The Frontstretch: Tracking the Trucks: Ford 200 by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Monday November 22, 2010

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Tracking the Trucks: Ford 200

Beth Lunkenheimer · Monday November 22, 2010

 

In a Nutshell: Kyle Busch took the checkered flag 0.577 seconds ahead of Ron Hornaday, Jr. to win the Ford 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway Friday night. The driver of the No. 18 Traxxas Toyota took the lead for the final time on a lap 131 restart and never looked back on the way to an eighth win in 16 starts this season. Johnny Sauter, Todd Bodine and Aric Almirola rounded out the top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Kyle Busch. Busch started on the outside of the front row and wasted little time swapping the lead with polesitter Austin Dillon. At times, the driver of the No. 18 Toyota managed to pull out to a more than one second lead over the field. Then, following contact with Johnny Sauter, Busch was the beneficiary of a questionable caution and was able to run through the field from outside the top 20. (Author’s Note: For more on the questionable caution, see question number two below.) He went on to lead a total of six times for 57 laps on the way to Victory Lane.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:

1. How did Cole Whitt fare in his Truck Series debut?

Friday night, Cole Whitt made his Truck Series debut behind the wheel of Stacy Compton’s No. 60 SafeAuto Chevrolet. Whitt started racing BMX bikes when he was just five years old and entered his first national race at the ripe young age of six.

The Red Bull Racing development driver ran the K&N Pro Series East this season and scored seven top-10 finishes in just ten starts; he placed tenth in the final standings. Last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, Whitt made his Nationwide Series debut in the Red Bull-fielded ride where he raced to an impressive 15th.

Coming into the weekend, Whitt was grateful to have the opportunity to compete.

“I am excited to be able to climb into Stacy’s (Compton) No. 60 SafeAuto truck and put a good run together for Stacy, the guys and all of their partners,” Whitt said. “They have a great program and a fast truck.”

And a fast truck, the team definitely had. The 19-year-old qualified 12th and ran well for much of the race, even sneaking into the top 10 a couple times. But on lap 83, a three-wide battle with Austin Dillon and James Buescher didn’t end well. Whitt was on the low side of the track and slid up across the noses of Dillon and Buescher. Surprisingly, the No. 60 Chevrolet’s slam to the outside wall was the only serious damage sustained.

Whitt was able to make it to pit road for repairs, putting on a fresh set of tires, but the damage left him to settle for a 28th-place finish, two laps down.

While it wasn’t exactly the result the California native would have liked, Whitt should be quite happy with his performance on Friday. He managed to run well with the veterans and found himself on the winning end of a couple of three-wide battles. The young driver has definitely taken a step in the right direction toward furthering his NASCAR career, with rumors building he’ll be in the series full-time somewhere come 2011.

2. Why did NASCAR throw a caution for Kyle Busch?

Once again, NASCAR left me scratching my head following a questionable on-track call Friday night. Following contact with Johnny Sauter, Kyle Busch found himself with a tire going down and in danger of losing a lap had he been forced to pit for a fresh set of tires. Yet though there was no visible damage or debris on the track, NASCAR threw a caution, ultimately allowing the No. 18 team to make the necessary repairs to the truck and remain on the lead lap.

Then, with just 18 laps to go, Austin Dillon was involved in a nearly identical incident where he slid along the outside wall with a tire going down. But in that case, officials chose not to throw a caution, and Dillon was left to finish four laps down in 31st.

What’s the deal, NASCAR?

If anything, Austin Dillon’s hard contact with the outside wall warranted a caution more than Kyle Busch’s. And once again, it’s inconsistency that’s going to end up driving fans away from a series that puts on arguably the best race each week.

Kyle Busch’s victory burnout cam in part with thanks to NASCAR for throwing a caution for his smoking tire in the race.

The funny thing about it is that it’s likely Kyle Busch would have won the race — or at least the owner’s championship — without NASCAR sticking their hand in the mix. The caution flew twice following his incident, and the driver of the No. 18 Toyota would likely have been the recipient of the “Aaron’s Lucky Dog” and charged through the field.

But this controversy isn’t the first time NASCAR has been inconsistent in how they choose to throw a caution over the track. Most recently, it came at Darlington Raceway in August when they threw a caution for one incident, then didn’t later in the race for the exact same thing. (Author’s Note: For more on the incident at the Too Tough to Tame 200, click here. )

Sadly, I don’t see these conflicting calls and apparent rule making on the fly coming to an end any time soon.

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: 13 (Add Miguel Paludo, Craig Goess, David Mayhew, Johanna Long, Jeffrey Earnhardt, John Jackson, Derek White, Tom Hessert, John King and a debuting Cole Whitt)

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 2; Justin Lofton, finished seventh; Miguel Paludo, finished ninth

Rookie Of The Race: Justin Lofton

Rookie Notes

Polesitter Austin Dillon led 11 laps early while he and Kyle Busch traded the top spot, but he also faced some adversity on Friday when he bounced his truck off of the wall a few times. The last time it happened with 18 laps remaining caused pretty significant damage, and a cut tire forced Dillon to pit for a fresh set of Goodyears. The driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet was ultimately left to finish 31st, four laps down. But his overall performance this season — two wins and 16 top-10 finishes in 25 races — was enough to score Richard Childress Racing’s first Rookie of the Year title in the Truck Series.

Justin Lofton started sixth and ran inside the top 15 much of the day before an untimely flat tire after he slid along the wall on lap 38. But the damage wasn’t significant, and the driver of the No. 7 visitpit.com Toyota managed to remain on the lead lap and recover. The seventh-place finish marked his eighth top-10 result this season.

