The Frontstretch: Tracking the Trucks: Lucas Oil 200 by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Sunday May 15, 2011

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Tracking the Trucks: Lucas Oil 200

Beth Lunkenheimer · Sunday May 15, 2011

 

In a Nutshell: Kyle Busch took the checkered flag under caution ahead of Cole Whitt to win the Lucas Oil 200 at Dover International Speedway Friday night. Busch took the lead from Whitt on a restart with 17 laps to go and survived two more restarts before scoring his 27th career Truck Series victory. Matt Crafton, Austin Dillon and Kevin Harvick rounded out the top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Kyle Busch It’s no surprise that Busch is the guy to beat week in and week out when he’s in the field. Busch started third wasted little time taking the lead from Kevin Harvick following the first restart of the race. At one point, the driver of the No. 18 Toyota held a 6.4 second lead over Harvick. Though he was dropped back to fourth after a round of pit stops under the fifth caution, Busch managed to take the top spot from then-leader Cole Whitt on a lap 184 restart, and despite a hard-charging restart from Whitt with just three laps remaining, Busch easily cruised to victory lane for the third time this season.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:

1. Will Travis Kvapil ever catch a break?

When Travis Kvapil rejoined the Truck Series behind the wheel of the No. 5 International Truck / Monaco RVs Toyota with Randy Moss Motorsports, he had high expectations of his return to running full-time in the series.

“The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is a great series with a lot of competition, and I’m excited to be there full-time,” Kvapil said. “I’ve had a lot of success racing in the Truck Series int he past, and I’m looking forward to winning races and contending for the championship.”

But after six starts this season, Kvapil finds himself far from winning races and even farther from contending for the championship. He has yet to finish inside the top 15—his best finish is 17th at Darlington—and currently sits 24th in the standings, 106 points behind the leader.

And Friday night was no different. Though he managed to stay out of trouble for much of the Lucas Oil 200, a broken splitter with 57 laps remaining cut down his left front tire and Kvapil was forced to pit under green. From there the damage was done and the driver of the No. 5 was left to settle for a 23rd-place finish, 11 laps down.

The 2003 Truck Series champion has definitely had a season he’d like to forget, and I can’t help but wonder if part of the difference this season is in his busy schedule. Though he’s back to running full-time in the Truck Series, he continues to run for Front Row Motorsports in the Cup Series. Clearly, the busy schedule isn’t the only thing that’s haunting Kvapil since he just can’t seem to catch a break this season, but paring down his responsibilities may be worthwhile if the 35-year-old hopes to be competitive in the Truck Series once again.

2. Is Cole Whitt in for the long haul?

Every time a new face heads to the Camping World Truck Series, I smile because it’s another potential future star in the making. Unfortunately, so many of those up and coming stars get stopped by lack of sponsorship or poor performance before they’re even able to make a name for themselves. However, that is definitely not the case for rookie Cole Whitt.

As everyone knows by now, Whitt failed to make the field for the season-opener at Daytona but quickly turned things around when he took the wheel of Shane Sieg’s No. 93 and finished 14th. No one at the time imagined five races later that 14th-place finish would be Whitt’s worst finish this season. Since Daytona, the 19-year-old has finished outside the top 10 just once—12th at Nashville.

Kyle Busch found Victory Lane Friday night, but Cole Whit didn’t make it easy for him.

But perhaps what was even more impressive was his performance Friday night at Dover. At a track that’s notoriously slick, Whitt managed to start eighth and remain inside the top 10 for much of the night before taking the lead from Jason White on a lap 160 restart and pulling out to a nearly one second lead over Kyle Busch. Of course, it wasn’t long before the field was bunched up thanks to a caution for Justin Lofton’s hard hit and Whitt was forced to restart beside Kyle Busch.

It was no surprise that Busch quickly took the lead on the following restart and didn’t relinquish it on the way to victory. But what was really fun with the restarts in the final 25 laps was the visible improvement Whitt made with each restart. It’s no secret that race winner Kyle Busch is a master when it comes to restarting the field, and Whitt clearly learned a little from him and nailed the final restart of the race.

Though he didn’t manage to turn that great restart into a victory, Whitt gained some valuable information from a driver who has run circles around the Truck Series field for years. Following the race, Busch had nothing but good things to say about the 19-year-old.

“Cole Whitt did a really nice job. I think he’s got something going on over there. On that last restart, he had me—he left just with me, I didn’t get away from him at all,” Busch said. “We just had a fast enough speed through (turns) one and two were we beat him. He seemed like he was a veteran out there—I give him props when due.”

Turn One Racing has made major strides since missing their first race at Daytona. Not only did Whitt compete for the win, but teammate Justin Marks started on the pole and finished inside the top 10. It looks like Whitt is around for the long haul, and with Red Bull on the truck, the team should be around for a while as well.

