NASCAR Race Weekend Central
*In a Nutshell:* Colin Braun took the checkered flag 1.790 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch to win the Michigan 200 Saturday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway. Braun led less than half the laps Kyle Busch did, but he led the most important ones on his way to his first career Truck Series win. Brian Ickler, Matt Crafton, and Mike Skinner rounded out the Top 5. *Who Should Have Won: Kyle Busch.* Busch started fourth and made it known early in the running of the Michigan 200 that he had a fast truck. His pit crew got him off of pit road first under a lap 9 caution, and Busch went on to lead 62 of the 100 laps run Saturday afternoon.

Tracking the Trucks: 2009 Michigan 200

Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks

In a Nutshell: Colin Braun took the checkered flag 1.790 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch to win the Michigan 200 Saturday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway. Braun led less than half the laps Busch did, but he led the most important ones on his way to his first career Truck Series win. Brian Ickler, Matt Crafton, and Mike Skinner rounded out the top five.

Who Should Have Won: Busch. Busch started fourth and made it known early in the running of the Michigan 200 that he had a fast truck. His pit crew got him off of pit road first under a lap 9 caution, and Busch went on to lead 62 of the 100 laps run Saturday afternoon. With just 26 laps remaining, the driver of the No. 51 Miccosukee Resort Toyota tried to pass the lap down truck of Norm Benning but was forced to let off the gas and relinquish the lead to Braun. Kyle Busch never had anything for Braun once the driver of the No. 6 got out front, and was left to settle for his second runner-up finish in the last three races.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:

1. How did Timothy Peters fare in his first race with Red Horse Racing?

This past week brought the news that Johnny Benson‘s No. 1 Red Horse Racing team had closed its doors due to a lack of funding. Just two days later, Red Horse Racing announced that Peters and existing sponsor Strutmasters.com had joined the team and would be using equipment from the recently closed No. 1 team.

Saturday afternoon marked the debut for Peters behind the wheel of the No. 17 Strutmasters.com Toyota for Red Horse Racing. Peters ran fourth quickest in the final practice before qualifying 18th for Saturday afternoon’s race. Within 40 laps, Peters had worked his way up to the sixth position. Once he got there, the driver of the No. 17 remained in the top 10 on his way to an eighth place finish.

It’s amazing to see the difference that good equipment can make for a driver. Aside from a sixth place finish in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway and a ninth place finish the following week at Auto Club Speedway, Peters has finished outside the top 10 in six races this season. Expect to see more improvement for Peters, who is clearly a talented driver that was stuck in less than stellar equipment.

2. How can you not appreciate Kyle Busch?

All week, the big Truck Series news was the closure of Benson’s No. 1 Red Horse Racing team. Benson, fans and drivers alike were shocked by the news, and one driver who seemed extremely upset about the release of the defending series champion was Busch.

“That really stunk because I would have liked to have seen last year’s champion keep his ride,” Busch said. “But unfortunately, money woes there took him out of that deal.”

Fans remained hopeful but skeptical that Benson would be able to make the race at his home track, Michigan International Speedway. Due to the short notice of his release, it was virtually impossible to get Benson behind the wheel of any truck in time to make practice and qualifying. But Busch made his intentions very clear this weekend.

“If I could, I would have stepped out (of my truck) this week, but too much stuff with (primary sponsor) Miccosukee and I couldn’t do it,” Busch said. “I would have liked to give Johnny my truck ride — I have enough to do. That didn’t quite work out, but I think we are going to get it worked out where he can drive mine at Milwaukee.”

How can anyone not appreciate what Busch is trying to do for Benson? Busch has made plenty of mistakes and stupid decisions in his career, but this is definitely one to be commended. For anyone who has paid any attention to Busch, he has made it very clear that he races in the Truck Series simply for his love of racing. And when someone who loves racing as much as Busch does offers up his ride so the defending series champion can race, it says a lot.

Now, I do understand this could have just been a move to help turn the public image of Kyle Busch around — but it’s time to give him at least the benefit of the doubt. At some point, even the most immature person will grow up, start making good choices, and think about someone other than themselves.

Truck Rookie Report
2009 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Chase Austin (No. 32 — on hold due to funding)
James Buescher (No. 10)
Ricky Carmichael (No. 4 — part-time shared ride)
J.R. Fitzpatrick (No. 4 — part-time shared ride)
Taylor Malsam (No. 81)
Johnny Sauter (No. 13)

No. of Rookies in the Race: Seven

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: Two; Ickler, finished third and Tayler Malsam, finished sixth

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle:

Defending series champion Benson was involved in a serious accident in a super modified race Saturday night at Berlin Raceway. Benson’s car burst into flames after driving up onto another competitor’s car. According to Benson’s forums, he has at least one broken rib, is listed in fair condition, and is still at the hospital for observation.

Braun scored the 50th Truck Series win for Roush Fenway Racing Saturday afternoon just one week after matching his career best finish of third last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. Braun’s win propelled him up six spots in the standings, and he sits just 30 points out of the top 10.

General Motors announced Friday that it was cutting manufacturer support to the Truck Series and Nationwide Series now that the company is in bankruptcy. Chevrolet spokesperson Terry Rhadigan said GM is looking at incremental cutbacks in support, but would not specify exactly what those cuts would be or when they would be implemented.

The top four in the Truck Series standings are separated by just 97 points. After a solid top five finish, Crafton holds a 39-point lead over three-time champion Ron Hornaday, Jr. Skinner and Todd Bodine remain in third and fourth, respectively. Busch jumped seven spots in the standings and rounds out the top five.

David Starr remains in sixth, while Terry Cook moved up two spots to seventh. Malsam jumped three spots to eighth, making his first appearance in the top 10 in points. Rick Crawford, who moved up one spot and Chad McCumbee, who dropped two positions, round out the top 10.

Quotables:

“It was cool to beat Kyle (Busch), and it was cool to beat Toyota here. These guys did an awesome job. This win was more about them and the hard work they put in back at the shop to get this truck together. I love this racetrack. It was awesome. Big thanks to Jack Roush for sticking with me. I’ve got a lot to learn getting my restarts better, [though].” – Colin Braun

“Unfortunately, we had a lap truck (Norm Benning) that couldn’t hold his line. I tried to go low. There was an [opening] there, and when we went into the corner it closed up. My fault there. I screwed up. Very frustrating to finish second once again. We’ll take it, go on to Kentucky and finish second there.” – Kyle Busch

“Don’t let Kyle (Busch) talk you into anything running in second place. You run your line, hit your marks, and you will win this race.” – crew chief Mike Beam on Braun’s radio after he took the lead

Up Next: The Craftsman Truck Series heads to the Milwaukee Mile Friday night for the Copart 200. In 2008, Benson scored his third consecutive win at the track when he finished 2.530 seconds ahead of Crafton. Coverage begins at 8:30 pm EST on SPEED channel; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

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About Beth Lunkenheimer

Beth Lunkenheimer
Content Director Beth heads up management of our 30-person staff, acting as Tom’s main assistant with technology and personnel while working as Frontstretch’s Truck Series expert. The author of Truckin’ Thursdays and the coordinator of the site’s pre and post-race coverage, she also runs a periodic charity column that spotlights when NASCAR gives back. A childhood transplant to Texas, Beth is a 15-year writing veteran who has contributed content to BRANDT and Athlon Sports, among other outlets.

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