Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks
In a Nutshell: Ron Hornaday Jr. took the checkered flag 1.669 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch to win the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 Friday night at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Hornaday Jr. held off a hard charge from Busch on the final restart with 23 laps remaining to score his 40th career Camping World Truck Series win. Matt Crafton, Ryan Newman and Terry Cook rounded out the top five.
Who Should Have Won: Busch. Busch started on the pole after the field was set by owner points due to a qualifying rainout. But the driver of the No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts Toyota never led, as he was sent to the back of the pack twice throughout the night. The first one came when a penalty for too many men on pit road sent Busch to the tail end of the longest line on lap 28. Then, after successfully driving through the field to second place, Busch was penalized for rough driving 60 laps later after contact with then-leader Colin Braun put the No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford out of the race. Yet despite such adversity, Busch still found himself in a position to win. Had a late caution bunched up the field, the 24-year-old would have likely been in position to score his third win of the season.
Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race
1. How did Mike Skinner walk away from his wreck on lap 35?
Early in the running of the North Carolina Education Lottery 200, Mike Skinner appeared to have a truck capable of winning. But after leading the first 27 laps, he attempted to pass rookie Johnny Sauter during a restart on the inside. However, the two left-side tires of the No. 5 Rue and Ziffra, P.A. Toyota hit the grass just enough to send Skinner sideways.
Then, contact with TJ Bell sent Skinner’s truck hard into the outside wall before it skidded on its side and came to a rest. Thankfully, the first thing heard over the radio after the truck came to a halt was Skinner saying, “I’m OK.”
A disappointed Skinner blamed himself for the incident, but credited NASCAR for the safety of the trucks today compared to even just a few years ago which kept him from being seriously hurt.
“A few years back, that would have sent you out of here in a helicopter with your head taped to a board,” he said afterwards in complimenting the safety features NASCAR has implemented over the years.
Bell, who hit Skinner’s truck when he went up across the track, echoed Skinner’s sentiments.
“I’m so proud of NASCAR and everything they’ve done to make this sport so much safer,” Bell said. “And for Mike [Skinner] to be safe after that, it makes me happy. Honestly, I was more worried about Mike than anything.”
Over the years, NASCAR has done a phenomenal job of increasing the safety in such a dangerous sport. A combination of the SAFER barrier, the HANS device, and multiple other safety features allowed Skinner to walk away from his truck and go on to race another day, and NASCAR should be commended for the high priority they place on the safety of the drivers, crews, and fans alike.
2. Did NASCAR make the right decision to penalize Busch for rough driving?
On lap 88, Busch had a decent run on the outside of leader Braun, but the No. 16 of Brian Scott blocked the high line Busch had been using all night to pass the field. The driver of the No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts Toyota then attempted to pull down in line behind the No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford but ended up clipping the right-rear quarterpanel, sending Braun into a spin that put him out of the race.
NASCAR viewed Busch’s move as rough driving and sent him to the tail end of the longest line for the restart. Following the race, Busch was apologetic and took full responsibility for the incident.
“I was rolling down the back and was rolling out of the throttle and the thing veered to the left,” Busch said. “That was my fault – just an error on my part.”
But while Busch was conciliatory, there wasn’t really a need for a rough driving penalty to be handed to the driver of the No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts Toyota. The real issue there, in my opinion, was the spotter. It is the spotter’s responsibility to make his driver aware of what trucks are around them to prevent situations such as these from occurring. And if what Busch claimed was true, he’s certainly lucky his truck didn’t wind up spinning out as well.
Truck Rookie Report
2009 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Chase Austin (No. 32 – on hold indefinitely due to funding)
James Buescher (No. 10)
Ricky Carmichael (No. 4)
JR Fitzpatrick (No. 7 – on hold due to funding)
Tayler Malsam (No. 81)
Johnny Sauter (No. 13)
No. of Rookies in the Race: 6
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 1; Malsam, finished eighth
Rookie of the Race: Malsam, finished eighth
“This One Eighty Randy Moss crew, they did it all today. When I got caught up in that first accident they got us back out there, and I just drove the wheels off for these guys. I can’t thank them enough. It was a good, fun race.” – Tayler Malsam
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle
Raybestos Rookie of the Year points leader Malsam has spent the last four weeks midget racing when he’s not racing in the Camping World Truck Series to gain extra seat time. That experience appears to have paid off, as the driver of the No. 81 One Eighty Toyota scored his career best Truck Series finish Friday night.
Braun restarted second after pitting only once for fuel early on in the running of the North Carolina Education Lottery 200. On lap 45, Braun took the lead and led 43 laps, more than he had led for his entire Truck Series career, until he was spun out by Busch on lap 88. Braun was credited with a 26th place finish.
Just a few weeks after TRG Motorsports announced they would be pulling back to a part-time schedule, the team fielded the No. 7 Hyde Park/FansSponsorMe.com Chevrolet for David Gilliland. After starting 19th based on owner points and being trapped on the tail end of the lead lap, Gilliland scored a sixth-place finish in only his third career CWTS race.
Two of the top-five drivers in the championship standings had major trouble Friday night, and that caused a bit of a shakeup. Race winner Hornaday Jr. moved up one spot in the points, now besting former first-place driver Skinner by 84 atop the standings. Just five points behind Skinner, Crafton moved up another spot to third. Busch jumped two spots to fourth, while Todd Bodine dropped two spots to round out the top five.
Cook was the big winner in the top 10, moving up three spots to sixth. Johnny Benson dropped two positions back to seventh and Chad McCumbee remained in eighth. Stacy Compton moved up one spot to ninth while Scott, who dropped three notches, rounded out the top 10.
“Unbelievable. I have no idea where to start. I tell you what, go to your local GM store and get one of these bad trucks. We had a great truck. She was fast at the end.” – Ron Hornaday Jr.
“There’s no award for the most passed trucks. Ron [Hornaday Jr.] was running wide open and I could run wide open. We can’t keep up with that Chevrolet. I’m not very happy about the No. 33 (Hornaday Jr.) and the Chevrolets having the advantages that they do. It’s just frustrating to have to race against that.” – Kyle Busch, finished second
Up Next: The Craftsman Truck Series heads to Dover International Speedway in two weeks for the AAA Insurance 200 on Friday, May 29th. In 2008, Scott Speed scored his first Camping World Truck Series victory in only his sixth start. Coverage begins at 8:00 p.m. ET; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.