Beth Lunkenheimer · Thursday May 30, 2013
This weekend, Dover International Speedway will feature a NASCAR triple-header with all three series together coming together for the first time since Daytona in February. In the Camping World Truck Series, the previous 13 events at the have featured 11 different victors (Kyle Busch won in 2005 and 2011), but perhaps what’s more important is that five of those drivers have scored their first career victories at The Monster Mile.
It all started with Jason Leffler, who scored his first and only Truck Series victory at the historic track in 2003, after leading just a little over a quarter of the laps run. The following season Chad Chaffin led 52 of 200 laps on the way to his first career victory behind the wheel of the No. 18 Dickies Dodge for the late Bobby Hamilton.
From there, fast forward to 2008, when Dover saw Scott Speed score his first career victory by more than three seconds over series veteran Jack Sprague. A two-tire pit stop with 67 laps remaining gave Speed the track position he needed to score his only win in the series. Speed actually became the second rookie to visit victory lane at Dover. Kurt Busch was the first in the inaugural event at the track in 2000, and by the time the Truck Series headed to Dover late that season, the elder Busch brother, and eventual Rookie of the Year, had already scored wins at the Milwaukee Mile and New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
The following year, it was Brian Scott’s turn to celebrate his first career win. In the rain-delayed race, Scott led just 14 laps—one more than he had in his entire career up to that point—on the way to a nearly half-second victory over veteran Dennis Setzer. Scott added six more top-10 finishes that season on his way to finishing seventh in the series standings. He’s now running his fourth full-time season in the Nationwide Series.
Most recently, Aric Almirola added his name to the list when he edged James Buescher by nearly a second in 2010. But the feat wasn’t without its problems: Almirola went two laps down courtesy of a cut tire and had to take advantage of the wave-around and the Lucky Dog to get back on the lead lap. From there, it took a series of bold moves to work through the field and take the victory. Just three races later, Almirola snagged another victory at Michigan and went on to finish runner-up in the points standings to eventual champion Todd Bodine.
Looking ahead to this weekend, there’s a plethora of drivers that have yet to score their first career wins, but only a few of them have a realistic shot, given the equipment that each has to work with.
After his performance last weekend at Charlotte, don’t count out rookie Darrell Wallace, Jr. Though an over-aggressive move ended his hopes for a decent finish, the driver of the KBM No. 54 Toyota has definitely shown a substantial amount of progress. And while he’s only got two top-10 results so far, that number could’ve been easily doubled if not for being involved in wrecks at Rockingham and Charlotte. Don’t be surprised to see this rookie driver score his first win at some point this year, and if the cards are right for Wallace, Jr., it could just be at Dover.
From Wallace, Jr., we move to fellow rookie Jeb Burton. Here’s another name that’s been constantly in the spotlight this year and for good reason. The driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet turned heads last year before sponsorship sidelined him long before he’d had the shot to show what he’s got behind the wheel, but perhaps more importantly, he’s already got three poles in five races—and that doesn’t count the 154 laps he led at Martinsville before settling for a third-place finish. Simply put, don’t quit watching Burton because he’s another driver that will make it to victory lane this season, and this weekend just might be the time to do it.
While he’s not a rookie, Burton’s Turner Scott Motorsports teammate Miguel Paludo has shown a remarkable amount of growth in just a short time period. Having barely edged his way into the top 10 in points to close out the year last season, TSM worked hard all throughout the off-season, and Paludo did as well. The result? On-track progress. In five races, Paludo has scored three top 10s, compared to the five he acquired through an entire season last year. Additionally, he’s led laps in the last two races, only to be burned by a wreck (Kansas) and a Cup driver (Charlotte). Here’s another driver that’s on the verge of a trip to victory lane in the very near future.
And that brings us to another familiar name in NASCAR—Chase Elliott. He’ll make his third career Truck Series start on Friday night, and he’s done nothing but impress in his young career. In the pair of starts he’s made this year, the 17-year-old finished fifth and sixth at Rockingham and Martinsville, respectively. While his Dover starts in the K&N Pro Series East haven’t gone all that well—he crashed out in both attempts—there are still plenty of high expectations for Elliott as he continues on the way to his ultimate goal of reaching the Sprint Cup Series.
Of course, that’s not to count out all of the other drivers that already have wins to their credit. And while I’m not all that convinced that Kyle Busch won’t just stomp the field once again, I’d like to believe that we’ll see someone manage to best the Sprint Cup Series driver en route to their first career victory. After all, that would be much better for those fans that have grown tired of seeing the younger Busch brother in victory lane in NASCAR’s lower series.
“Dover is a lot of fun, and we ran really well there last year. If the rain hadn’t cut the race short when we were off-cycle, we probably would have wound up with a top-five finish. This is a strong track for Turner Scott Motorsports as a whole, so I feel really confident going into this weekend. The No. 32 team has been doing so well this season; we haven’t gone into a single race that we couldn’t have won. We were so close that we could taste in in Charlotte; our first win is coming. I’d love to take home that Miles the Monster trophy.” Miguel Paludo
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