NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Review: Atlanta
Mike Skinner's 21st victory was his seventh when starting from the Budweiser Pole. That's one less than the record held by Sprague, who went pole to Victory Lane at Daytona in February.
Skinner, who claims it's too early to think about a second championship, took the standings lead for the first time since winning - from the pole - at the old Flemington Speedway in New Jersey on Aug. 10, 1996.
That required 78 races in his second, fulltime series shift that begin in February 2004 when Toyota became NASCAR Craftsman Truck's fourth manufacturer. Skinner won the inaugural title in 1995 for Richard Childress Racing and moved to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series with RCR in 1997.
Along the way, he won a NASCAR Busch Series race at Atlanta and came within 20 laps of a NEXTEL Cup win here.
After finishing second - spinning through the grass off Turn 4 battling Bobby Hamilton to the checkered flag in 2004 - Skinner finally got a truck win.
"Our whole attitude is different this year," said Skinner, who won the most poles and led the most laps in 2006 but finished 10th in the standings. "We are focused on top 10 finishes and keeping the fenders on the truck. We're just trying to be smart."
For the record, Skinner's start of two wins and a fourth place is his best in six full seasons.
Skinner goes for three-in-a-row at Martinsville Speedway where he won in 1996. He's one of four drivers to win three consecutive races and was the first in 1996. Skinner's last back-to-back victories came in 2005 at Bristol and Richmond.
Spears Motorsports changed crew chiefs - Tom Ackerman replacing Dave McCarty - and first-year driver Dennis Setzer responded with a seventh-place finish after a pair of 19th-place efforts.
"I hope this is just the start of things to come and we can get this program back to the front again," said Setzer. The team finished 21st with freshman Aric Almirola in 2006 while Setzer was 13th for Morgan Dollar Motorsports - his first placing outside the top 10 as a fulltime series driver.
Numbers, numbers: Matt Crafton scored his fifth career topping third-place finish in his 150th series start - all of them consecutive since the final race of the 2000 season. That ranks ninth in series history.
And he did it the hard way, having to pit twice for his crew to repair broken rear spoiler braces.
"Came from dead last to finish third," said Crafton. "We didn't have anything for the top two trucks but we did have a (legitimate) third-place truck."
Terry Cook, who finished 17th, extended the series' consecutive start mark to 225.
Meanwhile, Travis Kvapil will make his 100th NASCAR Craftsman Truck start at Martinsville.
There was hardly any moon at all but from the night's "action," one might have discerned that it had been full and then some. A record 45 of the 130 laps were run under caution with driver after driver bouncing off each other and the speedway's SAFER barriers.
Veteran Stacy Compton, who finished 16th had this to say: "I don't know if it was the cooler weather or just a loose nut behind the wheel. There was some pretty crazy stuff going on out there tonight. But, that's truck racing; that's the reason it's so much fun."
Morning showers compressed the pre-race schedule giving drivers about an hour of practice - about half of what had been scheduled. NASCAR mandated a competition caution at lap 25 to aid teams with their race setups.
The March 31 Kroger 250 will be Martinsville Speedway's 17th race. Setzer is the only driver to have scored two victories at the .526-mile track. David Starr and Sprague won the track's two races in 2006.