The Frontstretch: Frontstretch Breakdown : Kroger 250 by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Sunday April 1, 2007

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Frontstretch Breakdown : Kroger 250

Beth Lunkenheimer · Sunday April 1, 2007

 

In a Nutshell: Mike Skinner led the way and the rest of the field followed Saturday during the Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway. Despite 15 cautions and a green-white-checkered finish, Skinner was able to hold on and finish 0.527 seconds ahead of Todd Bodine to win his third straight race in the Truck Series. Rick Crawford, Kevin Harvick, and Ted Musgrave rounded out the Top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Skinner. The driver of the No. 5 Toyota Tundra has it all together this season, and Saturday was another dominating performance; he started on the pole and led all but 7 laps Saturday afternoon. Although Todd Bodine, who battled flu-like symptoms all day, was able to run steadily with Skinner, he was never really a threat for the lead. The only driver who could have threatened Skinner was Kevin Harvick, but a late race spin ended his chances.

Three Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:

1. Is this Mike Skinner’s year to add another championship to his collection?

It may be a little early to be talking about it, since there are still 21 races left to go, but Mike Skinner and Jeff Hensley seem as unstoppable this season as Todd Bodine and Mike Hillman, Jr. were last year. With three wins in just four races, Skinner and the No. 5 Toyota Tundra team are well on their way to contending for a title.

2. How about Aaron Fike?

Rookie Aaron Fike left you wondering if he was truly a rookie on Saturday afternoon. A spin in turn one on lap 174 caused him to lose a lap, but the Lucky Dog pass went Fike’s way just eight laps later, and he took full advantage of the opportunity. Taking on four tires, Fike began a daring charge through the field. Winding up in 7th place, the highest finishing rookie, Fike could have weaved his way even higher through the field if he hadn’t needed to avoid the slowing car of Chase Miller in front of him.

3. Will Chevy and Ford win soon?

Mike Skinner’s win Saturday marked Toyota’s third straight victory at Martinsville, but more importantly, it was Toyota’s fourth win this season in four attempts. During the 2006 season, Toyota was the winningest manufacturer with 12 wins out of 25 starts, and they are well on their way to upping that performance in ’07. The Truck Series heads to Kansas next, where Terry Cook won in his No. 59 Ford F-150 when the series visited there last year. It’s about time for Chevrolet and Ford to break through and head to Victory Lane, but don’t expect it to happen anytime soon.

Worth Noting / Points Race :

Mike Skinner broke an almost ten-year-old record Saturday afternoon when he led 246 of the 253 laps at Martinsville. The old record was previously 204 laps, held by Rich Bickle.

Kelly Sutton is returning to the Craftsman Truck Series after a one-year absence. She signed a deal with Billy Ballew Motorsports on Saturday that will find her behind the wheel of the No. 51 Team Copaxone Chevrolet Silverado for four races. Her first start will be at Kansas the end of the month.

After another solid win this week, Mike Skinner extended his points lead to 94 over Todd Bodine. Rick Crawford moved up four positions to 3rd, but is already 143 points out of first place. Ron Hornaday and Ted Musgrave round out the Top 5.

Jack Sprague and Matt Crafton both dropped out of Top 5 points positions after Martinsville and sit 6th and 7th, respectively. Rookie Aaron Fike, who moved up three positions this week, sits in 10th. Johnny Benson and Travis Kvapil find themselves eighth and ninth, rounding out your Top 10 points positions.

Truck Rookie Report
2007 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Willie Allen
Blake Bjorklund
Aaron Fike
Matt McCall
Tim Sauter
Tyler Walker
Kelly Bires ( 19 races in the No. 21 and 1 race in the No. 16 )
Joey Clanton ( 16 races )
Casey Kingsland ( 24 races )
Peter Shepherd ( 22 races )

No. of Rookies in the Race: 7
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 2
No. of Rookies to Finish the Race: 5
No. of Rookies to Finish on the Lead Lap: 3

Raybestos Rookie Of The Race: Aaron Fike
Current Rookie Point Leader: Aaron Fike

Quotable:

