The Frontstretch: Tracking the Trucks: Smith's 350 by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Monday September 30, 2013

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Tracking the Trucks: Smith's 350

Beth Lunkenheimer · Monday September 30, 2013

 

In a Nutshell: Timothy Peters took the checkered flag 0.559 seconds ahead of Johnny Sauter to win the Smith’s 350 Saturday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Peters took advantage of a late restart and held on to score his first victory on a mile-and-a-half track. Miguel Paludo, Ty Dillon and Darrell Wallace, Jr. rounded out the top 5.

Timothy Peters broke through on an intermediate Saturday night. The short track expert scored his first win on a mile-and-a-half, pushing to the front on a late restart to take the checkered flag first at Las Vegas.

Who Should Have Won: In a race where so many drivers appeared dominant while they were out front, clean air was clearly the key to success. Timothy Peters had a strong truck for much of the night and found the front when it counted. When leader Ron Hornaday, Jr. spun his tires on the final restart, with two laps remaining, it was Peters who used the inside line to take the top spot and hold on to score his second victory of the year.

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.

Turn 4 Troubles

For the majority of the Smith’s 350, if there was a caution, it likely happened because of a spin in Turn 4. The treacherous turn accounted for six of the nine cautions that slowed the field. Miguel Paludo was the first driver to become a victim, as his No. 32 Chevrolet went around with James Buescher and eventual race winner Timothy Peters nearby. Both drivers missed Paludo, who went one lap down and took advantage of a Lucky Dog to allow not only a lead-lap finish, but a third-place result that the No. 32 team should be proud of.

Brennan Newberry, who was running just outside the top 10, brought out the second yellow with a spin in turn four. He went on to bring out two more cautions — once after contact from teammate Ron Hornaday, Jr. and the other from contact with Matt Kurzejewski — before nursing his truck to a 15th-place finish. Considering his involvement in three separate incidents, Newberry and the No. 24 team should be happy that they persevered.

Bryan Silas (twice), Ross Chastain and Chad Hackenbracht were also victims of Turn 4. Notably, each of the spins from that corner resulted in no damage to other trucks around them and all drivers involved completed the race.

Crafton’s Top 10 Streak Ends

For 16 races this season, Matt Crafton has managed to avoid wrecks and overcame adversity thrown at him to finish inside the top 10, but that streak came to an end on Saturday night. After starting fifth, the driver of the No. 88 Toyota first found the front of the field inside the first 20 laps. Having lost the top spot during a round of pit stops, under the second caution, Crafton spent much of the rest of the night working his way to the front once again. But while leading with less than 30 laps remaining, Crafton suddenly dropped through the field like a rock and almost outside the top 15. Though he pitted under the final caution, gaining a handful of positions on the ensuing restart, Crafton still couldn’t maintain the top-10 spot and was left to settle for an 11th-place result.

“All of the sudden, it just went dead loose,” Crafton said after the race. “Within one lap, it was a little bit loose and then it went to undrivable and we lost one second on that run.”

Crafton’s top-10 streak may have ended at Las Vegas Motor Speedway; however, his championship hopes are far from over. He maintained a 41-point lead over James Buescher, who struggled to a ninth-place finish that he started the race with. I’m not quite ready to say it’s time to engrave the trophy. But if Crafton and the No. 88 team can leave Talladega without taking a major hit in the standings, it’ll be virtually impossible for anyone to catch him in the remaining four races.

Quick Hits

Todd Bodine remains active in NASCAR despite not having a full-time ride as a driver. He was on the spotter’s stand, helping Justin Lofton Saturday night in Las Vegas.

- Though he hasn’t been racing, Todd Bodine hasn’t been completely out of NASCAR, and that was the case on Saturday night. The Onion found himself up on the spotter’s stand assisting Justin Lofton’s part-time efforts. The driver of the No. 6 Imperial Valley Full Plate / J.D. Heiskell Chevrolet started on the front row and led nine laps before settling into an 18th-place finish.

- I would be remiss to not mention the issues fans had in trying to watch the race on Saturday night. When they tuned in to Fox Sports 1 for the setup show, fans instead found college football (a game twice delayed by weather) with a programming alert that stated the coverage had moved to Fox Sports 2, a channel that many don’t have. NASCAR’s response was to move back the command and ensure that the start would be shown on FS1, as scheduled. However, the incident highlighted the major concern many fans shared as SPEED prepared for the switch from a racing channel to a sports channel.

