The Frontstretch: Tracking the Trucks: Smith's Food & Drug Stores 350 by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Monday September 27, 2010

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Tracking the Trucks: Smith's Food & Drug Stores 350

Beth Lunkenheimer · Monday September 27, 2010

 

In a Nutshell: Austin Dillon took the checkered flag 5.588 seconds ahead of Johnny Sauter to win the Smith’s Food & Drug Stores 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Saturday night. Dillon led early and took the lead for the final time with 41 laps remaining, leaving the rest of the field far behind. James Buescher, points leader Todd Bodine and Matt Crafton rounded out the top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Austin Dillon. The 20-year-old rookie led the first practice session and ran second quickest in the final practice. Then, Dillon backed it up in qualifying by scoring his fifth pole this season, the most of any Truck Series rookie (he was previously tied with Greg Biffle and Kurt Busch at four). Despite dropping outside of the top 5 during pit stops early in the race, Dillon was patient and worked his way to the front for his second career win.

Austin Dillon was so excited to score his second career victory in Las Vegas, he overheated his No. 3 Chevrolet celebrating.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:

1. How did Jason Bowles and David Mayhew fare in their Truck Series debuts?

Saturday night’s Smith’s Food & Drug Stores 350 saw Jason Bowles and David Mayhew compete in their first ever Camping World Truck Series event. Bowles comes to the series from the K&N Pro Series West, where he has nine wins in 41 starts.

Bowles started 20th behind the wheel of the No. 77 Germain.com Toyota and moved into the top 10 during a round of pit stops under the second caution. Though he struggled on restarts most of the night, Bowles managed to stay inside the top 20 throughout the race and settle into a 16th-place finish, consistent in what was a respectable debut.

Like Bowles, David Mayhew has also raced previously in the K&N Pro Series West, where he has two wins to his name. He started 23rd behind the wheel of the No. 19 MI Services / Ron’s Rear End Chevrolet before moving into the top 5 under the second caution when his team chose to stay out on the track.

But that wouldn’t be the last time Mayhew made it into the top 10. Under the fourth caution, the No. 19 team chose not to pit and restarted in the lead. Though he got loose in a three-wide battle with Timothy Peters and Ryan Sieg, Mayhew managed to hold onto his truck as he dropped back through the top 10. For the remainder of the race, he flirted right around that 10th-place, top-10 cutoff before dropping to his finishing position of 15th.

Both drivers did what every debuting driver would like to do — they managed to run competitively, stay out of trouble, and finish on the lead lap. Additionally, they showed the other drivers on the track respect and probably learned quite a bit while racing with the veterans of the series.

2. What was announcer Michael Waltrip thinking?

I usually stray away from commenting on the race broadcast since my colleague, Phil Allaway, has that covered in his Talking NASCAR TV column every Tuesday. But Michael Waltrip got me fired up Saturday night less than 40 laps into the race.

David Mayhew, who was making his Truck Series debut, was racing side-by-side with Mike Skinner when Skinner got loose and nearly took both trucks out. The loss of momentum allowed Johnny Sauter to catch up, and a three-way battle ensued. Mayhew held his own, but Waltrip popped up to say he should let the two go.

“This might be a wise time for David (Mayhew) to roll off and let these two (Johnny Sauter and Mike Skinner) go. They’re faster than him,” Waltrip said. “Skinner’s already almost spun them both out because of the way they’re racing side-by-side.”

“David just needs to log some laps, learn what he’s doing. And right now all he’s doing is getting on Johnny Sauter and Mike Skinner’s nerves.”

Huh? Last time I checked, there’s no rule that a slower vehicle on the lead lap should move over and let another driver go. Sure, there’s a “gentleman’s agreement” that tends to come into play on the track, but it’s certainly not mandatory — especially that early into the race. I could understand if Mayhew had been a lap or more down, but he was racing Sauter and Skinner for position and had every right to fight for that spot on the track.

The next lap, after Mayhew had cleared the two, Sauter got loose inside the No. 5 of Mike Skinner, slid up the track and spun Skinner through the infield grass. I couldn’t believe my ears when Waltrip spoke up again.

“This is why (Mayhew) was getting on their (Sauter and Skinner) nerves a little bit. He put these two in this position.”

Excuse me? Mayhew didn’t put them in that position — they did it to themselves. Waltrip couldn’t possibly have been suggesting the wreck would never have happened if Mayhew had let Sauter and Skinner go by him without a fight. Sure, there’s a chance that would have been the case, but there’s an equal chance the incident would have just happened in front of Mayhew instead of behind him.

I know the announcers are paid to provide commentary and opinion throughout the race, but Michael Waltrip would be wise to think twice before he speaks. How would he have handled the situation if he were making his Truck Series debut and trying to prove he deserves another chance behind the wheel? I’m willing to bet he would have done the same thing as Mayhew … because the definition of racing doesn’t involve simply moving out of the way.

