Last weekend at Mansfield Motorsports Park, rookie of the year contender Donny Lia surprised himself and the world of NASCAR with his last-lap pass on David Starr to score his first career Craftsman Truck Series victory in just his eighth start. When Starr took the white flag for the final half-mile around the track, his first win since 2006 seemed inevitable until heavy contact from Lia caused the truck to break loose from the driver of the No. 11 Pit-Now.com Toyota Tundra.
But Lia isn’t the only rookie who ran well at Mansfield. While Keven Wood isn’t competing for Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors, he is still a Truck Series rookie, having made only one start in the series prior to last Saturday. The 23-year-old started in 18th and ran as high as 13th before a tight truck forced him to pit; he went on to finish 22nd. Keven hands the No. 21 back to cousin Jon for the next few races, but will be back behind the wheel June 20th at the Milwaukee Mile.
Andy Lally, Colin Braun and Marc Mitchell – all Rookie of the Year contenders – started in the top 10 at Mansfield last weekend. Less than 50 laps into the race, Braun found himself in a hole when he made contact with a spinning Ron Hornaday Jr. After receiving the “Aaron’s Lucky Dog” and getting his lap back, Braun had his No. 6 Ford up to 21st before contact from a spinning Lally negated any gains Braun had made. The 19-year-old worked his way back to a 16th-place finishing position and could have done much better had his truck not been damaged.
“It makes racing pretty boring and not really much fun when you get wrecked early on like that,” Braun said. “You look up to these veteran guys for how to race and how to handle yourself and I don’t think some of those guys did that this weekend. It’s just disappointing.”
Along with Braun, Lally showed some promise at Mansfield last weekend, starting a career-best fourth. Lally ran in the top 10 most of the day and ended up finishing 14th. The last two weeks, Lally has scored top-20 finishes and has improved upon an average finish of 29th in the four races prior to Charlotte. Should the TRG Motorsports team continue to improve, expect to see Lally score a top-10 finish before season’s end.
Brian Scott had high hopes for a decent run in the Ohio 250 after starting 31st, but he was running 14th with 38 laps to go when hard contact with Matt Crafton sent him spinning. Prior to the contact with Crafton, Rick Crawford ran into the back of the driver of the No. 16 Albertsons Chevrolet just to gain a position on the track. Scott worked his way up to 25th by the time the checkered flag flew.
Following the race, Crawford walked down pit road apologizing to others for any contact made during the race, but when he reached Scott, his tone changed. “I hit you but I didn’t spin you,” Crawford said. “I would like to say I didn’t do it on purpose but I can’t. All I can say is that I just couldn’t help myself.” Scott simply said, “I felt like a pinball out there.”
While the rookies fell off of the map shortly after the season opener at Daytona, they’re starting to make more of name for themselves again. The Rookie of the Year title should be a close one between Braun and Lia. Lally might be able to make a run at Lia and Braun if he and his No. 7 TRG Motorsports team can continue to run like they did last weekend at Mansfield. The other contenders are strong rookies, but right now Braun and Lia seem to be in a class of their own.
News and Notes From Around the Series
Kyle Busch Running a Full Weekend
Busch returns to the seat of the No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts Toyota tonight for the AAA Insurance 200. Teammate Shane Sieg will be running the No. 15 Miccosukee Resorts Toyota in place of Mitchell, who plans to run 21 of the 25 races this season. Busch will also be running the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series races in hopes of becoming only the second driver to win a race in all three tiers of NASCAR at Dover; Mark Martin achieved that feat when he added a Truck Series win at Dover in 2006.
Did You Know?
- Kurt Busch is the only Raybestos Rookie to win a Truck Series race at Dover? The older Busch beat Greg Biffle to win in 2000 after leading just nine laps, the fewest ever led by a race winner at the Monster Mile.
- The last time the Truck Series saw back-to-back first time winners was in 2003? Roush Racing teammates Jon Wood and Carl Edwards scored their first career victories at Kansas and Kentucky respectively.
- Travis Kvapil is returning to the Truck Series this weekend? Kvapil returns to the seat of the No. 09 Zaxby’s Ford after John Wes Townley‘s debut in the truck last weekend. Kvapil hopes to add Dover to his win list and become the only driver to win at all three concrete tracks on the circuit.
- Hornaday Jr. holds the most concrete track wins of active drivers in the Truck Series? Hornaday Jr. has three wins across Bristol and Dover and hopes to add a fourth this weekend.