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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: 2008 AAA Insurance 200 at Dover

Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks

In a Nutshell: Scott Speed took the checkered flag 3.379 seconds ahead of Jack Sprague to win the AAA Insurance 200 Friday night at Dover International Raceway. A two-tire pit stop with just 67 laps remaining helped Speed gain valuable track position and, ultimately, the win. Ron Hornaday Jr., Travis Kvapil and Matt Crafton rounded out the top five.

Who Should Have Won: Kyle Busch. Busch led the first 96 laps before smoke forced him to take the No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts Toyota to the garage. It took the team just 19 laps to change a faulty transmission; but unfortunately for this team, their chance for victory was thrown out the window. Once back on the track, Busch did manage to gain two of his laps back, but was left to finish 27th, 17 laps down.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. Will Erik Darnell ever be able to run well at Dover?

Darnell has never started or finished better than 18th at Dover International Raceway. In 2006, Darnell started 24th and finished 25th, four laps down, but managed to improve upon that in 2007 – he started 21st and finished 18th. This year wasn’t much different. Darnell struggled with the No. 99 Northern Tool+Equipment Ford right off of the truck, running 18th and 19th in practice before qualifying 18th.

Darnell’s truck was extremely tight to start the race on Friday and had dropped back to 23rd within two laps of the green flag flying. Then, with 86 laps remaining, Todd Bodine hit the inside of the No. 99 and sent it towards the wall. Amazingly, Darnell was able to keep his truck off of the wall, but he ended up with four flat tires that forced him to pit road for repairs. He ended up finishing 25th, five laps down.

“We were tight the whole race. Our Northern Tool+Equipment Ford F-150 wasn’t very good,” Darnell said. “The No. 30 truck [Bodine] just got into the corner a little too hard and ran into us, spun us out, and backed us into the wall a little bit. I thought we had a broken track bar; it looked like it, it felt like it, it looked like it from up top. We brought it into the garage and it wasn’t broken. We lost a couple of laps. It’s just unfortunate.”

Aside from being involved in two wrecks this season and finishing 25th Friday, Darnell hasn’t finished outside the top 12 – so the team is on the right track. The Monster Mile can be so unpredictable, especially for young drivers; it looks like it’ll just take some time before Darnell and his team can run well there. Though he dropped three positions in the points standings this week, don’t expect for this disappointing 25th-place finish to hurt him too much in the long run.

2. Where’s Mike Skinner this season?

At this point in the 2007 season, Skinner had scored six poles, three wins and eight top-10 finishes in just eight races. In addition, the driver of the No. 5 found himself in a highly contested points battle with Hornaday that ended at Homestead-Miami Speedway when a broken tire hub left Skinner 54 points short of the series title.

In the first eight races this season, Skinner has just one pole – this week at Dover – six top-10 finishes, and no wins. While six top 10s in eight races is impressive, it’s not what fans were accustomed to seeing last season. Most weeks, you could expect to see Skinner qualify well, lead multiple laps, and win or finish within the top five. So what has happened so far this season?

Every team has their time to shine, and 2007 was certainly that time for Skinner and No. 5 Bill Davis Racing team. An early accident and a 29th-place finish at Daytona started Skinner in the hole for the season, and while he’s still running somewhat competitively, the shine the team had last season seems to have dulled.

But slowly, the No. 5 team has been improving, and Skinner has worked his way up to seventh in the points standings despite his early “slump.” While his year has been far less than impressive – especially compared to 2007 – Skinner could be headed back to the top of his game after scoring his first pole of the season on Friday.

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 Speed at Kansas)
Brian Scott (No. 16)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 6
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 2; Speed and Braun, finished eighth

Rookie of the Race: Speed

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle

Speed’s 3.379 second margin of victory is the largest so far this season. Previously, Busch beat Bodine by 1.415 seconds at Fontana in the second race of the season. It also breaks the record for the greatest margin of victory at the track – 3.052 seconds – set June 2, 2006.

Speed is the Truck Series’ third consecutive first-time winner, and he did it in only six races. Crafton scored his first career win at Lowe’s Motor Speedway May 16th, and Lia took his first trip to victory lane last weekend at Mansfield Motorsports Park. Speed’s win was also the first for Toyota at Dover International Raceway.

Speed got a pedicure and had his toes painted before Friday’s race, and told crew chief Doug Wolcott he “would have better throttle control” as a result. The move also earned Speed the nickname of “Toenail” during the race.

It was announced this week that development driver Michael Annett plans to run seven races this season for Bill Davis Racing. He will share the No. 22 with Speed while Speed works to win the ARCA Re/Max Series championship.

After three weeks in the number two spot and a ninth-place finish Friday night, Rick Crawford moved up one spot and now leads Crafton, who also moved up one spot, by 20 points in the Truck Series standings. Hornaday also moved up two spots, and sits just 24 points out of first. Bodine and Johnny Benson rounded out the top five in the championship chase.

Sprague’s second-place finish moved him up five spots in the points to sixth, while Skinner and David Starr remain in seventh and eighth. Terry Cook dropped three spots to ninth, and Chad McCumbee rounds out the top 10.

Quotable

“[Friday] we had a good strategy and an awesome truck, and we got everything we could out of it. The learning curve I’ve had has been amazing. Every time I go out on the track, I feel I come away with a lot of knowledge. I’m just having an awesome time trying to learn this sport.” – Scott Speed, race winner

“I could barely outrun [Hornaday] with a sour motor. After the green [on lap 179], I got tight again. Dammit! I want to win.” – Jack Sprague

“He’s [Scott Speed] a winner in the Craftsman Truck Series now, so he’ll fit right in.” – Ron Hornaday Jr., finished third

Up Next: The Craftsman Truck Series heads south to Texas Motor Speedway for the Sam’s Town 400 next Friday night. Last season, Bodine beat Skinner to the checkered flag to score his first of two wins in 2007. Coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. ET on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.