Dillon’s Las Vegas trophy joins his Iowa one on the Truck Series shelf in what’s been an outstanding rookie year for the youngster.

Truck Rookie Report

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

No. of Rookies in the Race: Nine (Add Jason Bowles in the No. 77, Nelson Piquet, Jr. in the No. 15, David Mayhew in the No. 19, Johanna Long in the No. 20, Narain Karthikeyan in the No. 60, and Greg Pursley in the No. 62)

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

Rookie Of The Race: Austin Dillon

Justin Lofton started 17th after struggling with his truck in both practice sessions. Through patience and pit strategy, Lofton moved through the field and settled into an eighth-place finish, his sixth top 10 this season.

Nelson Piquet, Jr. made his fifth Truck Series start behind the wheel of the No. 15 Qualcomm Toyota for Billy Ballew Motorsports. He started 24th, made a brief appearance in the top 5 thanks to pit strategy and finished 20th, the worst all-around performance in his brief stock car career.

Johanna Long made her return to the Truck Series behind the wheel of a family-owned No. 20 Panhandle Grading and Paving Toyota, but retired before even completing a lap due to “transmission” problems.

Greg Pursley made his second-career Truck Series start behind the wheel of the No. 62 Star Nursery Chevrolet, but it only took ten laps for the radiator to let go and send Pursley behind the wall for a disappointing 33rd-place finish. Pursley’s series debut came earlier this season at Iowa Speedway, where he finished eighth.

Rookie Quote

“I’m really happy with tonight. It turned into being a really good night. In the race, I kind of slipped up and worked my way up to the top, found some grip up there and came down after the first stop. Honestly Terry (Cook, spotter) was the one that made the call. He called for a big change and I didn’t have to say anything, so it’s really cool to have someone up top that can see that kind of stuff. We probably could have finished three or four spots better, but we’re definitely happy with the way tonight ended up considering how we started the day.” Justin Lofton, finished eighth

Worth Noting / Points Shuffle:

Todd Bodine gained five points on second-place Aric Almirola, expanding his lead to 262. Johnny Sauter sits just 38 points behind Almirola in third, while race winner Austin Dillon jumped two spots to fourth. Timothy Peters, who dropped one spot, rounds out the top 5, 423 points behind the leader.

Former AMA racer Ricky Carmichael will continue advancing his four-wheel career by making his Nationwide Series debut at Kansas next week.

Matt Crafton dropped a spot but is tied mathematically with Timothy Peters for fifth. Ron Hornaday, Jr. remains in seventh, 509 points behind Bodine. Mike Skinner and David Starr remain eighth and ninth, respectively, while rookie Justin Lofton moved up one spot to round out the top 10.

Second-year driver Ricky Carmichael is set to make his Nationwide Series debut next weekend at Kansas Speedway. Carmichael will pilot the No. 10 Monster Energy car for Turner Motorsports following their acquisition of Braun Racing’s Nationwide Series equipment. Currently, Carmichael has plans to run full-time in the Truck Series during 2011 with a part-time Nationwide schedule.

Earlier this week, Mike Hillman, Jr., crew chief for Todd Bodine, underwent surgery to insert a screws and a metal plate into his right leg and foot. He sustained two broken bones in his foot and ankle, dislocating part of his leg last weekend when he was hit on pit road during the K&N Pro Series East Race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Despite the surgery, Hillman, Jr. was at the track this weekend in a wheelchair to support and make the calls for his points-leading driver.

Quotable:

“Anytime you’re in Victory Lane, it’s awesome. This Chevy was awesome all night and [my crew] is the bomb. I talked to [my grandfather — Richard Childress] earlier in the week, and he said, ‘Man, you’ve got to go win this race for me out here.’ To come out here and do it is pretty awesome. You dream about stuff like this, and when it comes true, it’s great.” Austin Dillon

“I hate finishing second. We’re here to win, and to be that close and not get it done is frustrating. We’d have liked to win back-to-back races out here. We just missed out on it, but we have some really good tracks coming up still.” Johnny Sauter

Up Next:

The Camping World Truck Series takes a month off and returns to the track Saturday, October 23rd for the Kroger 200. Last season, Timothy Peters scored his first career victory, beating out Todd Bodine by nearly two seconds. Coverage begins at 12:30 PM EDT on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or on Sirius XM Channel 128.

Monday on the Frontstretch:
Matt McLaughlin’s Thinkin’ Out Loud: 2010 Dover-2 Race Recap
The Cool-Down Lap: ‘Dinger Does Dover – What His Good Run Means
Fact Or Fiction: Chase Down To Two? Hendrick Hiring Help? And Bye, Bye McGrew?
Bubble Breakdown: Sadler Smooth While Smith Struggles At The Monster Mile
Running Their Mouth: AAA 400

Contact Beth Lunkenheimer

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