The Frontstretch: Tracking the Trucks: National Guard 200 by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Monday August 19, 2013

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Tracking the Trucks: National Guard 200

Beth Lunkenheimer · Monday August 19, 2013

 

In a Nutshell: James Buescher took the checkered flag 0.546 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch in Saturday afternoon’s National Guard 200 at Michigan International Speedway. Buescher took the lead from Busch in a four-truck battle with just four laps remaining and held on to score his first victory of the 2013 season. Ty Dillon, Joey Logano and Miguel Paludo rounded out the top 5.

Who Should Have Won: James Buescher. While there are a few drivers that could have been pegged as winners, including Buescher’s teammate Jeb Burton, who led 41 of the first 44 laps, in the end it was the defending champion that came out on top with an impressive pass on then-leader Kyle Busch. With just four laps remaining, Buescher got a strong run on Busch, who may have wiggled ever so slightly, and he made the pass for the win that stuck. It appeared Busch and Ty Dillon were setting up for a run on the white flag lap, but once he got out front, Buescher was too strong to beat.

Race Rundown
Did you miss the race? In this section of Tracking the Trucks, you’ll find the major storylines that went on all in one place.

Rookies Tangle on Lap 1

Ryan Blaney went from winning at Pocono in the Truck Series’ last race to off the track before the field even completed the first lap at Michigan on Saturday. As the field came out of turn two, Blaney had a run on the inside of the track, and after getting his nose inside the No. 54 of Darrell Wallace, Jr., the fellow rookie turned down on Blaney and sent him headlong into the inside wall.

“From my perspective, it looked like the (No.) 54 just turned left on us and wrecked us. I don’t know if he got hit or what. He just came across our nose and put us into the wall. It’s just disappointing. I know we had a great truck today and I thought we’d race it really well. This BKR team will fight back and get our Cooper Standard Ford up and running again soon.”

Blaney made his displeasure with Wallace very clear when the field came back around, and the Fox Sports 1 commentators tried to deflect the blame by saying Wallace, Jr. didn’t realize Blaney was inside him. That may be true, however that’s where the spotter should come into play in telling his driver just where the competition is around them. But to his credit, Wallace later apologized and explained why he never heard his spotter say anything about Blaney being to his inside after he was involved in the third caution.

“Radio troubles. I couldn’t hear anything from the green flag all the way until turn three when my spotter actually switched radios,” Wallace said. “Next thing you know, a caution is out and I see a car spinning and I come back around it’s (Ryan) Blaney. I hate that for him and I was sick to my stomach when I see that. I hate that. It sounds like I’m making excuses, but I didn’t hear anything.”

Though he was hopeful that the team would be able to repair his truck enough to log some laps and gain a few positions, Blaney’s damage was terminal and he suffered his first DNF of the season, a 32nd-place finish.

Sauter’s Bad Luck Continues

- Johnny Sauter’s bad luck streak continues. Having gone toward the back of the pack with an early pit stop, the driver of the No. 98 Toyota made his way inside the top 5 but got caught up in the third caution when Max Gresham got loose in front of Joey Logano. This race marks the fifth consecutive race Sauter has finished outside the top 10. He was credited with a 20th-place finish and dropped to 10th in the standings, 95 points behind teammate and leader Matt Crafton.

You’d think Sauter would feel like his season is falling apart after scoring back-to-back wins to open the year, however it seems like he hasn’t given up hope just yet.

“We’ve got better bullets coming. So I ain’t worried about it,” Sauter said. “I’m just proud of these guys. We’ve just had horrible luck lately — we’re just wrecking trucks for no reason and it’s unfortunate.”

While 95 points is an extremely long shot to have a run at the championship, the good news for the No. 98 team is that their driver has not given up on this season just yet, and if you take the big trophy out of the equation for Sauter, it could mean that he’ll take a few more chances on the track and put on a thrilling show while trying to pad his win count. Plus, he’s not mathematically eliminated from the championship battle and, as well all know, anything can happen in the Truck Series.

Quick Hits:

- Pole-sitter Jeb Burton looked like he had the truck to beat in the early parts of the race, leading 41 of the first 44 laps and making an impressive run on Kyle Busch to take back the lead. But a fading truck during a long green flag run put him back in traffic, and it appeared the truck just didn’t handle the same after that. He ended up posting a tenth-place finish, his seventh top 10 in 12 races this season.

- Points leader Matt Crafton ran inside the top 5 for much of the day on Saturday, but when the fourth caution flew, he lost a substantial amount of track position thanks to a pit road penalty. He was forced to restart at the tail end of the field when a tire got away from his crew members. Having restarted outside the top 15, it looked like Crafton’s top 10 streak would end, but despite the penalty, the driver of the No. 88 Menard’s Toyota recovered to a seventh-place finish, his 12 consecutive top 10.

- For the fourth time in seven races, Kyle Busch grabbed a runner-up finish at Michigan. He has yet to find victory lane at the two-mile oval despite leading laps in all but one event. Busch led 33 laps Saturday afternoon and looked like he had the truck to beat late in the going, but he lost the top spot just four laps before the checkered flag flew.

- German Quiroga may have brought out the sixth caution, but he did show that he’s learned something in his limited time running in NASCAR. Having gotten loose inside Brennan Newberry, Quiroga’s No. 77 Toyota spun around, and he drove his truck all the way until he backed into the inside wall. Sure it doesn’t sound all that great, but when he first spun, it looked like Quiroga was headed headlong into the inside wall, and he likely prevented terminal damage in the process. The driver of the No. 77 Toyota brought home a 19th-place finish, 11 laps down.

