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In a Nutshell: Ron Hornaday Jr. took the checkered flag ahead of Jack Sprague to win the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway Saturday evening. The defending series winner led the final 55 laps in a caution-filled race, holding off his teammate during the final restart with two laps to go. Colin Braun, Johnny Benson, and Mike Skinner rounded out the top five finishers.
Who Should Have Won: Hornaday. Hornaday Jr. and teammate Sprague were fast straight off of their haulers. The driver of the No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet led the first practice, and followed that up in qualifying with a pole-winning run. That strength carried over to the race itself; Hornaday Jr. led 136 of the scheduled 167 laps.
Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race
Cobb and Theriault each made their Craftsman Truck Series debuts with Derrike Cope Inc. Saturday evening, but neither one left much of an impression on the series.
Both Cobb in the No. 74 Providence Medical Center Dodge and Theriault in the No. 73 Derrike Cope Inc./RMR Dodge missed the first practice, and things only went downhill from there. Cobb qualified her No. 74 an abysmal 36th, and final practice didn’t show much promise to make things better. Her fastest lap of 151.248 mph (35.703 seconds) was 35th quickest and more than 15 mph slower than the leaders. Like her teammate, Theriault struggled in qualifying, posting a 34th-quickest lap. In final practice, Michelle ran 36th quickest at 149.460 mph (36.130 seconds).
Neither driver lasted very long once the green flag flew over the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250. Theriault’s No. 73 Dodge lasted just 16 laps before electrical problems proved terminal, and Cobb’s No. 74 Dodge ran only 31 laps before engine failure ended her hopes of a decent finish. The two finished 35th and 33rd, respectively.
While their debuts were definitely something to forget, it’s never easy to start up in a new series, and it’s even harder when you have a brand new team underneath you. All Cobb and Theriault can do is take the little bit of track time and experience they did get and start building on it.
2. Should Braun be showing more respect to series veterans?
On lap 83, rookie of the year contender Braun ran into the back of Matt Crafton‘s No. 88 Menards/McGuire-Nicholas Chevrolet, sending him into the turn 4 wall. Crafton went on to finish the race three laps down in 21st; following the race, Crafton confronted Braun on pit road, where Braun admitted fault and apologized.
“First off, I want to apologize to Matt Crafton. I did not mean to get in the back of him there,” Braun said in his post-race press conference. “We were just having a tough, tight race there and me being a rookie, unfortunately, I got in the back of him and I feel real bad that we wrecked his day. He had a fast truck and I didn’t mean to do that, that’s for sure.
Later, Sprague and Braun were in a three-way battle for third with Benson when Braun moved low on the track, forcing Sprague to take the high line.
“He came down on me, and I could have let him crash,” Sprague said. “I went around him on the outside. I told him, ‘That was a gift, but don’t mess with me again.’ He has to stop running into people. If he wants to win, he has to have respect.”
While being a rookie is no excuse to make poor decisions on the track, Braun proved he’s a rookie learning the fine art of racing in one of NASCAR’s top three series. Sure, he didn’t win any friends when he got into Crafton, but the ability of a rookie to take responsibility when he knows he did something wrong is commendable.
However, Sprague has a little more reason to be upset with the driver of the No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford. If Braun expects to succeed in the Craftsman Truck Series and eventually move to the Nationwide or Sprint Cup divisions, he’s going to have to learn to make friends on the track. If the rookie learns to respect the veterans, he’ll find he has more support when he needs help out there; but if he keeps running into them instead, his time in NASCAR is sure to be tumultuous.
For the first time this season, points leader Busch stepped out of the No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts Toyota Tundra because of schedule conflicts with the Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway. In his place, Billy Ballew Motorsports brought in Sieg as a sub.
Sieg ran ninth quickest in the first practice and 14th in the final practice. That solid performance translated when it really mattered; Shane started his No. 51 in 16th and finished 18th, on the lead lap. To get there, though, the young driver had to overcome adversity; on lap 52, Sieg got loose and tapped Brendan Gaughan‘s No. 10 Ford before hitting the turn 4 wall.
Even with that misstep, Sieg’s run certainly wasn’t nearly as exciting as Busch’s runs usually are; but it’s a cinch the man made more friends on the track Saturday evening than Busch normally does. Look for Busch to be back in the No. 51 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in a few weeks, and the aggression to return right along with him.
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 — replaced by Scott Speed at Kansas)
Brian Scott (No. 16)
No. of Rookies in the Race: Six
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: One, Braun finished third
Rookie Of The Race: Braun
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle
The O’Reilly 250 set a record for most cautions in a Craftsman Truck Series race at 12. The previous record of 10 was set July 3rd, 2004.
During the pre-race show at Kansas Speedway, Rick Allen reported that Randy Moss of the New England Patriots plans to start a truck team and hopes to race toward the end of the year. While nothing is “official” yet, a formal announcement is expected this week.
Hornaday Jr.’s win combined with Busch missing the race gave Hornaday Jr. the points lead. He leads Crawford, who moved up three spots this week, by 61 points. Todd Bodine dropped one spot to third, and Dennis Setzer remains in fourth. Benson moved up four spots into the fifth position.
Busch dropped five spots to the sixth position, 130 points back from Hornaday Jr., and Crafton dropped one spot to seventh. Chad McCumbee and Sprague jumped five and six spots, respectively, to eighth and ninth. Ted Musgrave moved up one spot and rounds out the top 10 finishers.
“This thing was just a rocket ship. It’s a brand new truck. You don’t have trucks like that, it was awesome.” – Ron Hornaday Jr., race winner
“We didn’t pit when everybody else did, and we used our stuff up getting back to the front. We wanted it bad.” – Jack Sprague
Up Next: The Craftsman Truck Series takes three more weeks off and heads to Lowe’s Motor Speedway for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 on Friday, May 16th. Hornaday Jr. won this race in 2007; coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on SPEED, and the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.