NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: 2008 O’Reilly 200 at Bristol

Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks

In a Nutshell: Kyle Busch took the checkered flag 0.386 seconds ahead of Todd Bodine to win the O’Reilly 200 presented by Camping World Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch survived multiple late-race restarts and a green-white-checkered finish to win at the World’s Fastest Half-Mile. Scott Speed, Johnny Benson and Rick Crawford rounded out the top five.

Who Should Have Won: Benson. Busch and Benson both had very strong trucks and were on different pit strategies. Busch pitted his No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts Tundra on lap 42 and remained on the track for the remainder of the night despite some teams complaining of blisters on their right-front tires. Benson, who pitted on lap 104 in 2007 and went on to win that race, pitted on lap 118, and the large number of late-race cautions prevented the driver of the No. 23 Toyota from catching the leader. Had Benson had more green-flag laps, Busch would have had his hands full.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. How did Jimmie Johnson fare in his Craftsman Truck Series debut?

In an attempt to gain more track time at Bristol Motor Speedway, Johnson signed on to race the No. 81 Chevrolet for Randy Moss Motorsports. Despite having two Sprint Cup championships to his name, prior to the running of the O’Reilly 200, Johnson had never made a start in the Craftsman Truck Series. The driver of the Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet had a decent start when he qualified the truck in ninth.

When the majority of the field pitted under the second caution on lap 42, Johnson elected to stay out and took over the lead. But under the fourth caution, the driver of the No. 81 Chevrolet was forced to come down pit road to make his first and only stop; he rejoined the field in the 19th position.

Shortly after the halfway point of the race, Johnson’s truck got very loose in turn 2. The driver of the Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet made an incredible attempt at saving the truck, but by the time he got to turn 3, he finally spun. Had he spun on his own, he could have kept going, but heavy contact with the No. 40 of Jeff Green took the two-time Sprint Cup Series champion out of the race.

When asked about the wreck, Johnson said, “I was having a blast. I really thank Randy Moss Motorsports and his whole crew for working as hard as they have.” Johnson continued, “I feel terrible I tore up their truck. Thought I almost had it saved. I fought it, fought it, fought it and ran out of talent I guess.”

Overall, Johnson looked great on the track. He and Busch spent several laps racing side-by-side for the lead. Had Johnson actually been able to corral his truck and keep racing, he would have had the save of the race. Unfortunately for him and RMM, they went home with a wrecked race truck and a 34th-place finish.

2. How did Tayler Malsam and Cunningham Motorsports fare in their Truck Series debut?

Malsam, a SunTrust Rookie of the Year candidate in the ARCA Re/Max Series, made his CTS debut Wednesday night along with his team Cunningham Motorsports. The team purchased nine trucks from Evernham Motorsports and is also participating in a development driver program with Penske Racing. Right now, Malsam is scheduled to run just five starts before the season ends in order to compete for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year award in 2009.

Malsam started his No. 41 DodgeThunderBoats.org Dodge in the 36th position and seemed to struggle most of the night. A blown tire sent Malsam high in turn 1, right into the path of Matt Crafton. Both trucks ended up with damage on them that took them out of contention.

Overall, Malsam had a debut he’d probably like to forget. They key for him is to not let this debut change his mind about racing in the CTS. Bristol is a tough track even for veterans with a lot of experience. If Malsam can just put this tough debut behind him and go into his next race with a clear head, he’ll probably have a much better time in his second series start than his first.

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: 5
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 1; Speed, finished third

Rookie of the Race: Speed

Speed scored his first career Craftsman Truck Series pole in only his eighth series start.

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle

Busch joined Carl Edwards and Mark Martin as one of only three drivers to win at Bristol Motor Speedway in each of NASCAR’s top-three series. Busch also has a total of 17 wins in the top-three series this season – eight in the Sprint Cup Series, six in the Nationwide Series and three in the CTS.

Following post-race inspection Wednesday night, eight different engines were impounded by NASCAR to be taken to the Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C. to examine horsepower numbers. Motors seized included the Toyotas of points leader Benson and Bodine, Ford motors from Brendan Gaughan and Crawford, a Dodge engine from Dennis Setzer and the Chevrolet engines of TJ Bell, Jack Sprague and Johnson.

The O’Reilly 200 presented by Camping World was slowed by a record breaking 12 cautions. When Erik Darnell spun on lap 199, that caution set up the 74th GWC finish in the CTS, but it was only the third at BMS. The race also included a 10-minute red flag to clean up the track after Shelby Howard and Bryan Silas got together and collected Kevin Harvick Inc. teammates Sprague and Ron Hornaday Jr.

