The Frontstretch: Tracking the Trucks: Lucas Oil 200 by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Saturday June 2, 2012

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Tracking the Trucks: Lucas Oil 200

Beth Lunkenheimer · Saturday June 2, 2012

 

Todd Bodine took home the hardware Friday night in the Lucas Oil 200 at Dover.

In a Nutshell: Todd Bodine scored his first victory of the year in Friday evening’s rain-shortened Lucas Oil 200 at Dover International Speedway. The driver of the No. 11 Red Horse Racing Toyota didn’t pit when the rest of the field did following the first red flag for rain and held off charges from Parker Kligerman and Kevin Harvick through two restarts en route to his first career victory at the one-mile oval. Kligerman, Harvick, Nelson Piquet, Jr. and Cale Gale rounded out the top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Kevin Harvick. The No. 2 Tide Chevrolet was the truck to beat but just wasn’t out front when the race was called thanks to rain. Harvick led the final practice session and started on the pole as the driver the rest of the garage was pointing at as the one to beat. But pit strategy failed to play in his favor thanks to a break in the rain, and a tight truck in traffic left Harvick in the top 5 unable to make much more ground. Had the race gone the full distance, it’s likely the driver of the No. 2 would have made it back to the lead considering he’d done it earlier in the day after just 20 green flag laps.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:

1. Where did Todd Bodine come from?

When the fourth caution flew over the Lucas Oil 200 Friday afternoon, it was Todd Bodine that had spun on his own and despite losing his right rear tire in the process, managed to keep his truck off the wall and prevent any damage.

“I couldn’t believe it. It gave me no hint—no sign—it was going to turn around,” Bodine said of the incident after the race. “Rick (Gay, crew chief) told me on that other red flag that it looked like maybe the right rear tire delaminated and that’s what made me spin getting in. Fortunately, we didn’t get in the wall and here we are back to victory lane.”

Because Bodine had no damage, he was able to get a fresh set of rubber and work his way back through the field to 12th when the first red flag flew. When several of the leaders pitted following that red flag, a handful of drivers stayed out, including the No. 11. He took the lead from Miguel Paludo just four laps after the restart and held on despite a hard-charging Parker Kligerman and Kevin Harvick.

Beyond the actual race itself, like I said in Truckin’ Thursdays earlier this week, Bodine came into the season not knowing whether he’d even be racing every week thanks to sponsorship woes. Earlier this week, one of his Red Horse Racing teammates, John King, found himself sitting on the sidelines thanks to finances when it could have just as easily been Bodine.

With that being said, as hard as it is to see a rookie sitting on the sidelines just a handful of events after scoring his first career victory, it’s clear Red Horse Racing made the right decision when faced with the decision to close the No. 7 team. I can’t say for sure whether the No. 11 was ever actually on the chopping block, but Bodine’s experience clearly outweighed that of John King, and it paid off for the organization in the form of a visit to victory lane. Whether that victory will pay off in the form of some financial backing is something only time will tell, but it certainly can’t hurt.

2. Did NASCAR make the right decision in how they handled the rain?

From before the green flag flew over the Lucas Oil 200, the teams had to face the possibility of rain, and that rain became a reality not once, but twice. The sixth caution flew on lap 111 for a spin by Wes Burton but became an extended yellow thanks to rain falling before the red flag finally flew on lap 121. However, the rain was just a light sprinkle—enough to lose the track a bit but not enough to wash it out.

Following the restart, the field ran just 11 laps thanks to two different cautions involving Max Gresham and Ron Hornaday, Jr. before the ninth yellow flew for rain. Just four laps later, the trucks were brought down pit road for the red flag before NASCAR called the race, giving Todd Bodine the victory.

I’ve read a couple of comments on forums since the race saying NASCAR should have called it after the rain started and shouldn’t have bothered restarting, especially since Dover doesn’t have lights. And I’m willing to bet that Max Gresham and Ron Hornaday, Jr. would agree since both drivers suffered wrecks that ended their day early following the first red flag period. For that matter, Kevin Harvick probably wishes the rains continued to fall since he was the one leading the field as the trucks sat on pit road through a short shower.

