrives in the Valley of the Sun this week.

Statistically speaking, the top contenders mirror one another at Phoenix International Raceway.

Both have victories at the one-mile speedway.

Benson's victory, in 2006, is most recent. Hornaday, a two-time winner in 1998 and 1999, finished second in 2005 and a year ago.

Hornaday's team, Kevin Harvick Inc., boasts two Phoenix victories; Benson's Bill Davis Racing, one.

Benson has finished among the top 10 in 85.6% of his seven starts. Hornaday's top-10 percentage over 13 appearances is 84.6.

Over the past three seasons, Benson's Driver Rating is 118.7 vs. Hornaday's 112.0.

Tale Of The Tape

Director's Take: Wayne's Words

"Returning to Phoenix International Raceway is always special. Although it's doubtful anyone will clinch this year's championship here, we'll always remember 1995 and Mike Skinner's inaugural championship victory.

"The 20th race capped off a great first year for the series which also began at Phoenix where Mike edged Terry Labonte by the nose of his truck to win the inaugural event.

"If you look at the track layout, Phoenix really is five race tracks in one. Every turn is different. The frontstretch is long and the dogleg is the backstretch.

"Entry into the final turn, then getting the truck to accelerate, is what it's all about. There have been some great passes there -- not the least of which was Mike catching Terry.

"The track's pit road is unique, not only running the length of the frontstretch but actually curving alongside Turn 1. It's a long way to the last speed line; drivers have to carefully watch their rpms so as not to get a speeding penalty.

"The last 10 races have produced nine different winners. Even though Johnny Benson and Ron Hornaday have great records including victories at Phoenix, that's no guarantee that either will wind up in Victory Lane.

"One thing is certain. This week's race will be a great setup for the 2008 finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 14." -- Wayne Auton, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director

Phoenix International Raceway is where it all began on Feb. 5, 1995. The track hosted two races a year through 1998 then moved to a single date in the fall in 1999. Phoenix is one of four one-mile tracks on the current schedule. Ron Hornaday Jr. is the only series competitor to have won at all four.

In The Loop:

The tightest championship battle with two races remaining is about to get a little tighter. At least that is what the statistics suggest.

Points leader Johnny Benson and second-place Ron Hornaday Jr. are neck-and-neck in the standings, separated by only six points. Statistically at Phoenix, they mirror each other in practically every key Loop Data category.

Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, Benson has an average finish of 3.7, which includes a win in 2006. Over the last three Phoenix races, Benson has a Driver Rating of 118.7, an Average Running Position of 6.8, 54 Fastest Laps Run and 400 Laps in the Top 15 (88.9%).

Over that span, Hornaday has a Driver Rating of 112.0, an Average Running Position of 6.5, 19 Fastest Laps Run and 446 Laps in the Top 15 (99.1%). Hornaday has two Phoenix wins in his career, and two runner-up finishes in the last three Phoenix races.

Todd Bodine, though 223 points out, is still mathematically in title contention. Phoenix seems like the perfect track to start the improbable climb. He has finished in the top 10 in each of the last three races, winning in 2005. In that span, Bodine has a Driver Rating of 117.2, an Average Running Position of 6.6, 47 Fastest Laps Run and 403 Laps in the Top 15 (89.6%).

Manufacturers' Battle Ends: Toyota Clinches Title In Texas

For the third consecutive season, Toyota has won the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' Manufacturers' championship. Kyle Busch's second-place finish last Friday at Texas Motor Speedway was enough to eliminate Chevrolet.

Toyota previously captured the NASCAR Nationwide Series title.

"When we entered the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2004, we knew that our success would be a product of the teams and people we aligned ourselves with to carry the Toyota banner," said Lee White, president and general manager of TRD, U.S.A. "To win a third straight manufacturers' championship in this highly-competitive series is a testament to the hard work and dedication of all our race teams and everyone at TRD and Triad.

Toyota has won 12 of the year's 23 races.

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series 2008 Manufacturers' Championship Standings Following Race 23 of 25 at Texas Motor Speedway:

Toyota 163
Chevrolet 151
Ford 108
Dodge 84

Top 10 Positions Up For Grabs In Season's Deciding Events

Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) no doubt feels a bit lonesome as he occupies a reasonably safe third place in the championship standings.

Bodine is 223 points behind leader Benson and has a cushion of 130 over fourth-place driver Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford).

Not mathematically out of the championship hunt, realistically about all Bodine can do is watch and try to win the final two races.

That's hardly the case for Darnell and his trio of pursuers. To say that the fourth position is in flux would be an understatement.

Just 23 points are the difference between Darnell and Rick Crawford (No. 14 Circle Bar/Power Stroke Diesel by International Ford).

Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menard's Chevrolet) and Skinner are sandwiched in between. Crafton is three points out of fourth; Skinner is 10 behind Crafton.

The 10th position  --  last to be introduced on stage at the Nov. 17 Champions
Awards  --  has been traded several times in recent races.

