Mike Skinner was just 29 laps away from victory last May at Bristol Motor Speedway.
The event was the Pro Late Model portion of the Short Track U.S. Nationals. After winning the pole, the former NASCAR truck series champion was leading when a familiar BMS scenario unfolded.
"Everything happens so fast and so quick on this track," said Skinner in a Tuesday morning teleconference.
This quick downfall was caused by Tyler Hufford who lost control of his lapped car before colliding with Skinner.
"I went to the outside of him two laps before, and he washed all the way up the race track and about put me in the outside fence," Skinner said. "I was like, ‘Well, his car isn’t obviously handling well, so I’ll go to the bottom.’"
Operation bottom lane spelled doom.
"I don’t know what happened to (Hufford’s) car," Skinner said. "We didn’t touch, but he lost it and put us out. I think he was trying to get out of the way."
Skinner posted a time of 14.893 seconds at 129.360 mph to top 25-car field in qualifying. Despite being moved back to sixth under an inversion process, Skinner navigated his way to the front before he met misfortune.
A chance for redemption comes Saturday in the third edition of the U.S. Nationals. The diverse program has been reduced to four classes, with Super Late Model, Pro Late Model, Street Stock and Compacts.
The 61-year-old Skinner is a fan of the BMS version of star search.
"I definitely think this is a cool deal for drivers and teams around the country to have the opportunity to compete on a big track like Bristol," Skinner said. "I had a couple of younger guys ask me for advice in the pits last year and I love helping any way I can."
Skinner will be part of several family-run operations this weekend. Skinner’s Florida-based sons, Jamie and Dustin, perform several duties for their father with Dustin serving as crew chief.
"It’s special to be around my sons," Mike Skinner said. "I didn’t get to attend their sporting events when they were growing up because I was always on the road.
"It takes an amazing amount of commitment to work at the top levels of NASCAR. My sons understand that and they’re just happy to play a role in the sport without having to be away from home constantly."
Mike Skinner is coming to Bristol on a hot streak. He captured the Jan. 7 Pro Late Model event at New Smyrna Speedway in Florida by leading 47 of the 50 laps.
Skinner also grabbed a pair of wins in the Sportscar Vintage Racing Association at Sebring, Florida, in March, and guided his Corvette to Victory Lane in a Pro-Am event at Road Atlanta that featured famed road racers such as two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Al Unser Jr. and Geoff Brabham.
"I don’t know what’s happened, 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."
Skinner is eager to extend his fun run with a triumph at Bristol Motor Speedway.
"We’re bringing 12 motor coaches of people from Asheville to the track," Skinner said. "It’s going to be a party. And hopefully, a race breaks out sometime over the weekend."
In 18 Cup starts at BMS, Skinner recorded a best finish of seventh in the 1998 Night Race. He won the 2005 Bristol truck series event.
"I’ve led a lot of laps here, and I should have won last year," he said.
Practice will be held on Friday, with Saturday’s opening race set for 5 p.m.
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