|Miguel Paludo wrapped up 2012 with his best finish of the season, scoring his first top-five of the year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Paludo and the No. 32 Duroline Brakes and Components team fought back from going one lap down due to tight handling and long green-flag runs, utilizing late-race pit strategy to battle back into contention for the win, ultimately scoring a fifth-place finish.|
After laying down the seventh-fastest lap in the afternoon's qualifying session, Paludo took the green flag in the Ford EcoBoost 200, but quickly lost two positions due to tight handling. Initially reporting that the truck was a bit snug off turn four, Paludo soon announced to crew chief Jeff Hensley that his Chevrolet Silverado was getting very tight and as a result, slipped into the 12th spot. The team had their first opportunity to adjust on the Duroline machine on lap 37 when the yellow flag was displayed for debris. Hensley made the call for dramatic adjustments, providing Paludo with a major track bar adjustment, spring rubber changes on both rear springs and air-pressure changes with four tires and fuel. Despite the large number of adjustments, the No. 32 crew had a very quick stop, sending their truck back to the racing surface in 14th.
Green-flag racing resumed on lap 41, but the caution flag flew just four laps later with Paludo in the 15th position. The Brazilian driver reported that his truck was initially too free, but that he believed that the Duroline Chevy would come to him on the long run. Paludo battled back up to 12th, but his handling quickly transitioned back to tightness on the longest green-flag run of the day. Paludo was scored in the 16th position as green-flag pit stops began on lap 86, and the No. 32 was one of the first trucks to pit road as a result of a vibration the driver reported on lap 82. Explaining that his truck was so tight that it was shooting straight up the track in the corners, Paludo received four tires, fuel and a major track bar adjustment before returning to the track in 15th. With the field spread out from the long run, Paludo was passed by the leader as green-flag stops cycled through, putting him one lap down on lap 92.
Paludo was 15th when the yellow eventually waved on lap 105. The No. 32 was still extremely tight, but Hensley made the call to remain on the track, both conserving a set of tires and putting his truck in the position to receive the wave around, putting Paludo back on the lead lap for the lap 109 restart. "All we need is a caution before the end of this thing to get back to pit road and fix this truck," said Hensley. "We can't win this race from a lap down."
The call to stay out paid off on lap 126 when another competitor hit the wall, bringing out the yellow and allowing Paludo to come to pit road for service. With a fresh set of tires in their arsenal, the Turner Motorsports pit crew provided their truck with four Goodyear Wranglers, a track bar adjustment and another spring rubber adjustment in another very fast stop. Paludo lined up 13th when the field took the green with five laps remaining.
Among only a few with fresh tires when the green flag waved, the No. 32 Duroline Chevy came to life after the restart, and Paludo darted up into the top-10. Just before the white flag was displayed, chaos erupted in the front of the field, knocking out three strong competitors in a hard crash which brought out the red flag. Skillfully avoiding the melee, Paludo came to a stop in the fifth position when the field was halted for cleanup. "We can still win this, bud," said Hensley from atop the pit box. When the green flag was finally displayed after a 10-minute delay, Paludo battled with the trucks around him in a wild restart. Hard racing ensued for the remaining two laps, and Paludo crossed the finish line in the fifth spot as the checkered flag waved for the final time in 2012.
"Finally," said Paludo of his top-five finish. "I am so proud of this entire Duroline Brakes and Components team. We started off snug and just kept getting tighter and tighter. Jeff Hensley and the team took a lot of really big swings at the handling with a lot of adjustments on every stop, and we still were one of the fastest teams on pit road. We improved the truck a lot by the end of the race, and the late-race caution gave Jeff [Hensley] an opportunity to make a great call for four tires. Our race strategy paid off as one of the only teams on pit road with fresh tires at the end, and it put us in a position to compete for the win. This has been a tough season, we've had a lot of races that didn't go the way we thought they would, but this is a great way to finish the year."
Paludo finishes the 2012 season 10th in NCWTS driver point standings, his best points finish in two full-time seasons of Truck Series competition. Turner Motorsports teammate James Buescher captured the championship, the first for both driver and team. The NCWTS will next hit the track at Daytona International Speedway in February of 2013.