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In A Nutshell: After a season of frustration, Mike Skinner finally broke through to score his first win of 2006 Saturday night in the Smith’s Las Vegas 350. Taking the lead on the final restart on lap 126, Skinner held off Ted Musgrave by .309 seconds to score his first career victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Mike Bliss, Johnny Benson and Ron Hornaday rounded out the top five.
Who Should Have Won: Skinner. Skinner started on the pole for the third consecutive time at Las Vegas and had the dominant truck all night. He led 114 of the 149 laps Saturday evening, but unlike other races this season, where he’s squandered a late lead due to mechanical failure or poor late-race adjustments, he was able to push towards the front when it counted – at the finish.
Two Questions You Should Be Asking After this Weekend’s Race
1) Was repaving Las Vegas a good idea?
Coming into the race this weekend, there was speculation about whether the newly repaved Las Vegas Motor Speedway would improve the quality of the event, but the new surface proved to be successful Saturday night. The racing action was exciting, spanned multiple grooves, and no major crashes occurred. Overall, it looked like repaving the Las Vegas Motor Speedway was a great idea and should be a good improvement for the Cup cars in March.
2) Did his win Saturday night give Skinner momentum for the rest of the season?
Skinner has started on the pole six different times this season, but before Saturday night, he had been unable to finish the race where he started. Finally, he and his team found the right configuration for his truck and managed to stay out of trouble on the track and on pit road to win their first race this season. Anytime a team wins, they have tremendous momentum going into the weeks following the win, so Skinner will definitely be one to watch for the next few weeks now that his bad luck appears to be behind him.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle
After struggling for most of the evening, Todd Bodine finished 12th and maintained his points lead. However, he did take a 33-point hit in the process, as Benson placed fourth and currently sits just 91 points out of the top spot. Musgrave’s second-place finish Saturday night moved him back up to fourth in the standings behind David Reutimann, while Rick Crawford and David Starr each dropped a position to fifth and sixth. Hornaday, Bliss, Jack Sprague and Terry Cook round out the top 10.
“It’s about time. This team has been strong enough to win races all year. It’s either been the driver messing up, or a mechanical problem, or a pit stop going wrong, or that caution flag. And, I was praying that a caution wouldn’t come out those last five laps. We’ve dominated so many races this season and come up short. This easily could have been our fifth win this year.” – race winner Mike Skinner
“That does put some wind back in the sails after last week. We came out and had a strong run and that’s what these guys need. I’ve never finished out of the top three in the points, and last week certainly didn’t help that effort, but we are in the strongest part of our season. I traditionally make a pretty good charge late, and we are definitely going down swinging.” – runner-up Ted Musgrave
“I was definitely surprised with how well the race went. I didn’t expect the high side to be as good as it was. We went up there a couple of times and were able to make some moves. I wasn’t too thrilled about it… but it worked out.” – Mike Bliss on the new racing surface
Next Up: The Craftsman Truck Series will run its 20th race of the season, the Talladega 250, in two weeks at the Talladega Superspeedway. This will be the Truck Series’ first visit to Talladega. Qualifying will be Friday, and the race will be Saturday afternoon. Television coverage begins at 3 p.m. ET live on SPEED, and the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.