In a Nutshell: James Buescher took the checkered flag 0.486 seconds ahead of Ross Chastain to win Sunday afternoon’s Fan Appreciation 200 at Iowa Speedway. Buescher took the lead for the first time on lap 204 and maintained that top spot through a second green-white-checkered finish. Ty Dillon, Johnny Sauter and Darrell Wallace, Jr. rounded out the top 5.
Who Should Have Won: James Buescher. Ross Chastain may have dominated the race, leading 116 of 212 laps, but it was a last-minute call by the defending champion that allowed him to have the edge. When the third caution flew with just 32 laps remaining, Buescher and crew chief Michael Shelton discussed staying out to maintain their track position, however it was the driver that said he wanted to pit if the rest of the field behind him did. And that’s just what he did. With four sticker tires still available, Buescher drove his way to third before taking the lead in the first of two green-white-checkered finishes en route to his second victory in four races.
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.
Peters Upset With Buescher
With just five laps remaining, James Buescher, who had fresher tires after a late-race pit stop, worked his way through the field and made a move inside Peters for position. The pair made contact and Peters went around, bringing out the fifth caution and setting up a green-white-checkered finish. After the checkered flag flew, Timothy Peters was on a mission, driving after the race winner to give him a bump to share his displeasure with earlier contact.
“After that caution, my Parts Plus Tundra got a little too tight and we lost a little ground,” Peters said when asked about the contact. “I felt like I was holding my line, especially with the laps left, and the (No.) 31 just ran in there and got into us. I’m glad the truck’s in one piece, and we’ll go on to Chicago. It’s elbows up from here.”
I wonder if Peters would change his tune after watching the replay of the wreck. Though Buescher barely had his nose inside the No. 17, he was there and Peters simply turned himself off of the front bumper of the No. 31 Chevrolet. It’s a tough break for the driver who looked like he was headed to victory lane just a handful of laps earlier, but it’s a reality in racing each and every week.
Coulter’s Team Upset With Gaughan
Brendan Gaughan would probably like to forget Sunday’s race from Iowa Speedway after the day he had. Early in the event, he utilized the outside line to work his way up to third, but an untimely flat tire saw him make a green flag pit stop that put him outside the top 20 and two laps down. And just as it looked like he might manage to salvage a top-10 finish despite the struggles, the No. 62 Chevrolet drove straight into Joey Coulter’s No. 18 Toyota on the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish.
It was clear from the replay that something had gone terribly wrong with Gaughan’s truck since he never really slowed down in the turn, and Coulter’s crew chief, who was clearly upset with the destroyed truck that resulted from the contact, attempted to voice his displeasure with Gaughan. Later, the driver of the No. 62 took complete responsibility for the wreck.
“We had some brake issues from earlier. I really have to apologize to Joey. Joey and I are buddies, and Harold Holly (Coulter’s crew chief) is a little hotheaded some days, but it will be alright,” Gaughan said. “I went in, the brake pedal just had none and drove right up into him. Completely my fault and the pedal wasn’t going to stop me. So I’m sorry guys.”
It’s hard to blame a crew chief that just watched his driver get turned into the outside wall for being upset, and I imagine that once Holly got a look at the replay, he changed his tune. Frankly, that passion that Holly displayed is exactly the kind that NASCAR truly needs. All too often, it’s about the money and the points, but this time, it was all about that passion for his team and feeling like his driver had been wronged.
- Chase Elliott’s impressive run of top-6 finishes since making his series debut earlier this year at Martinsville came to an end on Sunday. After struggling mightily with a truck that was clearly nowhere near right for him, the driver of the No. 94 Chevrolet suffered a flat right rear tire that resulted in a spin into the wall. The damage proved terminal and Elliott was forced to settle for a 31st-place finish after running just 35 laps. I’d be curious to hear what Ty Dillon thinks of Elliott’s misfortune after his comments last weekend from Mosport.
- Johnny Sauter, who has had quite a bit of bad luck this season, rebounded with a solid fourth-place finish at Iowa, but it wasn’t easy for the No. 98 team. After qualifying 25th, Sauter was forced to drop to the back of the field when his team replaced a sway bar that broke during their qualifying run. But despite starting in the back, Sauter took his time and worked his way through the field and solidly into the top 10 by the halfway point. While it wasn’t a return to victory lane, it’s certainly a step in the right direction for a team that has struggled mightily in recent weeks.
- Matt Crafton extended his string of top-10 finishes to 15 with a solid seventh-place run Sunday afternoon, but with James Buescher heating up at just the right time of the year, that consistency may not be enough to win the title. A lead that was once more than 50 points has shrank to just under 40 with seven races left to run. Throw in the wild car that Talladega always is, and you’ve got the recipe for a tight championship battle in the final races this season. With that said, Crafton’s consistency can definitely get the job done if it continues, but if Buescher snags another win or two, the No. 88 team will need to figure out what they can do to get the extra edge needed to take the trophy at Homestead.