Troubles for both Crafton and Hornaday Jr. allowed Benson to pull way ahead on his way to his first CTS championship. Benson now leads Hornaday Jr. by 119 points. Crafton sits 156 points back in third, and Bodine, who jumped two spots, sits 239 points out of the lead. Mike Skinner dropped one spot and rounds out the top five.

Crawford’s fifth-place finish helped him move up one spot to sixth where he sits 261 points out of first. Darnell’s tough night dropped him two spots to seventh, and Sprague remains in eight, 353 points behind Benson. Terry Cook, who fell one spot, and Setzer, who moved up one spot round out the top 10.

News and Notes Around the Series

No. 30 Team Penalized for Nashville Violations

Following the Toyota Tundra 200 at the Nashville Superspeedway, Bodine and the No. 30 Lumber Liquidators team were penalized for height violations found in post-race inspection. The team was penalized under sections 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing), 12-4-Q (determination that truck, truck parts, components and/or equipment used in the event do not conform to NASCAR rules) and 20B-12.8.1E (after competition, the maximum right-side bed panel height exceeded the specified 39½ inches). Bodine was penalized 25 driver points and dropped from fourth to sixth in the standings prior to the running of the O’Reilly 200.

2009 Schedule Released

NASCAR released the 2009 CTS schedule earlier this week. The biggest change in the schedule came with Atlanta Motor Speedway losing its fall race to allow for Chicagoland Speedway to host a standalone event on August 28th. The 2009 schedule will again have 25 races, with the season starting in February at Daytona International Speedway and ending in November at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

The Search for a Series Sponsor Continues

NASCAR continues to search for a sponsor to replace Craftsman at the end of the 2008 season. A few weeks ago Kobalt Tools officially withdrew their bid to become the title sponsor of the Truck Series. Since then, the names of UPS and Camping World have been thrown around as possibilities. Camping World has enjoyed their first year as an official NASCAR sponsor and has expressed interest in possibly being the title sponsor.

Currently, Camping World is in their first year as sponsor for the NASCAR East and NASCAR West series. Kurt Hunt, Camping World’s Director of Motorsports wouldn’t go as far as characterizing their talks with NASCAR as negotiations but also didn’t deny their interest in becoming the series sponsor. “If Camping World became the sponsor of the trucks, the company would have to consider whether to continue sponsoring the East and West series,” Hunt said.

NASCAR’s Director of Communications, Andrew Giangola, defended the amount of time the search for a new series sponsor is taking, saying, “NASCAR is focused on finding the best partner to continue to grow a series that’s important to the sport and our fans.” He went on to say, “I don’t read anything into that from a sign of the sport; it’s just the economy’s bad. It’s not the world’s greatest time to be in the marketplace looking for a long-term, multi million-dollar deal.”

Did You Know?

  • John Wes Townley is expected to make his Nationwide Series debut Friday night at Bristol? Townley will pilot to No. 09 Zaxby’s Ford in his first of seven expected starts this season; he’s also scheduled to race at Dover, Charlotte, Memphis, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead.
  • For the second week in a row, Skinner will attempt to qualify the No. 00 for Michael Waltrip Motorsports in the Sprint Cup Series, this time at BMS? Last week, Skinner qualified 22nd and finished 35th in the 3M Performance 400 presented by Bondon at Michigan International Speedway.
  • Chad McCumbee may be making the move to the Sprint Cup Series for the 2009 season? He stands right now as the leading candidate to pilot the No. 45 for Petty Enterprises. Team official Robbie Loomis said the team is still talking with multiple drivers, and a decision is expected to be made within the next few weeks.
  • Joe Gibbs Racing development driver Marc Davis will make his CTS debut in a couple weeks at Gateway International Raceway? Davis just turned 18 in June and is set to pilot the No. 81 Chevrolet for RMM; he could run multiple races this year.

Quotable

“This is definitely a great race team. We just had a great race tonight. This thing was pretty good when we unloaded it. We got into it a little bit with Johnny [Benson]. Sorry about that.” – Kyle Busch, race winner

“I really wanted to win this one for ‘Big Guy’ [Steve Helwig, who lost his battle with leukemia last week]. This Lumber Liquidators Tundra was pretty good. We had a great run; can’t complain.” – runner-up Todd Bodine

“I knew that was how he [Kyle Busch] would run this, but go over and remind his crew chief that we’re running for a championship. That kid needs to learn that sometime.” – Johnny Benson on his radio after contact with Kyle Busch on lap 29

Up Next: The Craftsman Truck Series takes two weeks off and heads to Gateway International Speedway for the Gateway 200 on Saturday, September 6th. In 2007, Coverage begins at 2:00 p.m. ET on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

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