Texas II: Round 23 preview

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series News and Notes - Texas * Last Five Texas Races Have Gone Into Overtime * Newman Becomes Season's 11th Winner In Atlanta * Benson's Championship Lead Shrinks To 31 Points Last Lap Drama Pretty Much The Norm At...

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series News and Notes - Texas

* Last Five Texas Races Have Gone Into Overtime
* Newman Becomes Season's 11th Winner In Atlanta
* Benson's Championship Lead Shrinks To 31 Points

Last Lap Drama Pretty Much The Norm At Texas Motor Speedway

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Oct. 27, 2008) -- Every Texas Motor Speedway fan knows the drill: Don't head for the parking lot with 20 laps to go.

The last five NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races have gone into overtime with green-white-checker finishes.

If last year's wild finish is any indication, Friday's Chevy Silverado 350K should have an equally dramatic ending.

Ted Musgrave was the winner after leader Chad McCumbee (No. 8 Malcolmson Construction Chevrolet) tried to block Jack Sprague (No. 60 Wyler.com Toyota) and the pair tangled to end the race under the caution flag.

In June, Ron Hornaday Jr. (No. 33 VFW Chevrolet) bagged his first Texas win, defeating Kyle Busch (No. 51 Miccosukee/NOS Energy Drink Toyota) in a two-lap shoot-out.

Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) twice has defeated Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota) in overtime.

"Guys who've been racing hard for the whole race are trying to get a couple more positions and then somebody makes a mistake," said Bodine attempting to explain the run of green-white-checker finishes.

"Obviously, I'd rather be leader but the second, third or fourth guy can go on the offense."

Skinner, still winless in Texas, has his own opinion. "The key to winning one is not to have it," said the 1995 series champion.

Where would Skinner prefer to be if history repeats itself this week?

"I always want to be in first and take my chances," he said.

Skinner, however, is hoping to have a comfortable lead with the race ending as scheduled, at Lap 147.

"To win the race, you do what you have to do," he said. "If you're 12th or 13th, you're not going to win so why tear up your truck just to run 10th?"

Newman Scores A Victory In First Series Start

Passing Kevin Harvick Inc. teammate Ron Hornaday Jr. on the E-Z-GO 200's final lap, Ryan Newman (No. 2 American Commercial Lines Chevrolet) became the season's 11th different winner.

With the victory, Newman joined Mike Skinner (No. 5 Toyota Tundra Toyota), Robert Pressley and Kasey Kahne as drivers to win in their debut races.

Before Saturday's event, Atlanta Motor Speedway hadn't produced a first-time winner in eight previous races. Newman is the season's fourth driver to win for the first time.

Newman also became the 19th driver to win in all three of NASCAR's three national series, taking crew chief Ernie Cope and his team to Victory Lane for the first time.

"He raced me like a gentleman," said Newman of Hornaday, who took the lead on the 129th of 200 laps but gave it up as he and his teammate hit the backstretch for the final time. "He is racing for a championship and we were going for the win and he knew that because he was racing for the win, too."

Director's Take: Wayne's Words

"Texas race fans are among the most passionate we see during the season. They've got a great place to watch NASCAR Craftsman Truck racing and come out in large numbers -- something the competitors enjoy. It's fun racing before a packed house.

"We came to Texas Motor Speedway in June when the weather was hot. So, in a way, this is a whole different race track. The crew chiefs have two separate books on Texas: June and October.

"Because of the size of the track and its configuration, the draft certainly plays a role in racing here. It's not the same sort of draft that you see in Daytona or Talladega but it comes into play nonetheless.

"Racing isn't confined to one groove. The fans will see two-wide racing most of the night.

"Close finishes are a Texas Motor Speedway trademark. Frequently, and in fact the last five races, the winner is decided in a green-white-checker finish. So nobody is going to leave their seat and head for the parking lot with 20 laps to go.

"Last year's fall race was one of the most exciting in Texas history, recalling how Ron Hornaday Jr. and Mike Skinner rubbed fenders and doors as they battled for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck championship.

