One year ago at the Short Track U.S. Nationals, former NASCAR Truck Series champion Mike Skinner was the class of the field in the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour race before a lapped car ended his day prematurely. This year, Skinner was the class of the field once again as he found retribution and went to victory lane in dominating fashion.
While he dominated the 100-lap affair, it did not come easy to him.
After setting fast time in qualifying, Skinner had to come down pit road early with mechanical problems after running over debris left by a wrecked car. His team was able to fix the problem, but Skinner had to restart from the tail of the field. He made quick work of the field, getting by two-time defending series champion Jack Dossey III on a lap 40 restart and leading the rest of the way to win the sword.
After the early race incident, his team thought they were done early for a second straight year. However, they used the red flag and a quick succession of yellows to fix the problem and get the car to where they needed it to be.
“The start of the race, a guy wrecked in front of us,” Skinner told Speed51. “We got wiped out by a guy we shouldn’t have been behind, but it wasn’t his fault. We missed the car but caught all the debris and messed up the master cylinder and knocked off all the reservoirs and lost all the brake fluid. My son says, 'Hey, we’re wiped out again man, just come down pit road.' And I said, no we ain’t, we’re going to fix it.
"He said you aren’t going to have any brakes, and I said we don’t need any brakes, let’s fix it.”
Skinner said he was scared of what the right front tire would do after several cars had issues in previous races. After driving through the field, he was cautious as he kept the rest of the field at bay.
“I was really hard on the front tire coming through the field because I had to pass all those cars,” he said. “We sat up in the stands and watched a couple of the other races and saw a bunch of other right front tires blowing and I thought that’s just going to be me. We slowed down after we got up front by half a straightaway and took care of the right front and she made it.”
Two-time defending JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour champion Jack Dossey III inherited the lead after a lap 11 caution and would jump out to a big lead. That lead would be short-lived however, as Skinner quickly made his way through the field and to his back bumper. Despite the runner-up finish, he says racing alongside the former NASCAR driver and finishing second to him felt like a win.
“I thought we were the class of the field for a little bit and then he was five cars behind me and I was like, he was just last a few laps ago,” Dossey said. “I dropped the hammer and gave it everything we had and he was reeling us in. He’s phenomenal around here. To get beaten by somebody like that, to me it’s a win.
“It’s pretty cool because some of my friends that aren’t into short track racing as much as everybody else is, you can kind of relate to them and be like Mike Skinner, he used to race NASCAR in the big league,” he continued. “It’s pretty cool to race door-to-door with somebody like that.”
Skinner joked about his success behind the wheel of the Pro Late Model so far this year as a retired driver. He has five wins so far in 2019 between Pro Late Model and SVRA competition, with other SVRA races planned throughout the year. He credits his success to this point to his team.
“Our team, I don’t know what’s gotten into us this year,” he said. “I’m retired and this is the sixth race I’ve ran. I’ve won five of them and finished second in the other one, so I don’t know what the hell’s going on here, this year has been fun. I think I’m going to quit and just do a mic drop on this one and maybe take the rest of this year off.”
The 2005 NASCAR Truck Series winner at Bristol Motor Speedway said it means a lot to win at “The Last Great Colosseum” in any kind of race car.
“I think it’s awesome. If they would give me a bottle of pop for winning at Bristol I’d put it in my trophy case. Winning at Bristol is amazing. It’s pretty cool.”
Jake Garcia and Mandy Chick earned career-best finishes of third and fourth, while 2018 series Rookie of the Year Mason Keller rounded out the top five.
The next stop for the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour will be at Flat Rock Speedway on June 16th for the rescheduled Motor City 200. The race was originally scheduled to be the season opener, but Mother Nature forced to move the series’ first-ever stop to “The Level Pebble."
Race fans who missed Saturday's Short Track U.S. Nationals can watch an on-demand replay of Speed51's pay-per-view broadcast by clicking here.
-Story by Koty Geyer, Speed51.com State Editor (IN & MI) - Twitter: @kgeyer3
-Photo credit: Speed51.com photo