The Frontstretch: Tracking the Trucks: American Ethanol 225 by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Monday July 23, 2012

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Tracking the Trucks: American Ethanol 225

Beth Lunkenheimer · Monday July 23, 2012

 

In a Nutshell: James Buescher took the checkered flag 0.247 seconds ahead of Brendan Gaughan to win the American Ethanol 225 at Chicagoland Speedway Saturday night. Buescher went two laps down thanks to a carburetor change, but managed to get both back before bolting on a set of four fresh tires and making quick work of the field en route to his third win this year. Timothy Peters (who started at the back of the field thanks to an engine change), Matt Crafton, and Parker Kligerman rounded out the top 5.

James Buescher won the American Ethanol 225 at Chicagoland Speedway Saturday night after beating Brendan Gaughan by 0.247 seconds.

Who Should Have Won: Brendan Gaughan. Simply put, the No. 2 Chevrolet was the class of the field Saturday night. It took just 12 laps for Gaughan to move ahead of then-leader Justin Lofton before leaving the field behind, opening up as much as a three-second lead at points. Though he lost that lead during an extended round of green flag pit stops, he again assumed the top spot once everyone cycled through. A late-race four tire stop put Gaughan just outside the top 5. However, he wasted little time heading toward the front. But on the second-to-last restart on lap 142, he spun the tires and dropped to sixth. Thanks to the final caution, he had another shot at the leaders but still managed only to snag the runner-up spot on a night in which he led three times for a race-high 83 laps.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:

1. How did Todd Bodine and David Starr fare in their milestone races?

As I documented in Truckin’ Thursdays earlier this week, Todd Bodine became the first driver to have made at least 200 starts in each of NASCAR’s premier series. Along with him, David Starr made his 300th career Truck Series start. But how did the pair run Saturday night?

Todd Bodine snagged a seventh-place starting spot but was hardly a factor for the win. Although he did move up into the top 5, there were other drivers that simply had much stronger trucks. And just when it looked like he might grab a solid top-10 finish for that 200th career start, Bodine suffered heavy damage to his No. 11 Red Horse Racing Toyota and was left to settle for a disappointing 18th-place finish.

Meanwhile, David Starr left Iowa Speedway last weekend wondering if he’d even have the sponsorship to make it to his 300th start. But several sponsors—15 in all—stepped up to provide the backing Starr needed. The 44-year-old started 21st in his No. 81 Arrington Motorsports Toyota but slowly made ground up on the field throughout the race.

But just past halfway, Starr and Johnny Sauter made contact, pushing in the sheet metal on the left front of Starr’s truck. His crew managed to repair the damage enough to keep the tire from rubbing and creating a bigger problem; he continued on to what ultimately became a solid 10th-place finish—the first for the Houston, Texas-native since Kentucky last fall.

“I tell you what, this NCCER/BYF Toyota Tundra was just okay. It was actually pretty good,” Starr said. “It was driving really good out there, handling good and kind of taking our time and making some small adjustments and I was passing Johnny Sauter coming off of turn four and I guess his spotter didn’t tell him I was out there. He drove into our left front fender and it was just… after that, the thing was a handful. It didn’t drive like my Toyota Tundra on the street. It just didn’t have front grip and it was a handful. We kept working on it and we’re just happy to come home in 10th place.”

“My 300th start, that’s pretty cool. I love this stuff, it’s awesome,” he continued. “I don’t know anything about drugs or alcohol, but this is one heck of an addiction and I’m just blessed I get to be in an awesome sport and thank God to all our sponsors and for Toyota and everybody involved, we’re just happy to get a top-10 this week.”

Although neither driver was even a threat for a trip to victory lane in their milestone starts, both managed to finish the race on the lead lap despite the damage they suffered. Both performances were lackluster and not exactly special when it comes to celebrating such a mark in their careers, but any race where you can drive your own truck to the garage after the checkered flag is a good one.

2. Is anyone standing out as the one to beat for the championship?

With ten races in the books, we’re quickly approaching the halfway point of the year, and the focus begins to shift from the large number of consecutive off weeks to a championship battle that’s heating up. But is there one driver in particular that stands out above the rest?

It’s easy to point the finger straight at Timothy Peters, who grabbed an emotional win last weekend at Iowa Speedway. For the last two races, the driver of the No. 17 Red Horse Racing Toyota has padded his lead to a somewhat comfortable 23 markers. It’s not that bold of an assumption to expect he’ll continue to do so, especially since he drove from the back of the pack (engine change) to a solid third-place finish that could just as easily have been a back-to-back visit to victory lane.

But at this point, Peters can’t let his guard down with drivers like Ty Dillon, Justin Lofton and James Buescher hot on his heels. Dillon has been nothing short of impressive this season, scoring nine top-10 finishes in ten starts. And thanks to a late race wreck for Justin Lofton, the younger Dillon brother moved up a spot to second.

James Buescher may actually stand out as Peters’ biggest threat with the way he’s been running this season. As I said in Pace Laps, the No. 31 team has clearly shown their hand when it comes to being a championship caliber team following a mid-race carburetor change that returned power to Buescher’s truck and ultimately allowed him to drive to the front for his third win this year.

