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NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: 2008 Sam’s Town 400 at Texas

Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks

In a Nutshell: Ron Hornaday Jr. took the checkered flag 0.283 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch to with the Sam’s Town 400 Friday night. The driver of the No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet held onto the lead through a green-white-checker finish to score his first career Texas Motor Speedway victory. Johnny Benson, Jack Sprague and Todd Bodine rounded out the top-five finishers.

Who Should Have Won: Hornaday Jr. Hornaday Jr’s No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet was strong straight off of the truck. Despite high cross winds during both practice sessions, Hornaday Jr. led the first session and ran third quickest in the second session before qualifying his truck third for the race. And once the green flag dropped, Hornaday checked out as he led the most laps – 140 of 172 – on his way to the victory.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. How did Scott Speed fare with no track time?

Prior to the drop of the green flag, Speed had no track time at Texas Motor Speedway. The Truck Series rookie was at Pocono Raceway for ARCA Re/Max Series qualifying Friday afternoon, and flew in just in time to make the race. Bill Davis Racing development driver Michael Annett practiced the No. 22 and qualified 16th in Speed’s place.

However, because Speed missed qualifying and the drivers’ meeting, he was forced to start at the rear of the field Friday night. That didn’t hinder him, though; by lap 76, Speed had worked his No. 22 Red Bull Racing Toyota solidly into the top 10. Later, on lap 129, Speed’s luck changed when his truck got loose, made heavy contact with the No. 14 of Rick Crawford, and started speeding directly at the pit wall; but he managed to steer his truck away from the wall just seconds before making contact with it. Rick Ren, crew chief for Hornaday Jr., credited Speed for the terrific save.

PUGLIESE: SCOTT SPEED THE NEXT BIG THING?

“Somebody could have really gotten hurt on pit road. My hat’s off to him,” commented Ren on the incident.

Somehow, Speed managed to remain on the lead lap and started working his way back through the field. With just three laps remaining, Speed found himself on the inside of a three-wide battle with Mike Skinner and Marc Mitchell for position within the top 15; but the No. 22 got loose, and Speed ran hard into the outside wall to set up the fifth consecutive green-white-checker finish at Texas Motor Speedway. After the incident, he went on to finish a disappointing 26th.

But before getting loose in two separate incidents, Speed was out to impress. Having dropped to the rear of the field, the driver of the No. 22 found himself with Busch and quickly worked his way through the field. Had he not found himself spinning and bouncing off of the wall, Speed could have had a very impressive finish and even competed for the win. Look for this driver to continue to run competitively for the remainder of the 2008 season.

2. How did TJ Bell run in place of Andy Lally?

Lally, driver of the No. 7 TRG Motorsports Chevrolet, wasn’t able to be at Texas Motor Speedway Friday night because he was at Watkins Glen racing in the Grand Am Sports Car Series.

In his place, 27-year-old Bell took the wheel, with sponsorship from Heathcliff’s Cat Litter. Bell ran 15th quickest during the first practice, but dropped off significantly to 27th in the second practice and never seemed to pick it back up. Bell started the No. 7 TRG Motorsports Chevrolet in the 26th position and didn’t get very far before engine failures knocked him out of the race just 39 laps in; he went on to finish 31st.

Bell’s night was definitely one he’d like to forget, as his engine troubles marked the third DNF for the No. 7 in just nine races. It’s not likely Lally would have done any better in the truck, though; and since the problems were engine related and not related to any racing incidents, Lally would have likely found himself out early, too. It looks like his one-week trek to Grand Am came at the perfect time; he wound up finishing a solid 11th at Watkins Glen instead.

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: 0

Rookie of the Race: Mitchell, finished 12th

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle

The Sam’s Town 400 was the 21st Craftsman Truck Series race run at Texas Motor Speedway. Only two active drivers – Terry Cook and Crawford – have started every race at the 1.5-mile track.

JTG Racing shut the doors of their Craftsman Truck Series team last week because the team wasn’t “making progress as fast as they wanted.” Scott Lagasse Jr., who drove for team owner Tad Geschickter, scored his best finish of 19th at Auto Club Speedway in California early this season; he was sitting 28th in the point standings at the time of the closure.

Hornaday Jr.’s win propelled him up two spots to lead the standings once again. Matt Crafton remains in second, 45 points back, while Benson moved up two spots to third. Bodine and Sprague, who moved up one spot, round out the top five finishers.

Crawford dropped four spots from the top of the standings; he now sits tied for fifth with Sprague. Skinner remains in seventh, an even 100 points out of the lead nine races into the season. Chad McCumbee moved up two spots and sits in eighth, with Cook just 12 points behind him in ninth. David Starr dropped two spots and rounds out the top 10.

Quotable

“You have no idea what was going through my mind. I’m going for a championship… He [Kyle Busch] had nothing to lose at this race but to try to win all three races in three different starts. But that shows what kind of driver Kyle is. He raced me clean.” – Ron Hornaday Jr., race winner

“What a piece of crap. It just wasn’t [set up] for me here. Congratulations to [Ron Jr.] Hornaday. I had a bad restart.” – Kyle Busch, finished second

Up Next: The Craftsman Truck Series heads north to Michigan International Speedway for the Cool City Customs 200 next Saturday afternoon. Last season, Travis Kvapil beat Skinner by less than half a second to score his first of four wins in 2007. Coverage begins at 3:00 p.m. ET on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.