The Frontstretch: Tracking the Trucks: Lucas Oil 200 by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Monday June 3, 2013

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Tracking the Trucks: Lucas Oil 200

Beth Lunkenheimer · Monday June 3, 2013

 

Kyle Busch made mincemeat out of the Truck Series field once again, winning his second straight race in the series at the Monster Mile Friday afternoon.

In a Nutshell: Kyle Busch easily took the checkered flag 1.484 seconds ahead of Matt Crafton in the Lucas Oil 200 at Dover International Speedway Friday afternoon. Busch held on to the top spot through two different restarts en route to his third victory at the Monster Mile. Ryan Blaney, Chase Elliott and Brendan Gaughan rounded out the top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Kyle Busch. After starting fifth, Busch dropped outside the top 5 and remained there for much of the race. But feedback from the driver of the No. 51 Toyota gave crew chief Ryan Fugle all the information he needed to correct the truck. With a variety of different adjustments, Busch took the lead for the first time on lap 142 and relinquished it for just nine laps the rest of the way en route to his second consecutive victory.

Race Rundown

Darrell Wallace, Jr. Dominates Early

Rookie Darrell Wallace, Jr. came into Dover International Speedway looking to shake off a DNF after a strong run at Charlotte last weekend. And that’s just what he did. After running inside the top 10 in both practice sessions, the driver of the No. 54 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota became the youngest driver to sit on the Truck Series pole at the age of 19 years, seven months and 24 days. He broke the record previously held by Cole Whitt, who sat on the pole at Darlington in 2011 at the age of 19 years, eight months and 18 days.

“That’s really cool. Chase (Elliott) had me scared there for a second,” Wallace said of his qualifying lap. “His second lap was pretty quick, but our lap was a little bit better. That kept us on top and to carry that record means a lot.”

When the green flag dropped over the field, Wallace, Jr. made it clear that he meant business this week. He led for the first 119 laps, holding on through three different restarts, before relinquishing the top spot during a round of scheduled green flag pit stops. By the end of the cycle, Wallace, Jr. found himself more than four seconds behind boss and team owner Kyle Busch. A very loose truck then caused the rookie to drop back through the field in the closing laps of the race, leading to a tenth-place finish that could have been so much better. Still, a third top 10 this early on is a sign of a promising future.

It was a tale of two directions for Ty Dillon and Darrell Wallace, Jr. this weekend. Dillon blew an engine after 23 laps, posting his worst career finish while Wallace won the pole and was a strong contender for the victory until late in the race.

“That’s what we needed, not what we wanted, but that’s what we needed,” Wallace said. “If we can land those [top 10s], that will get us back up there in the points. The spring rubber fell out there at the end — that’s why we couldn’t really gain anything. I’m still proud of our Camping World / Good Sam Toyota Tundra team. We’re close, we’re that much closer.”

The rookie has nothing to hang his head about after his performance. Having led just 42 laps in his previous five career starts, Wallace, Jr. nearly tripled that number and, while he didn’t win, his restarts were impressive as he capitalized on the outside line at Dover. And while it wasn’t quite the finish his strong truck had set him up for, it’s yet another step in the young driver’s career that seems destined for Victory Lane sooner rather than later.

Chase Elliott Busted Twice on Pit Road

In just his third Camping World Truck Series race, Chase Elliott started an impressive second and remained in the top 5 for much of the early stages. But under the second caution, the 17-year-old got caught speeding off pit road. Left to drop to the tail end of the field, Elliott found himself in a tough spot, given how important track position is. So under the third caution, crew chief Lance McGrew called his driver down pit road once again for four tires, fuel and an adjustment. Just seven laps after restarting 15th, Elliott was once again inside the top 10, taking advantage of the fresh rubber.

But the troubles didn’t end for Elliott. Despite being on a different pit sequence than the rest of the field, a 90-lap green flag run forced the driver of the No. 94 Chevrolet to pit under green. And once again, he got caught speeding, this time paying with a drive through penalty. Elliott was forced to methodically work his way forward once again before ultimately settling in for a solid fourth-place result, the best in his career to date.

“Don’t speed on pit road. I learned it the hard way, that’s for sure,” Elliott said after the race. “Man, they gave me an awesome truck. We were really, really fast all day long. I messed up coming out of the pits on the first stop, and I did it again when we took the green flag stop. You just can’t afford to do that and I learned it the hard way. I’m as tired of Kyle Busch winning as everybody else is and I want to be the first one to stop that. We’re capable of doing that; we just have to make things go our way and go mistake free.”

