Race Weekend Central

Truckin’ Thursdays: Atlanta Motor Speedway’s Closest Finishes

As the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series rolls into Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend, the series will embark on its 15th year of competition at the mile-and-a-half oval. The Truck Series debuted in Atlanta with the 2004 season and ran at the track twice from 2005 through 2008. After dropping back to a single race from 2009 through 2013, Atlanta was dropped from the schedule for two years before reappearing in 2015.

Matt Crafton holds the record for the largest margin of victory at Atlanta with an 8.752-second win over Ty Dillon in the series’ return in 2015. But that’s far from the norm for the track. In fact, just six of the 18 races run at Atlanta have featured margins of over one second.

2004 Easycare Vehicle Service Contracts 200 – 0.330 seconds

Mike Skinner and Bobby Hamilton dominated this race, leading all but 10 laps in the inaugural event at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Skinner took the top spot for what appeared to be the final time on lap 126, but two circuits later, an incident between Steve Park and Robert Huffman set up a green-white-checkered finish.

Though Skinner got the jump, Hamilton worked his way alongside the driver of the No. 42 Toyota and battled to the finish. Coming out of turn 4 to the start/finish line, the two touched, sending Skinner sliding across in second. David Reutimann, Travis Kvapil and Crafton rounded out the top five.

The victory was the first in Hamilton’s four-win season that ultimately saw him hoist the championship trophy at the end of the year.

2016 Great Clips 200 – 0.305 seconds

Christopher Bell and Matt Crafton dominated this race, combining to lead 118 of 130 laps, but both drivers suffered hard crashes that took them out of contention. Crafton was the first to fall when Bell clipped teammate Daniel Suarez, who slid up the track and sent both Crafton and Suarez spinning. The carnage resulted in a red flag with less than 20 laps remaining, and when the field restarted, Bell appeared to be on his way to victory lane as he expanded his margin over the field. But that’s when the right front tire let go on the No. 4 Toyota and sent Bell hard into the outside wall.

That left the race to be settled by John Hunter Nemechek and Cameron Hayley in a two-lap dash to the finish. Nemechek and Hayley finished 1-2, followed by Timothy Peters and Daniel Hemric. In a finish that was even more exciting than the one that determined the winner, Grant Enfinger, Ben Rhodes and John Wes Townley took the checkered flag three-wide, separated by mere inches, but it was Enfinger who got the edge and rounded out the top 5.

The victory was the second for Nemechek, running his family-owned NEMCO Motorsports Chevrolet. It was also the second time he put an unsponsored truck in victory lane. He went on score another victory at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park that season before ending the year 11th in the standings.

2006 Easy Care Vehicle Service Contracts 200 – 0.209 seconds

A blown motor for Aric Almirola set up a 10-lap dash to the finish in this race with Erik Darnell leading the field to the green flag for the final time alongside Mike Bliss. Once the green flag flew, Bliss spun his tires, allowing Darnell to drive away briefly. But the veteran driver had a strong truck throughout the race and was able to drive right by Darnell with very little effort. Terry Cook made one heck of a run at the lead but didn’t have enough to take the victory.

Darnell ended up third, followed by David Reutimann and Rick Crawford who rounded out the top five. The victory was the only one for Bliss during the 2006 season.

2009 American Commercial Lines 200 – 0.122 seconds

“The kid is phenomenal,” crew chief Doug George said about Kyle Busch, who edged Kevin Harvick by just over one tenth of a second. But what may not look spectacular on paper stands out as one that could have gotten away. Busch didn’t have third gear for the final restart of the race with just eight laps remaining but was able to bide his time and get to the front to beat a dominant Harvick, who led a race-high 68 laps.

Todd Bodine finished third, followed by Mike Skinner and Terry Cook to round out the top five. The only other driver who led any laps that race was Colin Braun, who was out in front of the field for three circuits but ultimately crashed to bring out the fifth and final caution.

The victory was Busch’s fourth at Atlanta and his second of seven wins in 15 starts during the 2009 season. It was also the same year he won the Xfinity Series championship.

2005 World Financial Group 200 – 0.008 seconds

Rick Crawford led a race-high 52 laps but brought out the final caution of the race just before the white flag flew, setting up a green-white-checkered finish. On the restart, Bobby Labonte chased Ron Hornaday, inching ever closer until the pair raced side-by-side from the backstretch all the way to the start/finish line, en route to a photo finish with Hornaday taking the edge.

The top-five finishers of this race are a bit of a who’s who in series history as Hornaday and Labonte were followed by Bobby Hamilton, Dennis Setzer and David Starr to round out the top five. The victory was Hornaday’s only win in a year that saw him finish fourth in the championship standings.

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