The Craftsman Truck Series is going into their 12th off-weekend of the season, and beside Travis Kvapil and Mike Beam getting penalized for infractions at Kentucky, not much is going on. But the Truck Series has passed an important milestone. Saturday night’s race at Kentucky was race number 13 in the 25-race season. We have officially made it past the halfway point of the season. So how is everything going with the Truck Series?
Mike Skinner has been the class of the series since the beginning of the season. He opened the season with his worst starting position of the year; ninth. Two weeks later, Skinner began a stretch of six poles in a row; he has seven this season. He holds the current series record for leading the most consecutive races at 13 and is only the second Truck Series driver over 50 to win a race; Joe Ruttman is the other. As the weeks go on, Skinner’s season is looking more and more like his championship season in 1995.
Skinner’s closest competition in the points standings has been Ron Hornaday. With two wins this season, Hornaday still sits 164 points back from Skinner and has yet to score his first pole position; his best starting spot was second at Memphis. When the checkered flag dropped at Kentucky, Hornaday’s 10th-place effort marked his 10th top-10 finish in a row and his 12th this season. Even with an average finish of 5.3, Hornaday still finds himself chasing after a driver that hasn’t stumbled at all this season.
Sitting in third, 288 points behind Skinner is Todd Bodine. Bodine has only one win this season, and that win came from the pole at Texas Motor Speedway. Bodine started the season with a fifth-place finish at Daytona and followed that up with five more top-10 finishes before finishing 31st at Mansfield. When a driver has an average finish of 7.5, it’s hard to call his season bad, but compared to last year, the defending champion seems to be struggling. As much as he’d like to, Bodine probably isn’t going to become a repeat champion this season.
Following the Built Ford Tough 225, Kvapil’s truck failed post-race inspection, and he was penalized 25 points under the famous Section 12-4-A “actions detrimental to stock car racing.” Prior to that, Kvapil was tied with Bodine for third in points. His second-place finish at Kentucky marked Kvapil’s seventh top-10 finish in a row and his eighth this season. Kvapil joined Skinner and Hornaday as repeat winners when he won at Memphis. The 25-point penalty put Kvapil 313 points out of first and has all but dashed his hopes of winning the championship this season.
Rick Crawford and Johnny Benson are separated by a mere 10 points. Benson won at Milwaukee, but Crawford has yet to score his first win of the season. Jack Sprague won the first race of the season at Daytona and has scored four top-five finishes since then. The problem with Sprague’s season is that he has finishes of 23rd, 34th, 28th, 26th and 29th to go along with those top-five finishes. Ted Musgrave, the 2005 champion, sits in eighth with Matt Crafton just 30 points behind him.
Aaron Fike and Dennis Setzer are tied for 10th now, but after the race at O’Reilly Raceway Park next weekend that will change. In case you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that Fike was suspended indefinitely by NASCAR after being arrested for possession of heroin and drug paraphernalia. David Green will finish the season in the No. 1 truck. Fike joins rookie Tyler Walker who was suspended last month for violating NASCAR’s substance-abuse policy. Prior to being suspended, Fike led the Raybestos Rookie of the Year points, but that honor has gone to Tim Sauter who currently leads Willie Allen by five points.
This season also saw the return of two drivers. Ruttman and Kelly Sutton both made their return to the Craftsman Truck Series at Kansas Motor Speedway. The 62-year-old Ruttman was back at Bobby Hamilton Racing, this time in the No. 18, at Kansas and is scheduled to run seven races in the truck this season. Sutton was sidelined at Kansas in 2006 by a hard accident, but an agreement with Billy Ballew Racing has put Sutton back behind the wheel for a few races this season. Ruttman finished 25th in the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 while Sutton finished 33rd.
The drivers of the Truck Series have not disappointed this season as usual. Skinner is pretty much running away with the championship, but I’m looking forward to a second half of the season that’s just as exciting as the first.