Miguel Paludo made his second career start with Red Horse Racing and his fourth overall start in the Truck Series Friday night. After starting 24th, the Brazilian spent most of his time flirting with the top 15 on the track, but two late-race cautions allowed Paludo to gain a few spots. When the checkered flag flew, the 27-year-old had worked his way to ninth, matching a career-best finish that came at Bristol earlier this year in a truck fielded by Germain Racing.

Jennifer Jo Cobb’s 24th-place finish was enough to allow her to make NASCAR history after what has largely been a learning season in an underfunded ride. The Kansas native finished 17th in the final Truck Series standings, and that was enough to make her the highest finishing female driver in any of NASCAR’s top three series. The 37-year-old bested Tammy Jo Kirk’s 20th-place finish in the 1997 Truck Series title race, and hopes to move on to the 2011 season with sponsorship in place that continues her NASCAR career.

David Mayhew made his third career start Friday night and once again turned heads. Though he ran outside the top 10 for much of the race, Mayhew did inherit the lead when most of the front runners pitted under the fourth caution. The driver of the No. 19 MMI Services / Ron’s Rear Ends Chevrolet was unable to keep it, relinquishing the top spot to Travis Kvapil on a lap 111 restart, but he did manage to hold on for a career-best 14th-place finish.

Craig Goess started 21st in his second career start with Eddie Sharp Racing. Though he made little noise all day long, the driver of the No. 46 Greenville Toyota managed to bring home a 12th-place result, on the lead lap and gain much-needed experience for the future. He’ll race full-time for ESR and make a run for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year title in 2011.

Rookie Quotes

“It was a great year. Raybestos Rookie of the Year is something that we went into the season wanting to win. That was our main goal, and to finish top 10 in the points, trying to do that and we were able to get top-5 somehow. We came out with two wins, a bunch of poles — wish we could have had a few more wins with all those poles that we got, but I’m really excited about going into next year. I guess I’m a veteran next year and that’s kind of hard to think about.” Austin Dillon

“I can’t say enough how proud I am of Mark Rette (Crew Chief) and all of the guys on the No. 7 visitpit.com team. We grew together as a team all year and it feels real good to close out the season with another top 10.” Justin Lofton

“To get back on the lead lap with six laps to go was good, but the track was like a sandbox by then. But what an awesome night; what a great way to wrap up the year. All the support we got from the fans was great and then to have a brand new sponsor come on board for the very last race of the year in LillysCosmetics.com, it just gives us great momentum going into 2011. I am so excited — on one hand, I’m just so happy driving and racing and I want to go back next week, but on the other hand this break is much needed and it gives us a chance to regroup and really go through all of our equipment with a fine-tooth comb and get it right.” Jennifer Jo Cobb, finished 24th

“I am really proud of the No. 46 Greenville Toyota of N.C. Eddie Sharp Racing team. I think that we have learned a lot in these two races at Talladega Superspeedway and Homestead. Running the two races this year has really helped us gain footing for next season, and I think we have a lot to work with in the offseason. I’m thankful for all of the work everyone put in this season, and I’m really looking forward to running full-time in the NCWTS next year.” Craig Goess, finished 12th

Points Shuffle:

The entire top 10 remained unchanged after the Ford 200. Todd Bodine’s final point margin over Aric Almirola ended at 207, and Johnny Sauter wound up the season third, 261 points back. Sauter’s teammate Matt Crafton ended the year fourth while rookie Austin Dillon rounded out the top 5.

Timothy Peters, winner of the season opener at Daytona, finished off the season in sixth followed by defending champion Ron Hornaday, Jr. Just 54 points behind Hornaday, Jr., Mike Skinner wound up eighth after an uncharacteristically tough season where he scored just two top-5 finishes in 25 races. David Starr and Jason White rounded out the top 10.

Kyle Busch Motorsports closed out their first full season in the Truck Series with a bang when the No. 18 Toyota scored enough points to best the No. 30 of Germain Racing in the owner’s standings. The team racked up eight wins — all by owner / driver Kyle Busch — and 21 top-10 finishes in 25 starts this season.

During the pre-race broadcast, Krista Voda reported Richard Childress Racing’s second driver for the 2011 season would be ARCA driver Joey Coulter. The 20-year-old driver finished eighth in the ARCA standings for the 2010 season, scoring a win at Berlin Raceway in Michigan and ten top-10 finishes in 20 starts.

Quotable:

“This is so cool. To come out here and to win in our last race and to do it in the style that we did—it wasn’t without some excitement, that’s for sure. I can’t thank these guys here enough at Kyle Busch Motorsports — everyone like Rick Ren (Competition Director) and Eric Phillips (Crew Chief). It’s fun to come out here and participate in the truck races. We’re still looking for sponsors to do it some more next year. It’s real tough. Hopefully, we can find some.” Kyle Busch

“We had a good truck, it just wouldn’t take off very good. Our truck was really good after about 10 or so laps on the tires and we just didn’t have the speed we needed right at the get-go, which is a shame because that’s what it came down to at the end, was the restarts. I’m proud of my guys; we had a great year. We won a couple races, finished second in the points. It was a really, really great year. I wanted to win tonight bad, though.” Aric Almirola, finished fifth

Up Next:

The Camping World Truck Series Banquet, which will be held with the Nationwide Series banquet is Monday at the Loews Miami Beach Hotel. It will air on a tape delay December 3rd at 7:00 pm ET on SPEED.

Author’s Note: Readers, it’s once again time to say farewell after another exciting season. Thank you all for your dedicated readership. It is because of each and every one of you that I continue to have the opportunity to write about the sport I love so much. I hope all of you have a safe holiday season with your friends and family, and I’ll see you in February for the season opener at Daytona.

Contact Beth Lunkenheimer

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Shoeman
11/22/2010 12:56 PM
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Congrats to Kyle on his win and to KBM on the Championship and in their first year no less.

Contact Beth Lunkenheimer