"Will Ron and Johnny Benson have a similar battle? We'll have to and see but it certainly isn't outside the realm of possibility." -- Wayne Auton, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Director

In The Loop:

Hot in the summer, cool in the fall, Texas Motor Speedway offers two very different types of challenges.

During the summer NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Texas races, the track is slick, forcing the trucks to slow down for control's sake. During the fall, there is better traction, leading to faster speeds.

The Loop Data proves exactly that.

Since the inception of Loop Data in 2005, there have been four races in June. The top average Green Flag Speed belonged to Johnny Benson, at 173.206 mph.

Over that same span, there have been three races in November. The top average Green Flag Speed belonged to Mike Skinner, at 177.529 mph.

That's a difference of over four mph.

Either way, statistically, Skinner adapts the best to both Texas faces.

During the June Texas races, Skinner has series-highs in Driver Rating (128.2), Average Running Position (3.7) and Laps in the Top 15 (670 for 99.1%). He also has 90 Fastest Laps Run, which is second-best.

During the past three November races, Skinner has series-best marks in Driver Rating (133.2), Average Running Position (2.0), Fastest Laps Run (78) and Laps in the Top 15 (434 for 97.7%).

Oddly, Skinner has yet to win a Texas race. He has finished in the top 10 in each of the last seven races and the top five in six of the last seven.

Manufacturers' Battle:

Toyota failed to beat Chevrolet in Atlanta as Denny Hamlin (No. 15 Ergon-Hyprene Toyota) ran third behind Newman and Hornaday.

Still, it's just a matter of time before Toyota captures its third consecutive Manufacturers' Championship.

Heading for Texas, Toyota needs only to finish second if Chevrolet wins, or any finish ahead of Chevrolet.

Ford, in third place, is hoping for consolation in the form of a second 2008 victory.

The truck maker has won just once in the first 22 races and is on track to record a season-low number of victories.

Ford's worst season in terms of wins -- two -- came in 2001 and 2005.

Dodge also has just one win in 2008.

Gone To Texas: The Championship's Twists and Turns Continue

Johnny Benson (No. 23 Toyota Certified Used Cars Toyota) had a great opportunity to hold or extend his 65-point championship lead as he started the E-Z-GO 200 from the pole when inclement weather caused the field to be set by the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Rule Book.

Saturday, however, wasn't to be Benson's day. He ran far back in the field with an ill-handling truck before rallying to finish seventh. Hornaday, however, led the most laps and placed second to cut Benson's lead to 31 points.

Benson can take no solace from what's become a precarious situation -- the margin is sixth --closest in series history after 22 races.

Only once has a driver with a smaller lead at this stage of the season gone on to win the title. Seven others, who enjoyed greater advantages, all claimed championships.

Benson, whose third-place finish in June ended a three-race streak of DNFs, doesn't look to change his strategy as the season winds down.

"I only care about winning," he said. "Ron's won five; we've won five (and) we both have the same (number of) top-five finishes.

"Our seasons have mirrored each other."

Hornaday agrees with Benson's assessment.

"Every time I have tried to win a race, Johnny finishes second," he said. "If I finish second, he finishes third."

They also have traded recent poor finishes: Benson's 27th at Las Vegas after cutting down a tire and Hornaday's 29th in Martinsville, out of fuel with a couple of laps to go.

"This is the way the season is going," he said. "We have to try to win races and lead the most laps and hopefully we can catch Johnny, but they have been strong," said Hornaday.

Hornaday, who chased down Benson's Bill Davis Racing teammate Skinner a year ago in Homestead-Miami's finale to win his third title, sees plenty of twists and turns before the 2008 championship is decided.

"I don't know where it's going," he said of the eventual outcome. "It is going down to the wire."

Fall At TMS: Champions Strike Out

No driver has won the Chevy Silverado 350K in his championship season.

Etc. & Quotable:

It's Down To Nine ... Benson and Hornaday's torrid pace, 13 top fives and 16 top 10s, has separated them from the field. Bodine moved into third in the championship standings with a fourth-place finish in Atlanta but he's 218 points off the lead. Ninth-place Jack Sprague, 532 points out, is the final driver with a mathematical chance of winning the title.

