09/23/06
Las Vegas Race is Skinner’s Time to Shine

Five times this season Mike Skinner has led the way in Craftsman Truck Series qualifying and then watched from the sidelines while someone else made their way to Victory Lane. To Skinner’s delight, things were different at the newly configured Las Vegas Motor Speedway and this time, when the checkers flew, he was holding the winning hand.

The new pavement at the 1.5-mile speedway promised to yield record speeds and those expectations were met when Skinner shattered the qualifying mark he set last September by 13 mph. Skinner then parlayed that pole into his 19th career victory and first since September 2005 at Richmond International Raceway.

Skinner was running second on the final restart of the race with Ted Musgrave in front of him and restart expert Ron Hornaday on his back bumper. He won a three-way battle for the lead on the backstretch and from there he called on Lady Luck for nothing but green flag racing. “(Hornaday) is good on those restarts but our truck was a little better than his,” Skinner noted. “He had my back wheels picked up and I couldn’t go because the wheels were spinning. He did what he was supposed to do. I knew if the caution didn’t come out our truck was good enough to win the race. By gosh, the caution didn’t come out. Can you believe that?”

Ted Musgrave, who was still miffed about a crash at New Hampshire that put him in the garage early last weekend, bounced back with his third runner-up finish of the season and third top five in the last four races.
“We led some laps and the Team ASE truck was pretty good but Mike Skinner’s truck was dominant all weekend,” said Musgrave. “At least we gave him a run for his money. We led some laps and got some bonus points. So we’re happy about that.”

Mike Bliss crossed the finish line third with his best run since late June at the Milwaukee Mile while Johnny Benson and Ron Hornaday rounded out the top five. Johnny Benson gained points on Todd Bodine for the second race in a row and this week’s fourth place finish moved him 33 notches closer to first place. The top-five finish was quite an accomplishment considering the fact that Benson nursed an ailing transmission from Lap 25 until the checkers flew.
“When it broke that early on I thought, we do not need this,” Benson said. “On the restarts I kept getting passed but I couldn’t do anything about it. We struggled most of the weekend and then ended up good.”

The points leader had troubles of his own as he fought an ill-handling truck all night long while battling back from an early penalty for speeding on pit road.
“We finally figured out on the last run what happened,” explained Bodine. “We had a jack bolt back out and we lost all the wedge in the truck. We finally just cranked a ton of wedge into it and the thing took off. We were actually almost as fast as Skinner at the end of the race. Track position is everything. We were back to 28th or 29th and we ended up 12th, so we salvaged the best we could out of it.”

Bodine’s advantage sits at 91 points with six races to go in the season. The series will take a break next weekend while the teams prepare for the first visit to Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 7th.