The Frontstretch: Tracking the Trucks: NextEra Energy Resources 250 by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Monday February 15, 2010

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Tracking the Trucks: NextEra Energy Resources 250

Beth Lunkenheimer · Monday February 15, 2010

 

In a Nutshell: Timothy Peters took the checkered flag 0.068 seconds ahead of Todd Bodine to win the NextEra Energy Resources 250 Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway. Peters made a stirring last lap pass on Bodine, holding him off through the tri-oval to score the biggest win of his career and second overall in the series. Dennis Setzer, pole sitter Jason White, and Matt Crafton rounded out the Top 5.

Timothy Peters celebrates with his crew after scoring just his second career Truck Series win to kick off 2010.

Who Should Have Won: Timothy Peters. There were a few clear favorites that stood out during a race filled with plenty of twists and turns. Pole sitter Jason White led eight laps, and worked his way through the field multiple times after dropping back. Elliott Sadler led 25 laps early, but got caught up in a lap 32 wreck. Todd Bodine had a tire go down coming out of Turn 4, then managed to make it down pit road immediately to avoid further damage to his truck. He eventually moved back up through the field, led 31 laps, and even took the white flag as the leader. But after contending all night, it was Timothy Peters who had other ideas, and he had the truck when it counted. The driver of the No. 17 Toyota moved to the outside of then-leader Bodine when he saw Jason White look at the outside lane on the backstretch. He then made a near perfect crossover move, and, with a big push from Dennis Setzer, was able to cross the finish line a full truck length ahead of Bodine.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:

1. Should NASCAR start policing bump drafting in the Truck Series?

Saturday night, there were multiple times where the caution flag flew because of bump drafting gone wrong. The first of those incidents came on lap 32, when Ricky Carmichael ran into the back of defending champion Ron Hornaday, Jr., and got him sideways – the ensuing wreck collected nine trucks. When asked about the incident after the race, Carmichael took responsibility.

“Definitely, I bumped him from behind. I was on the brakes and no one was behind me. I just had a major run on him [Ron Hornaday, Jr.],” a disappointed Carmichael said. “I feel horrible for those guys. I look up to that guy [Hornaday] so much.”

Hornaday’s explanation of what happened pretty much mirrored what Carmichael said. But he also explained why it’s difficult for bump drafting to work in the Truck Series.

“Ricky got a run and ran into me. These trucks – the bumpers don’t line up,” Hornaday, Jr. explained. “I don’t blame him because a lap earlier, I picked up Sadler, and luckily he saved his [truck]. You just can’t bump draft in these things. Ricky will learn that – but at our cost.”

When asked if there were any hard feelings between himself and Ricky Carmichael after that wreck, Hornaday simply stated, “It’s Daytona. We’re alright.”

Next, the fourth caution flag flew when Timothy Peters bump drafted Mike Skinner and sent him hard into the outside wall at almost the same place on the track. Like Carmichael, Peters owned up to the incident after the race, while again, Skinner pointed out how “the bumpers don’t line up.”

The third failed bump draft then came inside 20 laps to go, when Nelson Piquet, Jr. attempted to bump draft Max Papis and ended up bringing out the seventh caution of the night. (Author’s Note: For more on the Piquet, Jr./Papis wreck, read on to question two)

It’s clearly a disturbing pattern that developed Saturday night; however, in my opinion there is no reason for NASCAR to step in here and police bump drafting in the Truck Series. Instead, the drivers need to step back, take a look at all of the carnage caused by bump drafting, and learn to police themselves. Based on the reactions of the drivers we saw Saturday night, that seems like that should happen without a problem. But even in a worst-case scenario, it should be the team owners who step in and lay down the law, punishing their drivers for mistakes on the track at their own discretion. At no point should NASCAR step in; they have too many rules in place already, and need to leave at least some of the racing part in the drivers’ hands.

2. How did Nelson Piquet, Jr. and Justin Lofton fare in their debuts?

Though there were a quite a few lesser-recognized names in the Camping World Truck Series field Saturday night, only two drivers actually made their Camping World Truck Series debut. Nelson Piquet, Jr. (No. 1 Toyota) and Justin Lofton (No. 7 VisitPit.com Toyota) both started the race as teammates to eventual winner Timothy Peters.

Piquet, Jr. started off in the 22nd position, but found himself just barely making it through both big wrecks that happened within the first 32 laps of the race. After a large portion of the field had retired for the night or lost so many laps they wouldn’t be able to contend for the win, the former Formula One driver found himself inside the Top 10.

But that’s when he caused a wreck of his own. With less than 20 laps remaining, the rookie failed to execute a bump draft on Max Papis properly, and sent the driver of the No. 9 GEICO Toyota into the wall. That left the Italian driver frustrated, and after the event Papis shared his frustrations with Piquet, Jr.‘s bump draft on his Twitter page (@maxpapis).

“Run well, drove aggressively but found an ass in my way by the name nelsonpiquet. I spent 10 min talking to nelsonpiquet about what not to do and that was the thank u … in this way, he will not go much further in NASCAR.” Papis continued, “I spent time learning… listening… and not doing what I didn’t know – that is why I’m upset. Not for the race, just for the attitude of the guy.”

