Is This The End Of The Line For Mike Skinner?

By Brody Jones

If you are Mike Skinner, you can only be shaking your head in disbelief that one month ago, you signed an extension through 2011 with Randy Moss Motorsports, only to get booted from the ride in the next month. The timing couldn’t possibly be any worse for Skinner as most, if not all, of the competitive rides have been locked up for 2011 and, as sad as it may be, Mike Skinner’s career just might have reached the end of the line. Skinner has had an excellent Camping World Truck Series career, with 28 career wins and a championship in 1995. He was also the Winston Cup Rookie Of The Year in 1997, but he never quite achieved the heights he experienced in the Truck Series.

Yes, the Truck Series has been good to Mike Skinner. It has given him an avenue in NASCAR to be a consistent contender week-in and week-out for victories. It didn’t matter what team he was with, when you saw the starting grid, you almost had to pencil in Mike Skinner as a pre-race favorite. But it seemed like after a respectable 2009 season, everything went on a downward spiral in 2010 that Skinner just never could recover from. First, he lost crew chief Eric Phillips to Kyle Busch Motorsports. That wound up being a terrible blow to team chemistry as Skinner was largely a non-factor in 2010.

Then came the article last month where Skinner aired out his grievances with the Randy Moss Motorsports organization, decrying the lack of leadership with the team, in particular directing the comment at Randy Moss. He also complained that if he had another season like 2010 next year, he was going to look elsewhere for another ride. But all seemed well when it was rumored he had signed an extension to drive for RMM in 2011 and it seemed, at the time, that all was well and Skinner would be able to have a job after all.

One month later, he gets fired from the team and the rumored replacement is 2003 Truck Series Champion Travis Kvapil. Getting fired is bad enough, but getting fired a week before Christmas and a month after signing an extension? That has to be like pouring salt and lemon juice on an open wound. What’s worst of all is that pretty much most of the competitive rides have been filled for 2011 at this point and Skinner is likely going to have to take a ride in second-rate equipment if he wants to stay in the sport. But at 53 years old, he is definitely in the twilight years of his career and the “r word” may be something he might have to consider given how slim the pickings are at this point.

So this begs the question does Mike Skinner want to be in second-rate equipment or has he finally got to the point in his career where he doesn’t need racing anymore and walks away from it all? It will be interesting to see what Skinner decides to do because, for years, he has been a key name in the growth of the Truck Series. But now, he might very well find all doors closed to him and he may have to retire and reflect upon an almost 25 year career in some form of NASCAR and the thrills of victory and agony of defeat he has experienced. One thing is for sure though, Mike Skinner is not one to give up without a fight.