We ended the year in Homestead at Ford Championship Weekend without the finish we were looking for at all. It was just one of those things where the truck was running good through the day and then halfway through the race, we had a mechanical part failure inside the engine. I’m not looking at that as being a determining factor. We’ve used these particular Roush Yates engines for the last three years, and I think that’s only the second issue we’ve had with them. I think that’s a really commending story from a racecar driver and team to an engine builder. We hated that it happened in that particular race, but they’d been great engines up until then.
Mike Skinner took the checkered flag 0.020 seconds ahead of Erik Darnell to win the Qwik Liner Las Vegas 350 Saturday night. Several cautions set up the green-white-checkered finish that allowed Skinner to pull past Darnell at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Matt Crafton, John Andretti and Ron Hornaday Jr. rounded out the top five.
With the off week in full swing, it presented an opportunity for the Frontstretch experts to do something a little different. Instead of grading the Cup guys, we took a look at those drivers who often get shunned from the spotlight these days… the drivers exclusive to the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series desperate to make a name for themselves. These divisions are filled with established veterans and young guns mixed together to provide a cornucopia of driving talent. And since you never know when a Cup ride will become available… we thought it’s high time to figure out who’s proved himself most worthy of filling the spot as of late. Read on to see if your favorite non-Cup driver made the list in this special edition of the Top 15.
Since the last time we talked, our team did a NASCAR official Truck Series test at Martinsville. The Ford Powerstroke Diesel ran well for two days, and the Maxx Force Diesel ran well for two days with Brendan Gaughan. Even Adam got a shot at driving the Ford Powerstroke Diesel for the first time, and handled it like a veteran. He put some speed up on the charts. I’m real proud of Adam, and I’d really like to thank everybody for having the confidence in him and the team for working behind him. He had a couple of sponsors to mention for the race at Martinsville, but his Dad and the car owner, Mr. Mitchell, decided not to let him race because I think he needs a little more racing experience. But we have to appreciate the people at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas, Ford Motor Company, and Roush Yates Engines, who were going to provide Adam with a chance to run in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Maybe when Adam gets ready, they’ll have that chance again.
If you’ll forgive me for going all Jean Girard on you, the first two weeks of the Nationwide Series bring to mind a line from an old French proverb; “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose.” Or in other words, the more things change the more they stay the same. With a couple of races of the 2008 season now in the books, we’ve already seen a number of issues that have bedeviled the second most popular motorsport in America over the past couple of years; domination of moonlighting Cup drivers, “start-and-park” entrants, incomplete fields and a plethora of sponsor related issues. For the incoming title sponsor, Nationwide, none of these problems can be considered surprises but one thing is for sure, they are issues that are unlikely to go away until they’re addressed at the highest level.
Todd Bodine took the checkered flag ahead of Kyle Busch to win the Craftsman Truck Series’ season opener at Daytona International Speedway Friday night. Bodine held off a late-race charge by Busch and Johnny Benson and crossed the finish line just 0.077 seconds ahead of Busch in the Chevy Silverado 250 to score his first win at the superspeedway. David Starr and Rick Crawford rounded out the top five.
We’re looking forward to starting out 2008 Friday night, live on Speed. I learned something today–I won the first Craftsman Truck Series race ever televised on Speed. That was the 2003 Daytona race and that was a great race. I was proud to hear that fact.
It’s hard to believe it’s that time again. The offseason is quickly coming to a close, and people are already making predictions and talking about offseason changes. Perhaps the biggest news during this offseason was the announcement in December that Craftsman will be ending their sponsorship of the Truck Series at the end of the 2008 season.
It’s no secret it takes money to succeed in NASCAR. Typically a larger team with more resources at hand has more success than a small team. Perhaps that’s why Craftsman Truck Series owners Jeff Wyler and Michael Gaughan have joined forces. Earlier this week, the two announced the formation of Wyler-Gaughan Racing, which will field two full-time truck teams in 2008. The team will attempt to qualify for at least six Sprint Cup races as well.
Johnny Benson scored his first career win at Bristol Motor Speedway Wednesday night, taking the checkered flag 0.790 seconds ahead of the newly married Brendan Gaughan. Benson benefited from a two-car crash on lap 180, when Travis Kvapil and Kyle Busch made contact and spun while battling for the lead. As the smoke cleared coming out of turn 4, it was Benson who found his way back out front, and he held off all challengers over the final 21 laps to take the victory.
To anyone who missed Friday night’s Craftsman Truck race, shame on you. For the last several years, the trucks have put on the best race of Speedweeks, and Friday night’s three-wide finish was outstanding. Yeah, I was pulling for the guy with the Blue Oval in the grille, not the foreign trucks, but that didn’t keep me from rising to my feet and letting out a holler as the threesome swept to the finish line.
Which driver was the biggest surprise in 2006, and why?