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Skinner looks to close deal at Short Track U.S. Nationals

By Jeff Birchfield • May 28, 2019 at 10:08 PM

Mike Skinner looks at last year’s Short Track U.S. Nationals at Bristol Motor Speedway as the one that got away.

The former NASCAR truck series champion won the pole for last year’s Pro Late Model portion of the event. He was pulling away from the field when he got into the lapped car of Tyler Hufford with 29 laps to go.

“I should have won last year. I’ve led a lot of laps at Bristol Motor Speedway,” Skinner said. “I almost felt bad for the kid last year. I had gone to the outside of him two laps before and he washed all the way up the racetrack and about put me in the outside fence.

“I was like, ‘Well, his car isn’t obviously handling well, so I’ll go to the bottom.’ I went on the bottom and I don’t know what happened to his car. We didn’t touch, but he lost it and got into the side of the car and put us out. I think he was trying to get out of the way.”

Local driver Josh Reeves went on to win the race, while Skinner was left with his wrecked No. 5 Toyota. Skinner has empathy for a driver in a slower car at Bristol because he’s been in that position before.

“I’ve had really fast cars at Bristol and I’ve also had bad cars there,” he said. “Whenever you have a car that’s not driving good there, it’s hard to get out of the way. Everything happens so fast and so quick. The thing is they can address in the drivers’ meeting is if your car isn’t handling, stay on the top or the bottom — the leaders can figure out how to get by you.”

A former NASCAR rookie of the year and pole-winner for the 1997 Daytona 500, Skinner has plenty of great memories from his Cup Series career. It included 18 starts at Bristol with a best finish of seventh in the 1998 August night race.

Now 61, Skinner has shown he still has the speed to get around the high-banked short track.

He led all but three circuits to win a 100-lap Pro Late Model race at New Smyrna (Fla.) Speedway in January. He also had back-to-back wins in the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association at Sebring (Fla.) in March.

Furthermore, he drove a 1967 Corvette to a charity Pro-Am win at Road Atlanta, where he beat noted road racers like Wally Dallenbach Jr., Dorsey Schroeder, Geoff Brabham and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr.

“I don’t know what’s happened this year, but we’ve won four out of five races and finished second in the other one,” Skinner said. “We’ve really had a good time this year. No matter what happens at Bristol, it’s getting to go with my two sons (Dustin and Jamie) and a lot of my friends below Asheville.

“We’re bringing like 12 buses of people to the Short Track Nationals. It’s going to be a party and, hopefully, a race breaks out sometime over the weekend.”

CLAY VALLEY SPEEDWAY

Kenny Peeples of Rural Retreat won the Open-Wheel Modified feature at Clay Valley Speedway last Saturday night. Landen Lewis finished second and Morgan Widener was third in the 17-car field.

Elizabethton driver Scott Kerley was the winner in Pure 4, holding off Randall Young and Tanner O’Quinn for the victory.

Marion’s Dale Hancock Jr. was the winner in Super Street, and Jamie Whitt and Jamey Mahon rounded out the top three.

The Coeburn dirt track has $100-to-start and $1,000-to-win “Modified Mayhem” scheduled for this Saturday. The KDRA Superstock, Crate Late Models, Pure 4 and Super Street classes also are to race.

HOT SUMMER NIGHTS

Chaez Maisonet of Erwin won the Schoolboy division at the most recent Hot Summer Nights Supercross series event at I-81 Motorsports Park.

Other local winners in the May 18 event were Dawson Ball of Kingsport (Unlimited D) and Hunter Ford of Church Hill (College Boy Am).

Several youth riders posted runner-up finishes, including Kingsport’s Mason Price (51cc, 4-6), Church Hill’s Seth Fields (65cc, 7-9), Fall Branch’s Cody Goode (85 cc, 9-13) and Bluff City’s Anthony Fields (Super Mini). Other second-place finishes were recorded by Blountville’s Justin Keith (30+) and Johnson City’s Madison Hensley (Women).

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