The Frontstretch: Tearing Apart the Trucks: Kentucky's Championship Effect by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Thursday June 28, 2012

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Tearing Apart the Trucks: Kentucky's Championship Effect

Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday June 28, 2012

 

With the Camping World Truck Series fresh off of the UNOH 225 at Kentucky Speedway Thursday night, there are plenty of things to keep an eye on. With a record setting season not even halfway through the running, the Truck Series is sure to hold the growing viewership and continue to produce throughout the remainder of the season.

Seven and Counting

John King’s massive upset win to start the 2012 season was just a sign of things to come for the Truck Series.

That’s right. The Truck Series boasts seven winners and counting to begin the 2012 season. If you take out the two Cup drivers who have won—Kevin Harvick and Kasey Kahne—you’ve got truck regulars, including three first-time winners—John King, James Buescher and Justin Lofton—that have taken the checkers in the other five races.

James Buescher because the first repeat winner this season with his victory Thursday night in the UNOH 225 and it was definitely a win the Turner Motorsports driver earned. Having started third, the driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet led three times for 119 of 150 laps en route to his second career victory.

Author’s Note: For more on Buescher’s return to victory lane check out fellow columnist Bryan Davis Keith’s column that went live today.

If I had to pinpoint the number one reason, I’d point straight to Kyle Busch not racing in the series. After all, he won four of the first seven races last season and his absence is likely a strong influence to the variety of visitors to victory lane. But perhaps the most interesting part is how no one team has dominated across the board. Turner Motorsports started off very strong at Daytona and while they’re still running well, it’s not quite the dominance that was shown when the green flag flew in February.

ThorSport Racing is actually a perfect example of how teams progress throughout the year. The entire team has suffered some sour luck this year from wrecks not of their making to mechanical failures they can’t control, but none of the problems were as bad as they had been for Sauter’s No. 13 team. Then came the 1-2 finish at Texas earlier this month and you could tell they’ve turned up the heat a little.

The season in general has shown the vast amount of diversity on the track and the effort put in by each team to compete with the rest of the field week after week is tremendous. The good thing for the fans of the series is that I don’t expect that to change any time soon.

Kentucky Win Could Lead to Championship Trophy

Kentucky Speedway may be just another mile-and-a-half track to most fans, and that’s no surprise given their dominance of the schedule across the board in all three touring series. But for the teams and the drivers, it means so much more. Though it’s not a guarantee, a victory at Kentucky has preceded a championship for six of the last 11 race winners.

The trend began with now Sprint Cup driver Greg Biffle who grabbed the victory in the inaugural race at the speedway. After leading 53 laps, Biffle took the checkered flag more than two seconds ahead of Jack Sprague before heading off to clinch the championship at Texas a week before the season finale. Mike Bliss accomplished the feat in 2002 with the late Bobby Hamilton following two years later in 2004.

Most recently, Johnny Benson, Ron Hornaday, Jr. and Todd Bodine each won in Kentucky en route to their championships from 2008 through 2010. Last season, that trend was stopped when Austin Dillon snagged the big trophy with two victories.

Whether James Buescher will be celebrating with the trophy in November remains to be seen, the odds play pretty well in his favor. Remember last season when he made a strong run at the championship even with missing the second event of the year? Well this year, he’s made every race and is nowhere near in danger of missing the field. On top of that, he’s just four points behind leader Timothy Peters and tied for second. If Turner Motorsports can keep up the forward progress they’ve shown so far this season, the No. 31 team could very well be holding the championship trophy come Homestead.

Brazilians in the Nationwide Series

Turner Motorsports teammates Miguel Paludo and Nelson Piquet, Jr. headed off to Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin for the Nationwide Series race at Road America. For Paludo, it was his Nationwide debut and a place where he had high hopes based on his prior road course experience in the Porsche GT3 series before moving to NASCAR. But it wasn’t meant to be for the driver of the No. 32 Duroline Silverado. After starting ninth, Paludo had a strong truck for much of the day until a late-race broken sway-bar arm left him to settle for a 29th-place finish after leading four laps.

“It was very exciting to make my first Nationwide start, but I’m ready to put this weekend behind me,” Paludo said. “It had a lot of high and lows with Nelson (Piquet, Jr., teammate) winning the pole and the race, but personally I feel like I just couldn’t catch a break. We absolutely had a top 5 car, but once the sway bar broke, there was nothing we could do but ride around.”

Meanwhile, teammate Piquet put on a show for all of the NASCAR world to see. After starting on the pole, the eventual winner pitted just five laps in with fuel strategy on his mind. And it worked out just perfectly for Piquet, who led 19 laps and easily took the checkered flag more than two seconds ahead of Michael McDowell to become the first Brazilian to win in NASCAR’s top three series.

“I still can’t believe it! I have been dreaming of this day since making my first NASCAR start. It feels absolutely amazing. Turner Motorsports is an unbelievable organization and I can’t thank them enough,” Piquet said. “I hope everyone recognizes that I do have the talent and the ambition to be here. I want this win to quickly translate over into racing on ovals.

“It’s amazing to me that I claimed a NNS victory before claiming a NCWTS one, but I’ll take it. Now I’m even more motivated and ready to go get my first win in a truck and continue to fight for the 2012 NCWTS championship.”

While it’s hard to say where Paludo may have finished if it weren’t for the late race parts failure, he was running strong enough for a solid top 5, however Piquet was absolutely untouchable. Despite being shuffled back in the field early thanks to his pit strategy, the 26-year-old kept a cool head and found himself back out front when he needed to be. Regardless of what the actual result says for Paludo, both drivers carried the momentum of their strong runs into Kentucky where they both started inside the top 5 along with their third teammate James Buescher. Paludo struggled with the handling on his truck for much of the race but still managed to pull out a 12th-place finish. On the other hand, Piquet became the victim of another driver who got loose inside him and suffered his third DNF this year, a 29th-place finish.

Miguel’s Corner

NASCAR Portuguese

Treino: Practice
Parabéns: Congratulations
Brasileira: Brazilian

UNOH 225 Update

“Our Duroline Chevy was pretty good for most of the day today. We brought a brand new chassis to the track and it took us a few runs to figure it out, but we made huge strides between the first and second practices and we were the fastest team for most of the session. During the race we just got crazy, sideways loose in the beginning, and then we over-corrected a little bit and tightened it up too much. But there were some moments when the truck was really great and we were running as fast as the leaders. I’m really happy to see Turner Motorsports get another win, our second week in a row. I know it’s going to be us there soon.” Miguwl Paludo, finished 12th

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