In a Nutshell: James Buescher took the checkered flag 5.320 seconds ahead of Timothy Peters in Saturday afternoon’s SFP 250 at Kansas Speedway. Buescher chased down Brad Keselowski following a round of green-flag pit stops where Buescher took four tires compared to Keselowski’s two-tire strategy. From there, the driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet didn’t look back, leading the final 11 laps en route to his first career victory. Keselowski, Nelson Piquet, Jr. and Todd Bodine rounded out the top 5.
Who Should Have Won: James Buescher. From the moment the No. 31 team unloaded, their truck was incredibly strong. Buescher ran third quickest in the first practice session before topping the speed charts in the final practice on Friday. From there, Saturday morning’s qualifying saw the 22-year-old post the sixth quickest lap with a speed of 171.543 mph. But once the green flag flew over Saturday’s race, it took just 34 laps for Buescher to take the top spot in a race where he led five times for a race high 103 of 167 laps.
Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:
1. Does Kansas Speedway really need to be repaved?
Immediately following the checkered flag over Sunday afternoon’s STP 400 Sprint Cup race, Kansas Speedway will begin the process of a complete repave, joining nine other tracks (Pocono, Michigan, Daytona, Phoenix, Darlington, Bristol, Talladega, Charlotte and Las Vegas) that have undergone some sort of track resurfacing in the last six years. From temperature variations to rain, snow and everything in between, Kansas City’s constantly changing weather has worn down the existing asphalt surface.
As a result, the speedway announced the complete repave that will not only renew the surface but allow the implementation of a few changes. The entire racing surface will be completely repaved, and in the process, the 15-degree banking that has been present for the last 12 years will change to 17-20 degree progressive banking. But does the track really need the repave? After all, as a racing surface wears down, it tends to build character and multiple racing grooves that allow the driver to have more control of his fate on race day, as Denny Hamlin pointed out during his media availability at the speedway Friday.
“(On an) old racetrack, I say the driver is probably 65 percent of how you run. On a brand-new paved racetrack, I’d say our numbers are probably down to 30 (percent),” Hamlin said. “So it cuts half of (the driver skill) off, in my opinion. When you’re running nearly wide-open on every corner on newly-paved racetracks, there’s just not much us drivers can do.”
With that being said, according to a report from David Caraviello on NASCAR.com, Kansas Speedway president Pat Warren walked into the media center Saturday morning armed with a cell phone photograph of the deterioration faced by the track surface. Track personnel inspected the track Friday evening and found loose asphalt that they were able to pit up, leaving a five inch long by three inch wide gap in the racing surface. While the hole was patched using an epoxy compound, the decision to repave was only reinforced by the finding.
“From our perspective, it’s a safety issue. It’s not like we’re doing this to save money on maintenance. There’s no way any track would ever do this unless they had to,” Warren said. “The public relations hit is too big. The cost—it’s like painting your house and you don’t get a new color. It’s something you’ve got to do, but you don’t feel real good about it when you write the check.”
The NASCAR world will get its first glimpse of racing on the new surface with the Nationwide and Cup Series companion weekend in October, but it won’t be until the 2013 schedule when truck racing returns. Until then, all anyone can do is speculate on just how the repave will affect the quality of competition, but sadly, the pothole that slowed the 2010 Daytona 500 has proven it’s important for track officials to not take that kind of damage lightly.
2. Where did Turner Motorsports come from this season?
From the moment the green flag dropped over the field at Daytona nearly two months ago, it was clear Turner Motorsports would be a team to keep a close eye on each week, and that couldn’t be more true with nearly a quarter of the season already complete. After leading all but two of the first 81 laps in the season opener, James Buescher’s 17th-place finish was all they had to show for the dominant early stages of the race after Nelson Piquet, Jr. and Miguel Paludo were both involved in wrecks that so commonly pop up in restrictor plate events.
Fast forward to today, and the organization now has two consecutive victories after a strong win by Kasey Kahne last weekend at Rockingham Speedway. Plus Buescher and Piquet, Jr. have each finished in the top 10 in all three races since Daytona.
