The Frontstretch: Tracking the Trucks: EnjoyIllinois.com 225 by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Monday August 30, 2010

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Tracking the Trucks: EnjoyIllinois.com 225

Beth Lunkenheimer · Monday August 30, 2010

 

In a Nutshell: Kyle Busch took the checkered flag 0.186 seconds ahead of Todd Bodine to win the EnjoyIllinois.com 225 Friday night at Chicagoland Speedway. A blown engine for Timothy Peters with just three laps remaining set up a green-white-checkered finish in which Busch had no trouble pulling out front, scoring his second straight victory and fourth overall in 2010. Ron Hornaday, Jr., Johnny Sauter and Justin Lofton rounded out the top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Kyle Busch. Once again, Kyle Busch had the strongest truck on the track Friday night. It took him just 12 laps to take the lead for the first time after starting fourth. Despite dropping to fifth during his second pit stop after trouble getting their first can of fuel in, Busch once again took the lead on lap 98. Despite a hard charge from Todd Bodine after that, Busch managed to hold onto the lead and, ultimately, the win. The driver of the No. 18 Toyota led three times for 121 of 154 laps.

Todd Bodine gave it everything he had Friday night, but eventually lost out to Kyle Busch’s No. 18 as the driver/owner picked up his fourth series win of the season.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:

1. Is Todd Bodine points racing?

Ever since the implementation of the Chase in the Sprint Cup Series, fans and media alike have complained about drivers points racing rather than going for the win each week, just to have a shot to be in that elite group of 12 drivers eligible to run for the championship in the final ten races. With a 236-point lead, though, it’s hard not to ask whether Todd Bodine is doing the same in the interest of the “big picture” as the series heads quickly on the downward slope to the season finale.

But Chicagoland proved the No. 30 team is hardly worried about points racing and is more interested in visiting Victory Lane. When Busch took the lead with 20 laps remaining, Bodine didn’t just roll over and let him have it. Todd fought hard to get that top spot back, managing to get inside the driver of the No. 18 Toyota before losing a little momentum, which allowed Busch to pull ahead for good. But despite that little bobble, Bodine was right back at it again on the GWC in hopes of coming out on top.

After the race, Bodine made it clear his team wants to win races, allowing the championship to come to them.

“Our philosophy is, if you can’t win the race, just do the best that you can. We’re here to win. That’s what we’re paid to do. Every guy that walks through that garage area wants to win and we’re no different,” Bodine said. “We come here every week, we unload that truck and our goal is to win the race. If we can’t win, then we evaluate the situation, and do the best we can with what we’ve got and get the most points that we can.”

“That’s points racing. Our first goal is to get to Victory Lane and get the checkered flag. We’ve just got to keep doing what we’re doing and hopefully, a pot of gold will be sitting at the end of the rainbow.”

That should be the attitude every racer takes to the track, from the local short track racers all the way up to the Cup Series. There’s never really any question whether Bodine may be trying to protect his points lead each week. Instead, he puts everything his truck has out on the track, and that’s exactly what I’d expect from a championship driver.

Assuming Todd Bodine can avoid major disasters through the remaining eight races of the season, he and the entire No. 30 team can proudly celebrate their championship knowing they gave everything they had each and every week.

David Starr gave it all he had with his time in the No. 81, scoring a half-dozen top-10 finishes, but now his future looks uncertain as the team suspended operations this week for lack of funding.

2. How did David Starr run with SS Green Light Racing?

David Starr had a busy — and most likely frustrating — week. On Monday, it was reported that Randy Moss Motorsports had shut down the No. 81 team due to a lack of funding. Starr’s sponsor Zachry had signed on for only a partial schedule, and that, combined with several wrecked trucks recently, has put the team behind the eight ball financially.

On Tuesday, a team source speaking on condition of anonymity told Sirius Speedway’s Dave Moody the No. 81 team will sit out both Chicagoland and Kentucky while they re-evaluate the future of the team.

But in a stroke of good luck for the veteran in his 13th consecutive season in the Truck Series, SS Green Light racing — who had just split with driver Donny Lia earlier in the week — opened up a spot for Starr. In hopes of remaining in the top 10 in points, the 42-year-old made a one-race appearance behind the wheel of the No. 21 ASI Limited Chevrolet.

Starr qualified 12th but quickly dropped when the green flag flew. Though he never made any kind of noise inside the top 10 until the late stages of the race, Starr simply made the most of each lap and worked through the field, picking off one driver at a time. When the checkered flag finally flew over lap 154, Starr found himself tenth, scoring his seventh top-10 finish this season.

When asked about his future in the Truck Series during qualifying Friday afternoon, Starr simply stated an announcement would be made in a few days to clarify his plans for the remainder of the season but that ultimately, his goal was to stay inside the top 10 in points.

