*In a Nutshell:* Ron Hornaday, Jr. took the checkered flag ahead of Jack Sprague to win the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250 at Kansas Speedway Saturday evening. The defending series winner led the final 55 laps in a caution-filled race, holding off his teammate during the final restart with two laps to go. Colin Braun, Johnny Benson, and Mike Skinner rounded out the Top 5 finishers.
*Who Should Have Won: Hornaday, Jr.* Hornaday, Jr. and teammate Jack Sprague were fast straight off of their haulers. The driver of the No. 33 Camping World Chevrolet led the first practice, and followed that up in qualifying with a pole-winning run. That strength carried over to the race itself; Hornaday, Jr. led 136 of the scheduled 167 laps.
*Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:*
*1. How did Jennifer Jo Cobb and Michelle Theriault fare in their Craftsman Truck Series debuts?*
Jennifer Jo Cobb and Michelle Theriault each made their Craftsman Truck Series debuts with Derrike Cope, Inc. Saturday evening, but neither one left much of an impression on the series.
Cobb in the No. 74 Providence Medical Center Dodge and Theriault in the No. 73 Derrike Cope, Inc. / RMR Dodge missed the first practice, and things only went downhill from there. Jennifer Jo Cobb qualified her No. 74 an abysmal 36th, and final practice didn’t show much promise to make things better. Her fastest lap of 151.248 mph (35.703 seconds) was 35th quickest and more than fifteen miles per hour slower than the leaders. Like her teammate, Theriault struggled in qualifying, posting a 34th quickest lap. In final practice, Michelle ran 36th quickest at 149.460 mph (36.130 seconds).
Neither driver lasted very long once the green flag flew over the O’Reilly Auto Parts 250. Theriault’s No. 73 Dodge lasted just 16 laps before electrical problems proved terminal, and Cobb’s No. 74 Dodge ran only 31 laps before engine failure ended her hopes of a decent finish. The two finished 35th and 33rd, respectively.
While their debuts were definitely something to forget, it’s never easy to start up in a new series, and it’s even harder when you have a brand new team underneath you. All Jo Cobb and Theriault can do is take the little bit of track time and experience they did get and start building on it.
*2. Should Colin Braun be showing more respect to series veterans?*
On lap 83, rookie of the year contender Colin Braun ran into the back of Matt Crafton’s No. 88 Menards / McGuire-Nicholas Chevrolet, sending him into the Turn 4 wall. Crafton went on to finish the race three laps down in 21st; following the race, Crafton confronted Braun on pit road, where Braun admitted fault and apologized.
“First off, I want to apologize to Matt Crafton. I did not mean to get in the back of him there,” Braun said in his post-race press conference. “We were just having a tough, tight race there and me being a rookie, unfortunately, I got in the back of him and I feel real bad that we wrecked his day. He had a fast truck and I didn’t mean to do that, that’s for sure.
Later, Jack Sprague and Colin Braun were in a three-way battle for third with Johnny Benson when Braun moved low on the track, forcing Sprague to take the high line.
“He came down on me, and I could have let him crash,” Sprague said. “I went around him on the outside. I told him, ‘That was a gift, but don’t mess with me again.’ He has to stop running into people. If he wants to win, he has to have respect.”
While being a rookie is no excuse to make poor decisions on the track, Braun proved he’s a rookie learning the fine art of racing in one of NASCAR’s top three series. Sure, he didn’t win any friends when he got into Crafton, but the ability of a rookie to take responsibility when he knows he did something wrong is commendable.
However, Jack Sprague has a little more reason to be upset with the driver of the No. 6 Con-Way Freight Ford. If Braun expects to succeed in the Craftsman Truck Series and eventually move to the Nationwide or Sprint Cup divisions, he’s going to have to learn to make friends on the track. If the rookie learns to respect the veterans, he’ll find he has more support when he needs help out there; but if he keeps running into them instead, his time in NASCAR is sure to be tumultuous.
*3. How did Shane Sieg run in Kyle Busch’s place?*
For the first time this season, points leader Kyle Busch stepped out of the No. 51 Miccosukee Resorts Toyota Tundra because of schedule conflicts with the Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega Superspeedway. In his place, Billy Ballew Motorsports brought in Shane Sieg as a sub.
Sieg ran ninth quickest in the first practice and fourteenth quickest in the final practice. That solid performance translated when it really mattered; Shane started his No. 51 in 16th and finished 18th, on the lead lap. To get there, though, the young driver had to overcome adversity; on lap 52, Sieg got loose and tapped Brendan Gaughan’s No. 10 Ford before hitting the Turn 4 wall.
Even with that misstep, Shane Sieg’s run certainly wasn’t nearly as exciting as Kyle Busch’s runs usually are; but it’s a cinch the man made more friends on the track Saturday evening than Busch normally does. Look for Busch to be back in the No. 51 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in a few weeks, and the aggression to return right along with him.
*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 — replaced by Scott Speed at Kansas)
Brian Scott (No. 16)
*No. of Rookies in the Race:* 6
*No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10:* 1, Colin Braun finished 3rd
*Rookie Of The Race:* Colin Braun
*Worth Noting / Points Shuffle:*
The O’Reilly 250 set a record for most cautions in a Craftsman Truck Series race at twelve. The previous record of ten was set July 3rd, 2004.
During the pre-race show at Kansas Speedway, Rick Allen reported that Randy Moss of the New England Patriots plans to start a Truck team and hopes to race toward the end of the year. While nothing is “official” yet, a formal announcement is expected this week.
Ron Hornaday, Jr’s win combined with Kyle Busch missing the race gave Hornaday, Jr. the points lead. He leads Rick Crawford, who moved up three spots this week, by 61 points. Todd Bodine dropped one spot to third, and Dennis Setzer remains in fourth. Johnny Benson moved up four spots into the fifth position.
Kyle Busch dropped five spots to the sixth position, 130 points back from Ron Hornaday, Jr., and Matt Crafton dropped one spot to seventh. Chad McCumbee and Jack Sprague jumped five and six spots, respectively, to eighth and ninth. Ted Musgrave moved up one spot and rounds out the Top 10 finishers.
“This thing was just a rocket ship. It’s a brand new truck. You don’t have trucks like that, it was awesome.” _Ron Hornaday, Jr._
“We didn’t pit when everybody else did, and we used our stuff up getting back to the front. We wanted it bad.” _Jack Sprague_
The Craftsman Truck Series takes three more weeks off and heads to Lowe’s Motor Speedway for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 on Friday, May 16th. Ron Hornaday, Jr. won this race in 2007; coverage begins at 7:30 pm EST on SPEED, and the race can also be heard on your “local MRN affiliate.”:http://www.racingone.com/stations.aspx
_Did you know that Frontstretch has a weekly Driver Diary with some of your NASCAR favorites! Check out the schedule “here”:http://www.frontstretch.com/about/15284/ to figure out when your driver’s stopping by; and if he’s not, take the time to gain a new one by reading these entertaining reports that talk about the drivers’ off-track lives as well as their on-track performance!_