The Frontstretch: Truckin' Thursdays: Off Week Observations by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Thursday May 23, 2013

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Truckin' Thursdays: Off Week Observations

Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday May 23, 2013

 

Author’s Note: Just days removed from the massive EF5 tornado that wiped out almost the entire city of Moore, Oklahoma, my prayers remain with the survivors as they mourn their loved ones that were lost and try to rebuild once again. Anyone interested in helping out with relief for the town can click here to find out the myriad of options that are available. God Bless the people of Moore.

While the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway this weekend, the Camping World Truck Series will be off before heading to Dover International Speedway next Friday night. And while they’re still less than a quarter of the way into the season, there’s always observations that you can pick up on, even in the infancy of the year. As Matt Crafton expands his points lead and continues to make a case for his first career championship, there’s plenty of other stories to keep an eye on the series moves on.

Brendan Gaughan, Shane Wilson Reunion Paying Off

When Brendan Gaughan joined the Camping World Truck series full time back in 2002, he scored two victories And the common denominator in both of those seasons? Crew chief Shane Wilson. The duo clicked incredibly well and found all kinds of success. In fact, Gaughan hasn’t visited victory lane since the two parted. Fast forward to 2013 and Gaughan finds himself reunited with Wilson once again. The results so far? Caught up in a wreck at Daytona, a 12th at Martinsville and three consecutive top-5 results, including a runner-up finish to Kyle Busch last Friday night. Plus, he’s sitting a solid fourth in points, just 31 markers behind Matt Crafton.

Familiar faces in different places. Brendan Gaughan has three top 5s and a runner up at Charlotte so far this year, and is fourth in the standings. Credit goes in part to reuniting with former crew chief Shane Wilson at RCR.

“It’s been a lot of fun being back with Shane. There are so many things that a new driver and crew chief combo need to work through, but we don’t, because we already know each other. The crew guys are starting to see it and that’s what’s really fun,” Gaughan said. “Since the beginning of the season, we’ve come from 28th in points up to fourth. This has been a great season so far. It’s what you expect when you come to Richard Childress Racing. It’s what Richard [Childress] expects out of his Truck Series teams. It’s what I expected when I went racing full time this year for RCR.”

Late last year when Richard Childress Racing announced the duo would be reunited, both parties entered into the agreement looking forward to their reunion. But perhaps what’s even more important in that in addition to their chemistry that’s already in place, they’re working toward the championship that Gaughan came so close to in 2003. But regardless of whether the duo manages to take home the big trophy, it’s clear that the partnership has been beneficial in more ways than one.

“I’m as happy as I’ve been in a decade,” Gaughan said. “It’s Shane Wilson. It’s me. It’s some old-school mojo going on. It’s kind of fun.”

And isn’t it great when you’re doing your job and having fun?

Darrell Wallace, Jr. is the Real Deal

While Jeb Burton has stolen much of the rookie spotlight, scoring his third career pole in five races last week at Charlotte, it was Darrell Wallace, Jr. that impressed me during the race. While his stats will show a disappointing 27th-place result and a DNF, but what that doesn’t show is his performance on the track.

After struggling with a tight truck in the early, crew chief Jerry Baxter took a big swing with an air pressure and track-bar adjustment, something that proved beneficial for Wallace, Jr. One by one, he picked off driver after driver until suddenly, he was passing Sprint Cup Series defending champion Brad Keselowski. And not long after that, Wallace, Jr. ran side-by-side with team owner Kyle Busch and even looked like might make a pass on him, something that’s been tough for many drivers throughout the years in the Truck Series. Though a little bit of over-driving cost the rookie what would likely have been a career-best finish, his performance showed that he is learning from his limited time behind the wheel.

He has had a couple of rough outings of late, but you can tell the talent is there, and that Darrell Wallace, Jr. will indeed be a star in our sport in the not too distant future.

Just five races into the year, it’s clear that Wallace, Jr. is definitely the real deal. The most important thing for the young driver at this point is to continue to take advantage of the track time and the knowledge of his team owner as works his way toward a trip to victory lane, something that will likely happen this year.

Could a Rivalry Be Building?

Perhaps the most “exciting” thing to come out of last Friday’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200 happened when James Buescher appeared to intentionally wreck Johnny Sauter to bring out the seventh caution. On the restart just a handful of laps earlier, Sauter was forced up the track and into Buescher’s left front, pushing in the fender and causing a slight tire rub. When Buescher found himself closing quickly on the No. 98 Toyota, it was likely hard to resist a little payback in what has been a slow start to the season for the defending champion. The resulting damage knocked Sauter out of the race and he was left to settle for a disappointing 28th-place finish.

I do believe that Buescher felt wronged by the earlier contact and that resulted in him turning Sauter, but I also believe that he likely had a change of heart after seeing a replay. And as much as a new rivalry between two full-time Truck Series drivers could increase the exposure for everyone, I really don’t see anything between Buescher and Sauter stemming from their contact. Next weekend at Dover should be business as usual for both drivers as they continue to strive for a championship.

Miguel’s Corner

Tweet of the Week

@miguelpaludo: Had a blast last night! They knew we were there, the W is coming. Tks #32 guys & for your tweets, means a lot to me. Can’t wait for Dover!

@PatiSouzaPaludo: Proud mama!! Father’s Day special feature on diabetes forecast magazine!! http://instagram.com/p/ZllW-yvcMf/

Photo of the Week:

Oliver gets in a little time helping out with the team at the shop. Photo courtesy of Miguel Paludo.

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