So despite what was undoubtedly an irritating week, Starr made the most of his situation and managed to keep himself solidly inside the 10th position. He has a 160-point lead over Jason White, who currently sits 11th, and assuming he’s got a truck to drive each week, Starr’s goals remain definitely attainable going forward.

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: 8 (add Lance Fenton in the No. 47, Jerick Johnson in the No. 01, Ken Butler, III in the No. 6, Johanna Long in the No. 15 and Narain Karthikeyan in the No. 60)

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 2; Justin Lofton, finished fifth; Austin Dillon, finished ninth

Rookie Of The Race: Justin Lofton

Lofton scored his second consecutive top-5 finish and fourth overall this season. After starting tenth, Lofton methodically worked his way through the field and managed to bring home his No. 7 Toyota in one piece.

“I’m really excited. This is a great place to race here, and I’m just really proud of all of the guys on the VisitPit.com No. 7 Toyota Tundra. They did a great job all weekend. This is really what we needed to keep going into Kentucky and the rest of the year.” Justin Lofton

Austin Dillon led six laps early, but a slip-up on pit road where he drove slightly out of his pit box mired him deep in the top 10, where he was forced to work his way through traffic. Pit strategy put the driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet in third with 20 laps remaining, but the two-tire call saw him drop all the way to ninth on the green-white-checkered finish.

Worth Noting / Points Shuffle:

Chris Fontaine showed some real signs of life behind the wheel of his self-owned No. 84 Chevrolet Friday night. He ran in the top 20 much of the night and even spent several laps inside the top 10 before dropping to his final finishing position of 13th, tying a career-best run set at Gateway last season.

Teamwork in the garage: It was comforting to see a member of Matt Crafton’s team in the garage helping Ricky Carmichael’s crew while they worked on their No. 4 Monster Energy Drink Chevrolet in what turned out to be terminal engine failure due to a severe oil leak. This act of kindness just shows that despite the teams being competitors on the track, they can still work together inside the garage.

After missing 11 races due to a lack of funding for his Circle Bar Racing No. 14, Rick Crawford was finally back on the track Friday night. With the help of a sponsorship from SuperSeal, the five-time winner started 21st in his No. 73 Chevrolet and steadily worked his way up through to field to finish eighth.

Eddie Sharp Racing made their Truck Series debut Friday with veteran Steve Park behind the wheel. Despite the hopes of both the driver and the team, Park ran outside the top 15 much of the night and went three laps down before settling into his final finishing position of 18th. However, the team plans to run next week at Kentucky as well as Phoenix and Homestead-Miami before the season is over. Should the sponsorship fall right for them, ESR expects to run full-time in the Truck Series next season.

Todd Bodine’s runner-up finish helped expand his points lead to 236 over Aric Almirola, who finished sixth. Johnny Sauter’s eighth top-5 finish this season combined with a late-race engine failure for Timothy Peters, so the two swapped spots: Sauter sits just 18 points ahead of Peters in third. Three points behind Peters is Ron Hornaday, Jr. who rounds out the top 5 in the standings, a whopping 328 points behind the leader.

Most of the remainder of the top 10 didn’t change following Friday night’s race. Matt Crafton still holds onto the sixth spot, but is closely followed by rookie of the year leader Austin Dillon in seventh. 105 points behind Dillon is Mike Skinner in eighth, followed by David Starr in ninth. Justin Lofton’s fourth top-5 finish of the season propelled him up two spots to round out the top 10 while Ricky Carmichael was the big loser, dropping two spots to 12th following his fifth DNF this season.

Quotable:

“It was really fun out there tonight. It was so fun racing Todd [Bodine] like that. He had enough to hang with us, he just didn’t have enough to get by us there. I love coming to Chicago. It’s kind of like a second home for me. I look forward to coming back here next year.” Race winner Kyle Busch

“It was a pretty good race. It was good racing with [Kyle Busch]. It’s fun to race with a guy you can trust. Of course, he was having to trust me because I was the one behind. It was a good night. Second stinks, but we’ll take it. Another good points night, another good run. It shows how solid this team is every week and what kind of trucks that they bring to the race tracks.” Todd Bodine

“I’m super proud of the work and effort my guys put in. We have a great package on the mile and a half tracks, but we need to work on it just a little bit. Kyle (Busch, race winner) was lights out all night long, so we need to work on our stuff a little bit to get up there with him. I have a lot of confidence in Joe and the guys and we have some good tracks coming up. It’s great to rack up these top 5s but we want to get another win or two before the year is over.” Johnny Sauter, finished fourth

Up Next:

The Camping World Truck Series heads to Kentucky Speedway for the Built Ford Tough 225 Friday night. Last season, Ron Hornaday, Jr. beat out Mike Skinner to score his third of five consecutive wins. Coverage begins at 8:00 PM EDT on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or on Sirius Channel 128.

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