Mike Skinner, the former 1997 NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year, will attempt to qualify his Jimmy Means owned Sprint Cup car for the Quaker State 400 this weekend at Kentucky Speedway. Skinner, also a former Camping World Truck Champion, will strap in the #52 CrusaderStaffing.com Toyota for the 2nd time this year.
Mike Skinner, better known by his friends and fellow drivers as “The Gunslinger”, will be make his 284th Sprint Cup start if he qualifies for Saturday nights race. With 46 cars attempting to qualify, “The Gunslinger” will not be one of the cars locked into the top 35, so he will have to keep the “Pedal to the Metal” come qualifying day to make sure he is in one of the top 43 starting positions.
Mike Skinner, a native of Ontario Canada, has been in NASCAR competition for over 22 years. Skinner made his Cup debut in 1986 in Martinsville Virginia at the ripe age of 29 years old. Skinner made just a few more races for several years afterward, but each had problems and not so good equipment.
In 1995, the Inaugural season for the Camping World Truck Series, Mike Skinner signed with Richard Childress Racing to pilot the #3 BF Goodwrench Chevy Truck . He blew the competition out of the water winning 8 out of the 20 races and wrapped it up by winning the truck championship in stylist fashion. Skinner backed his performance up in 1996 by adding 8 more wins to his resume and finishing 3rd in the truck championship.
In 1997, Richard Childress put a deal together with Lowe’s Home Improvement and started a second team with Skinner as his driver of the #31 Chevy, pairing him with the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. Mike won the pole in his first attempt for the Daytona 500, an accomplishment that had only been seen once before by Loy Allen Jr., in 1994. Skinner actually has three Cup victories although none counted for points. He won both of the exhibition races in Japan, 1st at Suzuka in 1997, and then Motegi in 1998. He also won a Gatorade 125 in 2001.
Late into the summer of 2001, Mike Skinner was released from his ride at Richard Childress Racing. After 4 seasons, 37 top 10’s, 5 poles and 10 top 5 finishes, he was replaced by then, Indy Car driver Robby Gordon. It was not an easy separation for Childress or Skinner and was not handled very well in the press. After the tragic loss of Dale at Daytona, RCR was ready to make some organization changes and sent Skinner packing after the second race at Dover.
Mike was able to come back in 2002, driving the #4 Kodak Chevy for Morgan-McClure Racing. After a year and a half and only 1 top 10 finish, Skinner was released by Morgan-McClure after the 14th race of the season and finished up the year with #01 US Army team, owned by Mb2 Racing. Mike got his last pole in 2003 at Richmond driving the #01 car.
Mike would eventually settle back into the Camping World Truck Series, having some pretty competitive years from 2005 thru 2009, winning 12 more times in NASCAR’s junior series.
Mike Skinner holds the top in Sprint Cup with 1029 laps led without a victory in the Sprint Cup division. Skinner has proven many times that he can qualify the car and take care of his equipment better than anybody. Skinner has had the opportunity fill in as a mentor and a seasoned veteran with several different teams, including a six race deal in 2008 where he was brought in by Red Bull to help AJ Allmendinger get his car qualified into the races after missing the first races of the season.
Skinner has driven for the likes of Bill Davis Racing, Germain Racing, and Randy Moss Motorsports in the last several years. He has not seen victory lane in any series since 2009, when he won at Gateway in the truck series.
This will be Skinners 2nd race of the season in the Jimmy Means #52, Sprint Cup Toyota. He qualified 35th and finished 41st earlier this year at Darlington. He will have CrusaderStaffing.com on the sides of his car this weekend.
Chris Creighton is a NASCAR writer for RantSports.com, and you can also follow him on Twitter @nascar28_chris.