The Frontstretch: Truckin' Thursdays: Could Kentucky Determine the Champion? by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Thursday September 20, 2012

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Truckin' Thursdays: Could Kentucky Determine the Champion?

Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday September 20, 2012

 

With just seven races remaining to determine the 2012 Camping World Truck Series champion, the series heads off to Kentucky Speedway for a Nationwide Series companion race this weekend. While a visit to Kentucky may not be all that spectacular on its own, six champions have also won in the Bluegrass state during their respective championship seasons.

It all began back in 2000, the inaugural season for the Truck Series at Kentucky when Greg Biffle snagged his third of five wins that year, in a season where he finished outside the top 14 just once; a 25th-place result at Texas in November. Just two years later, it was Mike Bliss who scored his third of five victories in 2002, winning the championship after leading the standings for the final ten races of the year.

Again just two years later, the late Bobby Hamilton, Sr. used Kentucky to mark off his third victory of the year. He led the point standings for 11 of the final 12 events, dropping to second only after a disappointing 26th-place finish at Martinsville. Despite a 16th-place result in the season finale, Hamilton still managed to snag the championship by 46 markers over Dennis Setzer.

Fast forward to 2008 when Johnny Benson narrowly grabbed the championship by a slim seven markers over Ron Hornaday, Jr., to begin a stretch of three consecutive years the winner at Kentucky went on to win the big trophy. Hornaday, Jr. did it in 2009 and Todd Bodine followed up the feat in 2010.

But what does all of that mean for the top four guys currently separated by a mere 31 points in the standings? It bodes well for third-place driver James Buescher, who won at the mile-and-a-half oval earlier this year. Add in the success Turner Motorsports has found on intermediate tracks—four wins in eight races (three for Buescher, one for Nelson Piquet, Jr.)—and it’s hard to imagine that the driver of the No. 30 Chevrolet won’t use this weekend to remind everyone that despite dropping a spot after last weekend’s event at Iowa Speedway, he’s still well within reach of the championship.

“After last week’s disappointing finish at Iowa, I am really looking forward to getting back on track at Kentucky where I have had a good deal of success,” Buescher said. “ I feel that the intermediate tracks suit this team the best. There is no better place to make a statement than with a season sweep in front of the great fans at Kentucky.”

Moving to the top of the standings, leader Ty Dillon has just two starts at Kentucky. He finished 18th behind the wheel of a Kevin Harvick, Inc. truck last season, but more importantly, the driver of the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet garnered a third-place result in June. Add in the steady improvement the 20-year-old has shown this year and the momentum he has thanks to a runner-up finish last week at Iowa, and you’ve got yet another driver to keep a close eye on Friday night.

“Kentucky is a fun track, and I enjoy racing there,” Dillon said. We had a fast truck when we were there in June and have a good place to start for when we get back to the track this weekend. I hope to better that top-3 finish this time around.”

Meanwhile, Timothy Peters, who suffered an early wreck last week that helped drop him out of the points lead for the first time since Texas, has never scored an intermediate victory. But with that said, Peters already boasts two wins this year and has an average finish of eighth and hasn’t run all that terribly at the intermediate tracks.

“I feel like an intermediate track win is right around the corner. We came oh so close at Chicago in July and we had a great run earlier this year at Kentucky,” Peters said. “Kentucky is challenging. We have four mile-and-a-halfs left on the schedule a win at one of them is, as a company, what Red Horse Racing needs, no matter who gets it. Parker Kligerman has definitely stepped in and been in contention to win at every race so far. He definitely brings a lot of the energy there that I can learn off of him as well as Todd Bodine and his experience at the intermediate tracks.”

And that brings us to Peters’ newest teammate Parker Kligerman. Having switched teams in the middle of the season following his dismissal from Brad Keselowski’s operation, the 22-year-old never skipped a beat. In his first race at Kentucky last June driving for Brad Keselowski Racing, Kligerman grabbed a runner-up results but hasn’t found much luck at the mile-and-a-half oval since, finishing 29th and 19th in his last two events there. But that has distracted the driver of the No. 7 in his quest to win a championship after being released mid-season by BKR.

“I definitely don’t think Red Horse Racing’s lack of a win on an intermediate track is by any means due to a lack of effort. Speaking for the No. 7 team, I think an intermediate track win is right around the corner because these trucks are just excellent,” Kligerman said. “The Joe Gibbs Racing motors are great every week and Toyota adds a ton of resources to our tea as well. I see no reason we can’t go out there and get an intermediate win.”

With that said, the driver of the No. 7 Toyota knows his first career win is right around the corner. In fact, he has finishes of fourth, second and fourth in his first three events with Red Horse Racing and led a race-high 107 laps last weekend at Iowa before a blown right rear tire caused him to spin out of fourth.

“No, I don’t have a NASCAR win yet even though I’ve won races in everything I’ve driving up to this point. Right now though, I feel like I’m in a better position than I ever have been to be in contention for and have the opportunity to win races,” Kligerman continued. “With both of my teammates winning already this season, and the way I see everything progressing, I think once we get that first win it’ll just be a waterfall effect after that. Once I get that first checkered flag and prove it to myself and my tea, hopefully they’ll come a little easier after that.”

While a win at Kentucky doesn’t guarantee a championship at the end of the year, history shows that more than half of the winners at the mile-and-a-half oval have gone on to take home the big trophy, and I don’t doubt that will be the case again this year.

Editor’s Note: Did you know Daytona winner John King and fellow rookie Dakoda Armstrong will return to the Truck Series this weekend at Kentucky? Be sure to check out Kevin Rutherford’s piece about their returns and more!

Miguel’s Corner

Update: Between Atlanta and Iowa, Oliver, who turned one year old little more than a month ago, has finally figured out walking and mom and dad couldn’t be more thrilled.

“It’s amazing now that Oliver is walking, he can get around so fast! In the beginning it was a little scary, you always want to catch him so he doesn’t fall down. But now he’s getting around really well, and if he falls down, he just laughs and gets back up. You have to keep a close eye on him, because he can get away from you so fast, but it’s a little easier on Patricia not having to carry him around every minute. He also is sleeping better than he ever has because he wears himself out running around.” Miguel Paludo

Tweet of the Week:

@miguelpaludo: Received today my new helmet from TroyLeeDesigns ,awesome!pic.twitter.com/bEtI5dPD Back, Brazilian flag and family picture updated.pic.twitter.com/RKTgxYB3 And don't forget, World Diabetes Day is November 14.IntDiabetesFed pic.twitter.com/ck9jlLt4

@PatiSouzaPaludo: Here we go carreteiro!! As last Thursday at frontstrech!! Carreteiro feito por e por @miguelpaludo delicia!! pic.twitter.com/K4DBdrEG

Photo of the Week:

Oliver is scooting around quite a bit faster now that he’s figured out this whole walking thing.


Did you know Beth is participating in the Step Out Walk to end diabetes this November in Dallas, TX? Want to know how you can help? Click on the Step Out image above to learn why she’s walking and what you can do to make a difference.

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Today on the Frontstretch:
NASCAR Easter Eggs: A Few Off-Week Nuggets to Chew On
Five Points To Ponder: NASCAR’s Take-A-Breath Moment
Truckin’ Thursdays: Top Five All-Time Truck Series Drivers
Going By the Numbers: A Week Without Racing Can Bring Relief But Kill Momentum
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