The Frontstretch: Tracking the Trucks: WinStar World Casino 350 by Beth Lunkenheimer -- Monday November 4, 2013

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Tracking the Trucks: WinStar World Casino 350

Beth Lunkenheimer · Monday November 4, 2013

 

In a Nutshell: Ty Dillon took the checkered flag 2.663 seconds ahead of Johnny Sauter to win the WinStar World Casino 350 Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway. Dillon took the lead for the final time on lap 117 and led the final 31 laps en route to his second victory this season. Ron Hornaday, Jr., Brendan Gaughan and Justin Lofton rounded out the top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Ty Dillon clearly had the dominant truck all night and led four times for 130 of 147 laps. He started third but easily took the lead on the initial race start and easily pulled out a couple seconds ahead of the field each time he got out front. Once pulling that far out in front of the field, Dillon was relatively untouchable unless the field got tightened up by a caution.

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.

Redemption for Ty Dillon

After contact with Kevin Harvick at Martinsville Speedway last weekend took him out of the race, Ty Dillon had some choice words for the Cup driver that he said he “used to look up to.” Late last week, NASCAR issued penalties related to a sledgehammer thrown at Harvick’s truck after he stopped in Dillon’s pit that saw crew chief Marcus Richmond fined $10,000 and one of the crew members suspended.

Fast forward to Texas Motor Speedway and Dillon and the No. 3 team rallied around each other to have a dominant race. Though Kyle Busch, James Buescher and Ryan Blaney managed to snag the top spot on restarts, it didn’t take that long for Dillon to once again assume the top spot, opening up a nearly three-second lead in the final 41-lap green flag run that ended the race.

It’s not uncommon for adversity to put a team even more on their toes, and that’s exactly what happened with the No. 3 team on Friday night. Despite having one of their crew members on the sidelines for an unknown amount of time, everyone pulled together to give Dillon a dominant truck and a crowd pleasing win, judging by the cheers that could be heard from my venue on pit road.

Matt Crafton Expands Clinch Scenarios

For much of the season, I’ve talked about whether this season could be the one for Matt Crafton to finally grab the championship that has eluded him for the last 12 years of his career. Well, the driver of the No. 88 Toyota moved one step closer to locking up his spot out front with his 18th top 10 in 20 races on Friday night.

Though he struggled with a tight truck after qualifying 14th, crew chief Carl Joiner did what he has all season and threw a major adjustment at the No. 88 truck, putting him 19th on the final restart. Those changes allowed Crafton the opportunity to drive forward for a solid tenth-place finish in a truck that he felt was good enough to win with when practice ended on Thursday evening.

“I can’t thank these guys enough for working as hard as they did and they never gave up — none of us did. Let’s put it this way — my (butt) hurts — this thing was so bad,” Crafton said. “It was just plow, plow, plow and then snap loose. It’s like, you didn’t know what it was going to do. It would push so bad through the center and off the corner and just as it got to the wall it would snap itself loose and you would just about wreck it.

“Then we made one adjustment and made it loose on entry and then it was still tight from the center off and then we took some of that back and did a few other track bar adjustments, air pressure adjustments and came out with 10th.”

Now, all Crafton needs to do to clinch the championship is to finish 18th or better in the final two events, and his worst finish this season was a 17th after getting caught up in the last-lap wreck at Talladega. If Crafton can leave Phoenix next weekend with a 49-point lead over second place, he will clinch the championship without even showing up at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and he only needs a 41-point margin leaving Phoenix to clinch by starting at Homestead. Barring a major meltdown next Friday night, it just might be time to engrave the trophy.

Quick Hits

- Ryan Sieg made his 100th career start on Friday night. After starting a solid 16th in sub-par equipment, he managed to bring home an 11th-place finish. Sieg has seven top-10 finishes since making his debut in the series in 2009.

- Ron Hornaday, Jr. and Justin Lofton each matched their best finishes of the year on Friday night. Hornaday, who finished third, did the same in the season-opener at Daytona, but perhaps what was more impressive was Lofton’s fifth that also matched his Daytona finish, all while wearing a cast that had been shaped to allow him to hold the steering wheel after suffering an injury at Talladega Superspeedway two weeks ago.

