03/16/07

Skinner Snags Points Lead With Victory in Atlanta

Mike Skinner went into Atlanta Motor Speedway tied with Jack Sprague for the Craftsman Truck Series points lead. After he recorded his second consecutive victory he raced away in sole possession of first place. Skinner spent most of the 130-lap race swapping the lead with Todd Bodine but when AJ Allmendinger crashed with less than 15 laps to go, it was Cup Series regular Clint Bowyer who showed the way. On the final restart, Skinner latched tight onto Bowyer’s back bumper and wasted little time as bumped the leader and made the winning pass.
Bodine followed Skinner to take over the runner up position and then chased the No. 5 Toyota to the checkers.

Skinner started on the pole and staying in the lead pack allowed him to avoid the numerous incidents that brought out the caution flag a record nine times. The 0.700-second margin of victory also set a record for the widest ever in six series events at the 1.5-mile speedway. “I think the 30 (Bodine) was the best truck tonight,” noted Skinner who posted his 21st career victory. “We were a little better on the short runs so when those cautions kept coming out, it didn’t bother me. I knew I had to get a really, really good restart and Clint (Bowyer) had been mirror driving me pretty hard all night but I wasn’t going to wreck him to win this race.”

Bodine led 39 laps, second only to Skinner’s 67, and went on to score his third consecutive top 10 finish to start the season. It was that final caution of the race that he could have done without. “Our trucks were equal on the short run,” said Bodine. “But ours was definitely better on the long run.”

Third place Danny Crafton had to come from behind after his Chevrolet received damage in a multi-car accident on the race’s initial start. “We did pass a lot of trucks tonight,” laughed Crafton. “We didn’t have anything for the top two trucks but we did have a third place truck. I’m really happy with our finish but not satisfied because we aren’t out there in Victory Lane where Mike Skinner is. That is when I will be satisfied is when we are there.”

Rick Crawford finished fourth in his 250th career start while Clint Bowyer faded at the end but salvaged a fifth place finish. “It’s kinda hard to go when your rear wheels are off the ground,” said Boywer. “(Skinner) had the rear tires off the ground. He did what he had to do. It’s all good.” Skinner took the lead in the driver standings by 69 over Todd Bodine who moved into second.

The Craftsman Truck Series will take next weekend off to prepare for the season’s first short track event at Martinsville Speedway on March 31.