Saturday, November 08, 2008

How 'bout them trucks!

Expect anything to happen in a Craftsman Truck Series race, and the race will always produce more than you could ever expect. Whether the race is for the lead, the win, championship points, or even just to finish in the top ten, the competition level is very high, and the level of excitement is at its peak.

For the last seven or eight races, the championship battle has been between Ron Hornaday and Johnny Benson, with the points lead changing between them several times. Hornaday went into Martinsville with a 39 point lead over Benson, but ran out of fuel in the final laps, giving Benson the lead by sixty-five points. He dominated the race at Atlanta, only to be beaten by his team mate, Ryan Newman, on the last lap. This put him 33 points behind Benson.

At Texas, last week, Hornaday again dominated, and won the race, but Johnny Benson took fourth place on the last lap and maintained a six point lead. This set the stage for Phoenix.

Phoenix International Raceway is often referred to as "the speedway that acts like a short track." (Richmond is the short track that acts like a speedway.) Turns one and two are wide and banked like Lowe's, while turns three and four are tight and flat, like New Hampshire. This produces a drivers' track, and you know the drivers of the Craftsman Truck Series have to love it.

Ron Hornaday sat on the pole for the start of the race, with Kyle Busch on the outside. This was believed to give Hornaday an automatic advantage over Benson, who started in fourteenth at a track where moving up through traffic is difficult. But, before the first lap was finished, Hornaday, trying to pass Kyle Busch on the inside in turn three, lost control of his truck and hit the outside wall, then slipped down into traffic, which, including Johnny Benson's #23 truck, caused more damage.

While Benson's truck sustained only minor damage, Hornaday's had to go to the garage so the rear track bar could be replaced, the front suspension completely rebuilt, and the body work repaired as much as possible. After a laudatory effort, Hornaday later returned to the track, thirty laps down.

So, we would expect that Benson would be able to pad his lead in the points some, which he did. Until sixty laps to go, when he misjudged the line TJ Bell was taking through turn three, and ran into the #7 truck, then the wall, causing major damage to his truck's suspension.

Meanwhile, Kyle Busch and Kevin Havick were having the time of their lives racing for the lead. They are the only two NASCAR drivers who have won at least one race at the same track in each of the three top tier divisions--CTS, Nationwide/Busch, and the Sprint Cup Series. And that one track is Phoenix. Lap after lap, Harvick challenged Busch, until finally taking the lead with forty-five laps to go. Busch reported that his truck's handling was very loose as he dropped back to second place. With twenty laps to go, Busch said he felt a tire going down, but disaster was averted as a caution came out following another accident. By this time, Benson had returned to the track, but behind Ron Hornaday. It was his spin that caused the caution. Busch pitted for tires, adjustments, and fuel, and restarted in twelfth place. After the restart, Busch moved through the field like a hot knife through "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter." With four laps to go, he had passed Todd "Onion" Bodine for second place, but didn't have quite enough to catch Harvick, who won the race.

With Hornaday finishing twenty-fifth, and Benson finishing twenty-sixth, there are now only three points separating the two points leaders in the Championship battle. Benson barely holds the lead going to the final race at Homestead, and, if you can believe it, Todd Bodine is in third place, 145 points behind Benson. That means that if, by another strange twist of fate, Benson and Hornaday both suffer from a similar situation to that they had at Phoenix, Bodine could take the championship by finishing in the top three. Wow!

Other notes: Where the heck did this Brian Scott kid come from? Earlier this year, at O'Reilly Motorsports Park in Indianapolis, he finished 29th. Since then, his finishes have become steadily better.The young rookie, who drives the #16 Toyota has had a career best finish in every race in which he has participated. Friday night, he finished fourth. This guy seems to have a future in NASCAR.

On the other side of the coin is John Wes Townley, another young entry level driver. Bad luck seemed to plague him in qualifying this weekend. Friday, entering turn three, he lost the front right tire. I mean lost it--it came completely off the wheel. And today, during Nationwide Series qualifying, the exact same thing happened at exactly the same place! It seems as if Somebody is trying to tell Townley something like, maybe, "With a name like John Wes Townley, you should have a guitar in your hands, not a steering wheel."

I wonder if he can sing?

5 comments:

Cobra said...

Brian Scott is NOT a Roush Fenway Driver

RevJim said...

Cobra thank you for pointing that out to me. I had to go to Racing-reference.info to look, and you are right. Brian Scott finished fourth (not seventh) in the #16 Toyota, not Ford. It was the number (16) that threw me off.
My bad. The truck is owned by Joe Scott, and the team ran Chevrolet until Las Vegas, then switched to Toyota.

RevJim said...

Cobra thank you for pointing that out to me. I had to go to Racing-reference.info to look, and you are right. Brian Scott finished fourth (not seventh) in the #16 Toyota, not Ford. It was the number (16) that threw me off.
My bad. The truck is owned by Joe Scott, and the team ran Chevrolet until Las Vegas, then switched to Toyota.

RevJim said...

I can't delete the duplicate comment for some reason. I think the fact that Brian Scott is not affiliated with a major team speaks even more for his skill.

Cobra said...

Brian has done a great job this year, but he IS with a major team, Bill Davis Racing with Benson and Skinner as team mates. Not taking any thing away from Brian he is really having a great year and I hope to see him continue to do well.