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In a Nutshell: Ron Hornaday Jr. took the checkered flag 0.135 seconds ahead of Mike Skinner to win the Built Ford Tough 225 Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway. Hornaday Jr. held off a hard-charging Skinner long enough to score his third consecutive and fourth win of the season. Matt Crafton, Timothy Peters and Aric Almirola rounded out the top five.
Who Should Have Won: Tayler Malsam. Malsam started eighth and had a very fast truck, powering to the lead for the first time in his career on lap 47 after pit strategy helped him restart third. Later in the race, a bad restart dropped the No. 81 back in the pack, but he worked his way from 2.719 seconds behind then-leader Todd Bodine to within a second before green flag pit stops started. But then, with just nine laps remaining, Malsam’s left-rear tire blew and sent the No. 81 spinning up the track. The 20-year-old driver was then forced to limp his way to pit road, lost a lap in the process, and finished as the first truck one lap down in 13th.
Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race
1. Should Brian Ickler have been penalized for passing before the restart on lap 127?
With just 24 laps remaining, the field restarted with Almirola ahead of Malsam and Brian Ickler. When the green flag flew, Almirola spun the tires and blocked Malsam on the high side, opening the door for Ickler to pass him. The problem was that he began his pass on Malsam prior to crossing the start/finish line.
Within half a lap, Ickler dropped back to the third position behind Malsam, but NASCAR called the driver of the No. 51 in for a pass through penalty for an illegal restart. Before driving down pit road, Ickler argued that he did drop back in position and should not have to serve the penalty – but NASCAR saw it differently.
“It got to be so rough on the outside that he (Almirola) spun his tires, the No. 81 (Malsam) got into the back of him, and I went low to avoid them,” Ickler said. “Didn’t really pass him; they said I did, but I gave it back… and they still penalized us and put us in the back.”
Luck smiled on Ickler a bit, though, when the caution came out before he was able to serve his penalty. So, instead of having to serve a pass through penalty under green, the driver was able to come down pit road under caution. But the damage was done when Ickler restarted 17th, as he got caught up by a hard hit on a spinning Terry Cook shortly thereafter that left him with a 21st-place finish.
In looking at the replays, Ickler should never have been assessed the penalty. In several years past, any driver who made the pass before the start/finish line but gave up the position(s) gained was able to keep racing without any sort of consequences.
Unfortunately, Ickler may have to sit and steam about this one for awhile. Next week, Kyle Busch will return to the No. 51 Toyota at O’Reilly Raceway Park.
2. What kind of penalty will NASCAR levy against the No. 33 team?
NASCAR officials confiscated the rear end housing of the No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet piloted by Hornaday Jr. prior to qualifying. The part was found to be outside the specifications allowed by the sanctioning body, although after the incident the team was allowed to continue to race with a replacement part installed. Any penalties that will be incurred from the infraction should be announced early this week; however, crew chief Rick Ren maintains their illegal rear end housing wasn’t an intentional attempt to circumvent the rules.
“We buy it from a manufacturer in good faith. The housing was not built to order,” Ren said. “We brought it to the racetrack, we’re responsible, and we’ll be penalized. It’s in black and white in the rulebook, but it was built wrong. I don’t want people to think we’re cheating.”
It’s pretty easy to assume the No. 33 car won’t be subject to the 100-point penalties levied against Sprint Cup Series teams. But it can be expected that Hornaday Jr. and truck owner DeLana Harvick will most likely be penalized 25 driver and owner points, respectively. It’s even possible crew chief Rick Ren will face a fine and/or probation through the end of the season.
Assuming Hornaday Jr. is only penalized 25 points, he will still remain the points leader by a healthy 71 over Crafton. One thing you can expect, though, is that the No. 33 team will rally no matter what penalty they are assessed, and shouldn’t have any problem remaining a strong contender for the championship.
Truck Rookie Report
2009 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Chase Austin (no ride currently)
James Buescher (No. 10)
Ricky Carmichael (No. 4 – sharing ride)
JR Fitzpatrick (No. 4 – sharing ride)
Tayler Malsam (No. 81)
Johnny Sauter (No. 13)
No. of Rookies in the Race: 8
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 2; Carmichael, finished seventh and Buescher, finished eighth
Rookie of the Race: Carmichael.
“Wow, man, that was awesome! We had a really good truck. I was driving in the corners too deep at the start of the race, but as my truck got better, so did I. It was helpful that I had been to this track before. I came into this weekend more confident… and it showed. I feel like I’m finally getting in a rhythm, and I’m ready for next week.” – Ricky Carmichael
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle
Ickler ran 250 laps at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night. After finishing 21st in the Camping World Truck Series race, he got behind the wheel of his ARCA Re/Max car for the Click It Or Ticket Buckle-Up Kentucky 150. He started at the back of the pack after crashing in qualifying and went on to a fifth place finish.
Besides being named Rookie of the Race, Ricky Carmichael scored a career best finish of seventh Saturday night in the Built Ford Tough 225. Carmichael’s previous best finish was eighth at Auto Club Speedway in February.
The top four in the standings remain unchanged. Hornaday Jr. holds a 96-point lead over Crafton in second, while Skinner sits 154 points behind Hornaday Jr. in third. Bodine finds himself 60 points behind Skinner, and Brian Scott moved up one spot to fifth despite being involved in multiple incidents Saturday night.
Just three points behind Scott is David Starr, who dropped one position. Despite a late-race blown tire, Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender Malsam remains in the seventh spot, but sits only 14 points ahead of Cook in eighth. Setzer moved up two spots to ninth, and Crawford dropped one spot to 10th.
In off-track news, Johnny Benson will undergo surgery on Monday to repair a grade four separated shoulder caused by a supermodified wreck at Berlin Raceway last month. Using the forums on johnnybenson.com to make the announcement, Benson’s wife Debbie said the surgery will be at 8:00 a.m.
“This is really unbelievable. I’m not sure what we keep doing, but we need to keep doing it. I hate to say we didn’t have the truck to win. The restarts worked out in our favor. Look at all these fans! I’ve got to thank all of them. One more lap, I don’t know if he (Skinner) would have gotten me, but it would have been one heck of a wreck.” – Ron Hornaday Jr.
“I think one more lap and we might have been able to challenge him (Hornaday) right there. But I hate it for Tayler Malsam. He had a great truck tonight. Both the Randy Moss Motorsports trucks did good tonight. I want to thank the fans and I want to thank Exide. I just hate it. Doggone it, we were close.” – Mike Skinner, finished second
“These guys didn’t give up. They were awesome on pit road. We raised the hood twice. We threw everything but the kitchen sink at it, and we were thinking about that if we had one more pit stop. I can’t thank these guys enough.” – Matt Crafton, finished third
“I’d like to thank Tom DeLoach (team owner) for giving me the opportunity. We just got a little fender damage there with about 10 (laps) to go and it made us a little aero tight. Good night at Kentucky, and man, I’m having a blast. It’s great to be here in the Camping World Truck Series.” – Timothy Peters, finished fourth
Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to O’Reilly Raceway Park next Friday night for the AAA Insurance 200 presented by JD Byrider. In 2008, Benson held onto the lead through a green-white-checkered finish and took the checkered flag just a half second ahead of Hornaday Jr. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.