- John Schwarb
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AROUND THE GARAGE
It's too late for Todd Bodine to mount a run at defending his Craftsman Truck Series title. But there's still plenty of time to collect a few more wins and have an indirect say in the series' next champion.
DARIO TO MAKE TRUCK DEBUT
Two Indianapolis 500 champions were on the track at Las Vegas when Buddy Lazier and Jacques Villeneuve competed. The same will be said Oct. 20 at Martinsville as Villeneuve continues his NASCAR development and 2007 IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti begins his new racing career.
Franchitti, slated to drive the No. 40 Dodge for Chip Ganassi Racing in Sprint Cup next year, raced at Talladega in the ARCA series and finished 17th. The truck race will be his first NASCAR-sanctioned event. He'll drive the No. 41 Dodge Ram, owned by Cunningham Motorsports.
The last time Franchitti raced in Virginia was June 30 at Richmond, where he led 242 of 250 laps on the .75-mile short track in one of the more dominating performances in IndyCar history.
NO SURPRISES ON '08 SCHEDULE
The truck series didn't reveal any new wrinkles in its 2008 schedule, released last week. The same 25 races will be contested at 22 tracks in the same order as this year, only with a few different weeks off mixed in.
Daytona and California will again kick off the season next year on Feb. 15 and Feb. 23, respectively, but only one off-week will separate California from Atlanta. The race at Gateway (Ill.) will run one week later, on the weekend following Labor Day.
Martinsville, Texas and Atlanta each will host two races again.
Jason Leffler, driving his first race for Red Horse Racing, finished fourth at Talladega. He will drive the No. 1 Toyota for four of the remaining five races. Dennis Setzer finished fifth in the Bobby Hamilton Racing Dodge, his second top-10 in as many races with his new team. Willie Allen's sixth-place day at Talladega vaulted him into the rookie points lead for the first time all season. Tim Sauter, 21st at Talladega, is four points behind. Toyota, the winner of 10 of 20 races this season, can clinch the manufacturers' title with a win at Martinsville.
Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway, Bodine kept his Toyota out front for 46 of 94 laps, including the final 12, surviving a three-wide finish at the end with Rick Crawford on the high side and fellow Toyota driver Johnny Benson underneath.
"This truck was good at Daytona [finishing fifth], but nothing like it was [Saturday]," said Bodine, who sat on the pole.
The Germain Racing No. 30 has been as good as anyone recently, with four top-5s in six starts. That's one more than Ron Hornaday and Mike Skinner, who traded the points lead for the second consecutive race after another unremarkable day.
Hornaday, after battling in traffic all day, had to skid through the frontstretch grass on Lap 75 to avoid an accident but couldn't emerge completely unscathed as Terry Cook tagged him on the right-rear bumper. He needed repairs to the bumper and to the front valance of his Chevrolet, and ultimately drove up into seventh place.
Skinner managed to lead nine laps in his Toyota but also found trouble late when a hood pin went missing. The turbulence around the 2.66-mile oval pushed the right side of the hood open and Skinner was black-flagged with six laps to go, though he caught a break with a caution that allowed him to make repairs under yellow. Returning to the track, however, Skinner could salvage only a 13th-place day, and consequently relinquished the points lead to Hornaday.
Hornaday now leads by 14 with five races remaining.
"It was wild, I didn't know if I was going to run in the back or the front," Hornaday said. "I was just getting more upset at the guys on the outside -- if they wanted the inside lane they should have stayed there. They just kept crowding you down and getting you under the yellow line and you kept hitting your valance. My truck was more tore up on the sides than anywhere else."
The bumping certainly won't stop in two weeks at Martinsville, Va. Skinner won there in April, completing a run of three straight wins, while Hornaday ran sixth, so maybe the pair can resume their points battle up front.
John Schwarb is a freelance journalist covering motorsports and a contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Todd Bodine doesn't stand a chance at defending his truck crown. Ron Hornaday Jr. and Mike Skinner have been that good, writes John Schwarb.