*Battle For 10th Place, Top Rookie Heats Up NCTS Etc: Busch Has Busy Week Ahead Kyle Busch Plans For Quadruple-Duty ... Kyle Busch (No. 51 Flanders Beef Patties Chevrolet) has raced in a Craftsman Truck in five of the last six series races...
*Battle For 10th Place, Top Rookie Heats Up
NCTS Etc: Busch Has Busy Week Ahead
Kyle Busch Plans For Quadruple-Duty ... Kyle Busch (No. 51 Flanders Beef Patties Chevrolet) has raced in a Craftsman Truck in five of the last six series races and will add another this Friday at Phoenix. Busch has put together an impressive record in his 34 series races. He has five career victories, including one this year at Atlanta Motor Speedway and 20 top-10 finishes.
Busch plans to take the 'triple-duty' moniker to a new level this week. In addition to racing in all three NASCAR national series events at Phoenix this weekend, Busch will compete in a late model race in his native Las Vegas.
"For me, its fun," Busch said. "I enjoy it. I love racing." Mike Skinner led five laps at Atlanta Motor Speedway to extend his record of races led in a season to 21 out of a possible 22 races. The only race Skinner failed to lead a lap was at Bristol Motor Speedway. The previous record was 19 races shared by Greg Biffle in 1999 and Jack Sprague in 2001. Skinner still has a ways to go, however, to catch the season records for miles and laps led. He currently has led 1,041 laps and 1,130.81 miles. He set the laps led in a season mark with 1,533 in 1996. Sprague has the most miles led with 1,443.02 in 2001.
Phoenix International Raceway lays claim to the most multiple winners -- five -- at a single track. Four of those winners -- Jack Sprague (1996-97), Mike Skinner (1995), Ron Hornaday Jr. (1998-99) and Kevin Harvick (No. 2 Camping World Chevrolet) (2002-03) -- are among eight competitors with Phoenix victories (a combined 13) on their resumes who have entered the Casino Arizona 150.
Raybestos Rookie Award Going Down To The Wire
The closest three-way battle in the series' Raybestos Rookie of the Year award moves to Phoenix with Willie Allen (No. 13 ThorSport Chevrolet) holding a six-point lead over Joey Clanton (No. 09 Zaxby's Ford) and Tim Sauter (No. 07 Lester Buildings Chevrolet). Sauter collected his first top-10 finish -- 10th -- in Texas where Allen ran 11th and Clanton 32nd.
Several Drivers Still In Running For Top-10 Finish, Trip To Banquet
Just as intriguing as the back-and-forth battle for the championship is the constant shuffling of the 10th position in the point standings. Six drivers are currently fighting for the eighth through 10th positions in the standings and the prestige that comes with a top-10 season finish.
The top 10 drivers will be honored at the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series awards banquet at The Seminole Hard Rock in Hollywood, Fla., on Nov. 19 and finishing in the top 10 is a goal for many drivers. Currently, Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford) holds the coveted 10th position. Darnell finished 14th at Texas to pass David Starr (No. 10 International MAXX FORCE Diesel Ford) by 10 points.
Brendan Gaughan (No. 77 South Point Resort Chevrolet) posted his second runner-up finish of the season to move up one spot to 12th. He is currently 80 points behind Darnell. Gaughan passed Dennis Setzer in the standings after Setzer's 15th-place Texas finish.
Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet) and Jack Sprague currently hold the eighth and ninth positions, respectively. Neither driver's position is safe by any regards. Crafton sits just 86 points ahead of Darnell and is only 96 points in front of Starr. Sprague finds himself in a more precarious situation. He is only 36 points from dropping out of the top 10. Both Crafton and Sprague have been in the top 10 in the standings each week this season.
In The Loop:
Mike Skinner's on-again-off-again affair with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points lead is back on -- and in a big way.
Skinner is back in front, leading Ron Hornaday Jr. by 57 points. It's the largest lead first place has had over second since after the Bristol race eight races ago.
But Skinner cannot grow complacent, especially this weekend. Both have two wins at the track, and according to the pre-race Phoenix Loop Data statistics, Skinner and Hornaday have near identical stats over the past two races there.
In other words, the see-saw battle should continue to Homestead.
Johnny Benson, the defending champion of this race, is another driver to watch this weekend. He has a Driver Rating of 127.9, an Average Running Position of 5.4 and has spent 263 of the 300 laps over the past two years in the top 15. He also leads all drivers in Fastest Laps Run with 51.
But the most consistent Phoenix driver over the past two years has been Todd Bodine, who won there in 2005 and finished fourth last year. Of those drivers who have raced in each of the past two Phoenix races, Bodine leads in Driver Rating (128.8) and Average Running Position (2.9), and is the only driver to spend all 300 laps in the top 15. Additionally, Bodine has 46 Fastest Laps Run, which is second-most on the series.
More Phoenix Notes
Phoenix International Raceway is one of just four tracks to host series races in all 13 seasons of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
Three drivers -- Mike Skinner (1995), Jack Sprague (1997) and Ron Hornaday Jr. (1998) won at Phoenix in their championship seasons. Three other series champions -- Mike Bliss (1998), Greg Biffle (2001) and Todd Bodine (2005) also have wins at the track.
Since 2001, every champion has posted a top-10 finish in Phoenix. But only once -- Sprague in 2001 -- has the champion finished higher than the final standings' No. 2 driver.
Joe Ruttman is Phoenix International Raceway's oldest winner at age 53 years 0 months on Nov. 2, 1997. Sprague is the track's youngest at age 31 years eight months on April 21, 1996.
Mike Skinner is the first driver to reach $700,000 in season winnings before the addition of post-season awards.
Manufacturers' Preview -- Phoenix
Toyota hopes to add a 13th victory in the season's final two races, breaking its personal best of 12 wins in 2006 that was matched in Texas. Toyota has won 16 Bud Poles this season -- one fewer than the record 17 by Chevrolet in 1995.
On Deck: Homestead-Miami Speedway
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series wraps up its 13th season at Homestead-Miami Speedway with the Ford 200 on Nov. 16.
Mark Martin won last year's race as Todd Bodine clinched his championship. There have been 11 different winners in the 11 races at the track.
Mike Skinner has one top five and two top 10s in five Homestead races and Ron Hornaday Jr. has one win, three top fives and six top 10s in seven Homestead races.
Next Race: Casino Arizona 150
The Place: Phoenix International Raceway
The Date: November 9
The Time: 8:00 p.m. (ET)
TV: SPEED 7:30 p.m. (ET)
Track Layout: 1.0- oval
Race Purse: $519,413
2006 Winner: Johnny Benson
2006 Pole: Johnny Benson
Thursday: Practice 4:45-5:45 p.m., 5:45--6:15 p.m. (rookies) and 6:30--7:30 p.m.
Friday: Qualifying 2:45 p.m.