Sunday, May 25, 2008

Mansfield Truck Series Race brings plenty of excitement

In a sort of continuation of the discussion on what makes a race exciting, the Craftsman Truck Series Ohio 250 from Mansfield, OH, had to be among the most exciting races so far this year.

Short tracks provide much of what makes a race exciting, as does the Truck Series itself. The relatively short distance of the truck races guarantee that the drivers will be racing for the win from the start of the race, and short track racing, by its very nature, provides close contact and plenty of beatin' and bangin.'

Mansfield had all of that, practically from the very start. Thirty-six drivers in thirty-six trucks surged toward the front at the drop of the green flag. The first caution came only nine laps into the race, when and there would be many more to follow. So intense was the racing that there was no give and take, but that is not unusual in Truck Series racing.

On lap 49, Ron Hornaday tried to move aggressively toward the front, but, in making the move, got tangled up with Colin Braun, and then got hit by Rick Crawford. Then for the second week in a row, NASCAR officials issued an unjust "rough driving" penalty, sending Crawford to the back of the longest line. Crawford seemed to be no more than an innocent bystander, who got caught in the accident because he had nowhere to go, as did Johnny Benson last week during the race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, who was penalized then for rough driving.

In a series that lives up to its motto "These trucks don't play nice," such penalties under those circumstances seem incongruous. In fact, after the restart following the Hornaday incident, one commentator felt the need to say, "They'll have to send everybody to the back of the longest line."

Around this time last year, Scott Speed had the highlight of his short Formula One career, finishing ninth at Monaco, and earning his first top ten in that series. During Saturday's truck race, he felt more like a pinball, getting hit by nearly everyone on the track, but he did manage to finish on the lead lap in fifteenth place. Brendan Gaughan wasn't as lucky. After running well the first part of the race, he was hit even more often than Speed, and ended up one lap down in thirtieth.

In fact, with so much beatin' and bangin' happening the entire race, it is almost surprising that twenty-nine trucks finished on the lead lap, only two trucks did not finish, due to overheating. Hornaday finished thirty fifth, one-hundred-and-five laps down.

But it is the guys who finished up front in who we should be interested. David Starr led 170 laps, but with one lap to go he felt pressure from Donny Lia, the 2007 Whelan Modified Series Champion. In fact, Starr felt the kind of pressure that got him lose, and allowed Lia to pass. Still, he managed to stay in the battle as the trucks went three-wide, with Lia, Starr, and Todd Bodine all trying to reach the finish line first. As Lia prevailed and took the checkers, Starr and Bodine went nose to nose across the finish line, with Starr finishing in second. Lia's win marks the first time in five years a rookie in the series has won a race. Carl Edwards was the last to do so in 2003

Of course Bodine, who moved into the lead in Championship, had to complain about Lia's aggressive driving, even though Starr, who was the one who had fallen victim to Lia's bump, referred to it as good racing. But Bodine knew what he was talking about, because he had blatantly wrecked Ron Hornaday last week.

There may come a day when racing means a bunch of racing machines following each other in an orderly fashion, but I hope that it is a long time before that day comes to Truck racing. In fact, I hope that day doesn't come as long as I walk this earth. It just felt way too good to watch a race like the one we saw Saturday.

1 comment:

Clance' said...

Hey Buddy, I missed ya. Hope things are going well for you.