3. What was Kyle Busch thinking?

When Kyle Busch took damage to his No. 18 Heluva Good! Toyota in the wreck that brought out the first caution – before the field could even complete a lap – it should have been expected that he wouldn’t give up without a fight. After spending several laps in the garage making repairs, Busch went back out on the track 18 laps down. He then managed to earn one of those laps back by racing past the leader, eventually finishing 17 laps down in 22nd.

It was an admirable performance for a team recovering from adversity in their debut; but even though he was out of contention for the win, the 24-year-old managed to grab quite a bit of camera time for his on-track moves. Insisting on racing in the lead draft, he caused a real problem with 20 laps remaining, when a hard bump to then-leader Dennis Setzer nearly sent the No. 46 Plane Guts Dodge wiggling out of control and onto the apron. Luckily, Setzer managed to hang onto his truck and ultimately pull off his 82nd career top 5 finish.

But what in the world was Kyle Busch thinking? He tried to explain himself after the race, but frankly, his explanation doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.

“The thing I actually thought about the most was going out there and racing as hard as I could, even though it meant nothing other than to get Heluva Good! some TV time. That’s all I was about,” Busch said. “I know it’s frustrating for them because they didn’t get exactly what they wanted, or have a shot to win and get the coverage of that, but hopefully they at least got some TV time so we could get their name and branding out there.”

Huh? It’s understandable that the new owner/driver wants to do everything in his power to bring attention to his team to benefit his current sponsor, as well as open the team up for others, but there is no reason for a driver more than 15 laps down and far from contention for the win to mess with the leaders at all. Clearly, Busch had a fast truck underneath him despite the damage done on the first lap wreck, but he should never have run Setzer down onto the apron.

Had the roles been reversed and Setzer was several laps down, you can bet Busch would have been screaming on the radio for NASCAR to do something about it. Maybe that’s something the owner/driver should think about the next time.

Truck Rookie Report
2010 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Brett Butler (No. 47)
Jennifer Jo Cobb (No. 10)
Austin Dillon (No. 3)
Justin Lofton (No. 7)
Dillon Oliver (No. 01)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 4

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 0

Rookie Of The Race: Brett Butler, finished 11th

Worth Noting / Points Shuffle:

Donny Lia had to drop to the rear of the field Saturday night after missing the driver’s meeting, but he had a good reason. Friday night, his girlfriend gave birth to their son Dominick Anthony; the new addition weighed in at 7 lbs., 12 oz, and both mom and baby are doing fine. Unfortunately, you can’t say the same for Lia’s No. 21 Dodge, which was totaled en route to a 30th place finish.

Carlos Contreras made his return to the Camping World Truck Series for the first time since 2002 behind the wheel of the No. 00 Potencia Blast Energy Shot / Alpina Water Chevrolet. The 39-year-old started 31st and managed to lead two laps during a late race caution before dropping back to his eventual finishing position of 14th.

Donnie Neuenberger returned to the series after having made only a handful of starts over the last ten years. Behind the wheel of the No. 6 E-Z Slider Chevrolet for Rick Ware Racing, the 47-year-old driver dodged a couple of wrecks and made a high speed run down pit road on the way to a ninth-place finish – tying his career best.

Finally, Austin Dillon’s first race in his full-time attempt in the Camping World Truck Series is probably one he’d like to forget. After getting stuck in the middle of the pack on the first lap, he moved down on Aric Almirola, who already had his truck inside the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, and set off a wreck that damaged nine trucks. He wound up 26th, only completing 50 of 100 laps.

As you might expect, race winner Timothy Peters currently sits atop the standings after the season-opener, holding a ten point lead over Todd Bodine. Dennis Setzer sits in third, 20 points out of first, with Jason White 25 behind. Matt Crafton rounds out the Top 5, 35 points out of first place.

Stacy Compton finds himself sixth after the season opener, just 39 points back from Peters. Nelson Piquet, Jr. sits just one point behind Compton, while Johnny Benson, J.J. Yeley, and Donnie Neuenberger round out the Top 10.

Quotable:

“I can’t believe it. This thing drove like a Lexus tonight. I was content where I was at. I had a deal with Skinner to work together all night long, and I made a rookie mistake. I’m sorry for that.” Race Winner Timothy Peters

“You’re a sitting duck leading. Timmy (Timothy Peters) did exactly what he was supposed to do. He’s a great race car driver. If I had to lose, he’s a great guy to lose to.” Runner-Up Todd Bodine

“We had a Toyota teammate out there 20 laps down pushing a Ford. That was the real problem out there. This truck was awfully good, but it wasn’t meant to be tonight.” Mike Skinner, finished 24th after being involved in the fourth caution

Up Next:
The Camping World Truck Series takes a few weeks off before heading to Atlanta Motor Speedway on Saturday, March 6th for the Atlanta 200. In 2009, Kyle Busch beat Kevin Harvick to the checkered flag, taking the win despite losing second and third gear over the course of the event.

Race coverage begins at 1:30 pm EST on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

Contact Beth Lunkenheimer

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