“Turner Motorsports trucks are pretty awesome. Two in a row is saying something,” Buescher said in victory lane. “Having our first win [for the team] last week with Kasey, and running second to him, we want to come here and win one for ourselves.”
Of course this season’s progress shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise after Buescher’s well-documented run at the championship despite missing the second race of the season at Phoenix last year. But the difference this season is the strong runs Nelson Piquet, Jr. has had already. Despite getting caught up in a green-white-checkered crash as Daytona, the driver of the No. 30 Chevrolet has stepped up with three consecutive top-10 finishes, including last week’s seventh-place finish at Rockingham.
Miguel Paludo’s No. 32 team is the only one lagging behind in the three-truck organization, and it makes me wonder whether it’s the equipment or the driver that’s really struggling. Only time will tell whether Turner Motorsports can continue their forward progress, but four races into the season, it looks promising.
Truck Rookie Report
2012 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Dakoda Armstrong (No. 98)
Ty Dillon (No. 3)
Dusty Davis (No. 15—not entered at Kansas)
T.J. Duke (No. 07—not entered at Kansas)
Ross Chastain (No. 08)
Cale Gale (No. 33) *Max Gresham *(No. 24)
Paulie Harraka (No. 5)
Caleb Holman (No. 75—not entered at Kansas)
John King (No. 7)
Bryan Silas (No. 99)
John Wes Townley (No. 09)
No. of Rookies in the Race: 14 (add Tim George, Jr., Chris Cockrum, Brennan Newberry, Russ Dugger and a debuting Scott Stenzel)
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 1; Ty Dillon, finished ninth
Timothy Peters maintains the top spot in the standings by four points over race winner James Buescher, who jumped two spots. Justin Lofton and Ty Dillon each dropped a spot and sit third and fourth, respectively. Nelson Piquet, Jr.‘s solid fifth-place finish moved him up one position to round out the top 5, just 23 points behind the leader.
Parker Kligerman dropped a spot to sixth while Ron Hornaday, Jr. jumped two positions to seventh. John King remains eighth followed by Jason White, who dropped two spots. Matt Crafton, up one position, rounds out the top 10.
“[Kansas is] a great place to get our first win in the Truck Series. Michael Shelton and all these guys built an awesome truck. We were fast in practice [Friday], and it’s a brand new race truck that has never been on the track before. The work was done at the shop and we didn’t have to change much in practice. We changed a lot just to learn about the truck, but we’re close to where we unloaded and the truck was fast.” James Buescher
“I feel like we won—it was pretty close all race long. We just had to keep up with the way the track changed with the sun coming out. I am really proud of everyone on this Red Horse Racing Toyota Tundra. They all worked their butts off over the off-season. We struggled on these tracks last year. We got our program together and I’m looking forward to going to Charlotte. I feel like I left a little bit on the table there last year. Just want to thank everyone that’s involved with this company. Just a good day.” Timothy Peters, finished second
“We needed a bit more speed to run with James (Buescher), who was just lightning quick. We didn’t have anything for that, so hats off to his team and James himself. But we learned a lot and hopefully we can take something away from it to help out Parker Kligerman (driver of Brad Keselowski Racing’s full-time No. 29 Dodge) and his efforts running for the championship, so for that I’m thankful.” Brad Keselowski, finished third
“Today we were fast, but we didn’t have the fastest truck on the track. When you cannot fight for victory, the best result is to finish in the top pack and think about the championship. Last year I probably would be grasping for position at the end of the race, but now I’m more experienced and I know how to manage the end of the races and get the most out of it. I have to congratulate James (Buescher) for his first victory. The team is on a roll and we will continue to work hard and I’ll get my win soon.” Nelson Piquet, Jr., finished fourth
Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series takes another month off before heading to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the N.C. Education Lottery 200 on Friday, May 18th. The race will be broadcast live on SPEED beginning at 7:30 PM EDT; it can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.
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