"That was cool, wasn't it? We knew we didn't expect to win this race and we certainly didn't expect to sit on the pole today. I guess it wasn't a fluke, the truck hauled butt all day. The truck was so awesome and Jeff Hensley (crew chief) has given me such great stuff. TRD (Toyota Racing Development) has given us incredible engines. I remember a couple years ago these Toyotas wouldn't run on these short race tracks. All the guys at TRD and Toyota have done a great job. Tundra is moving forward - it's the truck that's changing it all! My spotter just kept telling me to be easy getting into that first turn. I said; ‘That's where they're going to run into me.' If we could get two laps under our belt, then we could slow down and this thing would just go. You could get to the center of the corner and stomp the floor down and it would just stick. We went and tested at a little hideaway of mine and it was definitely a test worth going and doing. There are a bunch of other guys that if they would have been behind me, we wouldn't have won. But Todd Bodine was a gentleman and what goes around, comes around. He has shown a lot of professionalism, that's why he was the champion - because he was smart." Mike Skinner

“I want to thank Red Horse Racing for the truck I had today. It’s easy to come back from that kind of a deficit when you have that good of a truck.” Aaron Fike

"Mike (Skinner) and Jeff (Hensley) had an awesome truck, that thing would roll the center and he could just stomp the gas and go. I could stomp the gas and go, but I couldn't roll through the center as good as he could. I got us in a real hole qualifying, I just wasn't on top of the wheel and it's just one of those things. With good pit strategy, we got up to the front, that's what we needed with track position being so critical here at Martinsville. We knew if we could get there, we could hold on a little bit. I figured we would get passed by a couple, but the adjustments that Mike (Hillman, Jr., crew chief) made really brought the truck around and it started rolling better. Hats off to Mike Skinner and Jeff Hensley, they've got it going on." Todd Bodine

"The truck's beat up, but the driver's okay. It was a typical Martinsville race. Our truck was a top-five truck and that's where we finished. We didn't have a winning truck and I figured that out when I was following Mike (Skinner) early on in the race. We think we know what the difference was and I think when we come back here in the fall, we'll come back with something a little different again. Nothing off the wall, but something that we haven't seen in a couple years. We just have to go back and re-evaluate things, but the Team ASE Tundra was a top-five truck all day, we just had to be patient and sometimes it's hard to keep the driver patient. This was the worst I've ever seen for lap-down trucks on the inside — it was absolutely death-defying. You could never get a run going because every caution breeds another caution. That was the tough thing because you couldn't get your rhythm going. Once you did finally beat and bang off of them, another caution would come out and we'd have to start all over again. I think I ran into the same guys 20 times in the last 80 laps and it was the same group of guys. It's a tough deal and it's Martinsville, but I'm just glad we only have to come here twice a year." Ted Musgrave

“I think we had a way better truck I just couldn’t out drag race the No. 30, he was parking the thing in the middle in the middle of the corner and doing what he had to do to stay on the bottom. I leaned on him a few times there and with 50 to go, it was really time to start going. This Camping World Chevrolet was awesome; I feel like after two or three laps it was better than the No. 30 and the No. 5, the No. 30 for sure. I felt like we could have at least raced the No.5 but wrong place wrong time. Brendan (Gaughan) thought the No. 88 was giving him room and it was just one of those deals. The track stayed really consistent and for the most part, we didn’t have any tire trouble, we just had to take care of the thing in the beginning of a run to keep the tires on it.” Kevin Harvick

“Tough day, our guys did a good job we just got spun a couple of times, once by one of my fellow Silverado drivers which was a little aggravating. It was really stupid, we had made a lot of headway up there, but it happens. Our guys worked hard to get us back out there and we salvaged a decent finish, just wish it had been better for our Spears Manufacturing Silverado team. Everybody on this team is working hard, I am working my tail off, all these guys are working their tails off and that is our intention to get up there and race these top guys.” Dennis Setzer

Up Next:

The Craftsman Truck Series takes yet another four week break before they head to the Midwest for the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250, held at Kansas Speedway on Saturday, April 28th. Bill Lester holds the qualifying record there with a speed of 173.833 mph, set in 2005; the defending race winner at the track is Terry Cook. Race coverage begins at 5:30 pm EST on Speed, and you can also find the race on your local MRN affiliate.

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