Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday August 23, 2012
When the checkered flag flew over the UNOH 200 Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, it was Timothy Peters who was victorious, having led all 204 laps run. With new teammate Parker Kligerman sliding comfortably in the runner-up spot, Red Horse Racing had itself a 1-2 finish to remember.
For Peters, it’s a night that reminds us how strong his No. 17 team has been throughout the season. He clearly leads the team in his performance, grabbing his second victory (Iowa) in six races and the fifth in his career. After starting in the runner-up spot, the driver of the No. 17 Toyota wasted little time, taking the top spot before the field completed a single lap. And despite charges from teammate Todd Bodine, Brad Keselowski and even runner-up Parker Kligerman on each restart, Peters always left his competitors eating dust. It’s no easy feat to lead every single circuit at the world’s fastest half-mile, where anything can happen, especially after a recent reconfiguration. Heck, it’s near-impossible to do it at any racetrack: Wednesday night marked the first time since Louisville in July, 1997 a Truck Series driver led every lap of a race.
If that doesn’t showcase the strength of a championship contender, gosh, I don’t know what could.
“What an awesome feeling,” Peters described in Victory Lane. “The sky’s the limit right now.”
Will that “no limits” momentum end in a title? Snagging eight top-5 finishes in 13 starts, including a pair of runner-up results at Daytona and Kansas, Peters has given himself a 17-point cushion atop the charts. It’s easy to understand why the driver of the No. 17 Toyota has held the top spot in the standings for eight weeks this season, including the last six consecutive races.
With all that said, the result could have been quite different for Peters when new teammate Parker Kligerman really turned up the heat in the closing laps. Hungry for a victory, mere weeks after being released from Brad Keselowski Racing Kligerman restarted alongside for what could have been a sparks-flying green-white-checkered finish. However, it looks like Peters outsmarted the 22-year-old on the final restart, getting the jump and leaving nothing to chance as Kligerman was left holding the “silver medal.”
“This truck left the shop Monday at 10:30 PM. The guys have worked hard ever since we signed the deal,” Kligerman said after the race, fighting back a tinge of what might have been. “Timothy helped us so much. I wanted to get a good restart at the end, but Timothy checked up and I checked up, then he got a run. I consider myself a better restarter than that I’ll beat myself up on that the rest of the week.”
Despite the slight frustration heard in Kligerman’s voice, he’s got absolutely nothing to be upset about. In just two races behind the wheel of his new ride, he’s doubled his top-5 finish count and solidified his own spot in the championship battle. With two spots gained in the last two events; he’s now tied with Justin Lofton for fourth.
RHR’s 1-2 finish at Bristol hasn’t been the only bright spot of the year, though. From rookie John King’s surprise victory to open the year, to veteran Todd Bodine’s win at Dover, the organization has proven they’re worth paying attention to once again. As with many multi-car programs, nothing is perfect; King struggled after that Daytona upset, eventually losing the ride to lack of sponsorship. Funding for the program, always put together through patchwork deals continues to be a concern overall. But the bigger problem has been the team’s third truck, the No. 11, which has been plagued by terrible luck for several weeks.
Bristol, called Thunder Valley for a reason did nothing to bring those struggles to a halt. Todd Bodine, the former series champion has now suffered five DNFs since his victory in that Truck at the Monster Mile. Having snagged a third-place starting position Wednesday night, Bodine looked to have a strong hot rod that would be capable of a solid finish despite not quite being strong enough to make a serious challenge for the win. However, late-race contact with Cale Gale, who had gotten loose inside the driver of the No. 7 Toyota, resulted in a cut tire that immediately went flat and sent Bodine spinning. Just like that, he went from possible top-5 contender to settling for a ho-hum, 31st-place finish. A month that began with his Pocono problems, getting wrecked on a straightaway ended the exact same way – a Truck headed home in pieces.
Why do I bring up Bodine’s Bristol bust? Just imagine just how much better the team would look if all three of their trucks were consistently inside the top 10 each week. Even with Bodine’s fall from grace, RHR really stands out as one of the top Truck programs on the circuit, an organization that should be in the hunt for much of the remainder of the year. Taking the good with the bad is a basic lesson learned in NASCAR; you’re humbled very quickly in this sport. But RHR takes it all in stride, keeping any distractions to a minimum (see: Bodine’s Pocono post-race comments) while rewarding the positives that come with the hard work and dedication from their employees. Ultimately, it will be that dedication and the teammate mentality that allows the organization to shine for many years to come.
Author’s Note: Be sure to check out Tracking the Tracks on Friday for everything you need to know leaving the mid-week showdown at Bristol.
Memory Lane: “The week Oliver was born was probably one of the craziest, busiest and most special times in my life. We raced in Michigan on a Saturday, went back home to Charlotte, where Oliver was born that Monday, and I was right back on the road to Bristol on Tuesday for Wednesday’s race. It makes Bristol a very special place for me, and it’s amazing to see how much he has learned and grown in only a year.” Miguel Paludo
Meus parabéns!: Congratulations!
Feliz Aniversário!: Happy Birthday!
Aquilo parece gostoso.: That looks delicious.
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