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On Tuesday afternoon, NASCAR and Charlotte Motor Speedway teamed up to announce a new All-Star race format for the upcoming event in May. In case you haven’t heard all of the details, you can check them out here. While it sounds exciting, and the idea of eliminations should encourage the competitors to drive a little more aggressively, there’s still something missing.
I’ve long said that if the sport was going to hold an All-Star race, the best of the best should compete, regardless of their series affiliation. Sure, NASCAR is substantially different than the stick-and-ball sports in that the XFINITY and Truck series are pretty much the equivalent of the minor leagues, but since both of those series race on the national stage, it’s hard to see the best of those series, both past and present, left out of the sport’s All-Star event.
With that said, there are plenty of drivers that made their careers in the Truck Series and either never succeeded at a higher level, for whatever reason, or chose to stay where they are in order to race for a more competitive team, as compared to what they might have in a different series. In a perfect world, these drivers would be invited to join in the All-Star Race too.
Top fives: 98
Top 10s: 228
Laps Led: 2,138
Matt Crafton hardly has any starts across the Cup and XFINITY series (three combined between the two), so he’s one of those drivers that has made his career in the Truck Series. A few years ago, I asked him why he had never moved up the ladder, and he made it very clear that the decision was his because he was loyal to Duke and Rhonda Thorson, who have fielded trucks for him in all but one season, and because the offers he received weren’t those that would see him find success on the track.
But that hardly takes away from his Truck Series numbers. Crafton currently sits atop the list of drivers for both consecutive series starts and total number of starts. What he really has going for him, though, is that his story is still being written, week after week, as he continues to compete with the seasoned veterans of the series and the up-and-coming stars of the sport.
While it wasn’t until the last four years or so that the driver of the No. 88 Toyota visited Victory Lane on a more frequent basis, any driver that’s able to garner more than one championship, let alone back-to-back – especially with the level of competition in the series – deserves being considered an all-star.
Top fives: 90
Top 10s: 144
Laps Led: 6,221
What is there really to say about why Mike Skinner should be on this list? I mean, if you’ve looked at any of the early numbers in the series, you know that he was an integral part of the first two seasons the series was in existence. He won eight races both years and finished first and third in the championship standings. Perhaps what’s more impressive about those first two seasons is that he had 18 top 10s in 20 races in 1995, and 20 top 10s in 24 starts the following year. And if that’s not enough, he holds the record for number of consecutive poles at eight from 1995, a number he nearly matched in 2007 when he started in the top sport for six straight races.
Skinner left the series for a few seasons, making only a handful of starts between 1996 and 2004 while he raced in the XFINITY and Cup series before returning full-time in 2005. Between 2005 and 2009, he notched another 12 victories and was the only driver even remotely close to Ron Hornaday Jr. during his highly successful 2007 championship campaign. Even then, Skinner still lost the title by more than 50 points, though by comparison, the next closest competitor was Johnny Benson, who ended the season 425 markers behind the leader.
Following an eighth-place showing during the 2010 season, Skinner made a single start in 2011 and 2012 but has since fallen off the face of the NASCAR map. Despite his absence from the series, he’s definitely someone who qualifies as an all-star.
Ron Hornaday Jr.
Top fives: 158
Top 10s: 234
Laps Led: 9,689
Of course, an all-star list can’t possibly be complete without the driver who currently has the most wins in the series. Kyle Busch may be quickly approaching the number set by Hornaday (Busch has 46 victories to Hornaday’s 51), but that doesn’t take away from the records set by the driver who spent 17 years in the series. In fact, if you look down the list of all-time winners, the next closest active driver on there is Kevin Harvick, with a whopping 14 trips to Victory Lane.
And if that’s not enough, Hornaday holds several other records in the series, including total top fives (158) and top 10s (234). He also tops the list for most championships won at four, record number of consecutive wins at five in 2009 and consecutive seasons in which he started on the pole at seven.
Author’s Note: This list is far from all-inclusive, but it wasn’t meant to have every single driver that deserves to be considered an all-star in both past and present eras of the series. If I added everyone to the list, we could sit here for hours making a case for at least a dozen more drivers, at the very least. Let me know in the comments who you would pick.