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In a Nutshell: Mike Bliss won the EasyCare Vehicle Service Contracts 200 at Atlanta Saturday night for his first victory in the event since 2002. In a race full of intense side-by-side racing, Bliss held off Terry Cook by a mere 0.207 seconds to take the checkered flag. Rookie Erik Darnell posted his second top-five finish in two weeks, finishing in third, while David Reutimann and Rick Crawford rounded out the top five.
Who Should Have Won: Bliss or Cook. Both drivers had very fast trucks; Bliss led just 38 laps on the evening, but that was enough to lead the most on a wacky night in Atlanta. Bliss took the lead with just 10 laps remaining and held on tight; Cook led a hard charge at Bliss, but he ran out of laps before he could take the top spot.
Question You Should Be Asking After this Weekend’s Race
1) Will rookie Erik Darnell manage to add a win to his resume before the close of the 2006 season?
Darnell has quietly put together an outstanding season. He has one pole and nine top-10 finishes in 22 races. The No. 99 team has helped Darnell to complete 3,478 of 3,647 laps (95.4%) this season. Darnell has finished third the last two weeks, and it’s only a matter of time before he breaks through and comes home with his first win.
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle
Jeremy Mayfield, driving the No. 15 Billy Ballew Motorsports Chevrolet, suffered engine failure with just 16 laps remaining and came home with a very disappointing 31st-place finish.
The top 10 in points remained unchanged with Todd Bodine, Johnny Benson, Reutimann, Ted Musgrave and Crawford maintaining their positions. Bodine gained a few points on Benson and now sits 86 points ahead. There are now only seven drivers not mathematically eliminated from the points race.
“I haven’t won [in trucks] since 2002 and that’s a long time. I was thinking about that today before the race. But we just needed something to go our way, and it did. And we deserve it. But I’m glad it wasn’t two laps longer.” – Mike Bliss
“We ran him down there at the end of the race and caught him at the white flag. We couldn’t get by him in turns 1 and 2, and then the nose washed out in [turns] 3 and 4 and that was it. Definitely, we had the fastest truck at the end, but we just couldn’t get by Mike [Bliss] there.” – runner-up Terry Cook
“We surely didn’t need that last caution. I am really excited for my guys that we were able to get a third-place finish for the second straight week. They deserve it. But it is just a little disappointing to finish third after having the lead with 10 laps to go. We got beat by two trucks that were just a little better than we were. But we learned a lot, and we’ll put it to good use next week in Texas.” – rookie Erik Darnell
Next Up: The Craftsman Truck Series runs its 23rd race of the season next weekend in Texas. The Silverado 350 will run Friday, Nov. 30; Bodine is the defending race winner. Television coverage starts at 9:00 p.m. ET on Speed. The race can also be caught on your local MRN affiliate.
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