The Frontstretch: Tracking the Trucks: UNOH 225 by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Friday June 29, 2012

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Tracking the Trucks: UNOH 225

Beth Lunkenheimer · Friday June 29, 2012

 

In a Nutshell: James Buescher took the checkered flag 3.805 seconds ahead of Brad Keselowski in the UNOH 225 Thursday night at Kentcuky Speedway. Buescher took the lead for the final time on a lap 108 restart and never looked back despite one more caution. Ty Dillon, Matt Crafton and Timothy Peters rounded out the top 5.

Who Should Have Won: James Buescher. Buescher ran in the top 5 in both practice sessions before qualifying third, but it wasn’t until a lap 27 restart when the driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet grabbed the top spot. He led for 76 of the next 77 laps before relinquishing the top spot on pit road, however he easily moved back out front for the third and final time on a lap 108 restart en route to his second victory this season.

With his 12th-place finish on Thursday night, Miguel Paludo made it a trifecta for Turner Motorsports in the points with all three trucks now on the board in the top 10.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:

1. How did Kyle Larson fare in his Camping World Truck Series debut?

Friday night’s UNOH 225 brought along with it Kyle Larson’s Truck Series debut. Just two weeks after making his ARCA debut at Michigan International Speedway (13th), Larson was behind the wheel of the No. 4 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet for Turner Motorsports. According to FoxSports.com’s Lee Spencer, Larson came into Kentucky having already started 60 races this season.

“Based on my schedule, I have 120-130 races that I’m running this year,” Larson said. “So I’m pretty busy between Sprint cars, Midgets, wing, non-wing, pavement, dirt.”

But despite the variety of vehicles he races, the 19-year-old ultimately has his sights set on the same thing most young racers across the country do.

“Obviously, I want to get to the Cup series someday. But if I could ever get a shot at running the Indy 500, that would be real cool,” Larson said. “To race in a series week in and week out, I’d like to run NASCAR for sure. We’ll have to wait and see (what my next stock car move will be). It all depends how I’m doing this year. They’re not going to move me up until I’m ready, and I wouldn’t want to either.”

Larson brought with him a pretty impressive resume for a young driver. In addition his 13th-place ARCA debut, he grabbed the victory at Gresham Motorsports Park just a few weeks ago and sits third in the K&N East points.

After qualifying 25th, Larson was forced to drop to the rear of the field thanks to an engine change. Looking for some experience and a complete race, the debuting driver had no idea he’d get the chance to race side-by-side with some of the series’ greats. Though Larson remained outside the top 20 early, his No. 4 Chevrolet came to life in the latter half of the race.

However, the night wasn’t without its tense moments. Twice, Larson nearly found himself in the middle of another driver’s caution but somehow managed to avoid them. The first came when Jeff Agnew spun on his own to bring out the fourth caution and careened all the way across the track from the high side to the grass. Some handy maneuvering kept Larson safe to continue only to find the need to dodge another wreck just seven laps later when Todd Bodine dove inside Justin Lofton, got loose and triggered a wreck that took out the pair plus Nelson Piquet, Jr., who had been caught outside. Once again, Larson dodged the wrecking trucks and continued to race forward.

From there, the 19-year-old participated in multiple spirited battles before ultimately ending up in tenth.

“Had a bunch of fun tonight! Gotta thank EGRTeams andTurnerMotorspts for the opportunity to get a top 10 in my first start in a truck!!” Larson posted on Twitter.

Short of heading to victory lane, there’s not a whole lot more you can ask of a driver making his Truck Series debut. Not only did Larson manage to avoid a couple of wrecks, but he also made several strong passes en route to his solid tenth-place finish. He’s definitely a driver to keep an eye on now in all of his other ventures as well as when / if he makes it to NASCAR.

2. How important is Buescher’s win?

You may look at James Buescher’s win and say ‘So what? He’s already won this year.’ But it may be more important than you realize. Sure so far this season, Buescher has established himself solidly in the top 5 in the standings while scoring five top-10 finishes, including the two victories, however this victory couldn’t have come at a better time.

Turner Motorsports has continually improved throughout their tenure in the series and even over in the Nationwide Series, having scored five wins across the board. Regardless of what anyone may say, momentum is key, especially in an organization that’s taken such dramatic steps forward this year. Having run just eight races in the first four months of the season, the series now finds itself in the mid-summer stretch where they’ll run six events between now and the end of August.

That momentum is just what the No. 31 team needs headed into the summer stretch. After coming so close last year despite missing a race early in the season, Buescher has shown he’s capable of putting together the finishes to keep himself in the championship hunt well into the latter part of the year. And it’s clear the 22-year-old will not go quietly.