Elliott has finished inside the top 10 in all three of his Truck Series starts, but perhaps what’s more impressive was the 17-year-old’s ability to accept responsibility for his actions. When asked about his pit road speeding penalties, Elliott was blunt and completely honest.

“It was me, 100%,” he said. “I screwed up and I’m here to take the blame for it. I messed up. We’d have been battling for the win if I hadn’t messed up.”

Regardless of whether it’s racing or something else in life, it’s hard to swallow a mistake that costs you, but Elliott did it and still kept a smile on his face. It looks like all the tools are there for long-term success, right? However, because of his age, the young driver will not race in the next two races, both of which are mile-and-a-half events; his next start is Iowa.

Crafton Shines, Defending Champ Buescher Falters in Respective Milestone Starts

Matt Crafton and James Buescher came into Dover International Speedway celebrating separate milestones. Crafton, who broke Terry Cook’s consecutive start record at Rockingham in April, made his 300th career start while Buescher celebrated his 100th.

Crafton struggled in practice and, just like they did at Kansas where he went to Victory Lane, the No. 88 team made wholesale changes to the truck following the final session. Those adjustments allowed Crafton to start seventh, and throughout the race, he worked on picking his way through the field. Late in the going, he managed to beat Kyle Busch off of pit road under caution and led nine laps before the driver of the No. 51 Toyota took over the top spot. Despite two restarts after losing the lead, Crafton didn’t have enough to pass Busch and settled for a runner-up finish.

“It was a great day for the whole ThorSport organization. Our Toyota Tundra was decent on the short run. We showed our strength on the long runs, but Kyle (Busch) just had the speed on the short run,” Crafton said of his milestone start. “All in all, not a terrible day for one of the guys that’s not too bad here. On the long run, I was able to run him (Kyle Busch) back down. I can’t thank these guys enough. They did it in Kansas and they did it here — they changed everything on our Tundra from practice to the race.”

Truck Series reigning titlist James Buescher is in danger of fading into obscurity after a sluggish start to 2013.

Crafton’s runner-up finish allowed him to further extend his points lead over rookie Jeb Burton. He now holds a 30-point advantage and is quickly making a case for a championship season. While there are still plenty of races left, including the wild cards of Eldora and Talladega that could impact the No. 88 team in their quest for the first ThorSport Racing championship, Crafton continues to expand his lead and allow himself cushion for a couple of tough events down the line.

Meanwhile, Buescher’s 100th career start wasn’t nearly as successful. Though he ran inside the top 10 in the first practice, major changes to the No. 31 Chevrolet saw him run outside the top 20 in the second session. And qualifying didn’t get any better for Buescher, who smacked the wall on his second lap. The damage was too much for the team to repair sufficiently, so they pulled out a backup truck and were forced to start at the rear of the field.

“We had a rough weekend for sure at Dover, but I’m proud of everyone for never giving up,” Buescher said en route to a mediocre 15th. “I thought I had a decent truck during my first qualifying lap, and I tried to get a little bit more but the truck got loose on me and I eventually found the wall. There will be days like today, but my team never gives up and we will rebound for this and come back even stronger next time out.”

Buescher’s result dropped him outside the top 5 in points. While his chance to defend the championship is far from over, the No. 31 team will have to turn up the heat going forward. However, the good news for Buescher is that the next two races are at mile-and-a-half facilities that he excelled at so much last year.

Quick Hits:

- On Friday evening, Chad Hackenbracht confirmed via his Twitter feed that he will make his Camping World Truck Series debut next weekend at Texas Motor Speedway. The 21-year-old, who won at Pocono Raceway in the ARCA Racing Series last season, will pilot the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota in place of team owner Kyle Busch. Additionally, SPEEDTV’s Ray Dunlap reported that Hackenbracht will make several starts this season for the organization.

- The Lucas Oil 200 was slowed twice for debris on the track, and surprise — SPEED was actually able to show that debris. I don’t understand why FOX can’t seem to do the same in the Sprint Cup Series.

Truck Rookie Report
2013 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Ryan Blaney (No. 29)
Jeb Burton (No. 4)
Brennan Newberry (No. 14)
German Quiroga, Jr. (No. 77)
Ryan Truex (No. 30)
Darrell Wallace, Jr. (No. 54)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 9 (add Danny Efland, Chase Elliott, Kyle Martel and debuting driver C.J. Faison)

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 4; Ryan Blaney, finished third; Chase Elliott, finished fourth; Jeb Burton, finished ninth; Darrell Wallace, Jr., finished tenth.

