In A Nutshell: Mark Martin scored his fourth Craftsman Truck Series win of 2006 Wednesday night at Bristol in the O’Reilly 200. An early race pit call kept the No. 6 Scotts Ford F-150 near the front of the field all evening, and once Martin got out front for the final time with 135 laps remaining, he was on cruise control, finishing .149 seconds ahead of points leader Todd Bodine to take the checkered flag. Ted Musgrave, Johnny Benson, and David Starr rounded out the Top 5 finishers.
Who Should Have Won: Martin. Martin started on the pole and quickly showed that he meant business, leaving rookie Aric Almirola behind when the green flag flew. Martin made just one pit stop all evening, racing 170 laps on a set of tires and a tank of fuel. Old tires didn’t really matter for this perfectly handling truck; after retaking the lead on lap 66, Martin remained in the top spot for the entire evening.
Two Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race Weekend
1) Can anyone stop Mark Martin?
Martin has started only eight races this season and has finished outside the Top 5 just once (13th at Lowe’s Motor Speedway). Four of those Top 5 finishes have been wins, and two more were second place finishes. Completing 100% of the laps in all races he has entered, Martin has simply seemed unstoppable in the Truck Series this year. Watch for Mark Martin to be a real threat next season, not only for several wins, but also for the championship.
2) Will we see more drivers “short pit” at Bristol next season?
Mark Martin, Todd Bodine, and Ted Musgrave each pitted under caution after a spin by David Ragan on lap 33, putting them on a different pit schedule than others out on the track. Each of the three drivers then raced 170 laps on the same tires and tank of Sunoco fuel, a gamble that clearly paid off. When everyone else had to pit around lap 66, Martin, Bodine, and Musgrave were able to stay out and assume their positions back at the front of the field, where they went unchallenged for the rest of the race, finishing 1-2-3. While all three Trucks were strong regardless of pit strategy, it’s certain that we’ll see this trick used again during the 2007 season.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle:
With his win Wednesday evening, Mark Martin became the first driver in the history of Bristol Motor Speedway to win races there in all three divisions of NASCAR’s top series. Martin’s win also gave owner Jack Roush his 41st win as an owner, the most in Truck Series history.
David Starr started at the rear of the field, and then later served a one lap penalty for a pass to the left when the green flag flew. Despite those setbacks, Starr drove his Red Horse Racing Toyota Tundra to his fourth Top 5 of the season, placing fifth.
Wednesday night saw the yellow flag fly for a total of 53 laps, the second most in a truck race at Bristol. Although there were nine cautions, thirty-two drivers were still around at the end of the race, a rather large number for Trucks at this track.
With only eight races remaing, all eyes are on the points race. Again this week, the Top 5 runners in the standings didn’t change. Todd Bodine has the championship all but locked up, extending his lead slightly over Benson to 154 points. David Reutimann, Ted Musgrave and Rick Crawford round out the Top 5.
Behind the top spots, though, the points were a little more jumbled up. David Starr’s solid fifth place finish allowed him to jump two spots in the standings to sixth, while Jack Sprague tumbled back to eighth after finishing a lap behind in 23rd. Mike Bliss, after a solid Top 10 finish, snuck his way into the 10th position, knocking Dennis Setzer out despite having finished a mediocre 14th in the race. Terry Cook and Ron Hornaday remained in 7th and 9th in the standings, respectively.
“We just had one of those magical set ups. We never really raced (anyone). It (seemed like) we were under caution every other lap.” Mark Martin
“We had the second-best truck, and that’s where we finished. We should have won last week, and we finished second this week. That’s what we had to do for points.” Todd Bodine
“I told the guys not to hang their heads. We had a good truck, and we ran a good race. We did all we were supposed to do tonight at a track that can be extremely difficult and where a lot of folks don't even finish the race on a typical night. We can't control what happened with the tires. We want to get into the Top 5 in points, so we have some work to do, but I have a lot of faith in this Con-Way Freight team.” Jack Sprague
Next Up: The Craftsman Truck Series will run its 18th race of the season, the New Hampshire 200, at New Hampshire International Speedway on Saturday, September 18th. Matt Crafton holds the qualifying record with a speed of 128.819 (set in 2005), and Rick Crawford is the defending race winner. Television coverage begins at 2:00 pm EST live on SPEED, and the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.
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