Truck Rookie Report
2013 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Ryan Blaney (No. 29)
Jeb Burton (No. 4)
Brennan Newberry (No. 24)
German Quiroga, Jr. (No. 77)
Ryan Truex (No. 30) — no longer employed by Turner Scott
Darrell Wallace, Jr. (No. 54)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 8 (add Chad Hackenbracht, Matt Kurzejewski and Caleb Roark)

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 1; Darrell Wallace, Jr., finished fifth

Rookie of the Race: Darrell Wallace, Jr.

Rookie Quotes:

“We had a really good Camping World/Good Sam Toyota Tundra, we just couldn’t finish the deal out. We had a truck capable of winning and I told the guys that if we were out front that we could have lapped the whole field and even myself, it was that good. It’s just trying to figure out how to work the dirty air and the clean air. Clean air is your best friend and dirty air is your worst enemy. I’m just trying to figure that out. Good effort and proud of my guys. On to Talladega and I’ll be ready.” Darrell Wallace, Jr., finished fifth

“What a day. Something was weird with the truck all night and I think we tried just about everything in the book to fix it. I couldn’t be prouder of my team, though. Even though we’re all frustrated, we took a backup truck, qualified good and raced the heck out of it for a 12th-place finish. I wish we could’ve gotten a single-digit finish, since Talladega will be such a wildcard race, but I think we did everything we could tonight given the circumstances. I’m ready for the next five races.” Jeb Burton

“Another rough night for our OtterBox Toyota Tundra. We are strong, and we are fast. We just need to have the finishes to prove it.” German Quiroga, finished 21st

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: Despite struggling mightily with his No. 88 Menards Toyota in the late stages of Saturday night’s race, Matt Crafton managed to hang on to an 11th-place finish. That, combined with leading the most laps, allowed him to maintain the 41-marker lead he currently holds over James Buescher. While nothing changed about where Crafton stands, the lead he has over the driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet allows a little wiggle room when it comes to the wild card that is Talladega coming up in a few weeks.

Ryan Blaney has had some strong runs, in both Nationwide and Trucks this season but struggled at Las Vegas, finishing 20th.

Biggest Loser: Fresh off of his first career Nationwide Series victory, Ryan Blaney came into Saturday night’s race with high hopes for a strong run. But it wasn’t meant to be for the rookie. After starting 15th, Blaney struggled with temperature issues and had to pit from second for an unscheduled stop to remove tape and cool the engine. That wasn’t the end of his struggles, either. Blaney also suffered what he thought was a tire going down and limped to a 20th-place finish, a result that dropped him two positions in the standings to seventh.

Points Update: Much of the top 10 remained unchanged. Matt Crafton still holds a 41-point advantage over James Buescher. Ty Dillon remains in third, 53 markers back. Rookie Jeb Burton and teammate Miguel Paludo, who jumped one spot on the strength of a third-place run, round out the top 5. Thanks to his victory, Timothy Peters moved up one spot to sixth, while Ryan Blaney dropped two positions to seventh. Johnny Sauter, Darrell Wallace, Jr. and Brendan Gaughan round out the top 10.

Quotable:

“Track position was so important. You had to get all you could on the restarts because once you spread out that dirty air, it was bad to pass. I mean, they were crazy. I was really thankful for that last caution. I was getting good restarts all night long. Just everything went our way tonight. This is huge. I want to know if I can take my name off the short track deal now and put it on the mile-and-a-halves. Thanks to Tom DeLoach (team owner) and Butch (Hylton, crew chief) for giving me a great Parts Plus Tundra. It was a crazy race. Fans got their money’s worth and we appreciate them coming out and supporting us.” Race winner Timothy Peters

“It was a crazy race. That last restart it looked like Ron (Hornaday) spun the tires a little bit and he lost momentum. Then he fanned out and I thought, ‘Hey there’s a hole there and I’m taking it.’” Johnny Sauter, finished second

“We had a wild day. When we spun at the beginning of the race, we had to work hard to fight our way back. We kept getting better and better on long runs, and we had a great truck on restarts. My team gave me a really fast truck, and we made the right calls to recover and run strong all night. I’m just glad the spin happened at the beginning and not the end. We had a good points night; you can’t count us out just yet. We’ve got Talladega next, and anything can happen there.” Miguel Paludo, finished third

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series takes two weekends off before heading to Talladega Superspeedway Saturday, October 19th. Last season, Nelson Piquet, Jr. made a last-lap pass on Matt Crafton to score his second win of the year. The Fred’s 250 powered by Coca-Cola will be televised live, on FOX Sports 1 beginning at 4:00 PM ET; it can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM Channel 90.

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