weather icon Partly Cloudy
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Overtime surge lifts Skinner to Qwik Liner 350 triumph

It’s a tempestuous time in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

The title sponsor for the series since its inception 13 years ago is leaving at the end of the season.

Dodge this year left as a sponsor.

And only 31 cars showed up Saturday to race in the 12th annual Qwik Liner 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The field was four less than a year ago.

The corporations that have jumped from the pickup beds should have had representatives at the speedway Saturday night to join the estimated crowd of 50,000.

Had they been there, no one would be languishing in gloom and doom for truck racing.

Mike Skinner made the last of a record 15 lead changes a few hundred yards from the finish line to beat Erik Darnell in overtime by a yard to win for the first time in 23 races.

It was a night that set track truck records for closest finish — and most crashes, yellow flags and laps run under caution (46).

“When Erik and I were out there with a four-second lead over the third-place truck, I wasn’t liking the way some of those trucks were driving in the back,” Skinner said of crashes that produced five cautions over the last 25 laps. “But what I didn’t like about the race helped me win the race.”

Skinner earned $57,450 for winning his second truck race at the speedway.

So much action was on the 1.5-mile tri-oval the race needed an overtime lap that extended the race to 147. The last of 12 yellow flags waved with six laps left. By the time debris was collected from the track, it was time for a green-white-checkered flag ending.

On the final restart for the two-lap shootout, Darnell held the lead, with Skinner’s Toyota Tundra knocking on the tailgate of Darnell’s Ford.

They raced passed the start/finish line side by side for the final lap. Roush Fenway Racing’s Darnell was in front coming off the final turn, but Skinner was able to go low and nudge him a bit to edge past him at the line by 0.020 seconds, or about 4 feet.

Skinner acknowledged he made contact with Darnell’s truck, but both drivers said they had no intention of doing anything to cause the other to crash.

“We bounced off (Darnell after the last turn), and that killed his momentum a little,” Skinner said.

Darnell and Skinner agreed the Ford was faster on short runs.

“I thought I could win that drag race at the end,” Darnell said. “Mike was better for the first two or three laps on restarts. I needed at least five laps to get going.”

Matt Crafton finished third, John Andretti fourth and Ron Hornaday Jr. fifth.

Although reigning series champion Hornaday’s winning streak this year ended at two, he cut 73 points off Johnny Benson’s lead in the standings.

Benson was the dominant truck with a two-second lead after 65 laps. He led 26 laps of the first 65 laps after starting fifth in his Germain Racing Toyota.

He was helped to the front when he took fuel only on his first pit stop, but he paid the price on lap 65 when his right front tire blew going into the first turn.

His truck slammed hard into the guardwall to end his night with a 27th-place finish after the crash, in which he was not injured.

“The truck was perfect,” Benson said after being released from the infield care center. “We weren’t running as hard as we could.”

More fireworks erupted when Las Vegan Brendan Gaughan and Jack Sprague made contact on lap 77.

Gaughan was running 10th and fell to 20th, but Sprague’s truck suffered major damage that ended his night with a 26th-place finish.

Gaughan, who won the race in 2003, rallied to be running eighth on the last lap in his Circle Bar Racing Ford. But it spun out, and he finished 20th.

NOTE — Ted Musgrave, who won the Las Vegas race in 2001, was fired after crashing the No. 59 Toyota in practice. He was replaced by Stacy Compton, who dropped out after 37 laps and finished 28th.

Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at jwolf@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0247.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.