- Kyle Busch, who was driving his No. 51 Toyota had hoped for a strong run to keep Kyle Busch Motorsports in the owners’ championship hunt, but it wasn’t meant to be. After suffering overheating issues and making multiple trips down pit road, Busch’s engine let go, relegating him to a 28th-place finish. That allowed ThorSport to expand their lead from 15 to 32 points in the owners’ battle with just two races remaining. Rookie Erik Jones will pilot the No. 51 Toyota next weekend at Phoenix International Raceway. Meanwhile, fellow Cup driver Brad Keselowski struggled Friday night also. He went a lap down after an early race spin and was unable to earn his lap back. He finished 21st.

- Pole-sitter and defending winner Jeb Burton didn’t end up leading a lap all night, but despite losing the lead before even completing a single lap, it looked like the rookie was on track for another top-10 finish. With just six laps remaining, the driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet slowed on the track and coasted back to pit road where he stopped after running out of gas. He didn’t get any extra fuel to finish the race and was relegated to 26th.

“I’m frustrated and disappointed,” said Burton. “This was a huge blow for us in points and it could have been avoided. We had a great truck this weekend, but between handling issues and constantly getting raced three-wide, it was hard to do anything. I just want to put this weekend behind us and move on. I’m bummed that we dropped another position in point standings, but I’m not letting that top five out of my sight. The next two weekends are ‘sink or swim’ for us.”

Burton has not made starts at Phoenix or Homestead-Miami in the Truck Series, so both facilities are relative unknowns for the rookie.

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 Ryan Lynch, Tyler Young, Spencer Gallagher and Justin Jennings)

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

Rookie of the Race: Darrell Wallace, Jr.

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: Rookie Darrell Wallace, Jr., who won last weekend at Martinsville Speedway used a solid seventh-place finish to move into a tie with Miguel Paludo. Because of the win, Wallace holds the tie-breaker and moved up two positions. He now sits in sixth, just six points outside the top 5.

Biggest Loser: Fellow rookie Ryan Blaney managed to lead 10 laps late on Friday, but the handling went away from him as the laps wound down, forcing him to settle for a 15th-place finish. As a result, he dropped two spots in the standings to eighth. He now sits 96 points behind the leader and 12 outside of the top 5 with just two races remaining.

Points Update: Matt Crafton now holds a 46-point lead over James Buescher and 47 over race winner Ty Dillon. Johnny Sauter, who moved up one spot on the strength of a runner-up finish, and Jeb Burton, who dropped one spot round out the top 5. Darrell Wallace, Jr. sits sixth, holding the tie-breaker over Miguel Paludo with a victory this season. Ryan Blaney, Brendan Gaughan and Timothy Peters round out the top 10.

Quotable:

“This is awesome, we finally got a win at Texas (Motor Speedway). I’ve wanted to win the cowboy hat so bad. It’s the one race that I had to win. This No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet team is great. They were fast on pit road and worked really hard to put together a fast truck. It all paid off tonight when we pulled into Victory Lane. Marcus (Richmond, crew chief) made some great calls and kept us out front all night long. This was our race from the drop of the green flag. We’ve let too many wins get away this season; I wasn’t going to let this one get away. I’m so proud of this team and everyone at RCR, we couldn’t have done this without everyone’s help.” Ty Dillon

“The Carolina Nut / Curb Records Toyota was really good on long runs. The short run there, we would start off a little too tight all night. All we did was half-pound air pressure adjustments all night long and that last pit stop we made no adjustments and started off really, really good and got too free at the end. I’m just proud of everybody at ThorSport, everybody at Triad (Racing Technologies, engine supplier), TRD (Toyota Racing Development), Toyota — just a solid night for us. I don’t know if we ever had anything for (Dillon), though… We’ve won here before and I was running a harder, faster pace than I ever have. Their truck must have been phenomenal.” Johnny Sauter, finished second

“Well, we weren’t as good tonight as we were during the spring race, but we still managed to pull off a pretty good run. Congratulations to my teammate Ty Dillon on his win. The RCR Chevrolets were really fast, but no one had anything for Ty tonight. Shane (Wilson, crew chief) and the South Point Hotel & Casino team did a great job; we just came up a few spots short.” Brendan Gaughan, finished fourth

“We’ve had some bad luck the last few weeks and after everything that happened last weekend, this was a great way to show how strong this Bass Pro Shops team really is. We work hard every week to put together good trucks. I know this team is capable of winning. We have a great driver and a strong work ethic. We showed that tonight, it’s an honor working for this organization and leading this No. 3 team.” Winning Crew Chief Marcus Richmond

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to Phoenix International Raceway next Friday night. The Lucas Oil 150 will be televised on live FOX Sports 1 beginning at 7:00 PM ET; it can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM Channel 90.

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