Rookie of the Race: Ryan Blaney

“I am so proud of my Cooper Standard team. We all stuck to our game plan and executed thoroughly here today at Dover. I wish we could have been in Victory Lane, but I’ll take a top-3 finish any day at a track as tough as this place. This is exactly the type of caliber team we have and I couldn’t be happier with my guys. We will build on this success and carry it over to Texas next week.” Ryan Blaney, finished third

Championship Checkup:

Timothy Peters has made a strong comeback in the points after the worst Truck Series start of his career.

Biggest Winner: Though he’s outside the top 10 in the standings right now, Timothy Peters took advantage of his concrete experience to take a chunk out of his deficit to points leader Matt Crafton. But the afternoon wasn’t without its challenges for the driver of the No. 17 Toyota. After starting 14th, Peters moved down the track on Max Gresham, spinning both drivers and bringing out the first caution on the second lap. However, the damage to the No. 17 wasn’t all that extensive and Peters spent much of the race working his way forward. A late-race caution saw Peters drop outside the top 3 before settling in for a sixth-place result, his third top 10 on the year. That allowed Peters to move up four spots in the standings to 12th. However, the driver of the No. 17 Toyota still sits 74 points out of first and will need a string of strong finishes to even have a shot at the championship he came so close to last season.

Biggest Loser: It’s pretty easy to guess that Ty Dillon is ready to get out of Dover and head off to Texas. Though he qualified sixth, the driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet was forced to drop to the back of the field after missing the drivers’ meeting. But the problems didn’t end there for the sophomore. Just 23 laps in, he was on pit road for an unscheduled stop with no power. Dillon was left to settle for the first DNF of his career and a disappointing 31st-place result.

“The motor blew up. Our ECR power has been great all year. I’ve never had a failure, and this is definitely a first,” Dillon said during the second caution. “Just not a good day for us here at Dover.”

As a result of the disappointing finish, Dillon dropped four spots in the points standings and now sits seventh, 57 markers behind leader Matt Crafton. The good news, though, is that it’s still very early in the season. While it is difficult to climb out of a hole given the competition level in the series, the driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet has plenty of time to rebound from this DNF and move forward in his quest to follow his Rookie of the Year performance last season with a championship, just like older brother Austin did in 2010 and 2011.

Points Update: Matt Crafton expanded his lead to 30 over rookie Jeb Burton, who remains in second. Brendan Gaughan moved up one spot to third with his fourth consecutive top-5 finish; he sits 35 markers behind the leader. Johnny Sauter and Ryan Blaney both moved up two positions and round out the top 5. Following his tough afternoon, defending champion James Buescher dropped to sixth, now 45 points behind Crafton. Ty Dillon dropped four spots after his first career DNF, while rookie Darrell Wallace, Jr. jumped two positions to eighth. Miguel Paludo and Dakoda Armstrong find themselves tied for ninth place and round out the top 10.

Quotable:

“Today was a whole different animal. It was unbelievable how loose it was following those guys. I had to get outside of their wake and kind of move around, and that’s where I started making up some ground. It was more later in the run than it was early in the run. These things are just so fast going around here, early in the run with a lot of tire grip and a lot of aero grip, but as the rubber goes down, it certainly gets slick and everybody has their hands full. These guys made some nice adjustments for me to keep us on top of the race track and up front.” Kyle Busch

“This was another great job by Shane (Wilson, crew chief) and the entire team. Our South Point Hotel & Casino Chevrolet was fast all day but just a little too loose. My pit crew did a great job today along with my spotter. I’ve got to thank all of them for helping us bring home this top-5 finish.” Brendan Gaughan, finished fifth

“It was typical Dover, you work your butt off here every lap—there’s no sitting back and waiting. Our Darrell Gwynn Tundra was great. We fought all day in practice and then we didn’t qualify well at all. We knew we had to get track position early and we just went after everything we had the first couple green flag runs. The guys did an awesome job on pit road and really kept us in good track position and got us some spots. It was a really good day as far as the whole team working together—we have to catch up with the boss man (Kyle Busch).” Joey Coulter, finished eighth

“At the beginning (of the race) we were too loose, and then right there at the end we were okay. In the middle of the race, we were too tight. We found some stuff messed up on the right front (after the race). Some stuff came loose but that’s racing. It was a good day for us. Really, we finished seventh because the (No.) 94 and (No.) 51 aren’t running for points. It was a good points day for us. We’ll go get them at Texas.”Jeb Burton, finished ninth

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads south for their first of two visits to Texas Motor Speedway on Friday, June 7th. Last season, Johnny Sauter took the win over ThorSport teammate Matt Crafton. The WinStar World Casino 400K will be televised on live SPEED beginning at 8:30 PM ET; it can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM Channel 90.

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