NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: 2007 Easy Care Vehicle Service Contracts 200 at Atlanta

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In a Nutshell: Kyle Busch took the lead with eight laps remaining to win the Easy Care Vehicle Service Contracts 200 over Ron Hornaday. Johnny Benson, Mark Martin and Mike Skinner rounded out the top five. Busch took the checkered flag 0.971 seconds ahead of his competition to become the first repeat Truck Series winner at Atlanta Motor Speedway; he also won in 2005. Meanwhile, Hornaday’s second-place finish allowed him to retake the points lead over Skinner by just four points with three races left.

Who Should Have Won: Busch. Busch led the first practice Friday afternoon and ran only four laps in the final practice session because he was so happy with the truck. The Nextel Cup regular took his No. 51 Red Top Auto Action Chevrolet to a third-place starting position in his eighth race this season.

That allowed Busch to jump out front early, but he was black-flagged during the race because his window net was unhooked. However, just as he was getting ready to pull down pit road to get the net rehooked, the caution came out, allowing him to get his window net fixed without losing a lap and remain in contention for the win. He took the lead back with just eight laps remaining and led a race-high 65 laps overall. “It was vibrating off every lap and I was putting it back on every straightaway. That was an experience,” Busch said of his window net, grinning. “I’ve never done that before.”

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. Is Jacques Villeneuve adapting well?

Now that Villeneuve has four races under his belt, it’s a good time to evaluate the progress he has made since joining the Truck Series in late September. The former Formula 1 driver looked like he would fit right in when he qualified seventh in his first attempt at Las Vegas; he went on to finish 21st, one lap off the pace. But he followed his debut up with disappointing DNFs at both Talladega and Martinsville, leaving his crash count at three in three races entered. But Saturday afternoon, Villeneuve showed that he and the No. 27 team could be a real threat if they can just bring the truck home in one piece. He qualified 17th and finished 14th, on the lead lap with his best run to date. It seems that if the Canadian can just stay out of trouble on the track, the possibilities are endless.

2. Who will be in the top 10 when the season ends at Homestead-Miami Speedway?

All eyes have been on the points leaders as they’ve switched the lead numerous times through the last several weeks, but a tight race is shaping up for the last few positions in the top 10. Following the Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway, positions nine through 11 were separated by just 23 points. Erik Darnell sat in ninth, with Jack Sprague and David Starr behind him.

But Darnell finished 26th, four laps down in Atlanta, while Starr finished 15th. That allowed Starr to move up to ninth in points, where he leads Sprague by just eight with three races left. Two points outside the top 10, Darnell sits in 11th, currently in position to be the odd man out when it comes to getting on stage at the Truck Series banquet the end of the year. Only time will tell how the top 10 will shake out, but Darnell is the most likely to stay on the outside looking in. He has dropped three positions in the standings in just two weeks.

Truck Rookie Report
2007 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Willie Allen (No. 13)
Blake Bjorklund (driving part-time for Haas CNC Racing in the Busch Series)
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: 1

Rookie of the Race: Clanton, finished sixth

Rookie Points Leader: Willie Allen

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle

For the fifth consecutive race, Skinner and Hornaday swapped the top spot in the standings. Hornaday now leads Skinner by just four points in a battle that’s likely to go down to the wire at Homestead. Travis Kvapil remains in third, but he’s 320 points back and is all but eliminated from the title Chase. Behind him, Benson and Todd Bodine are tied for fourth – but Benson has the upper hand, with three wins to Bodine’s two.

Quotable

“Our truck was really good on the short runs for about 20 laps, and then would fall off a little more than everybody else. But it was good when it counted the most.” – Kyle Busch

“Impossible, and he did it. I seen it for eight laps. He had that thing sideways with one hand. That was awesome.” – Ron Hornaday, about Kyle Busch driving his truck one-handed while trying to keep his window net up

“It is good to run this good in front of our hometown. We were bottoming out in qualifying. It looked kind of ugly, and it felt kind of ugly – but our guys hung with it. They made the right changes and the right calls during the race, and set up our track position (for the finish).” – Joey Clanton

Up Next: The Craftsman Truck Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway for another of its Friday night races under the lights. The Silverado 350K will be broadcast at 9:00 p.m. on SPEED, with the pre-race show starting at 8:30 on both television and your local MRN affiliate.

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