Simply put, there’s no easy way to pick out which driver stands out above the rest of the field. Assuming he can continue with the consistency he’s seen so far this year and maybe even grab another win or two, there’s a good chance Timothy Peters can take home the big trophy in November. However, with so much strong competition inside the top 5, anything can happen with 12 races still on the docket.

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

No. of Rookies in the Race: 9 (add C.E. Falk, III and a debuting Blake Koch)

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 1; Cale Gale, finished sixth

Rookie of the Race: Cale Gale

Rookie Quotes:

“[Saturday night] was a good points night for the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops team. We struggled a little bit with the handling of the Chevrolet, but we led some laps and gained a spot in the championship hunt. We just have to keep putting together good trucks and a win should be around the corner.” Ty Dillon, finished 12th

“We had a great weekend overall, I think. [Friday] we were pretty fast in practice and focused more on race runs and I think it really paid off, especially since we got to practice near race conditions. [Saturday] we got a solid qualifying effort in. We ended up coming out of Chicagoland 14th; I’m really excited about it. I have to thank Family Farmers for helping us this race and thank Toyota—[it] wouldn’t be possible without them. I’m definitely feeling good about it and we’ll go to Pocono and make it a bit better.” Jon Wes Townley on his career-best finish

“Our EverFi Tundra was really loose in practice, so we made some big adjustments for the race. We ended up too tight and I just couldn’t race with the leaders. But my crew chief Dan Stillman made a great call to stay out and get the wave around in the middle of the race, and we got a caution to keep us on the lead lap thankfully. Restarts were difficult for us and the side draft was really big. The truck was better at the end but there weren’t enough laps left. A pretty decent comback for our team but we still have some work to do to get our Toyota to the front.” Dakoda Armstrong, finished 16th

Worth Noting / Points Shuffle:

Ron Hornaday, Jr. completed his 50,000th lap of Camping World Truck Series competition Saturday night when the field ran lap 73 under caution. The driver of the No. 9 Joe Denette Motorsports Chevrolet sits second only to Rick Crawford, who had completed 53,371 at that point in the race. Hornaday and Crawford finished ninth and 11th, respectively.

Timothy Peters expanded his lead to 23 points over rookie Ty Dillon, who moved up a spot thanks to Justin Lofton’s late-race misfortune. Lofton sits seven points behind Dillon while race winner James Buescher finds himself just five markers out of third. Parker Kligerman rounds out the top 5.

Matt Crafton maintains the sixth spot, just one marker outside the top 5. Ron Hornaday, Jr. and Joey Coulter remain seventh and eighth, respectively. Nelson Piquet, Jr. remains in the ninth spot, 91 points behind the leader. The only change inside the top 10 came with Jason White cracking the tenth spot, up three positions thanks to Miguel Paludo’s multiple incidents that saw him eventually finish 17th.

Quotable:

“What a night. Everyone on this team lives by the motto that we never give up and tonight was a testament to that motto. We had to change the carburetor, which put us two laps down, but nobody on this Fresh from Florida team gave up. We all believe in what we are doing and the products we bring to the race track each and every week. We all stayed with our plan and it worked perfectly. I am so proud of each and every memeber on this team. We had a great truck and I knew we could get up there once we fixed the carburetor. We had some tough luck last weekend but I think tonight was a bit of redemption for everyone on this Turner Motorsports team.” James Buescher

“I’m still bitter. This should have been mine. The last eight years, if I had finished second I would have had tears in my eyes; I would have been so happy. But tonight we were the class of the field. It’s a bummer. I spun my tires on the second to last restart and I gave an opening and that’s what you can’t do. I was lucky we had another chance at the restart, which allowed me the opportunity to get the second-place finish. I’m very thankful for the opportunity Richard (Childress) has given me to drive equipment of this qualify. A second-place finish is great, but not when you had a truck like we did; we could have won this race.” Brendan Gaughan

“It was just a testament to this whole Red Horse Racing Toyota Tundra team. We didn’t get much practice—we had to change engines and this team is strong from adversity. I’m just speechless every week on what they do for me. We started at the back and came to the front, we led a lap—man close but no cigar. We keep running like this, we’re going to get that mile-and-a-half win that’s been alluding us.” Timothy Peters, finished third

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series takes a weekend off before heading to Pocono Raceway for the Pocono Mountains 125 on August 4th. Last year, Kevin Harvick dominated and came out on top in a green-white-checkered finishing in the rain-delayed Good Sam RZB Emergency Road Service 125. The race will be broadcast live on SPEED beginning at 12:30 PM EDT; it can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

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Michael in SoCal
07/23/2012 11:31 AM
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At least the Truck series attempted to put on good racing this weekend.

For a standalone ‘Event’, this weekend was a pretty poor example of good racing. I’m glad I was away from the TV for most of the coverage (ARCA, Trucks & Nationwide). Didn’t really miss out on much.

Upstate24fan
07/23/2012 12:26 PM
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I have to say the Truck race was one of the best races I’ve seen all year, and on a “cookie-cutter” none the less. Lots of hard side-by-side racing, with an exciting finish. Nice job by that 31 team.

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