NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: 2008 Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix

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In a Nutshell: Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag 0.940 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch to win the Lucas Oil 150 Friday night at Phoenix International Raceway. Harvick led the field to the green flag with eight laps remaining, and despite the hard charge Busch made, the driver and owner of the No. 2 Chevrolet went on to win his first Truck Series race of 2008. Todd Bodine, Brian Scott and Mike Skinner rounded out the top-five finishers.

Who Should Have Won: Busch. Busch started on the outside pole and led the first lap after Ron Hornaday Jr. wrecked. Even after being challenged for the lead after just 50 laps, Busch fought hard on the outside and refused to give up quickly; he went on to lead 90 laps on the way to his fourth runner-up finish of the season.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. What happened to championship contender Hornaday?

Before completing lap 1, Hornaday found himself in the garage with heavy damage to the No. 33 VFW Chevrolet. Going into turn 3, Busch drove to the outside of Hornaday, and the No. 33 drifted up the track into Busch’s No. 51 Toyota and spun. The No. 33 hit the outside wall and came down the track in front of the entire field, collecting six other trucks.

The No. 33 VFW Chevrolet needed the rear track bar, radiator, and front end suspension replaced in the resulting wreck. After extended time behind the wall, Hornaday went on to finish 25th, 34 laps down; but fortunately for him, an incident that collected Johnny Benson actually saw the driver of the No. 33 gain three points on the championship leader.

Immediately after the wreck happened, Hornaday was heard saying, “That was my bad, guys. I had too much rear brake dialed into the truck.”

Back in the garage, the No. 33 team had crew members from at least six other teams helping to get the truck back out onto the track. That certainly speaks for the teams and the camaraderie in the Truck Series. To help a team that is a competitor on the track is a true show of sportsmanship; but it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone after the outpouring of support shown to Busch’s No. 51 team last week at Texas Motor Speedway following their hauler fire.

When the wreck happened, though, it sure looked like Hornaday forgot he was running for his second consecutive Truck Series championship. Leading that first lap would have allowed him to gain five points on leader Benson, but it’s not worth risking an entire race for one lap that early.

It’s easy to try to blame the other guy involved, Busch, but he did nothing wrong. The driver of the No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts Toyota drove to the outside of Hornaday but left him plenty of room. The only person to blame in this incident is Ron Hornaday.

2. Why didn’t Benson capitalize on Hornaday’s problems?

After taking some light damage to the right side of the truck when Hornaday Jr. wrecked on lap 1, Benson looked to be poised to take a significant advantage in the points standings. But on lap 81, that all changed. The No. 23 truck ended up in the garage with heavy damage after contact with TJ Bell put Benson into the outside wall.

In an incident that looked nearly identical to Hornaday’s wreck on lap 1, Benson got loose on the low side of the track and ended up hitting Bell before making hard contact with the wall itself.

“I felt like I was underneath him and felt like he came down,” Benson said. “All of a sudden, we bumped and both spun and wrecked, and it pretty much ended our day. It took the right-front and pretty much destroyed everything up in the right-front.”

Three laps after Benson returned to the track, he blew a tire and headed back to the garage. The driver of the No. 23 was credited with a 26th-place finish after completing just 98 of the scheduled 150 laps.

It’s easy to try to place the blame on the driver with less experience. But was Bell to blame for the wreck? Absolutely not. The driver of the No. 7 just happened to be the unlucky driver on the outside of Benson when the No. 23 got loose.

For most of the early part of the race, it looked like Benson kept in mind that he was trying to score his first Truck Series championship. But now, Benson goes into Homestead-Miami Speedway next week with just a three-point lead over Hornaday – a lead that could have been far bigger.

Truck Rookie Report
2008 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Colin Braun (No. 6)
Andy Lally (No. 7 – left the ride in midsummer)
Donny Lia (No. 71 – now No. 81 for rest of the season)
Justin Marks (No. 9 – left the ride in September)
Marc Mitchell (No. 15)
Phillip McGilton (No. 22 – replaced by Scott Speed at Kansas)
Brian Scott (No. 16)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 4
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 1; Scott, finished fourth

Rookie of the Race: Scott

Scott scored his first top-five finish of the season in the Lucas Oil 150. While he never led a lap, the driver of the No. 16 Albertsons Toyota remained in the top five for the majority of the day.

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle

In only his second Craftsman Truck Series race, JR Fitzpatrick qualified sixth; but, he ended up the innocent victim on lap 1 when Hornaday slid across the track in front of him. Fitzpatrick ended up running only 25 of the scheduled 150 laps and finished 30th.

Sprint Cup Series regulars Harvick and Busch were the only two leaders in the Lucas Oil 150. Race-winner Harvick led 60 laps, while runner-up Busch led 90.

The Lucas Oil 150 marked the first time a CTS team won three races in a row with three different drivers. Two weeks ago in Atlanta, Ryan Newman took Kevin Harvick Inc. to victory lane in the No. 2 truck. Last week at Texas Motor Speedway, it was Hornaday in the No. 33, and this week, Harvick took the No. 2 truck back to victory lane.

Benson now holds the smallest lead ever in the history of the Truck Series with one race remaining in the season. Benson currently leads Hornaday by just three points; meanwhile, Bodine gained 75 points on the leaders and remains in third, 143 back. Erik Darnell remains in fourth, and Skinner moved up one spot and sits four points behind Darnell in fifth.

Matt Crafton dropped one spot to sixth, but trails Skinner by just three points. The rest of the top 10 remains unchanged. Rick Crawford sits in seventh, 24 points behind Crafton. Dennis Setzer sits in eighth, a distant 532 points out of first, while Jack Sprague and Terry Cook round out the top 10.

Quotable

“The driver was a complete idiot. I thought I was going to get fired [because] that was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Knowing [Kyle] Busch was on the outside and me driving in there as hard as he is, that was total stupidity on my part. Kyle’s got nothing to lose out there but to win that race. I had a truck that could win the race and I blew it.” – Ron Hornaday Jr.

“After our first deal [on Lap 1] it bent the rear a little bit and we got it working and felt like we could probably run in the top six or 10. I was really trying to be patient. We ended up being in the right place at the wrong time or something, I don’t know. We’re just making it exciting. I don’t know what else to say. It’s just weird and amazing how this points deal has been going on. It definitely makes for a long day, I can tell you that.” – Johnny Benson

“I’m just glad they both pulled a bonehead on the same night – that’s pretty much what it boils down to. They both could have had opportunities to put daggers in each other – so luckily [Friday] they synchronized their bad nights.” – Kevin Harvick, owner of the No. 33 VFW Chevrolet driven by Ron Hornaday Jr.

Up Next: The Craftsman Truck Series heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend for the Ford 200. In 2007, Benson beat Busch to the checkered flag, while Hornaday overcame a 29-point deficit to score his third Craftsman Truck Series championship. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on SPEED channel; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate starting at 8:00 p.m. ET.

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