Mike Skinner, a member of this season's distinguished over-50 club with Mark Martin and Ron Hornaday Jr., will carve out a unique distinction in NASCAR history in Saturday's Kroger 200 at Martinsville Speedway.
It will be Skinner's 200th start in the Camping World Truck Series, making him the first driver to have 200 starts in both the truck and Sprint Cup series. Skinner has 260 Cup starts, including four this season.
Skinner, 52, isn't continuing his career for the sake of longevity or collecting a paycheque based upon his past accomplishments. He has three victories in his first season with Randy Moss Motorsports, a team he joined in February, and is third in points, 255 behind leader Hornaday and 58 behind second-place Matt Crafton.
Skinner has three wins in 13 truck races at Martinsville and was third in March behind Kevin Harvick and Hornaday.
“I look forward to going back to Martinsville with Eric (Phillips, crew chief) because we went there for the first time together in the spring race and finished third, and I feel like we're a better team now than we were then,” Skinner said.
“I love Martinsville. It's very, very unique and just an awesome place. I love the fans up there and the whole setting. Short-track racing is like drag racing with two hard, sharp corners, so I always enjoy going to Martinsville.”
Skinner was struggling to find rides when Richard Childress offered him a full-season deal for the inaugural truck season in 1995. He won the first race and the first championship and had back-to-back eight-win seasons before departing in 1997 for the Cup series. Skinner returned to trucks in 2004 and will make his 146th straight start Saturday.
Skinner is tied with Jack Sprague for second on the all-time victory list in trucks with 28. Hornaday, with six wins including five straight this year, is the leader with 45. Skinner is first in poles with 49.
“I don't have any regrets about what we did in the Sprint Cup Series, but if we'd stayed in the truck series, we probably could have set some records that would be hard for anybody to ever catch,” Skinner added.
“It's a double-edged sword. I don't regret that, but I have to think that I could easily be making my 400th start, or however many races there have been, and the fact some of the stats that we could have put up there. We've got 28 wins and 49 poles. I wonder what those numbers could have been if we would have stayed in trucks the whole time.”
Skinner's goal is finishing in the top three in the points. He's 241 in front of fourth-place Brian Scott.
“Martinsville and Talladega can be wild cards in these final five races,” Skinner continued. “Every track we go to, you can be a victim of circumstance, but these two definitely open up the opportunity. We're fighting to stay in the top three. If Matt Crafton has a hiccup or two, then we can feasibly get second. We're going to try to protect where we are right now.”
by Tim Tuttle