Race Weekend Central

Tearing Apart the Trucks: A NASCAR Championship That’s Far From Decided

As the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rolls into New Hampshire International Speedway for the 18th race of the season, Ron Hornaday Jr. finds himself leading the points for the first time since 1999. Mike Skinner had led the championship standings since he won the second race of the year at the California Speedway and found himself tied with Jack Sprague for the top spot.

The combination of a 28th-place finish for Skinner after a cut tire and a second-place finish for Hornaday in the last race at St. Louis put the driver of the No. 33 Camping World Chevy ahead by just four points, the second-closest points margin in series history at this point in the season.

In the closest margin ever following the 17th race of the season, Scott Riggs led Joe Ruttman by just one point in 2001. Riggs scored only two top-five finishes in the remaining seven races of the season; while Sprague strung together six top-five finishes before getting caught up in a wreck with Riggs at the season finale at the California Speedway. Sprague’s amazing run at the end of the season left him crowned champion for the second time in his career, and Riggs ended up fifth in points, 144 points out of the lead.

In 1997, Sprague led Rich Bickle by just five points at this point of the season. Bickle, running in the No. 17 Sears DieHard Chevy for Darrell Waltrip, had just one win and four top-10 finishes in the last nine races of the season and three finishes outside the top 15 to close out the year. Meanwhile, the driver of the No. 24 Quaker State Chevy finished in the top 10 for the remaining nine races of the season, sealing the championship by 232 points over Bickle in the widest margin of victory in the history of the series.

In 2003, Brendan Gaughan found himself in the same position as Sprague had six years earlier. He led Travis Kvapil by just five points, but unlike Sprague, Gaughan did not win the championship. The driver of the No. 62 Orleans Hotel Dodge won twice in the remaining nine races and held the points lead until a DNF at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the final race of the season cost him the championship; he ended up fourth, 40 points out of first.

Kvapil scored eight top-10 finishes through the rest of the season. The driver of the No. 16 IWX Motor Freight Chevrolet went on the win the championship in his last year in a Chevy by nine points over Dennis Setzer.

At this point during the inaugural season of the Craftsman Truck Series, Skinner held a 25-point lead over Ruttman. Ruttman’s two top-10 finishes in the final three races weren’t enough to catch Skinner, who had dominated the majority of the season. Skinner capped his dream season with two wins and a third in the last three races. The driver of the No. 3 GM Goodwrench Service Chevy was crowned the 1995 champion by 126 points over Ruttman.

In 2005, Setzer held a 225-point lead following the 15th race of the season, but he ended up losing the trophy to Ted Musgrave by 55 points. Musgrave racked up seven finishes of sixth or better through the remaining 10 races of the season; while Setzer finished inside the top 10 just twice.

Hornaday and his team may lead the points now, but they need to continue to hit their marks for the remainder of the season because this championship race is far from decided.

Other News Around the Craftsman Truck Series

Benson Looking for Three in a Row

Johnny Benson is looking for his third consecutive win Saturday. Skinner won three in a row at California Speedway, Atlanta Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway earlier this season. No driver has won twice at New Hampshire, and if Benson can win his third consecutive race, he will also become the first repeat winner at the track.

Brandon Miller Out, Chad Chaffin In

Rookie Brandon Miller has been replaced for the remaining eight races of the season. Chad Chaffin, who ran the first six races of the 2006 season in the No. 40 Chevy, will retake the wheel. “This team has come a long way since I last drove for it,” said Chaffin. “And has now qualified for and competed in the last 35 races run over the last two seasons, so I know that I am coming back to a much different situation.”

Miller has been given the opportunity to remain with the team. “Brandon can learn a lot by watching and listening to a veteran like Chad,” Key said, “and if he believes that this can help his own driving career, then he will be with us at the next few races.”

Second Annual Toyota Tundra Skinner Round Up Coming Soon

Skinner and his wife Angie are set to co-host the second annual “Toyota Tundra Skinner Round Up” in Daytona Beach, Florida. The event begins Thursday, Sept. 27 and finishes up on Friday. Last year, the ended raised more than $104,000 for multiple Daytona Beach charities, and this year they hope to raise $125,000.

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