With Trucks at midway point, it's time to add up good and bad

The 2007 Craftsman Truck Series season has had its share of ups and downs, but at the halfway point, the series has never seen anything like Mike Skinner, writes John Schwarb.

Updated: July 25, 2007, 5:21 PM ET
By John Schwarb | Special to ESPN.com

When the Built Ford Tough 225 completed Lap 75 at Kentucky Speedway two weeks ago, the Craftsman Truck Series season officially reached its midpoint.

Mike Skinner
John Sommers II/Getty ImagesOther drivers are getting used to looking at Mike Skinner's rear bumper.

Take a wild guess as to who was leading at the time.

Bill Davis Racing's Mike Skinner led that lap -- he led 135 of 150 laps in the race -- en route posting his fourth win of the season and continuing a dominant season in the No. 5 Toyota Tundra.

For Skinner, the series' inaugural champion in 1995, it has been a season of one superlative after another. He owns the most wins, the most poles (seven), most led laps (better than one out of every three) and has not finished out of the top-10 in any race. He has put his name in the record books for age feats (joining Joe Ruttman as the only truck drivers to win after turning 50). And the next race you see Skinner fail to lead will be his first this season. He set a record by leading in each of the season's 13 events thus far.

"I try not to get caught up in that stuff, but I have to admit that I wanted to lead the race awfully bad [at Kentucky]," said Skinner, who has led in 17 consecutive races dating to the end of last year. "That was a record that's pretty special to us.

"It's kind of like Tiger Woods going 'x' amount of rounds without a bogey. The problem is, I'm afraid when we have a bogey it'll be a triple-bogey."

Chasing teams can only hope Skinner will forget how to hit it straight in the very near future, and they have been hoping that for a few months. He'll take his largest points lead, 164 in front of Kevin Harvick Inc. driver Ron Hornaday Jr., to Indianapolis on Friday night for the Power Stroke Diesel 200 at O'Reilly Raceway Park.

"I don't think anybody has ever ran a whole season with top-5s and top-10s and lost the championship," Skinner said.

If the No. 5 stays up front that won't happen this year either. But at least he won't dominate every time out during the second half of the season (we think), so there should be as many good weekend stories as there were in the first half of the year.

Here's some of those highlights and lowlights, and a look at the top 10 as it stands now.

Troublesome suspensions: The truck series made national headlines for the wrong reasons earlier this month when Red Horse Racing's Aaron Fike was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance. He and his fiancÚe were in the parking lot of a Cincinnati-area amusement park at the time. NASCAR responded by suspending Fike indefinitely, ending a promising rookie season that had put him atop the rookie points standings and in the top 10 overall.

Fike was the second driver parked for the season; Bill Davis Racing's Tyler Walker was suspended in May for violating NASCAR's substance-abuse policy.

Thriller at Daytona: Three-time series champion Jack Sprague filled one of the last remaining voids in his truck career with a win at Daytona, surviving a three-wide dash to the finish. Johnny Benson was second and Travis Kvapil third; Kvapil's Ford was sandwiched in a convoy of Toyotas and got no help to the finish line.

Bonehead move: How does an unapproved driver get noticed at a test? When he wrecks. Mike Lichty, a friend of Johnny Benson's, drove Bill Davis Racing's No. 23 Toyota in a test at Charlotte and put it into the wall.

NASCAR kicked the team out of the test and penalized Benson 50 driver points. Without the penalty Benson would be fifth instead of sixth in the standings.

Bonehead move, part II: Ted Musgrave speared Kelly Bires' truck under caution after the two were involved in a crash at Milwaukee. NASCAR parked the 2005 champion for the rest of the race and for the following week's event Memphis.

He did what?: Dennis Setzer won at Mansfield (Ohio) Motorsports Park without ever making a pit stop. No driver had won without pitting since the truck series instituted green-flag pit stops in 1998. Sprague, finishing second, was dumbfounded. "There's no way he made it on fuel. The Chevrolets don't get the mileage of the Toyotas. If he made it and they're legal, my hat's off to them," Sprague said, stopping just short of asking for a lap recount.

Superfans award: Setzer's pit strategy at Mansfield worked in part due to a series-record 103 caution laps, some of which were used to help dry out the track in what was a three-rain-delay, all-day affair. Yet most fans stuck with the race, which is either a compliment to Ohioans or a sign of their desperation. No other NASCAR national series races in the state.

Different strokes: After winning his first truck race at Kansas, Erik Darnell took a subdued victory lap around the track and had a low-key celebration in Victory Lane. At the next race at Lowe's Motor Speedway outside Charlotte, N.C., Ron Hornaday celebrated his 30th career win by smoking his tires into Victory Lane.

Doggone it: Brendan Gaughan, a former basketball player at Georgetown, went to Dover with a special paint scheme honoring his Hoyas and planned to donate all race winnings back to the university. He was caught in a first-lap wreck and finished last.

Geezer circuit: Darnell and Kvapil are the only drivers under 40 to win this year. Compare that to the Busch Series in which only one driver over 40 has won (Bobby Labonte) and to Nextel Cup, where none have won. (Jeff Burton, now 40, was 39 when he won on both circuits earlier this season.)

Opportunity knocks: Brad Keselowski took over Musgrave's ride at Memphis, winning the pole and making a strong bid for a win until Kvapil pushed him out of the way late. He was rewarded with a Busch seat at JR Motorsports.

Ryan Mathews took over the Toyota vacated by the suspended Walker and has scored two top-10s, including a fourth from the pole at Kentucky. Native Kentuckian David Green finished fifth behind Mathews in Fike's former Toyota and will finish out the season in the No. 1.

The Top 10
1. Mike Skinner (2,238 points): Can he match his eight-win seasons of 1995-96?
2. Ron Hornaday Jr. (-164): He and Skinner only drivers to run every lap this year.
3. Todd Bodine (-288): Will need considerable help to win second straight title.
4. Travis Kvapil (-313): Two wins in last four races atoning for slow start.
5. Rick Crawford (-507): Poor finishes at Memphis, Kentucky painful in points.
6. Johnny Benson (-517): Hard-pressed to duplicate five-win 2006.
7. Jack Sprague (-609): Five top-5s and five finishes of 23rd or worse.
8. Ted Musgrave (-637): Fewest laps led (4) of anyone in top 10.
9. Matt Crafton (-667): Zero wins in 160 starts, an ongoing record.
T10. Aaron Fike/Dennis Setzer (-751): Setzer second, first last two years at Indy.

John Schwarb is a freelance journalist covering motorsports and a contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at johnschwarb@yahoo.com.