The Frontstretch: Tracking the Trucks: Kroger 200 by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Monday October 25, 2010

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Tracking the Trucks: Kroger 200

Beth Lunkenheimer · Monday October 25, 2010

 

In a Nutshell: Ron Hornaday, Jr. took the checkered flag 0.305 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch to win the Kroger 200 Saturday afternoon at Martinsville Speedway. Hornaday, Jr. took the lead right before the final caution flew with three laps remaining and held on through a green-white-checkered finish to score his first win in 17 starts at the 0.526-mile oval. Todd Bodine, Jason White and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Todd Bodine. Bodine ran inside the top 10 during both practice sessions but struggled during qualifying. Starting 24th, he had his work cut out for him as he methodically drove through the field and used pit strategy to gain valuable track position. He took the lead for the first time on lap 92 and went on to lead a race-high 83 laps en route to his 15th top-5 finish this season.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:

1. How did Todd Bodine keep his focus on the race?

Saturday afternoon, Todd Bodine took the track with a heavy heart following the passing of his mother on Friday night. But how in the world did he manage to focus and go on to race?

When I lost my uncle in March, I couldn’t focus at work, much less think about doing something as dangerous as racing. But the difference for Bodine was the group of drivers in the garage. Regardless of what has happened on the track throughout the season, each and every one of the drivers in the garage area stood behind the driver of the No. 30 Toyota when he needed it the most.

“I couldn’t walk 10 feet through the garage area today without somebody stopping me and hugging me, and that means more than anything,” Bodine said after the race. “You know, having good friends is important. That’s what life is about, family and friends.”

And he’s absolutely right. When someone close to you loses a friend or a loved one, all of a sudden, any perceived wrongs that have been done in the past virtually disappear. And that’s one of the many reasons NASCAR is such a tight-knit community.

My thoughts and prayers are with the entire Bodine family as they deal with the loss of their mother.

Ron Hornaday finally took home the famous grandfather clock from Martinsville, but Todd Bodine widened his points lead on Saturday.

2. How did the four female drivers in the field fare Saturday afternoon?

Following Friday afternoon’s qualifying session, the entire NASCAR world knew history would be made when the Truck Series took the track Saturday afternoon. The field would feature four female racers: Jennifer Jo Cobb, Johanna Long and debuting twins Amber and Angela Cope. I don’t understand what the big fuss was about since they’re drivers when they strap into their trucks regardless of whether they’re male or female.

That being said, Angela and Amber Cope finally made their debuts and didn’t have to worry about qualifying on time thanks to the guaranteed starting spots for teams inside the top 25 in owner’s points. Neither one of the Cope twins seemed to care much about the history being made but rather were focused on gaining seat time and learning a little. Angela started 32nd behind the wheel of the No. 01 for Daisy Ramirez Motorsports but finished 30th, six laps down. Her sister Amber piloted the No. 6 for Rick Ware Racing—she started 34th and finished 26th, three laps off the pace.

Then there’s Johanna Long. She made her fourth career start a month ago at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but couldn’t complete a lap before her transmission let go. This time, she qualified 17th and came home 22nd in the first lead-lap finish of her career.

And let’s not forget about Jennifer Jo Cobb who has spent the entire season just trying to race. For quite some time, Cobb has dreamed of racing in NASCAR, and though her effort is underfunded, she’s doing just that. Saturday afternoon, the driver of the No. 10 Ford found herself in 33rd when the checkered flag flew, the lowest finish of all four female drivers.

While none of the ladies burned up the track and turned in a hugely impressive finish, NASCAR will likely use this “historic” moment as a reason to tout their “Drive for Diversity” program for many years to come.

Truck Rookie Report

2010 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Brett Butler (No. 47—released from team)
Jennifer Jo Cobb (No. 10)
Austin Dillon (No. 3)
Justin Lofton (No. 7)
Dillon Oliver (No. 01—released from team)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 10 (Add Jason Bowles, Johanna Long and debuting drivers Cody Cambensy, Amber Cope, Angela Cope, C.E. Falk and B.J. McLeod)

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 0

Rookie Of The Race: Justin Lofton, finished 13th

Rookie Quote

“Everyone on the No. 7 VisitPit.com Toyota did a great job all day. We unloaded and we weren’t the best truck and we weren’t the best truck today. Typical Martinsville racing, we got into some scuffles. Real proud of everyone and just thank Red Horse Racing for giving me the opportunity to come out here and we’ll go get ‘em next week in Talladega.” Rookie of the Race Justin Lofton

Worth Noting / Points Shuffle:

Todd Bodine expanded his lead to 282 points over second-place Aric Almirola and now only needs to finish 12th or better in the remaining races to clinch the championship. Johnny Sauter remains third, 370 points behind the leader. Austin Dillon and Matt Crafton, who moved up one spot after a tenth-place finish, round out the top 5.

Ron Hornaday, Jr.‘s win moved him up one spot to sixth, only 30 points out of fifth. Timothy Peters dropped two spots to seventh after a disappointing 34th-place finish. Mike Skinner, David Starr and Jason White, who moved up one spot round out the top 10.

Jason Bowles, who debuted with an impressive 16th-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway a month ago with Germain Racing, made his second series start behind the wheel of the Billy Ballew Motorsports No. 15 Toyota. He started 16th and finished 18th.

Quotable:

“This is unbelievable. I won at Martinsville fair and square. They should have put the clock up earlier—it might have given me a little more motivation. Butch (Hylton, crew chief) and I worked together at RCR (Richard Childress Racing). We worked together at KHI. He left for a little bit; he came back, and we’re just jelling. The truck unloaded just unbelievable. When we made the change, I told them [Team Owners Kevin and DeLana Harvick] that we were going to get results. We came to Martinsville to win.”Ron Hornaday, Jr.

“It was normal Martinsville, just don’t know how to find speed when you need it. Overall, just a good day. We were right behind the 2 (Kevin Harvick) and the 22 (Ron Hornaday, Jr.) for most of it trying to make our way back up to the front. Once getting there, just too tight. Just got beat. We’ll go on to next week, I guess.” Kyle Busch

“It was a little eventful for us—not a normal, typical Martinsville for us. Starting 24th we knew we had to strategize our way to the front and Junior (Mike Hillman, Crew Chief) did a great job and had a plan laid out to get track position that we needed and it worked. This was one of the wild cards we were worried about with the points race and anything can happen like in the spring time. I’m proud of everybody at Germain Racing for sticking with me and doing a great job every single week.” Todd Bodine, finished third

Up Next:

The Camping World Truck Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway for the Mountain Dew 250 Saturday afternoon. Last season, Todd Bodine took the early lead on a green-white-checkered finish, but the combined power of Billy Ballew Motorsports teammates Kyle Busch and Aric Almirola sent Busch to victory lane. Coverage begins at 3:30 pm EDT on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or on Sirius Channel 128.

Contact Beth Lunkenheimer

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