*In a Nutshell:* Donny Lia took the checkered flag 0.241 seconds ahead of David Starr to win the Ohio 250 at Mansfield Motorsports Park. Lia survived a last lap three wide battle with Starr and Todd Bodine to score his first career Craftsman Truck Series win Saturday afternoon. Terry Cook and Mike Skinner rounded out the Top 5.
*Who Should Have Won: David Starr.* Starr started third and remained close to the front of the pack, taking the lead on lap 80 when contact with Dennis Setzer sent the driver of the unsponsored No. 18 Dodge Ram spinning. Starr then managed to hold off Todd Bodine for ten different restarts up front; but when the green flag waved over the field for the final time with just seven laps remaining, he finally found himself the victim of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Contact with Donny Lia broke Starr’s momentum just enough to allow Lia and Todd Bodine to pull side by side with the driver of the No. 11 Pit-Now.com Toyota. Starr led 170 of the 250 laps on his way to a second place finish.
*Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:*
*1. Was Donny Lia racing too aggressively?*
On the final lap of the Ohio 250, Donny Lia and David Starr made enough contact to break Starr’s momentum and ultimately cost him the win. After the race, Todd Bodine suggested Lia was racing a little too hard.
“Donny [Lia] drove down into [turn] three and body slammed me out of the way. What he did to David was ridiculous. I knew what he was going to do cause that’s the way he drives,” said Bodine. “I just didn’t get myself prepared in time to get under him.”
But what we saw Saturday afternoon was simple short track racing; perhaps Todd Bodine would have felt differenly about the incident had he been prepared to take advantage of Starr’s loss of momentum. However, one thing Donny Lia needs to remember is that he is a rookie, and that aggressive driving will likely come back to him later this season.
*2. How did John Wes Townley and Scotty Crockett fare in their Craftsman Truck Series debuts?*
John Wes Townley made his Craftsman Truck Series debut at Mansfield instead of going to his high school graduation — but the young driver made the most of his opportunity. Townley qualified his No. 09 Zaxby’s Ford 23rd, and drove as high as ninth early in the race. After pitting, the 18-year-old found himself in 30th before teaming up with teammate Erik Darnell to work his way up to 15th. While he did fall back again later in the race, Townley brought his Truck home in one piece and on the lead lap.
“We started out coming here pretty optimistic being my first race,” Townley said. “We got out here and got in some bad situations. Fortunately, we didn’t get in any big wrecks. We just got held up by a couple of trucks out there. There’s always the next race. I gained quite a bit of experience today. That’s all you can take from races.”
Along with Townley, Scotty Crockett made his Truck Series debut in the No. 12 DEX Imaging / MetTel Telecommunications Chevy. Crockett qualified his truck 13th and remained mid-pack most of the day before dropping to his 23rd place finishing position. Crockett is currently a Hooter Pro Cup Series driver, and plans to race several more events before the end of the season.
While neither driver lit up the track, both Scotty Crockett and John Wes Townley finished on the lead lap without any serious damage to their trucks. Both drivers seem to have potential provided they continue to race and get more track time.
*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:* 7
*No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10:* 1; race winner Donny Lia
*Rookie Of The Race:* Donny Lia
Donny Lia scored his first career Craftsman Truck Series victory in just his eighth start.
*Worth Noting / Points Shuffle:*
Derrike Cope, Inc. withdrew both of their trucks from the entry list prior to the first practice session. Angela Cope’s Craftsman Truck debut has been pushed back to “do more extensive testing and debut later,” according to Cope.
Seven records were tied or broken during the running of the Ohio 250:
* 7 leaders : previous record of 5 was set May 15, 2005
* 6 lead changes : tied record set May 15, 2005
* 80 laps run under caution : previous record of 85 was set May 27, 2006
* 1 lap led by the race winner : previous record of 71 was set by Bobby Hamilton on May 15, 2005
* 29 finishers on the lead lap : previous record of 26 was set May 27, 2006
* 34 trucks running at the finish : tied record set May 27th, 2006
* 28th place starting position for the winner : previous record of 26th set by Bobby Hamilton on May 15, 2005
Todd Bodine’s third place finish moved him up two spots in the standings to first. Rick Crawford remains in second, just eight points behind Bodine. Matt Crafton moved up one spot to third. Johnny Benson, who moved up four positions and Ron Hornaday, Jr, who dropped four positions, round out the Top 5.
Terry Cook’s fourth place finish propelled him up four spots to sixth, and Mike Skinner sits in seventh after moving up four spots from 11th. David Starr’s second place finish moved him up six positions to eighth. Erik Darnell remains in ninth while Chad McCumbee dropped four spots and rounds out the Top 10.
“With 25 laps to go, I got on the radio because I could see what was going to happen. I knew we could do it. I wouldn’t be driving this truck if I didn’t think I could do it. But so soon? No. I can’t believe it. These guys right here are the reason I was able to do that. I can’t believe it. I don’t know what else to say.” _Donny Lia_
“Congrats to [Donny] Lia. They did a heck of a job. I’m disappointed for my team. We’ve been working hard, and I really thought we had this one. This is just great short track racing. I went into turn three on a prayer. You can lead every lap, but the only one that counts is the last one. I’m excited we’re getting our season turned around.” _David Starr_
The Craftsman Truck Series heads to Dover International Speedway for the AAA Insurance 200 next Friday. Ron Hornaday, Jr. won this race in 2007; coverage begins at 8:00 pm EST on SPEED, and the race can also be heard on your local “MRN affiliate.”:http://www.racingone.com/stations.aspx