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In a Nutshell: Johnny Benson took the checkered flag ahead of Ron Hornaday Jr. under caution for his second consecutive win during the Missouri/Illinois Dodge Dealers Ram Tough 200 Saturday night at Gateway International Raceway. Midway through the race, Benson found himself in 20th after running near the front most of the race, but a strong truck allowed him to race through the field for the win. Defending race winner Ted Musgrave finished third. Todd Bodine and Regan Smith rounded out the top five.
Who Should Have Won: Benson. At one point, Benson pretty much could have counted himself out of the race. A lugnut came loose when his crew was changing left-side tires, dropping Benson from running near the front to 20th. Benson passed Hornaday on lap 147 and had a near-perfect truck for the rest of the race.
“I was driving halfway mad after that happened and that’s not a good thing here,” Benson said. “The guys had a lugnut come loose and we had to come back down to get it on. We were able to make it back to the front but we purposely slowed down our last stop just to make sure that didn’t happen. We knew picking up five spots would be a lot easier than having to come from 20th again.”
Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race
1. How was Kenny Wallace‘s return to the Truck Series?
After more than 10 years away, Kenny Wallace made his return to the Truck Series. He ran the No. 51 Flanders Beef Patties Chevrolet for Billy Ballew. Kelly Sutton, Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and Aric Almirola are sharing the No. 51 truck this season. Wallace ran in the top 10 a few times before finishing in 13th on the lead lap. The St. Louis native should be proud of his run after being away from the series so long.
2. Is this the momentum breaker that will cost Mike Skinner the title?
Points leader Skinner started on the pole, his ninth of the season and led the first 30 laps Saturday evening at Gateway. His right-front tire shredded, sending him behind the wall for repairs. Skinner finished 65 laps down in 28th. While Skinner did lose the points lead to Hornaday, he hasn’t lost his momentum – yet. This was only Skinner’s second finish outside the top 10, and his last one came three races ago at O’Reilly Raceway Park where he finished 20th. It’s hard to call this something that will cost Skinner the title right now. He certainly has some work to do, but being only four points out of the championship lead, anything can still happen.
“I had actually backed off and started to try to look at the big picture,” Skinner said. “But we corded two tires in practice and we had another one go down on us in the race. We always run well here but we just have no luck. We crashed here last year and we crashed this year too.”
Truck Rookie Report
2007 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Willie Allen (No. 13)
Blake Bjorklund (currently without a Truck Series ride)
Aaron Fike (suspended indefinitely)
Matt McCall (currently without a Truck Series ride)
Tim Sauter (No. 07)
Tyler Walker (suspended indefinitely)
Kelly Bires (currently racing the No. 47 in the Busch Series)
Joey Clanton (No. 09) (16 races)
Casey Kingsland (currently without a Truck Series ride)
Peter Shepherd (No. 50)
Jason White (No. 7)
No. of Rookies in the Race: 4
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 0
Rookie of the Race: Allen (No. 13) – Finished 12th after starting 10th
Current Rookie Points Leader: Tim Sauter (No. 07) – leads Allen (No. 13) 135-132 after finishing 31st.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle
Skinner earned his ninth pole of the season, one shy of tying his own record from 1995. Skinner led the first 30 laps before a blown tire took him out of contention for the win. He was relegated to a 28th-place finish that mixed up the championship standings a little.
Hornaday leaves Gateway International Raceway the points leader by just four points over Skinner. Travis Kvapil is 194 points behind in third, and Bodine remains in fourth. Benson’s second consecutive win was enough to propel him into the top five, 420 points behind.
“It was extremely difficult to cut through the field. I abused my truck. It’s extremely tired and needs a nap.” – Johnny Benson
“I knew he [Benson] was coming, anybody catching me as fast as he did was going to pass me. We needed a good points day. I saw Mike [Skinner] go out; it was awesome. We would have liked to have won and gained 10 more points, but we’ll take second.” – Ron Hornaday Jr.
Up Next: The Craftsman Truck Series heads to New Hampshire International Speedway in two weeks for the New Hampshire 200 on September 15th. The qualifying record dates back to 2001 when Sprague ran a 128.091-mph lap. In 2006, Benson started on the outside pole and took the checkered flag for his fourth win; Benson went on to win one more race that season. Coverage begins Saturday afternoon at 2:30 p.m. ET on SPEED. The race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.