Chad McCumbee (No. 8 Malcolmson Construction Chevrolet) held the spot after last week's Atlanta race. Early troubles at Texas, however, relegated him to a 23rd-place finish and opened the door for veteran Terry Cook (No. 59 Team ASE/Harris Trucking Toyota).

Cook finished sixth, his best performance since May, to bump back into the top 10 where he leads McCumbee by 56 points.

Etc. & Quotable:

Sprague-Phoenix Go Hand In Glove ... The numbers tell the tale: Jack Sprague (No. 60 Toyota) owns a very large piece of Phoenix International Raceway's record book. Sprague tops all competitors in wins (three), poles (five), top fives (nine), top 10s (13), laps run (2,157) and laps led (739).

That said, the Lucas 150 represents a great opportunity for Sprague to finish off a largely forgettable 2008 with a flourish. Sprague is winless for only the second time in 11 full seasons.

"This has been a very difficult season for me and I am back with Wyler Racing where we earned top-10 finishes at Phoenix the last two years," said Sprague. "So coming to my favorite race track this week is a recipe that we need right now."

Sprague is ninth in the standings but 14 points out of eighth.

Harvick Adds Phoenix Expertise To Hornaday's Title Bid ... Kevin Harvick will be back in the No. 2 American Commercial Lines Chevrolet at Phoenix on a two-fold mission. He looks for a third series victory and to assist driver Hornaday's championship bid.

"These guys don't need a lot of advice," he said of Hornaday and crew chief Rick Ren following the team's Texas victory. "Every once in awhile, I put in my two cents of what I think about a situation. The advice level is low."

Busch, Wallace, Keselowski In Lucas Oil 150 ... Kyle Busch (No. 51 Miccosukee Resort/NOS Energy Drink Toyota) won the 2007 edition of the event and returns to defend. Kenny Wallace will partner Busch in Billy Ballew Motorsports' No. 15 Ergon Hyprene Tundra. Brad Keselowski, meanwhile, brings his own No. 19 Chevrolet to Phoenix. The race marks Keselowski's first series start since Memphis 2007.

Eight Phoenix Winners Compete ... Eight winners of 13 races have entered the Lucas Oil 150. A Phoenix fall race -- there have been 13 of them -- has produced 11 different winners.

Texas Pole No Help For Crawford ... Rick Crawford became the 12th different Keystone Light Pole winner at Texas Motor Speedway. Crawford won his last pole in October 2005 at Martinsville. The No. 1 starting position didn't help Crawford end a 57-race winless streak. He failed to lead a lap and finished 11th.

Accident Ends Bell's Top-10 Streak ... T.J. Bell (No. 7 Chevrolet) was caught up in an accident on the second lap of the Chevy Silverado 350K, ending his personal best top-10 finishing streak at five.

Faces The Same In The Lone Star State ... The season and the distance may have been different but the top three finishers of June's Sam's Town 400 -- Hornaday, Busch and Bodine -- wound up one-two-three in last week's Chevy Silverado 350K.

Rookies Learn By Doing

This year's class of Raybestos rookie candidates are doing just fine, thank you, as judged by their finishes in the Chevy Silverado 350K vs. June's first race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Three freshmen, led by sixth-place Colin Braun (No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford), finished among the top 10. In the spring, the highest-finishing rookie was 12th.

Brian Scott (No. 16 Albertsons Toyota) moved into the No. 2 position behind Braun. Scott collected his third top 10 in four races.

Most Popular Driver

The polls have closed. All that remains is tabulation of the ballots to determine the 2008 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' Most Popular Driver. The inaugural fan balloting via drew 63,466 votes. The winner will be announced during the Nov. 17 Champions Awards ceremonies.

Up Next: The 2008 Season Finale

Homestead-Miami Speedway is set to host the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series finale for the seventh consecutive season. The Nov. 14 Ford 200 kicks off a tripleheader weekend that closes out the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and NASCAR Nationwide Series as well. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck championship has been decided in South Florida in each of the seven seasons. The 1.5-mile speedway also claims the longest streak of different race winners: 12 and counting.

Fast Facts

The Race: Lucas Oil 150
The Place: Phoenix International Raceway

The Date: Nov. 7, 2008
The Time: 8 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 150 miles/150 laps
Track Layout: 1-Mile Oval

TV: SPEED, 7:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, Sirius. Listen locally on KGME-AM 910

2007 Winner: Kyle Busch
2007 Pole: Mike Skinner

Thursday: Practice, 3:45-5 p.m. and 5:30-6:45 p.m.
Friday: Qualifying, 2:30 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Terry Labonte , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Kevin Harvick , Kenny Wallace , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Colin Braun , Jack Sprague , Dennis Setzer , Terry Cook , Rick Crawford , T.J. Bell , Matt Crafton , Brad Keselowski , Erik Darnell , Chad McCumbee , Brian Scott , Kyle Busch
Teams Bill Davis Racing