The Frontstretch: Tracking the Trucks: Lucas Deep Clean 200 by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Monday July 25, 2011

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Tracking the Trucks: Lucas Deep Clean 200

Beth Lunkenheimer · Monday July 25, 2011

 

In a Nutshell: Austin Dillon took the checkered flag 3.981 seconds ahead of Johnny Sauter to win the Lucas Deep Clean 200 Friday night at Nashville Superspeedway. Dillon took the lead for the final time with 23 laps remaining and never looked back to score his third career Truck Series victory. Timothy Peters, Nelson Piquet, Jr. and Parker Kligerman rounded out the top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Austin Dillon Dillon led the final practice session and started his No. 3 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Chevrolet on the pole. He led the first 30 laps before being overtaken by Timothy Peters. After a round of pit stops under the second caution, Dillon restarted out front with 97 laps remaining but was quickly passed by Johnny Sauter. It wasn’t until inside 30 laps to go that Dillon finally passed Sauter for the lead and opened up a large margin before becoming the fourth consecutive polesitter to visit victory lane in Nashville.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:

1. Can Austin Dillon win the championship this season?

Following his victory Friday night, last season’s Rookie of the Year, Austin Dillon, gained four points on championship leader Johnny Sauter.

Interestingly enough, half of the previous winners at Nashville have gone on to win the championship that same season, including the past three years—Todd Bodine (2010), Ron Hornaday, Jr. (2009) and Johnny Benson (2008).

Mike Bliss started off in 2002 when he scored his fourth of five victories that season and took the championship by 46 points over Rick Crawford. Just two years later, the late Bobby Hamilton scored the victory in Nashville and the championship by 46 points over Dennis Setzer.

So let’s take a look at Dillon’s stats compared to Sauter’s stats so far this season.

Dillon: 12 starts, one win, four top 5s, six top 10s, three poles, 270 laps led, 1 DNF (Daytona), 10.3 average finish

Sauter: 12 starts, one win, five top 5s, eight top 10s, two poles, 200 laps led, 1 DNF (Kentucky), 9.1 average finish

It’s clear to see why Sauter holds an 18 point advantage over Dillon, but it’s also clear that Dillon has managed to mostly avoid the sophomore slump that many drivers experience. In fact, he’d likely have a second win this season if it hadn’t been for a hood pin failure two weeks ago at Kentucky.

With all of that being said, Dillon can clearly pass up ThorSport driver Johnny Sauter in hopes of a championship. But with 13 races remaining, anything can happen to both drivers and allow James Buescher, Cole Whitt and Timothy Peters—who are separated by a mere five points—a shot at the top spot in time for the season finale.

2. Why does NASCAR insist on throwing unnecessary cautions?

Over several recent weeks, NASCAR has been praised for using discretion with the yellow flag, but they took a giant step backward Friday night at Nashville Superspeedway. The first two cautions that flew over the Lucas Deep Clean 200 left me questioning whether the sanctioning body made the correct call.

The first incident in question came after just four laps of racing. Johanna Long spun her No. 20 Panhandle Grading & Paving Toyota on her own without making contact with the wall or another competitor. And despite her ability to move down off of the racing surface and out of the way, the caution flew just the same.

But the strange part was that the yellow flew only after Long was down out of the groove. Perhaps I could have understood the need for the caution if NASCAR officials had actually called for the flag while Long was still in the racing groove. Only that wasn’t the case.

Then, just past the halfway point of the race, Timothy Peters held a nearly eight second lead over Johnny Sauter and a “debris” caution flew, erasing all of the hard work Peters and his pit crew had put into the first half of the race.

What I found interesting was that the mysterious debris caution flew not too long after SPEED’s Rick Allen posted on his Twitter page (RickAllenRacing) that he "needed" a caution. In fact, John Daly (TheDalyPlanet) said it best: “Cannot believe that twist-tie from Iowa blew all the way to Nashville and once again landed in Turn 3! #coincidence”

In contrast, the third caution flew after Max Papis’ car burst into flames and spewed oil all over the track, clearly warranting the yellow flag. In fact, it was the only caution that needed to be thrown on Friday night. Sooner or later, NASCAR will wake up and realize that fans aren’t stupid and do notice when they make poor decisions like the ones on Friday night. The real question is whether they’ll do so in time.

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 – Left team due to performance issues)
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: 6

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 3; Nelson Piquet, Jr., finished fourth; Parker Kligerman, finished fifth; Joey Coulter, finished tenth

Rookie Of The Race: Nelson Piquet, Jr.

Points Shuffle:

Johnny Sauter remains out front but lost four points to Austin Dillon, who sits just 18 points back in second. James Buescher moved up one spot while Cole Whitt dropped a position—the two are separated by just one point. Timothy Peters moved up a spot and rounds out the top 5.

Matt Crafton dropped outside the top 5 and sits sixth, 54 points behind his teammate. Rookies Parker Kligerman and Joey Coulter each moved up one spot while Ron Hornaday, Jr. dropped two positions after losing the handle on his truck early in the race. Todd Bodine moved up a spot and rounds out the top 10.

Quotable:

“It was all about sticking with (Sauter) as long as I could, keep the pressure on. I knew he was getting looser and looser and I finally have to get up in there with him and loosen him up a little more, and when it happened we just went on. It’s just so great to have a win. When you get a win, everything just seems to be a lot easier.” Austin Dillon

“My guys were phenomenal here, what an amazing job by Joe (Shear, Jr., Crew Chief) and the (No.) 13 boys. The truck is one of the fastest in our fleet—chassis 38 hasn’t had worse than a second-place finish all year, and we just built it in the offseason. After leading practice all day, we knew we had a potential winner. Dillon just had a fast, fast truck and didn’t need four (tires). It was great strategy for them and a good win. We did our best and came home with a good finish.” Johnny Sauter

Up Next:
The Camping World Truck Series heads to Lucas Oil Raceway for the AAA Insurance 200 Friday night. Last season, Ron Hornaday, Jr. scored his first victory in nearly a year by two seconds over Kyle Busch. Coverage begins at 7:30 PM EDT on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

Contact Beth Lunkenheimer

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