Chasing The Banquet Stage ... Benson and Hornaday may be alone at the top but the final top 10 and an on-stage appearance at the Nov. 17 champion's banquet remain very much undecided. Erik Darnell (No. 99 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford) and Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards Chevrolet) are fourth and fifth with 3,027 points apiece. And Chad McCumbee and Terry Cook (No. 59 Team ASE/Harris Trucking Toyota) have equal points -- 3,654 -- to stand 10th and 11th.

This Bell Continues To Ring ... T.J. Bell (No. 7 Home4theHolidays.org Chevrolet), who came into the series at mid-season with TRG Motorsports, now owns the longest current top-10 finishing streak -- five -- after running ninth in Atlanta. Bell battled all day with several NASCAR Sprint Cup stars, notably Kyle Busch (No. 51 Miccosukee/NOS Energy Drink Toyota). "It just helps my confidence to be able to race against these guys," he said.

Another Award Decided ... Hornaday has wrapped up the 2008 Wix Filters Lap Leader Award with his ninth Wix race win. Hornaday has led an amazing 18 of 22 races this season.

Papis, Tracy Debut In Texas ... Road racing star Max Papis (No. 07 Chevrolet) and 2003 CART champion Paul Tracy (No. 9 Bombardier Learjet/Tundra Toyota) are set to make their first starts in this week's Chevy Silverado 350K. "Todd (Bodine) and I are good friends and I'm looking forward to helping him and the Germain team win a championship," said Tracy.

Scott Hits Late Season Stride

Colin Braun's (No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford) rookie lead remained virtually unchanged -- 30 points -- after Atlanta but 20-year-old Brian Scott (No. 16 Albertson's Toyota) is finishing strong.

Scott was 10th in the E-Z-GO 200, marking his third top-10 finish in the past five races. Scott previously had a single top-10 placing.

The Idaho native's late-season surge has brought him to within two points of current Raybestos runnerup Donny Lia (No. 81 NationRides Chevrolet).

Scott Speed (No. 22 Red Bull Toyota) was Atlanta's highest-placed freshman in fifth.

Who Is The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series' Most Popular Driver?

This is it; the final week of voting for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Most Popular Driver. Voting ends this Friday, Oct. 31.

The winner will be announced at the Champions Banquet on Nov. 19. To date, more than 60,000 votes have been cast.

Up Next:

Both Johnny Benson and Ron Hornaday Jr. have been looking forward to next Friday's Lucas Oil 150. Both have wins at the one-mile track.

Benson racked up his first win in 2006. Hornaday, who won the pole for the inaugural event in 1995, has won twice on the desert mile. His owner, Kevin Harvick, also is a two-time winner of the Lucas Oil 150. But they'll need to keep an eye on the No. 51 Billy Ballew truck. Kyle Busch is the defending winner at Phoenix International Raceway.

Fast Facts

The Race: Chevy Silverado 350K
The Place: Texas Motor Speedway

The Date: Oct. 31, 2008
The Time: 9 p.m. ET

Race Distance: 350 kilometers/147 laps
Track Layout: 1.5-Mile Oval

TV: SPEED, 8:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, Sirius. Listen locally on KLLI FM, 105.3

2007 Winner: Ted Musgrave
2007 Pole: Mike Skinner

Schedule: Thursday: Practice, 12:30-1:45 p.m. and 2:15-3:30 p.m. Qualifying, 7 p.m.

-credit: nascar

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Kevin Harvick , Ryan Newman , Robert Pressley , Max Papis , Paul Tracy , Johnny Benson , Ron Hornaday Jr. , Ted Musgrave , Colin Braun , Jack Sprague , Terry Cook , T.J. Bell , Matt Crafton , Kasey Kahne , Scott Speed , Denny Hamlin , Erik Darnell , Chad McCumbee , Brian Scott , Donny Lia , Kyle Busch
Teams TRG Motorsports , Bill Davis Racing