Sometimes, I can’t tell if the Ford 200 is a race or a fight. An active tradition for the last several years in the Trucks has been for championship teams to double their efforts. The trend has had some high points and very low points, and it looks to continue Friday night as the razor-thin margin between Ron Hornaday and Johnny Benson will make for some intense racing.
Three years really set the trend for this action: 2002, 2003, and 2007.
In 2002, Mike Bliss ended up winning the championship over Rick Crawford and Ted Musgrave by 46 and 51 points respectively. In that race, it was Ron Hornaday driving a second IWX truck and taking the win, thus taking possible points away from Crawford and Musgrave. Bliss finished a comfortable 5th and won the title.
2003 set the bar from gang mentality, as each championship team (with the exception of Dennis Setzer and Morgan-Dollar) entered at least one extra truck in the race, with Jim Smith and Ultra Motorsports throwing five—count ‘em, five—trucks in the race, and sure enough one of them played a huge part in the outcome of the championship battle.
Smith had entered his two full-time trucks with Ted Musgrave and Andy Houston behind the wheel, along with hired guns Marty Houston (Andy’s brother), Tracy Hines, and P.J. Jones. Marty took out championship leader Brendan Gaughan in the race, creating championship chaos that allowed Travis Kvapil to win the 2003 title over Setzer and Musgrave.
Last year, Bill Davis and Kevin Harvick participated in the fight, and what Harvick lacked in trucks he made up for by piloting the second truck himself. Davis entered his championship contender Skinner, Johnny Benson, Jacques Villeneuve, and Cup driver Dave Blaney in the field. Skinner of course finished 35th and allowed Hornaday to secure the title.
Adding the trucks in the finale could prove to be a smart decision, like it was in 2002. It could take out a championship contender by hiring a crappy driver, like 2003. Or, it could be a non-factor, like it was last season. Harvick is driving the No. 2 truck again this weekend and Davis has entered ’09 driver Taylor Malsam in an extra truck to go along Skinner, Brian Scott, and Scott Speed to flank Benson.
Will it be a factor? We’ll find out Friday. Let’s just say I wouldn’t be surprised if the Phoenix race turned out to be the PG version of the battle.
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