In a Nutshell: With his second straight strong performance this season, Mike Skinner beat Todd Bodine to win the American Commercial Lines 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway Friday night. Matt Crafton tied his career best finish of third, while Rick Crawford and Clint Bowyer rounded out the Top 5.
Who Should Have Won: Skinner. Starting on the pole, Skinner led five times for 67 laps, the most of any driver, and kept himself in contention to win all night long. With eight laps remaining, Clint Bowyer led the field to the final restart, but Skinner executed an almost perfect “bump and run,” getting the No. 2 truck loose and taking control of the race as he cruised to the win. Unfortunately for Bowyer, Mike Skinner had the No. 30 of Todd Bodine on his back bumper pushing him to the lead, and Bowyer started a slow slide down to fifth place by the time the checkered flag flew.
Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:
1. How did Travis Kvapil and Bill Lester avoid disaster?
On lap 75, Joey Clanton brought out the fifth caution of the night. Clanton drove his Zaxby’s Ford F-150 low on the track when all of a sudden Travis Kvapil and Bill Lester went spinning by, just inches from the No. 09 as all three drivers lost control of their vehiclaes. Miraculously, though, all three were able to continue out on the track with little to no damage after none of them touched.
2. What more can we expect from Matt Crafton?
Crafton had a great night Friday night; well, sort of. On lap 1, he got hit from behind, causing damage to the spoiler braces. Pitting for early repairs to fix that problem left him dead last, almost a lap down, but Crafton successfully battled back, piloting the No. 88 Menards/Quaker State Chevrolet Silverado to a career best 3rd place finish. That marked his third straight Top 11 run to start off the year; if Crafton keeps on this road, he’ll get his first career win this season after six full years on tour.
3. Can anyone stop Toyota?
How ironic is it that on the Nextel Cup side, Toyota is busy tripping over their own feet, but in the Craftsman Truck Series, no one approaches their dominance? Mike Skinner’s second consecutive win Friday night gave Toyota their third win of the season in three attempts (Jack Sprague won the race at Daytona). After two weeks of taking half the Top 10 finishes in the final running order, Toyotas grabbed another three at Atlanta this week, giving them thirteen Top 10 finishes in just three races. It looks like Toyota has finally figured out what works during qualifying and on race day, and all drivers for the manufacturer can be considered top threats for the win anywhere, anytime.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle
Rick Crawford and Jack Sprague each made their 250th Craftsman Truck Series start Friday night, with mixed results. Crawford finished fourth, his 55th career Top 5 finish, but Sprague finished 23rd, one lap down, in a disappointing performance.
With back-to-back wins, Mike Skinner now sits atop the championship point standings, 69 ahead of Todd Bodine, who jumped three spots to second. Ron Hornaday and Ted Musgrave each jumped one spot to 3rd and 5th, respectively; Jack Sprague dropped three spots to 4th and now stands 101 out of the lead.
Johnny Benson was the biggest loser in the Top 10, dropping five spots to 8th position after engine woes forced Benson to bring the No. 23 Exide Batteries Toyota to pit road on lap 33. Matt Crafton, on the other hand, proved the big gainer besides Bodine; he jumped three positions and is tied with Rick Crawford for 6th in the standings. Travis Kvapil and Dennis Setzer round out the Top 10.
Looking a little further back, Brendan Gaughan was the biggest winner Wednesday night, jumping 9 positions to 11th in the standings with his strong 6th place run. Joey Clanton jumped 8 positions to 22nd, while Carl Edwards, who did not race in Atlanta, dropped 18 spots to 29th.
“I think the No. 30 [Bodine] was probably the better truck tonight, but I was a little better on short runs and the cautions just kept coming out. I was fortunate to get by Bowyer on that restart and was just able to hold Todd off for those last few laps. Two races in a row we probably won with a second-place truck but, over the years, I’ve lost a lot of races with a first-place truck, so that’s OK.” Race Winner Mike Skinner
“Our truck was just incredible on the long runs. But I knew when we got by Bowyer that there was no chance I was going to get [Skinner]. I saw earlier in the race that I was behind him for about 15 laps before my car came in and I could get by him. Our trucks were definitely equal on the short runs and mine was better on the long runs. I hated to see all those cautions at the end. We just didn’t get the long run we needed, but our Tundra was pretty good and we’ll take it.” Runner-Up Todd Bodine
“Skinner just did what he had to do on that restart. It was probably payback. I did what I had to do to win in a race last year [at Texas].” Clint Bowyer
“We didn’t want the No. 2 [Bowyer] to win, and if I had to push someone, I’d rather push my friend than a guy that won’t even talk to you when you walk by.” Todd Bodine on drafting with Mike Skinner
“A lot of people were spinning their tires on the initial start, we spun our tires and got run into from behind. It broke two spoiler braces, and I saw the official pointing to them and knew we’d have to come back in and fix it. (But) we came back from dead last to finish third. We were unbelievably good on the long run. We didn’t have anything for the top two, but we were a third-place truck here tonight. We’re happy, but we’re not satisfied. We’ll be satisfied when we’re sitting where Skinner is right now.” Matt Crafton
The Craftsman Truck Series takes another break; this time, it’s only 2 weeks as the series will head to Virginia for the Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday, March 31st. The qualfying record at Martinsville is held by Rick Crawford with a speed of 95.966 mph, and the defending winner of the race is David Starr. Coverage begins at 3:00 pm EST on FOX, the first time in history a Craftsman Truck Series race will be broadcast by that network. The race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.
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