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: 6 (add Brett Moffitt)

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 1; Jeb Burton, finished tenth

Rookie of the Race: Jeb Burton

Rookie Quotes:

“This definitely wasn’t the finish we came for. We had a really fast truck that was very capable of winning the race, but some things just fell off at the end. I had a pit stop where I probably could have gotten off pit road a little faster, and combined with how tight we got at the end, we just couldn’t get there. A top 10 is still good for us in the points and I’m proud of my guys for how hard they worked all weekend. Winning the pole with a speed four-tenths faster than second was extremely cool, and I have to thank a great team for giving me a truck that fast. I don’t have a lot of time to dwell since Bristol is right around the corner, so hopefully we’ll be able to redeem ourselves with a win there.” Rookie of the Race Jeb Burton

Author’s Note: According to a report from Fox Sports 1’s Ray Dunlap, Jeb Burton will return to Turner Scott Motorsports next season in the Truck Series with plans to run in select Nationwide Series races.

“We had a bad fast Toyota Tundra for this race and didn’t have the qualifying effort we wanted, but we sure got up there pretty quick and got past Kyle (Busch) and were trying to learn some stuff and it just ended on lap 26. It looked like the 8 truck just got loose there and the 19 was tucked up under him and got loose and just went around. I had the run on the 98 at the time and didn’t know anybody was spinning until the last minute and ran into the 98 and it collected us. Just unfortunate.” Darrell Wallace, Jr., finished 21st

“Such a disappointing day for our Cooper Standard guests to only have the opportunity to see me run a half of a lap before getting wrecked on the first lap of the race. However, it was great to interact with all the Cooper employees and guests today at the track. We are certainly looking forward to next Wednesday’s night race at Bristol to make up for this one.” Ryan Blaney, finished 32nd

Championship Checkup:
Each week we’ll take a look at the championship picture and find out which drivers were affected the most by the racing on track.

Biggest Winner: Having been hit with a six-point penalty for his truck being too low in post-race inspection at Pocono, Timothy Peters took advantage of a solid sixth-place finish to move up three spots in the standings. He now sits seventh, 82 points behind the leader. And while it’s not likely he’ll be able to mount a run at the championship, the driver of the No. 17 Red Horse Racing Toyota finds himself just nine points out of the top 5.

Biggest Loser: Just one race removed from gaining five spots in the standings following his victory at Pocono, Ryan Blaney gave back all of the ground he earned and then some. Having failed to complete a single lap Saturday afternoon, Blaney finished dead last and now sits eighth in the standings, 85 markers behind the leader.

Points Update: Matt Crafton maintained his points lead, losing just a single marker to rookie Jeb Burton. Race winner James Buescher moved up on spot and sits one point behind his teammate and 52 out of the lead. Ty Dillon and Miguel Paludo, who jumped one and two positions, respectively, round out the top 5.

Brendan Gaughan remains sixth but finds himself just one point outside the top 5. Timothy Peters jumped three spots to seventh, while Ryan Blaney dropped five positions to eighth. Rookie Darrell Wallace, Jr. and Johnny Sauter, who fell one spot apiece, round out the top 10.

Related: Pace Laps – Can Buescher Make His Comeback?

Quotable:

“I’ve got to thank everyone on this team and really want to thank Rheem for coming on board with us this year. I knew we had a shot at this, but the first half of the race was tough. We couldn’t catch any breaks and couldn’t get into position where we needed to be, and it was tough battling through traffic. We got the balance right at the end and figured out where I needed to position myself to make passes at the end. I can’t say enough about these guys. They never give up, and we’re going to go after that championship now.” Race Winner James Buescher

“I don’t know where (James) Buescher came from, but he got by us, passed us, beat us, so that’s all there is to it. The Toyota Care Tundra was great today — really, really fast. I figured that once I got out front, I felt like I could hold everybody off because it was hard to pass. The 62 (Brendan Gaughan) got a run on me down the backstretch and I pulled a little bit low to block and I heard that the 31 (James Buescher) was on the inside of him, so how the 31 can get a run on the 62 who’s got a run on me is beyond me. It blows my mind. He got a run on all of us and I got down in turn three way too low on my entry to try to block and I got loose. I don’t know if he was that close to me or not, but I had to save my truck and in doing so he just drove right on by.” Kyle Busch

“This is a small victory in my book. We had a mistake on pit road that cost us quite a few spots, but we had a really fast Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet and made up the ground to come back to third. My spotter, Billy (O’Dea), did a great job keeping me out of trouble. I’m hoping to ride this momentum into next week and put this bad luck behind us.” Ty Dillon

“What a strong day we had in the BKR Draw-Tite F-150. Starting 20th and moving up through the field like we did and finishing in the top five, is certainly satisfying. I have to thank my friend and teammate, Brad Keselowski, for the opportunity to race his Truck. It’s always a blast and I’m looking forward to the next opportunity later this season.” Joey Logano, finished fourth

“It is so much fun to run up front,” said Paludo after the race. “I can’t thank my team enough, we work so hard and just keep getting better and better every week. I thought that this was our race; I knew going into it that it would be a good race for us. We just have to keep this momentum going straight into Bristol and keep making gains in the point standings. That first win is so close.” Miguel Paludo, finished fifth

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series has a short week before heading off to Bristol on Wednesday night for the annual mid-week showdown. Last season Timothy Peters took the victory by a half-second over teammate Parker Kligerman on the newly re-paved bullring. The UNOH 200 will be televised on live FOX Sports 1 beginning at 7:30 PM ET; it can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM Channel 90.

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