But the bottom line is that NASCAR made the correct call. With no lights at Dover, they were definitely at risk of running into sunset before completing all 200 laps, but the sanctioning body did everything they could to go the full distance before calling the race.

Truck Rookie Report
2012 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Dakoda Armstrong (No. 98)
Ty Dillon (No. 3)
Dusty Davis (No. 15—not entered at Dover)
T.J. Duke (No. 07)
Ross Chastain (No. 08)
Cale Gale (No. 33) *Max Gresham *(No. 24)
Paulie Harraka (No. 5)
Caleb Holman (No. 75)
John King (No. 7—team suspended)
Bryan Silas (No. 99)
John Wes Townley (No. 09)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 11 (add Wes Burton)
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: two; Cale Gale, finished fifth; Ty Dillon, finished sixth
Rookie of the Race: Cale Gale

Rookie Quotes

“Today was a lot of fun, and I learned a lot about the handling of the truck here at the “Monster Mile.” It feels like a monster has you at the end of a strong and is flinging you around as hard as he can. Marcus (Richmond) made a great call there before the rain came that put us back in the top 10. The guys had fast pit stops all day. Overall, I’m happy with the outcome and look forward to Texas next week.” Ty Dillon, finished sixth

“The EverFi team and Dan Stillman (Crew Chief) made a lot of adjustments today on our Tundra but we just couldn’t make it much better. The Truck would bottom out pretty hard on entry and then wash up the track. I couldn’t get a run on anyone even if I was faster just because we were hurting so bad entering the corner.” _Dakoda Armstrong, finished 20th

Worth Noting / Points Shuffle:

Friday afternoon’s 35-truck starting lineup marked the first short field of the season. Additionally, four trucks—Chris Jones, Johnny Chapman, Mike Harmon and Dennis Setzer—all failed to run 20 laps before retiring due to a variety of mechanical issues.

The top 5 remains unchanged following Friday afternoon’s race at Dover. Justin Lofton continues to lead Timothy Peters by just one point, and Ty Dillon gained three points on the top spot and sits 13 markers behind Lofton. James Buescher and Parker Kligerman round out the top 5.

Todd Bodine’s victory helped him jump three spots to sixth where he now sits just 37 points out of the lead. Nelson Piquet, Jr. jumped a spot to seventh, and Ron Hornaday, Jr., who brought out the eighth caution, dropped two positions to eighth. Matt Crafton, who jumped two spots, and Joey Coulter round out the top 10.

Quotable:

“We didn’t have the best (truck) today, but Rick (Gay, Crew Chief) made a great call. I didn’t realize what he was trying to accomplish, or how close we were on fuel, but it worked out. You don’t like to win ‘em this way, but you know what? I’ve lost ‘em this way, so I’m going to take this one, and we’re going to go to the house. Kevin had the best truck, but racing isn’t always about having the best truck. It’s about strategy and putting yourself in the right position, and Rick Gay did that for this team.” Todd Bodine

“We had a really fast Cooper Standard RAM. We were just biding our time. We figured that the race would probably get to halfway with the rain moving in. The 27 (Jeb Burton) and 33 (Cale Gale) got together and moved up the track and we were in the wrong place at the wrong time. From there I was angry and drove with my hair on fire. Congrats to Todd Bodine. He’s been a great mentor to me and really proud of him.” Parker Kligerman, finished second

“We had a great truck all weekend; we just got beat by the weather and didn’t get to finish the race. The guys did a great job controlling what they could control, and that’s all they could do. The Tide truck got really tight in traffic and it took us a while to get around trucks in the end, but in clean air the truck was really fast.” Kevin Harvick, finished third

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to Texas Motor Speedway next Friday night for the WinStar World Casino 400. Last June, Johnny Sauter was black flagged for changing lanes before the start / finish line, handing the victory to Ron Hornaday, Jr. The race will be broadcast live on SPEED beginning at 8:30 PM EDT; it can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

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