The Frontstretch: Tracking the Trucks: O'Reilly Auto Parts 250 by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Tuesday April 28, 2009

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Tracking the Trucks: O'Reilly Auto Parts 250

Beth Lunkenheimer · Tuesday April 28, 2009

 

In a Nutshell: Mike Skinner was standing on pit road in the rain when he got word he won the rain-shortened O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 presented by World of Warcraft Monday afternoon at Kansas Speedway. Skinner led the field when the red flag flew on Saturday for rain, and found himself in that same top spot when the rain came again on Monday. Reigning champion Johnny Benson finished runner-up to Skinner, with Brian Scott, Ron Hornaday, Jr., and Brian Ickler rounding out the Top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Mike Skinner. Skinner led the first lap after the green flag flew and went on to lead a race-high 67 laps overall. Skinner’s crew chief, Eric Phillips, spent the latter parts of the race watching the radar. Knowing rain was moving into the area, the team put just enough fuel in Skinner’s truck to allow him to get off pit road first and race to the rain. Skinner took the lead for the final time when the green flag flew on lap 119, passing Stacy Compton to get back to the front. The win marked the first for the 51-year-old since joining Randy Moss Motorsports prior to the 2009 season, as well as the first for the team since it was renamed last summer.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:

1. How did Brian Ickler fare in his Camping World Truck Series debut?

For the first time this season, a conflict with Kyle Busch’s Nationwide Series schedule forced him to step out of the No. 51 Toyota. In his place, Brian Ickler made his Camping World Truck Series debut. After a solid qualifying effort, Ickler rolled off the starting grid ninth with high expectations.

The 23-year-old driver fell back to the mid-teens early, but a two-tire pit stop left Ickler in second when rain red flagged the race on Saturday. When the trucks rolled onto pit road, Brian Ickler had a call waiting — from Kyle Busch himself.

Mike Skinner gave car owner Randy Moss his first win as car owner in a rain-delayed, then rain-shortened race at Kansas Speedway on Monday.

“We started off well. Awesome call on pit road, and it’s pretty good right now,” Ickler said while waiting out the red flag. “Kyle called me from Talladega and had all sorts of advice. I cannot thank Kyle enough. He loves to race.”

When the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 finally took the green flag again on Monday afternoon, it appeared the driver of the No. 51 Miccosukee Resort & Gaming Toyota took Busch’s advice to heart.

After dropping back early in the run, a fresh set of tires allowed Ickler to compete well with the lead pack. When the tenth and final caution flew, Brian Ickler was scored in fifth — where he eventually finished after NASCAR called the race — and he couldn’t be happier with the performance.

“Good learning experience. We’ll just move on from here and see what happens,” Ickler said before the race was official. “There’s so much learning, [but] I’ve got great mentors.”

There is no reason for Ickler to be at all upset with his debut. He ran with veterans of the series, made up spots on pit road, and took the truck home in one piece with a top 5 finish. With more track time and mentoring from Kyle Busch, Brian Ickler could be a name that is well remembered in the Truck Series for years to come.

2. What happened to the entry list?

When the official entry list for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 was first posted, there were 38 trucks on it. But by the time the green flag flew, only 35 trucks were on the track.

The first team to withdraw was Trail Motorsports with Chase Austin behind the wheel. The team had expected to have sponsorship dollars in place to allow them to race, but the deal fell through. Later in the week, Mike Harmon in the Blue Ox / Lafferty Motorsports Chevrolet withdrew from the entry list as well.

After Jennifer Jo Cobb crashed in practice, Derrike Cope was forced to withdraw one of his two trucks, officially shortening the field to just 35. It marked the first time in 2009 less than 36 trucks showed up to a race, a marked improvement over 2008 — when the first short field came in just the second race of the season at California Speedway.

Truck Rookie Report
2009 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Chase Austin (No. 32)
James Buescher (No. 10)
Ricky Carmichael (No. 4)
J.R. Fitzpatrick (No. 7)
Taylor Malsam (No. 81)
Johnny Sauter (No. 13)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 6

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 1; Johnny Sauter, finished 9th

Rookie Of The Race: Johnny Sauter

Worth Noting / Points Shuffle:

Shortly after NASCAR made the call to postpone the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 until Monday morning, a tornado touched down just nine miles away from the track. No injuries were reported.

During the Frontstretch Live Blog from Talladega Superspeedway, a reader questioned why the Camping World Truck Series race couldn’t be run on Sunday instead of Monday. Simply put, the Indy Lights Series and the Indy Car Series were both scheduled (and able to run without any trouble with rain) on Sunday. There wouldn’t have been enough daylight to get all three races in before nightfall.

The O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 is the second consecutive Camping World Truck Series race to be run on Monday due to rain, but it is the first to be rain-shortened since the Darlington 200 ended 12 laps shy of the full distance at Darlington Raceway in May 2001.

Only one team packed it in when the rain came Saturday afternoon. The No. 63 Mittler Brothers / Dolce Vita Ford dropped out with “transmission troubles” officially after running just 51 laps, and never returned to Kansas Speedway on Monday.

Race winner Mike Skinner moved up three spots and finds himself atop the point standings. Ron Hornaday, Jr. moved up one spot and trails Skinner by just 25 five races into the season. Despite having a wreck early in the race, Todd Bodine dropped only one spot to third. Matt Crafton, who moved up one spot and Johnny Benson, who moved up two spots, round out the top 5 in the standings.

Kyle Busch, who was unable to coordinate the Truck Series race with his Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series schedules, dropped five spots to sixth. Brian Scott, who scored his first Top 5 finish of the season, jumped five spots to seventh and currently sits just three points behind Busch. Behind him, Chad McCumbee remains in eighth while Terry Cook, who had multiple on-track incidents before being forced to retire his No. 25 with just 22 laps remaining, dropped three spots to ninth. Stacy Compton moved up one spot to tenth and sits just 177 points out of the lead.

Finally, Rick Crawford announced during the red flag on Saturday that he will be flying with the Blue Angels on Tuesday during the off week.

Quotable:

“Randy (Moss, team owner) we got it buddy. It’s really, really cool. We’ve got a lot of effort to build this program.” Race Winner Mike Skinner

“Me and Mike [Skinner] are too old to race in the rain.” Johnny Benson during the second red flag of the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250

Up Next:
The Camping World Truck Series heads to Lowe’s Motor Speedway in three weeks for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 on Friday, May 15th. In 2008, Matt Crafton posted his first career Truck Series victory in his 178th start a the 1.5-mile oval. Coverage begins at 7:30 PM EST; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

Contact Beth Lunkenheimer

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M.B. Voelker
04/28/2009 10:04 AM
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I was working in my garden and forgot the truck race was on so I missed the end.

I was very curious about Ickler’s performance since only two drivers — Kyle Busch and Shane Hmiel — have ever managed to find the speed in those Billy Ballew trucks.

5th sounds pretty good there.

Beth
04/28/2009 08:04 PM
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Ickler may have finished fifth but ran as high as second earlier on Monday. I was very impressed with his debut and look forward to seeing what he can bring to the series.

Contact Beth Lunkenheimer