*In a Nutshell:* Kyle “Rowdy” Busch took the checkered flag 1.415 seconds ahead of Todd Bodine to win the San Bernardino County 200 at the Auto Club Speedway Saturday afternoon. Busch took the lead for the final time when the field cycled through green flag pit stops inside 20 laps to go. Johnny Benson, Terry Cook and 2007 champion Ron Hornaday, Jr. rounded out the Top 5.
*Who Should Have Won:* Kyle Busch. Busch had the truck to beat all weekend, running in the Top 5 in both practice sessions. With the field set by 2007 owner’s points, the 22-year old found himself with a 20th starting position. It didn’t take long for “Rowdy” to work his way to the front, and he first took the lead on lap 25. The driver of the No. 51 Toyota Tundra went on to lead 51 laps on his way to his seventh career truck series win.
*Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:*
1. How are the 2007 points leaders faring so far this season?
Ron Hornaday, Jr. and Mike Skinner orchestrated one of the most exciting points battles in truck series history last season, but this season, they’ve found themselves in the hole. Both drivers struggled in the season opener at Daytona. Mike Skinner was involved in the lap 19 incident caused by Kyle Busch, and Ron Hornaday, Jr. found himself fighting engine troubles. Following the Chevy Silverado 250, Hornaday sat 24th in points, and Skinner sat 28th.
In a race set by 2007 owner’s points due to rain, the two started on the front row, but Mike Skinner quickly radioed in with what the team thought was a dropped cylinder. Just one lap later, the driver of the No. 5 Toyota Tundra got a lucky break when rookie Justin Marks spun and brought out the caution. The team found a loose spark plug wire and was able to continue with very little time spent on pit road. Skinner went on to finish 8th, and Hornaday finished 5th.
2. Where were the rookies?
With five of six rookies finishing in the Top 15 last week at Daytona, the bar was set high for expectations coming into California. This time, only three rookies finished in the Top 20. Justin Marks lost the handling in the side draft with Kyle Busch and spun all alone into the inside wall. He went on the finish 33rd. Colin Braun and Phillip McGilton fared much better, finishing ninth and tenth respectively.
The rest of the rookie class finished at least one lap down. Marc Mitchell and Brian Scott each finished one lap down in 20th and 23rd respectively. Donny Lia, in his first truck series race this season finished 26th also one lap down, but his teammate, Andy Lally, finished 29th three laps down.
*Truck Rookie Report*
*2008 Rookie of the Year Candidates:*
Colin Braun (No. 6)
Andy Lally (No. 7)
Donny Lia (No. 71)
Justin Marks (No. 9)
Marc Mitchell (No. 15)
Phillip McGilton (No. 22)
Brian Scott (No. 16)
*No. of Rookies in the Race:* 7
*No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10:* 2; Colin Braun finished ninth, Phillip McGilton finished 10th
*Rookie Of The Race:* Colin Braun
*Worth Noting / Points Shuffle:*
Kyle Busch’s win propels him to first in points, and Todd Bodine is just 20 points behind. The rest of the Top 5 remains the same. Johnny Benson sits just five points behind Bodine in third. David Starr and Rick Crawford sit just three points apart in fourth and fifth.
Positions sixth through tenth find themselves just 11 points apart. Rookie of the year contender Phillip McGilton moved up six spots to the sixth position, and Chad McCumbee sits in seventh. Dennis Setzer moved up two spots to eighth, and the biggest winner in the Top 10 this week is Ron Hornaday, Jr. who gained fifteen positions to move into ninth. Stacy Compton dropped four spots to round out the Top 10.
“Here’s the start, hopefully, to a three-peat this weekend. This means the most to me than anything. In this race in 2001, I was kicked out of the racetrack. I probably could have sat on the pole and won the race that day.” _Kyle Busch_
We were just really tight in the race. Believe it or not, track position was worth a lot today. It was really hard to pass anybody, especially if you were on the inside. It was a frustrating day for the whole team.” _A.J. Allmendinger, finished 11th_
The Craftsman Truck Series heads back east to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the American Commercial Lines 200. Mike Skinner won this race last season, and Kyle Busch won the fall race. Race coverage begins at 8:30 pm EST March 7th on SPEED. The race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.