It was no surprise to many when veteran NASCAR driver Mike Skinner won the pole and jumped out to a big lead in the 100-lap Pro Late Model race last year during the Short Track U.S. Nationals at historic Bristol Motor Speedway.
The 1995 NASCAR Truck Series champion and veteran Cup Series driver certainly knows his way around The Last Great Colosseum, having earned a Truck victory here in 2005.
The surprise came midway through the race as Skinner had the lead and began to pull away and lap some of the cars back in the pack. He was cruising along, seemingly to the checkered flag, when bam! A lapped car slammed into his No. 5 machine and ended his night early.
Skinner, who is one of the favorites for the 100-lap Pro Late Model race Saturday night during the third annual Short Track U.S. Nationals, hopes to avoid a similar ending this time around on the famed all-concrete high banks.
“You never want to crash out of a race when you are leading and get hit by a lapped car,” Skinner said during a teleconference call with media this week. “I felt really bad for the guy who put us out of the race. I had lapped him a couple of times and on that lap I drove in on the bottom and we never touched, he just lost it and slammed into me. I know he didn’t do it on purpose. Things happen so fast at Bristol, that you can easily get caught up in something like that. Those situations make you sick to your stomach for sure.”
Skinner says the northeast Tennessee bullring has always been a track that he’s enjoyed the challenge of trying to tame.
“I’ve got a lot of laps around Bristol,” Skinner said. “I’ve raced just about everything on that track, well, except maybe a Modified car. I really do love that place. It’s one of my all-time favorite race tracks.”
With a victory in Pro Late Model earlier this season at New Smyrna Beach, Florida, Skinner says he feels confident heading into Bristol.
“Our cars run up front, and our boys (sons Jamie and Dustin who own the team) are very passionate about it,” Skinner said. “I’m just out here having a good time. This may be my last time racing at Bristol. I’m not sure, but it could be. If it is, I’d love to go out with a win.”
No matter what the outcome, Skinner says he’s looking forward to having a great time during the weekend with friends and family.
“We’ve got a bunch of folks coming over for the race in their RVs this weekend,” Skinner said. “There’s going to be 20 or more buses coming. It’s going to be a big old party and then a race is going to break out in the middle of it. We’re looking forward to having a great time.”
To purchase tickets for the Short Track U.S. Nationals please contact the Bristol Motor Speedway ticket sales office at (866) 415-4158. Tickets can also be purchased online at www.bristoltix.com.