NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: 2006 Ford 200 at Homestead

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In a Nutshell: Mark Martin, making his final Truck Series start for Roush Racing, won his grand finale Friday night in the Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The win was Martin’s sixth of the season in just 14 starts. Second-place Brendan Gaughan finished 2.613 seconds behind Martin, with Erik Darnell, Bobby Hamilton Jr. and Jack Sprague rounding out the top five.

Who Should Have Won: Martin. Martin clearly owned the emotional edge going into his final race in the No. 6 Scotts Ford F-150. He took the lead for the final time with just 31 laps remaining, leading a total of 57 of 134 laps on the night en route to the victory. Gaughan didn’t let Martin take the checkered flag easily, spending quite a while racing him side-by-side… but in the end, it was clearly Martin’s race to win.

Question You Should Be Asking After This Weekend’s Race

1. What can we expect out of rookie Erik Darnell next season?

Rookie Darnell had a less than spectacular season with just four top fives and 12 top-10 finishes. However, Darnell was awarded Rookie of the Race the most out of any of the Truck rookie class this season (15 times). Named 2006 Rookie of the Year for his efforts, as Darnell continues to learn and adjust, it’s only a matter of time before he breaks through into victory lane. Look for Darnell to get his first Craftsman Truck Series win during his sophomore season on tour.

Points Shuffle

Todd Bodine wrapped up the Craftsman Truck Series championship with an underwhelming 21st-place finish after fighting a vibration all night. The youngest of three racing brothers, Todd is the first Bodine to be crowned champion of any NASCAR series since the family started racing in 1981. Johnny Benson, who started the race 112 points behind Bodine, finished 127 points back after being caught up in two separate incidents on the track; he finished 26th in the race, ending up just nine points ahead of third-place points finisher David Reutimann. David Starr and Sprague rounded out the top five.

Behind the title contenders, Ted Musgrave dropped two positions to sixth, while Ron Hornaday dropped a spot to seventh. With a strong run at Homestead, Terry Cook jumped two positions to eighth, while Rick Crawford and Mike Skinner rounded out the top 10.

Rookie of the Year recipient Darnell finished 12th in the final standings.

Quotable

“That was a lot of fun racing the No. 77 like that. He had it wound up in the outside lane. That’s why this type of track is so good. It has aged well, and you have grooves all over that you can race. He was good up top and we were good down low. The good thing is, we had the time to race him and do it right because we didn’t have anyone behind us to pressure us. I wasn’t going to do anything that crashed him or crashed us.” – race winner Mark Martin

“The South Point Racing Team is back on the right track. To come out and run this way against the Roush juggernaut says volumes about the work this team has done to get turned around. Tony Liberati came in and tore our shop apart and got us turned around. Now with Bryan Berry leading things, we’ve stepped it up. I knew when Mark [Martin] dropped back he was cooling his tires. My spotter called down and said we needed to get ours cool, too. If we could have held him off for about four more laps, his tires would have been as warm as ours, and I think we could have given him a run for the money.” – runner-up Brendan Gaughan

“We kind of got bit on pit road a couple of times tonight. The guys nailed the last stop, and we got pretty good track position. John [Quinn] made the right adjustments on the No. 99 Woolrich Ford. I didn’t quite have enough for Mark [Martin], but if we had another five laps, I think we could have raced Brendan [Gaughan] for second.” – 2006 Rookie of the Year Erik Darnell

Next Up: The season may be over for the CTS, but the celebration has just begun! The 12th annual Craftsman Truck Series Awards Banquet will be December 10th at Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort in Orlando, Fla.

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