The Frontstretch: Tracking the Trucks: Fred's 250 Powered By Coca-Cola by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Monday October 21, 2013

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Tracking the Trucks: Fred's 250 Powered By Coca-Cola

Beth Lunkenheimer · Monday October 21, 2013

 

In a Nutshell: Johnny Sauter took the checkered flag under caution ahead of David Starr to win the Fred’s 250 Powered by Coca-Cola at Talladega Superspeedway Saturday afternoon. Sauter managed to avoid being involved in a huge last-lap wreck that took out nearly half of the field to score his third victory of the year. Ross Chastain, Parker Kligerman and Dakoda Armstrong rounded out the top 5.

Author’s Note: As of press time, results are still unofficial and subject to change until NASCAR releases the official results after having time to review scoring loops and video.

Who Should Have Won: Throw all of the drivers in the field on Saturday into a hat and go ahead and pull a number. The draft at Talladega allows many drivers who would normally not be able to run up front the opportunity to do so, and we saw that with drivers like Chris Fontaine, Chris Jones (before he parked), Sean Corr and more inside the top 10. At the end of the race, it’s the driver that manages to survive and have the right partner that ultimately should win the race, and this time around it was Johnny Sauter.

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.

Terrifying Wrecks Emphasize Importance of SAFER Barriers

The Fred’s 250 featured seven cautions, four of which were from multi-truck wrecks on the track. In fact, this race saw James Buescher, Jeff Agnew and James Buescher all take hard licks on the SAFER barriers throughout, but those “softer” walls did their jobs and flexed, preventing any serious injuries other than perhaps a bit of soreness. However, the final wreck as the field approached the start/finish line emphasized just how important those SAFER barriers are.

After getting clipped by a spinning Jeb Burton, Busch took a hit from another driver, hit the outside wall and went hard into the inside wall, one not protected by a SAFER barrier, before sliding all the way back up the track. That impact was hard enough to break the wall that he hit, and Busch was visibly shaken as he sat on the track, leaving up against the outside wall. But why in the world is there any part of the wall at a race track not protected by a SAFER barrier?

I’m well aware that racing is inherently dangerous, but Kyle Busch’s impact in that final caution that ended the race is further proof why there should not be a single wall anywhere around a track that does not have a SAFER barrier. While I’m not aware of the exact cost of those barriers, I do know they cost a pretty penny, but I have a hard time putting a price tag on the safety of the drivers on the track. NASCAR has done so much to keep everyone as safe as possible, so there’s absolutely no reason to not have SAFER barriers anyway that there’s even the slightest chance a driver might hit.

Mingus Debut Fizzles

Mason Mingus, who finished the ARCA Racing season with 18 top 10s in 21 starts and finished runner-up in the points standings, made his Camping World Truck Series debut on Saturday afternoon. But for the young driver, his debut ended rather quickly. He completed just five laps before being forced to pit road with smoke billowing from his truck. The damage proved terminal and he was credited with a last-place finish.

“Really disappointing day. Seemed to have a good truck for the first few laps. Drug a hole in the oil pan. We are done for the day,” Mingus posted on Twitter. “I have to thank everyone that helped give me the opportunity to make my truck debut. Hopefully we can get another to redeem ourselves.”

How can you really judge a driver’s debut when it ends after just five laps in a huge puff of smoke? He didn’t run all that fast in practice, however qualifying 12th for the race itself makes me want to see more out of the young driver. I’m looking forward to Mingus getting another opportunity to show everyone what he can do behind the wheel of a truck.

Quick Hits

- Saturday’s race set a new record for lead changes at Talladega Superspeedway with 29 lead changes. It also tied the record of 13 different leaders (Jeb Burton, James Buescher, Chris Fontaine, Chris Jones, Matt Crafton, Kyle Busch, Ty Dillon, Ross Chastain, Parker Kligerman, Joey Coulter, Johnny Sauter, Darrell Wallace, Jr., and Ryan Blaney).

- Tandem racing was the name of the game on Saturday afternoon. Every time a pair of trucks got hooked together, they made up a ton of ground on their competitors. In fact, three tandems took the white flag side by side at the end of the race, something that would have made for a pretty impressive finish if they had made it all the way around to the checkers.

- Despite all of the carnage on the track Saturday afternoon, most drivers were treated an released from the infield care center. That wasn’t the case for Justin Lofton, though, as he was transported to a local hospital for further observation. He was released Saturday evening with a fractured left thumb and posted on Twitter that he’ll be back to race at Texas in a couple of weeks.

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: 10 (add Chris Cockrum, Sean Corr, Caleb Holamn, Scott Stenzel and a debuting Mason Mingus)

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 0

Rookie of the Race: Darrell Wallace, Jr., finished 17th

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: Race winner Johnny Sauter moved up two spots and now finds himself just four points outside the top 5 with four races remaining. It’s been an up and down season for Sauter, who has three wins and five finishes outside the top 15. However, Talladega has been pretty kind to the driver of the No. 98 Toyota throughout his career; he’s finished inside the top 15 in each of his five starts, including Saturday win, a runner-up finish last season and a third in 2010. Though he’s too far behind to mount a run for the championship, Sauter definitely has a shot at making a move inside the top 5 if he can maintain the forward momentum he leaves Talladega with.