Truck Rookie Report
2011 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Joey Coulter (No. 22)
Dusty Davis (No. 15)
Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 1)
Chris Eggleston (No. 27)
Craig Goess (No. 46)
Justin Johnson (No. 51)
Parker Kligerman (No. 29)
Johanna Long (No. 20)
Chase Mattioli (No. 99)
Miguel Paludo (No. 7)
Nelson Piquet, Jr. (No. 8)
Cole Whitt (No. 60)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 7

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 2; Cole Whitt, finished second; Joey Coulter, finished sixth

Rookie Of The Race: Cole Whitt (Whitt scored his first career top-5 finish after leading 23 laps late in the Lucas Oil 200)

Rookie Quotes

“I guess running second to Kyle (Busch) is almost like winning these days. We wanted to win but we got a good points day. This Turn One (Racing) team is really turning around. Even Justin Marks ran in the top 10. I can’t say enough about these guys. We just keep running better and better. We’ve been having fun and that’s the best part about it.” Cole Whitt

“I want to thank my entire RCR Racing crew for providing me an awesome truck this weekend in Dover. Qualified P5 and stayed in the top 10 almost all day. Brought the No. 22 RCR Darrell Gwynn Foundation Chevrolet Silverado home sixth.” Joey Coulter via his facebook page on Saturday

“The track was really greasy at the beginning of the race which loosened up the truck quite a bit and I couldn’t carry speed through the corners. I think the damage from the first spin was worse than we originally thought because out Tundra was really unstable from that point on. You have to make the most of what you’re given and we’ll take what we learned on to Charlotte next week.” Craig Goess, finished 24th_

Rookie Notes

Johanna Long ran a quiet race all day and even led the first two laps of her career through a late round of green flag pit stops. She looked to be on her way to a nice clean finish but stalled on pit road with eight laps remaining and retired to a 22nd-place finish due to drive shaft problems.

Parker Kligerman started ninth and ran virtually unnoticed inside the top 10 for much of Friday night before a late race spin inside Cole Whitt relegated him to a 21st-place finish, three laps down.

Worth Noting / Points Shuffle:

Kyle Busch became the first two-time winner in 12 races at Dover. The victory marked his third of the season and his fifth top-10 finish in five starts. The win was also the 85th for Toyota and the manufacturer has surpassed Ford for all-time wins in the series.

Matt Crafton scored his fifth top-10 finish in six starts this season Friday night allowed him to jump two spots in the standings to take the lead by five points over teammate Johnny Sauter. Rookie Cole Whitt’s career-best finish moved him up two spots to third, just seven points out of the lead, and Ron Hornaday, Jr. remains fourth. Timothy Peters dropped three spots after being involved in a last-lap crash and rounds out the top 5.

Austin Dillon remains sixth, 22 points behind Crafton, and Max Papis moved up two spots to seventh. Clay Rogers still sits quietly inside the top 10 in eighth just five points behind Papis. Todd Bodine dropped two spots after a disappointing 27th-place finish while Brendan Gaughan was the big winner jumping four spots to round out the top 10.

Quotable:

“That’s four for four by Traxxas—I can’t say enough about these guys at Kyle Busch Motosports. It’s fun to come out here. We love racing in this series like this, having fun. Overall the race went pretty well for us. It wasn’t quite the walk in the park it seems.” Race Winner Kyle Busch

“At the beginning of the race, I couldn’t fire off and I was really, really loose. But at the end of the run, we’d be one of the best trucks on the race track. It’s great to be the points leader. We just need to keep doing what we’re doing and running top 5 every week and having those top 3 finishes and throw a couple of wins off and see where we are at Homestead.” Matt Crafton, finished third

“Thanks for the concern and [it’s] a testament to NASCAR safety procedures. The Monster Energy Chevrolet was OK and we were picking them off one at a time. I was coming in there behind the 81 (David Starr) and he bobbled or something. So I barely touched the brake and when I did the back end came around. Then it snapped and went the opposite way. I haven’t had a lick like that in a while. It reminds of my motocross days—days that I’d like to forget. Just glad I’m alright.” Ricky Carmichael, finished 29th after a vicious lap 74 wreck

Up Next:
The Camping World Truck Series head to Charlotte Motor Speedway next Friday to start off the All-Star Race weekend with the North Carolina Education Lottery 200. In 2010, Kyle Busch became the first pole sitter to visit Victory Lane at Charlotte after recovering from early race damage to score his 18th career win. Coverage begins at 8:00 pm ET on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

Contact Beth Lunkenheimer

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©2000 - 2008 Beth Lunkenheimer and Frontstetch.com. Thanks for visiting the Frontstretch!

slander
05/16/2011 10:48 PM
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Who Should Have Won: A truck series regular, not an interloping Cup driver.

SHOEMAN
05/17/2011 02:37 AM
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Way to go ROWDY!!!!

FSBeth
05/17/2011 10:18 AM
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Slander: you’re right! I’d love to see the Truck Series regulars winning this season. In fact, Johnny Sauter remains as the only series regular to beat out the Cup interlopers…and I have a feeling he will be one of the few as the season wears on. That said, based on the 200 laps at Dover, Kyle Busch was the guy to beat…again.

FSBeth
05/17/2011 10:34 PM
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If you take a look back at some of my other Truck Series columns, you’ll see this isn’t the first time I’ve said something nice about Kyle. In fact, I’ve never really had a problem with him competing in the Truck Series, and here’s why: when he was with BBM, all of the funds he earned through his races with that team went straight back to them for improvements.

And now, he’s running for his own team and not giving others a chance as well (see Kimi Raikkonen and the newly signed Josh Richards as well as Brian Ickler). My only problem with him is when he pulls a boneheaded move on the track (ask Jennifer Jo Cobb what I’m talking about).

I know when someone has talent, and I’m not afraid to say so. Simply put, Cole Whitt learned A LOT from Busch…and he even said so after the race. It’s stuff like that that can ultimately separate a wanna-be star from the gonna-be star.

Contact Beth Lunkenheimer