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Tracking the Trucks: 2009 Lucas Oil 200 at Iowa

In a Nutshell: Mike Skinner took the checkered flag 1.370 seconds ahead of Aric Almirola to win the inaugural Lucas Oil 200 at Iowa Speedway. Skinner took the lead for the final time with 83 laps remaining on the way to his second series win this season. Colin Braun, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Johnny Sauter rounded out the top five.

Who Should Have Won: Skinner. Skinner led the final two practice sessions and backed it up by starting on the pole. Though Matt Crafton pulled ahead of Skinner at the start of the race, the driver of the No. 5 Toyota of Des Moines Tundra needed just seven green-flag laps to move into the top spot. He went on to lead twice for 180 of the 200 laps. With nine laps remaining, a caution for debris evaporated the nearly five second lead Skinner held. But the No. 5 truck was fastest on the short run, and Skinner had no trouble holding onto the lead in the final four-lap shootout.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. How did Austin Dillon and Jamie Dick fare in their Camping World Truck Series debuts?

Saturday night’s Lucas Oil 200 marked the Camping World Truck Series debut for Jamie Dick and Austin Dillon. Dick piloted the SS Green Light Racing No. 08 Viva Auto Group/Johnnie Walker Performance Center Chevrolet as a teammate to Chad McCumbee. Austin Dillon, grandson of Richard Childress, piloted the No. 3 Chevrolet in its return to the series for the first time in 10 years.

Dick was the first of the two to have trouble Saturday night. He brought out the second caution of the night on a lap 6 restart. Stuck in a side by side battle with Todd Bodine, the driver of the No. 08 moved down the track and clipped the No. 30 of Bodine. With the damage to his truck, Dick was left to make whatever laps he could and finished in the 22nd position.

Dillon brought out the fourth caution of the night on lap 75. He was battling with Timothy Peters for the eighth position, got loose and spun his truck. Despite the fact that his truck shot sideways towards the outside wall, Dillon managed to keep the No. 3 Bad Boy Mowers/RCR 40th Anniversary Chevrolet off of the wall. Prior to bringing out that caution, Dillon managed to hold the ninth position for much of the first half of the race.

Dillon restarted 20th and remained deep in the pack for several laps. The caution flew again on lap 110, and the driver of the No. 3 nearly found himself involved. He narrowly avoided hitting a sideways Stacy Compton. Dillon went on to finish in the 12th position.

Dick would probably like to forget his CWTS debut, but Dillon should be pretty pleased. He did spin his truck, but he was able to avoid damage and work his way almost back to the top 10 by the time the checkered flag flew. Most importantly, both drivers earned valuable seat time, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see either driver in the Truck Series again in the future.

2. How was the inaugural Camping World Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway?

The Lucas Oil 200 Saturday night marked the inaugural CWTS race at Iowa Speedway. The Nationwide Series debuted at the track early last month. There was a lot of hype leading up to the series debut at the 0.875-mile track, but did the race live up to the expectations that were built?

As has been the case in quite a few races this season, the leader managed to pull away from the field for most of the race, but that was probably more of an indication of just how fast Skinner’s truck was. Deeper in the field, the majority of the race saw side-by-side racing and plenty of three wide battles.

There was a moment when it looked like Skinner would be vulnerable to some of the other top-five drivers. The best challenge for the lead was ruined by a debris caution on lap 58 Skinner was working his way through traffic when Crafton and Sauter caught up with him. But before any changes in the top three could be made, the caution flew.

Overall, the race wasn’t too bad. Though there wasn’t really any kind of challenge for the lead or the win, the racing back in the pack was typical Truck Series racing. It’s just a shame that NASCAR had to throw the caution for debris when there was a three-truck battle for the lead setting up. Who knows what would have happened if the three were left to fight for position.

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)
JR Fitzpatrick (No. 4 – part-time, shared ride)
Tayler Malsam (No. 81)
Johnny Sauter (No. 13)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 6
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 2; Sauter, finished fifth; Malsam, finished 10th

Rookie of the Race: Sauter, finished fifth

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle

Johnny Benson was in the booth Saturday night as a commentator in place of Michael Waltrip. Benson will take Waltrip’s place for three races this season when the Sprint Cup Series schedule conflicts with the CWTS schedule.

Danica Patrick will be running part-time in NASCAR in the 2010 season. The plan is for her to run several Nationwide races and a few in the CWTS and ARCA Re/Max Series. She will continue racing in the IndyCar Series at least through the 2010 season.

Hornaday Jr.’s 11th top-five finish of the season allowed him to expand his points lead to 225 over Crafton. Skinner remains in third but sits just 56 points behind Crafton. Brian Scott scored his 10th top-10 finish this season and moved up one spot in the standings to fourth. Todd Bodine dropped one spot and rounds out the top five.

10 races ago, Braun found himself 19th in the standings, but his sixth top five in the last 10 races moved him up another spot to sixth. David Starr dropped one spot to seventh after being involved in the fifth caution of the night. Rick Crawford moved up one spot to eighth and finds himself 590 points behind leader Hornaday Jr. Just seven points behind Crawford, Peters moved up two spots, and Terry Cook rounds out the top 10.

Quotable

“The motor died coming off [turn] 4. I don’t know if it was a [fuel] pickup thing or vapor lock or what it did. I think it might have boiled some fuel or something. I just nursed her along there, and this thing was so fast through the corner, it didn’t matter what it was doing. This one is for [owner] Randy Moss. He’s a big race fan and part owner in this team with David Dollar.” – Mike Skinner

“Our first stop was really bad, and we just lost so much track position. I told [crew chief] Doug George we had to get it back somehow, someway, so we took two tires. That was a great call on Doug’s part. Thank goodness this tire was hard enough.” – Aric Almirola, finished second

“We didn’t have the truck to beat, [Mike] Skinner did. We just fought loose-in and tight-off all night. Actually, we really struggled the last two days, but this is why this KHI team is championship caliber. It was a lot of fun here, we didn’t give up, and with eight races to go, we still have our lead. [Matt] Crafton was good, and I am not sure how we gained five points on him, but we’ll take it.” – Ron Hornaday Jr., finished fourth

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to Gateway International Raceway next Saturday afternoon for the Copart 200. Hornaday Jr. dominated this race in 2008, leading 113 of the 160 laps. Coverage begins at 2:00 p.m. ET; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

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