Biggest Loser: In a matter of moments, James Buescher, who paired up with Ty Dillon to create a formidable tandem, saw his championship hopes all but evaporate Saturday afternoon. When Ron Hornaday, Jr. took the field four-wide in a spot where there clearly wasn’t enough room to do so, Buescher was turned and hit the inside wall nearly head-on, terminally damaging the No. 31 Chevrolet and relegating him to a 26th-place finish. He dropped to third in points, 58 markers behind the leader.

Points Update: Despite being involved in the last lap caution, Matt Crafton left Talladega with a larger lead than he entered with. He now holds a 57 marker advantage over Ty Dillon, who moved up one spot. James Buescher dropped to third. Rookie Jeb Burton and his teammate Miguel Paludo round out the top 5.

Johnny Sauter’s victory moved him up to sixth, followed by rookie Ryan Blaney in seventh. Timothy Peters, who was caught up in the fourth caution, dropped two positions to eighth. Darrell Wallace, Jr. and Brendan Gaughan round out the top 10.

Quotable:

“This is awesome. I’m so proud of everybody at ThorSport, Toyota, TRD (Toyota Racing Development), Triad, Carolina Nuts, Curb Records, Duke and Rhonda Thorson (owners), Mike Curb (team partner) — all these people that make this possible and Matt Crafton, especially. That was I think the best illustration of teamwork you could ever have. I’m so proud of him. Unfortunately they got tore up, I don’t know if those guys crossed the finish line or not. This is a huge win for all these guys, for everybody at ThorSport — thank you everybody.” Race winner Johnny Sauter

“It was a great race. The race was pretty clean all race and, like I said, it was fun, exciting sitting in the seat where I am sitting at. It was just awesome. It’s great racing and it’s just a product of Daytona and Talladega, but the fans love it. I love it as a driver and I hope everybody turns out okay and we can come back and race just as hard because that’s just good, hard racing and there’s really nothing wrong with the trucks. You saw a great race today and I’m glad our 81 Build Your Future Steely Lumber Company Toyota Tundra came out second. Glad to hear everybody is okay.” David Starr, finished second

“I haven’t seen the replay, but first of all thanks for the opportunity by the Bragg Racing Group and George Bragg for giving me this chance to come out here and defend my victory from last year and I thought we had a good chance there. When you’re that bottom tandem coming with three or two (laps) to go and you’ve already run a lap or two, you get so hot that the outside two tandems and the tandem behind you has the biggest run. I was trying to back (Ross) Chastain and I saw the 4 (Jeb Burton) coming, so I knew we couldn’t so I just went for it and tried to push the 19 into the tri-oval. We just hit the apron weird and it kind of knocked me up a little bit and we disconnected and he freaked out or whatever — he just went up and I was outside of him it just knocked me into the 51 (Kyle Busch). Unfortunate, still think I got a top-five. The cool thing is the Bragg’s are a Late Model group out of Alabama and we had four or five guys on our crew this weekend. We went out and finished fourth against all these other top teams. It was a fun day.” Parker Kligerman, finished fourth

“It was certainly a frustrating finish for all of us on the No. 19 Reese Towpower team. Leading at the white flag and not bringing home the trophy is never satisfying. I want to thank Brad Keselowski for the opportunity, looking forward to getting to Martinsville next Saturday hopefully we can bring him a win next weekend.” Ross Chastain

“Our race was going really well up until the final few hundred feet. I really had a great push from the 51 truck and I have to thank him for that. We had a really good shot and a big head of steam coming to the checkers before the accident. I know I am going to be bummed after watching the replay because we were so close to the win, but it really was a fun race and I’m proud of how well our WinField Silverado performed today.” Dakoda Armstrong, finished fifth

“That was a wild ride. We had a run going at the end and we were going to the front, and then everything happened. I’m very glad that everyone involved in that crash was okay. I have to thank my team for building me such a safe truck. I also have to thank Clay [Greenfield] for getting to my truck so quickly. He was involved in that wreck too and could have just worried about himself, but he got to me right away and that meant a lot. This obviously isn’t the way we wanted to finish but it didn’t hurt us in the points too much and we have a lot to be grateful for. We ran really well at Martinsville in the spring so I can’t wait to get back to short-track racing and keeping all four wheels on the ground.” Miguel Paludo, finished 19th after flipping and sliding on his roof

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series takes heads to Martinsville Speedway next Saturday afternoon. Last season, Denny Hamlin started from the back of the field after missing the drivers’ meeting and took the victory over Nelson Piquet, Jr. The Kroger 200 will be televised on live FOX Sports 1 beginning at 1:30 PM ET; it can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM Channel 90.

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