*In a Nutshell:* Todd Bodine took the checkered flag ahead of Kyle Busch to win the Craftsman Truck Series’ season opener at Daytona International Speedway Friday night. Bodine held off a late-race charge by Kyle Busch and Johnny Benson and crossed the finish line just 0.077 seconds ahead of Busch in the Chevy Silverado 250 to score his first win at the superspeedway. David Starr and Rick Crawford rounded out the Top 5.
*Who Should Have Won:* Erik Darnell. Darnell led 45 laps and looked like a threat to win the race until he developed a right side vibration and attempted to come onto pit road with 13 laps remaining. The driver of the No. 99 Northern Tool & Equipment Ford was hit from behind by rookie Justin Marks and ended up 21st after being unable to continue the race.
*Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:*
*1. Who really was to blame in the lap 19 accident?*
Kyle Busch came down on the track and hit Mike Skinner. The accident brought out the red flag for nearly 20 minutes, took three trucks out of the race and damaged several others. Busch spun but managed not to hit anything or anyone else. P.J Jones’ truck erupted in flames, and Brendan Gaughan and Chad Chaffin were knocked out of the race.
A visibly upset Gaughan said, “Kyle will race tomorrow. He doesn’t care about this. This is his fun time.” Matt Crafton, who was able to continue and finished 40 laps down said, “They were way too stupid out there.” Busch never really accepted blame but did offer his apologies. “I apologize if I was to blame for that.”
Busch was clearly at fault when he turned down into Skinner. A move like that has little business on the track period, but there was no reason for the driver of the No. 51 NOS Energy Drink Toyotas to be driving that hard early in the race. Mike Skinner said, “Awfully early in the race to be making moves like that all over the track.”
In the end, pointing fingers won’t reverse what happened on the track, but placing blame on someone just might make the drivers involved feel a little better.
*2. What can we expect from this year’s rookie class?*
The 2008 race for Rookie of the Year will be highly contested with seven drivers hoping to score the top honors. Two of those drivers finished in the Top 10 Friday Night. Justin Marks started the last four races of the 2007 season in preparation for 2008 and scored his best finish, eighth, in the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 26-year old driver matched that at Daytona with Rookie of the Year contender Brian Scott hot on his trail. The two are just a small portion of the talent this year’s rookie class has to offer.
Andy Lally, a three-time Rolex Grand Am Champion made the move to NASCAR late during the 2007 season and managed to finish in 11th. Donny Lia will make his first start in a second team for TRG Motorsports behind the wheel of the No. 71 Chevy starting with next week’s race at California Speedway. Philip McGilton finished 12th with Marc Mitchell close behind in 13, and Colin Braun finished 31st after being involved in a lap 24 crash.
With five rookie contenders finishing in the Top 15 Friday night, this year’s group aims to please. It’s too early to judge how these rookies will fare on the shorter tracks, but so far they look like they won’t disappoint.
*3. What was it like for Bodine to win at Daytona International Speedway?*
Prior to his win Friday night at Daytona, Todd Bodine had never won at the 2.5 mile track in his career. In his 34 starts across the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series, the driver of the No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota had two runner-up finishes; he finished second to Randy LaJoie in the Nationwide Series in 1997 and again to Mark Martin in the Craftman Truck Series in 2006. An overjoyed Bodine said it better than anyone else ever could.
“You can accomplish a lot in racing. You can go places. You travel the country. You see the country. You do things. There’s nothing like being in Victory Lane at Daytona. It doesn’t matter if it’s in a Cup car or a Nationwide car or a Truck Series or a go kart. You’re standing in Victory Lane at Daytona. That’s the Super Bowl, man. It doesn’t get any better than this.”
*Truck Rookie Report*
*2008 Rookie of the Year Candidates:*
Colin Braun (No. 6)
Andy Lally (No. 7)
Donny Lia (No. 71) ( _starting at California next week_ )
Justin Marks (No. 9)
Marc Mitchell (No. 15)
Philip McGilton (No. 22)
Brian Scott (No. 16)
*No. of Rookies in the Race:* 6
*No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10:* 2; Justin Marks finished 8th; Brian Scott finished 9th
*Rookie Of The Race:* Justin Marks
Todd Bodine currently sits atop the points standings with Kyle Busch 25 points behind in second. Johnny Benson, David Starr and Rick Crawford round out the Top 5. Stacy Compton sits in sixth and leads seventh place Chad McCumbee by just four points. Rookies Justin Marks and Brian Scott sit in eighth and ninth respectively with Dennis Setzer rounding out the Top 10.
“This is my 20th year coming to this speedway. I came here three years as a crew member, 17 years as a driver. Finished second and third, crashed hard, burned a couple times. Finally!” _Todd Bodine_
“I let Todd get out too far on us. Trying to get a run through the last part of the corner I had to breathe it on the exit again. Wasn’t quite able to get the run that I wanted down the last straight chute. We were able to come home second.” _Kyle Busch_
“It was a good all around effort. Just a little bummed out there about what happened with the 99. I was just hooked up underneath him. If he was waving, I didn’t see him. I tried the best I could to stay off of him. So sorry about that.” _Justin Marks_
The Craftsman Truck Series heads to the west coast for the San Bernardino County 200 at California Speedway. Defending race winner Mike Skinner hopes to make up some ground lost this week at Daytona. Race coverage begins at 3:00 pm EST on FOX (the first of two CTS races this season that will be shown network television), and the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.