NASCAR Trucks: Toyota wins again
For the second week in a row, NASCAR veteran Mark Martin left a racetrack wishing that the race had ended just a few laps before the checkered flag actually fell.
The Daytona 500 runner-up, who lost to Kevin Harvick by two one-hundredths last week in NASCAR’s biggest race, was spun around on a restart by Ron Hornaday with five laps remaining in the San Bernardino County 200 and was again detoured from making a trip to victory lane.
The beneficiary of the mayhem between Martin and Hornaday was NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series veteran Mike Skinner, who took home the trophy on a cold, crisp night in southern California.
Skinner, who was ahead of Hornaday as the caution flag fell when Martin spun, held off Hornaday’s No. 33 AES HR Solutions Chevrolet for a green-white-checkered shootout over the final two laps. The win was the 20th of Skinner’s career and he is the first California native to win at the Los Angeles area track.
"You know, the thing just kind of lifted up, started spinning its wheels and I got behind on the steering," said Martin. "I just got behind on the steering."
Martin was relegated to a 23rd place finish.
For awhile it looked like the race would come down to a chess match between teams who would try to stretch it to the finish on fuel and those who came into the pits to put on fresh tires and get plenty of gas to make it to end.
This battle of wills was set up with a spin by David Starr with 30 laps remaining. Ten cars decided to stay out, keep track position and try to make it the rest of the way on fuel. This turned out to be the smart decision as caution flags over the final 12 laps allowed all of the competitors to race to the checkered flag. The top finish by a driver who elected to pit was Carl Edwards’ in fourth.
Daytona NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series winner Jack Sprague came home third and Ted Musgrave rounded out the top five. Johnny Benson, Todd Bodine, Kevin Harvick, Rick Crawford and Mike Bliss completed the top 10.
The points battle has Skinner and Sprague tied for the lead, followed by Benson, Hornaday and Bodine to compete the top five.
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series takes a break for a few weeks and will resume its schedule with the American Commercial Lines 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on March 16.
MIKE SKINNER, No. 5 Toyota Tundra, Bill Davis Racing: On the victory in his home state: “I know I had to do the slowest restart ever and not spin the tires on my Tundra and stay on the bottom. All of my guys are great. I was born just down the street (Ontario, Calif.), so that’s pretty cool. It was a great night for our Tundra. I can’t believe I won here at home. We always qualify good here, but we never run good here. Tonight our Tundra wasn’t perfect, but it drove all night with a good old conventional set-up. We had some horsepower under the hood of this Tundra. Toyota has been so great to myself and our whole race team. We won California!”
On late-race strategy: “(Crew Chief) Jeff Hensley made the call to put tires on there and it was a great call. He just makes definite calls. Ron (Hornaday) passed us clean and it looked like we were going to finish third. It just worked out. I’ve lost so many races the way Mark (Martin) did tonight, it’s about time we won one of these. My strategy was to hope Ron and Mark started racing each other and got into one another, and luckily that happened. We got by Ron before the caution came out.”
On battle with Mark Martin: “Mark Martin is probably the best race car driver, outside of Dale Earnhardt, to ever put a helmet on. I’m not quite sure what happened, maybe he missed a shift. Ron and Mark got together a bit. I would’ve rather finished 15th than wrecked Mark for the win.”