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Tracking the Trucks: 2008 O’Reilly 200 at Memphis

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In a Nutshell: Ron Hornaday Jr. took the checkered flag 0.269 seconds ahead of Erik Darnell to win the O’Reilly 200 Saturday night at Memphis Motorsports Park. Hornaday Jr. held the lead after a short red flag to clean up the track and through a green-white-checker finish to score his second win of the season. Matt Crafton, Rick Crawford and David Starr rounded out the top-five finishers.

Who Should Have Won: Hornaday Jr. Hornaday Jr. qualified third and wasted no time trying to take the lead as he drove his No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet down to the inside of polesitter Johnny Benson in turn 1 right after taking the green flag. Though he didn’t win the battle for the lead then, Hornaday Jr. took the top spot for the first time on lap 44 and went on to stay up front for 139 of the 204 laps run.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. How did Willie Allen fare in his return to the series?

Allen, 2007 Raybestos Rookie of the Year, made his return to the Craftsman Truck Series Saturday behind the wheel of the No. 46 Rascal Flatts/Nashville Music City Chevrolet for Morgan-Dollar Motorsports.

With just three laps remaining, Allen tapped Ted Musgrave and sent the No. 59 Team ASE/Harris Trucking Toyota spinning in turn 4. Since there were so few laps remaining, NASCAR red-flagged the field to clean up the track, and the incident set up the third green-white-checkered finish in the last four races at Memphis Motorsports Park. The wreck didn’t damage the No. 46 truck, though, as Allen went on to finish 19th on the lead lap.

Until that late-race contact with Musgrave, Allen was enjoying a decent return to the Truck Series. After having not raced in these machines since beating Tim Sauter for Rookie of the Year honors at Homestead-Miami, Allen ran solidly in the top 15. Moving forward, MDM should consider putting Allen behind the wheel of the No. 46 permanently, because he certainly has the talent to improve upon his performance Saturday night.

2. Did NASCAR make the right call not to throw a caution for single-truck spins?

Twice during the running of the O’Reilly 200, drivers spun in single-truck incidents and NASCAR did not throw the yellow flag because the drivers almost immediately got going after their spin. That maintained the consistency of last week, when NASCAR failed to throw the caution flag after Hornaday Jr. spun twice in front of the field.

For that race, those were definitely the wrong decisions; but in this case, NASCAR made the right calls. On lap 61, Brendan Gaughan spun with a little help from Rookie of the Year contender Brian Scott, but was able to immediately keep going on the track without a problem – the same thing happened again with 26 laps remaining, when rookie Justin Marks spun in a single-truck incident.

In each case, because neither driver had other trucks around them, there was no reason to throw the yellow flag; because of that, NASCAR should be commended for their decision after showing an increasing itch to throw the caution in recent years.

3. What happened to points leader Benson?

Following the fourth caution, Benson led the field to the green flag, but his No. 23 Toyota slowed on the track. His transmission got stuck in between gears, and he was unable to shift or get up to speed. “I got stuck in second gear and when I got it out, I over-revved it and I think it broke a valve,” Benson said.

It was a costly problem, as Benson finished 33rd and dropped to fourth in the series points standings. However, he still sits only 56 points out of the lead in one of the tightest points battles in the history of the Craftsman Truck Series.

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/Michael Annett at Kansas)
Brian Scott (No. 16)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 5
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 0

Rookie of the Race: Scott, finished 13th

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle

The O’Reilly 200 had just three leaders, breaking the record for fewest leaders ever at Memphis Motorsports Park.

Hornaday Jr.’s win propelled him from fourth back up to the top spot in the race for the 2008 Truck Series championship. Crafton, who sits 27 points out of first, moved up one spot to second in points. Todd Bodine dropped one spot to third, while Benson sits just two points behind Bodine but dropped three spots to fourth, 56 points out of first. Crawford rounds out the top five in the title chase.

Behind them, Mike Skinner remains in sixth but gained 31 points on the leader, sitting 113 points out of first place. Darnell and Jack Sprague each moved up one spot to seventh and eighth, respectively, displacing Terry Cook who dropped two spots to ninth. Chad McCumbee rounds out the top 10 12 races into the Truck Series season.

Quotable

“That Elvis Trophy is the coolest in the world. I really wanted that trophy. [Johnny] Benson had the truck to beat [though]; He needed to break for us to win… I don’t know if we want to be in the points lead. Everybody who gets in it seems to have problems.” –  Ron Hornaday Jr.

It was a really good night. We qualified well and kept it up front most of the night… we were good on long runs, but Ron [Hornaday Jr.] was better on restarts.” – Erik Darnell, finished second

Up Next: The Craftsman Truck Series takes a few weeks off after running seven races in a row. They’ll next head to Kentucky Speedway for the Built Ford Tough 225 presented by the Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers on July 19th. In 2007, Skinner led 133 of 200 laps to score his fourth win of the season. Coverage begins at 7:00 p.m. ET on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

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