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Tracking the Trucks: 2008 American Commercial Lines 200 at Atlanta

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In a Nutshell: Kyle Busch took the checkered flag 1.116 seconds ahead of Ron Hornaday Jr. Friday night in Atlanta to win the American Commercial Lines 200. Busch restarted in the lead with just four laps remaining after a short rain delay and promptly ran away from the field, scoring his second consecutive win in the Truck Series. Mike Skinner, Matt Crafton and Chad McCumbee rounded out the top-five finishers.

Who Should Have Won: Hornaday. The defending Truck Series champion started from the pole Friday night and led 81 of 130 laps. The series veteran clearly had the fastest truck on the track most of the night; however, rain at the wrong times hampered his run for the win.

After pitting with just 16 laps remaining after the caution flew for precipitation, the driver of the No. 33 Camping World Chevy found himself stuck in traffic that allowed Busch to not only pass him, but take a nearly two-second lead. A four-lap sprint to the finish then turned out to be too much for Hornaday Jr., whose truck was best on long runs.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. Can anyone stop Kyle Busch?

Busch has come out of the gate this season strong. With two wins and a second-place finish in the first three races, it’s hard not to notice the 22-year-old’s success in the series. But can anyone stop his early domination?

It’s apparent Busch is a great driver, especially when he can race four-wide on the apron and still hold onto his truck (as he did en route to charging through the pack). Hornaday Jr. nearly had something for Busch this time around, but he just couldn’t quite get it done. Since Busch plans to run the majority of the Truck Series races this season, get used to seeing him in victory lane – because that’s not going to change. One good thing does come out of Busch running all over the field, though: he donates all of his winnings to team owner Billy Ballew, which helps the two-truck operation stay in business.

2. Is the Truck Series in trouble?

With the exception of the season opener at Daytona International Speedway, the Craftsman Truck Series has seen dwindling numbers each week on their entry list. Only 35 teams and drivers were on hand for the San Bernardino County 200, and just 33 were on the entry list for Atlanta until the No. 29 Dodge of Scott Lynch withdrew – amidst rumors his full-time team has closed shop for good. Is this a signal of major trouble brewing in the series?

It’s too early to say the shrinking fields are a huge problem… yet. But in a series that produces some of the best racing on the track, the big problem is getting low-budget teams to come to the races. The closing of teams such as Lynch’s No. 29 could be cause for concern moving forward; teams like the No. 31 of Brevak Racing and the No. 63 of MB Motorsports have been missing from racing action since Daytona. I’m confident that once we get to traditionally high-entry tracks such as Martinsville, some of the low-budget teams should show up and there will be nothing to worry about; but the trend of low numbers on the entry list each week is definitely something to keep an eye on.

Truck Rookie Report
2008 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Colin Braun (No. 6)
Andy Lally (No. 7)
Donny Lia (No. 71)
Justin Marks (No. 9)
Marc Mitchell (No. 15)
Phillip McGilton (No. 22)
Brian Scott (No. 16)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 7
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 0

Rookie of the Race: Marks, finished 14th

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle

Busch continues to have a perfect record at Atlanta Motor Speedway, having won the three races he has entered there in a truck.

Former Formula 1 driver Scott Speed finished three laps down in 27th in his first ever Truck Series race. Look for him to return to the No. 46 truck again in a few weeks at Martinsville.

In the points standings, Busch remains the championship leader by 72 over Todd Bodine. Hornaday Jr. jumped six spots up to third, while Chad McCumbee jumped three spots to fourth. Johnny Benson rounded out the top-five finishers.

Rick Crawford dropped one position to sixth, while Skinner jumped nine spots to seventh. David Starr dropped four spots to eighth, while Dennis Setzer and rookie McGilton rounded out the top 10.

Quotable

“That baby was evil-loose – it was all over the place. But we got it handling really well on that last pit stop, and from that point on, it was a rocket ship.” – Kyle Busch, race winner

“I’ll tell you in one word, ‘Second stinks.’ I don’t know how he [Busch] can drive that thing that far out of control. I knew if we had a short run, he was going to get me. But we’ll take second. It was a good points day, but it’s a shame – this thing was fast.” – Ron Hornaday Jr.

Up Next: The Craftsman Truck Series takes two weeks off before heading to the short track of Martinsville, Va. on Saturday, March 29th. Skinner swept both races at the track in 2007. Coverage of the event begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on SPEED, and the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

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