Mike Skinner has raced in each of NASCAR’s top three series for many years, and has been successful everywhere he has gone.
The driver of the Randy Moss Motorsports Exide Toyota has had a strong 2009 season in the Camping World Truck Series, and is chasing another championship.
Skinner was born on June 28, 1957, in Susanville, Calif. His racing career began much later than most drivers, as he did not climb into a racecar until 1976, at age 18.
He quickly realized that racing was in his blood, and after winning three track championships, Skinner moved to North Carolina in 1983 to pursue racing.
After spending time as a crewman for Rusty Wallace’s team, Skinner got the occasional ride in what is now the Sprint Cup Series, but spent most of his time working with Wallace and at Petty Enterprises.
In 1994, Skinner won a local track championship racing late models, which gained Richard Childress’s attention, because he signed Skinner to drive in the newly formed Camping World Truck Series.
Skinner took the new series by storm, winning its first-ever race, then the inaugural championship. In all, Skinner won eight races en route to the 1995 title.
After winning eight more races and finishing third in the point standings in 1996, Richard Childress moved Skinner to the Sprint Cup Series, driving the No. 31 Lowe’s car, becoming a teammate to Dale Earnhardt. Skinner proceeded to win the 1997 Rookie of the Year Award.
From 1997-1999, Skinner improved his overall points position ever year, eventually finishing a career-best 10th in 1999. He also won exhibition races in Japan in both 1997 and 1998.
After a solid 12th-place finish in the points during the 2000 season, Skinner’s career hit a serious speed bump in 2001, while racing in the inaugural race at Chicagoland Speedway.
He cut a tire down, and his car smashed hard into the wall, leaving him with a broken ankle that was also sprained, plus damage to both his ACL and MCL.
He would miss the next five races. Skinner would return later that season, but would leave Richard Childress Racing at the end of the season.
After racing with various teams in the Sprint Cup Series during the 2002 and 2003 seasons, Skinner returned to the Camping World Series in 2004.
As one of the patriarchs of the series, Skinner’s presence has consistently been felt since his return.
The 2007 season was Skinner’s best since his return to the Camping World Trucks Series, as he won five races, 11 poles, had 17 top fives, and finished in the top ten in all but five races.
In 2009, Skinner teamed up with a new team owner, NFL star Randy Moss, to race the No. 5 Exide Batteries truck. Skinner’s first win with the new team came earlier this season in the rain-shortened race at Kansas.
As the Camping World Truck Series season has progressed, Skinner has been proud of his team’s effort as it chases the championship.
“This summer stretch is going good for our Randy Moss Motorsports team,” Skinner said. “I think we should have finished higher in a few races, but the biggest thing about this stretch is you have to keep going and put together consistent finishes.”
Though Randy Moss Motorsports is a new team, Skinner has been very happy with how well the team has performed and how quickly it has gotten up to speed. That said, Skinner knows that sometimes luck is involved.
“Oh, I’m very pleased,” Skinner said about his team’s effort. “We have ran better than our finishes show in two of those three races and one of them we didn’t run near as good as we finished, so it kind of goes back and forth.”
As happy as he is with his team, there’s no getting around the fact that it can be tough for a new team with new people to contend for a championship, no matter how talented the people are.
When asked whether his team could contend for the title, Skinner said, “I think as far as talent goes and the equipment-wise absolutely, yes.”
Even with a crew chief like Eric Phillips, Skinner realizes the difficulties in starting anew.
“That’s a tall order to ask somebody to start out fresh with a driver-crew chief combination,” the veteran admitted.
So far in 2009, Skinner has been a contender, and he hopes that another strong run at Gateway can help him stay in the thick of the championship chase.
(Quotes taken from various press releases)