- All of the conspiracy theorists out there that think NASCAR favors the Dillon brothers got a little fuel for their fire on Sunday afternoon. Brendan Gaughan headed down pit road with flat right front tire on lap 116, leaving some rubber on the track in the process. Fast forward to lap 136 when the debris caution flew. Fox Sports 1 showed a track safety worker picking up what appeared to be that same piece of debris—in the same spot—from 20 laps earlier. That part by itself isn’t enough to make me question the yellow, but the fact that the rest of the field had already made green flag pit stops, except Dillon, who had gone about a lap-and-a-half down because he was on a different cycle and sitting in the lead at the time. I’m not trying to say NASCAR is trying to fix these races and allow Dillon to finish well, however I do question why the caution didn’t fly when the debris initially hit the track. It sure makes you wonder…
- But with the above being said, I do have to applaud NASCAR for a later decision that they made correctly. Under the fifth caution, then-leader Ryan Blaney slowed, complaining he was out of gas, and though he got going again, NASCAR placed the rookie back in tenth, exactly where he was when he drove to the front of the field again. Though Blaney was visibly disappointed after his 10th-place finish, the rules under caution are clear that the driver must maintain a safe speed. It’s a tough one for the young driver to swallow, but the sanctioning body got this one right.
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: 14 (add Chase Elliott, Justin Jennings, Brandon Jones, Erik Jones, Ben Kennedy, Steve Wallace, Jimmy Weller and debuting drivers Matt Kurzejewski and Steve Smith)
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 4; Darrell Wallace, Jr., finished fifth; Jeb Burton, finished eighth; Erik Jones, finished ninth; Ryan Blaney, finished tenth
Rookie of the Race: Darrell Wallace, Jr.
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: Johnny Sauter posted a solid fourth-place finish Sunday afternoon and managed to jump two spots in the standings. Though he sits in a tie for eighth with rookie Darrell Wallace, Jr., the driver of the No. 98 Toyota holds the tie-breaker courtesy of his two wins to start the year. While he’s not mathematically eliminated from the championship battle, the chances of taking home the big trophy at the end of the year are slim-to-none. However, Sauter does sit just 30 points behind fifth place Timothy Peters and could still mount a run that will allow him to be honored at the banquet in November.
Biggest Loser: Despite coming into Iowa with high hopes based on his previous experience, Miguel Paludo is likely happy to be leaving. After his throttle stuck on his primary truck and sent him hard into the wall during practice, Paludo qualified his backup truck 20th and struggled outside the top 15 for much of the day, even going a lap down at one point. Though he managed to get his lap back and work his way up to a 14th-place finish, he dropped to sixth and sits 75 points behind the leader.
Points Update: Matt Crafton saw his lead over James Buescher shrink to 37 points on the strength of the defending champion’s victory. Ty Dillon remains in third, 58 markers behind the leader. Rookie Jeb Burton and Timothy Peters, who gained one position despite his late-race spin, round out the top 5.
Miguel Paludo, who dropped one spot, sits sixth, followed by rookie Ryan Blaney. Johnny Sauter gained two positions Sunday and now finds himself eighth. Rookie Darrell Wallace, Jr. is eighth, with the same number of points as Sauter but loses the tie-breaker based on victories. Brendan Gaughan rounds out the top 10.
“This guy (son Stetson) turned six weeks old Friday and has been to victory lane twice already. All these guys worked so hard this weekend. We’ve been talking all weekend about how NASCAR took a set of tires away from us compared to the night race, which is backwards because of the tire wear. I told (Crew Chief Michael) Shelton in the hauler this morning don’t put a set on before [lap] 100 because I’m going to want them later. That was our plan, we stuck with it and it worked out.” Race Winner James Buescher
“I’ve never had a race car that handled like that. This BKR team is strong. I gave one away today. We were a little too tight on the short run, and that hurt us [at the end]. Whether it was on the outside or on the bottom, I had to crank a bunch of wheel into it. James drove a great race. This Checkered Flag Foundation Ford F-150 was strong and we’re going to keep trying to come back this strong the rest of the year. If we keep running like this, we’ll be just fine, and I hope to be in this sport a long time.” Ross Chastain, finished second
“It all started with a fast race truck. If we weren’t’ fast, we wouldn’t have been able to do it. We seem to have issues every week. If it wasn’t bad luck, we wouldn’t have any luck at all. My guys did an awesome job changing the battery without losing a lap. I’m proud of my guys, I’m proud of our effort. We’re all working as hard as we can. If we can get some good luck, we’ll start clicking off some wins.” Ty Dillon, finished third
Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to Chicagoland Speedway next Friday night for the American Ethanol 225. Last season, the series visited the 1.5-mile oval in July, and James Buescher came back from two laps down to score his third of four victories on the year. The race will be televised on live FOX Sports 1 beginning at 2:00 PM ET; it can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM Channel 90.
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