Truck Rookie Report
2012 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Dakoda Armstrong (No. 98)
Ty Dillon (No. 3)
Dusty Davis (No. 15—not entered at Kentucky)
T.J. Duke (No. 07—not entered at Texas)
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: 15 (add Jeff Agnew, Jake Crum, C.E. Falk, III, Brennan Newberry, Tyler Young and a debuting Kyle Larson)
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 2; Ty Dillon, finished third; Kyle Larson, finished 10th
Rookie of the Race: Ty Dillon

Ty Dillon started at the rear of the field after an engine change but the combination of a strong truck and late-race pit strategy put the driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet up front during the fourth caution. And while he wasn’t quite strong enough to battle James Buescher, who took the lead on the restart, the 20-year-old scored his second top 5 of the year and now stands as the lone driver with a top-10 finish all eight events.

Rookie Quotes:

“I’m really proud of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops team. We had to change engines during practice which resulted in starting from the back of the pack, but we drove our way up to finish third. That’s how great this team is; we took a bad day and turned it into a good one. We even closed in on the points leader. Overall, I’m happy with how we performed today.” Ty Dillon, finished third

“Our Toyota Tundra was definitely better at the end of the race than what it was when we started the day. Dan Stillman and the EverFi crew did a really great job of making adjustments throughout the race to help us keep up with the track as it cooled. I was happy when the truck gained some grip on the long run because we were really able to make our passes then. I’m not surprised there were as many wrecked race trucks as there were; I was almost on of them a few times. So I’m really happy we can come home with a good finish and in one piece.” Dakoda Armstrong, finished 13th

“The race at Kentucky Speedway was exactly what our race team needed: a solid foundation to build off of. My Waters Motorsports guys worked their tails off int he 100 degree plus heat to give me a solid race truck, and we’re bringing it home int he top 20 and without a scratch. Ted Musgrave came on board with us this week to work with me, and he has been a huge help. I’m confident that with the addition of Ted to an already dedicated, hardworking race team, we’ll continue to improve, step by step, and will run up front before long.” Paulie Harraka, finished 17th

Worth Noting / Points Shuffle:

Timothy Peters’ fifth top-5 finish of the season combined with Lofton’s damage from the fifth caution propelled Peters to the top of the standings. The driver of the No. 17 Red Horse Racing Toyota now leads rookie Ty Dillon and Justin Lofton, who are tied for second, by a slim four markers. Race winner James Buescher maintains the fourth spot while seeing his deficit shrink from 23 to nine points. Parker Kligerman rounds out the top 5, 34 points behind the leader.

Matt Crafton, Joey Coulter and Ron Hornaday, Jr. each moved up one spot following top-10 finishes for all three drivers. Nelson Piquet, Jr. dropped three spots following his third DNF of the year, a disappointing 29th-place finish. Miguel Paludo, who finished 12th and took advantage of Todd Bodine’s second DNF in as many race, rounds out the top 10. Incidentally, it’s the first time Turner Motorsports has had all three of their trucks inside the top 10 in points.

Quotable:

“Tonight was a dominating performance by our Exide Batteries team. This truck is the same truck that won in Kansas earlier this season. Tonight is a testament to all the hard work that everyone at Turner Motorsports puts into these trucks. We were fast right off the track and the pit crew did a great job all night long. They made my job a heck of a lot easier. We closed the gap on the championship lead and now have a ton of momentum as we head into the summer stretch.” James Buescher

“James (Buescher) was really good and I never really got a shot to race with him there to know if he was way better or just a little better. Who knows, we might ahve been the same or better than him. Either way, it was a good fight to get from 17th to second but not quite food enough to get the win. We just got to keep working to get the job done but proud of the effort. Just want that one more spot.” Brad Keselowski

“We just had one restart where they got us when they fanned us out three-wide and we fell to about seventh and drove back to third. All in all, not a bad night. We’re going to win races. This thing was fast—very fast. It was all about track position tonight. We’re going to win some more races for sure.” Matt Crafton, finished fourth

“It wasn’t bad considering the way we unloaded. This is by far leaps and bounds better than the way we hit the track [Thursday] morning for the first practice. Just goes to show you these guys never quit on this Toyota Tundra. We stayed up front where we could see it most of the night and when it counted Butch (Hylton, crew chief) made a good call and put right sides (tires) on and we were able to come home with a top-5 finish. Leave here with the points lead and go Iowa and maybe get us a win.” Timothy Peters, finished fifth

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series takes takes two weeks off before heading to Iowa Speedway for the American Ethanol 200. Last year, Matt Crafton survived a side-by-side battle with eventual champion Austin Dillon to score the victory. The race will be broadcast live on SPEED beginning at 8:00 PM EDT; it can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

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