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Tracking the Trucks: 2009 Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix

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In a Nutshell: Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag under caution ahead of Kyle Busch to win the Lucas Oil 150 Friday night at Phoenix International Raceway. Harvick took the lead for the final time on lap 96 and held on through a green-white-checkered finish to score his fourth career Truck Series victory at the 1-mile track. Aric Almirola, Ron Hornaday Jr. and Matt Crafton rounded out the top five.

Who Should Have Won: Harvick. Harvick paced the first practice before qualifying on the outside pole for Friday night’s race. When the green flag flew, Harvick took the lead on lap 2, but on lap 8, the driver of the No. 4 Longhorn Chevrolet brought out the caution after spinning in what he claimed to be oil on the track. Harvick spent the rest of the race working his way through the field to put his team in position to win his second race this season.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. What happened to Tayler Malsam on the final lap of the Lucas Oil 150?

On the final lap, Tayler Malsam was involved in a wreck that ended the race under caution. The focus of the broadcast went immediately to the race winner and the 2009 champion celebrating together, completely ignoring the incident involved Malsam. In a PR report that came out after the race, the driver of the No. 81 OneEighty Toyota had an idea of what happened.

“The [No.] 16 (Brian Scott) just got into us at the end of the race. I guess he doesn’t know how to use the brakes or something,” Malsam said. “He (Scott) just got inside of us. I don’t want to say anything until I see the replay, but I’ve had two people come up to me and say he ran over me.”

Since SPEED TV never showed a replay of the wreck, you have to assume that Malsam’s explanation is exactly what happened. There is no reason for something so important to be missed in the broadcast.

Author’s Note: For a more in-depth analysis of SPEED TV’s coverage of the Truck Series race as well as that of the Nationwide and Sprint Cup series broadcasts, be sure to check out Phil Allaway’s Talking NASCAR TV Tuesday only on Frontstretch.

2. Is the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway worth watching?

The championship is decided, and Johnny Sauter holds a comfortable lead over Malsam in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings heading into the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend. So is there really anything worth watching next week?

Of course there is. The Truck Series puts on the best show each weekend, outperforming the Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series combined. Now that Hornaday Jr. has his fourth championship, he can relax a little about points and race for the win. Additionally, the battle between Busch and the driver of the No. 33 VFW Chevrolet will be watched closely as both drivers attempt to wrap up the owners’ championship for their respective teams.

But that’s not the only points race to keep an eye on. With fifth through seventh place in the standings separated by just 25 points, it’s going to come down to the final lap of the Ford 200 before the final driver honored at the 2009 Camping World Truck Series Awards Banquet will be decided. Sauter finds himself inside the top five with hopes of holding onto that spot after the checkered flag flies on Friday.

However, the situation for Scott and Colin Braun is that of a driver on the outside looking in. Braun dropped from the fifth spot in the standings to seventh after his truck died on him with 37 laps remaining Friday night. And if you believe what Malsam said after his last lap wreck, Scott was involved in that wreck, bringing home an 11th-place finish.

Statistically, Scott holds the advantage when it comes to Homestead-Miami Speedway, having finished second in the season finale in 2008. That combined with a 15th-place finish in 2007 gives the driver of the No. 16 Albertsons Toyota an average finish of 8.5 in the two starts he’s had at the 1.5-mile track. Braun, on the other hand, has made just one start at Homestead-Miami and brought his No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford to a 14th-place finish last season.

Unlike Scott and Braun, Sauter hasn’t driven a truck at Homestead-Miami Speedway since 2005 when he piloted the No. 13 ThorSport Racing Chevrolet to a 20th-place finish, a career-best at the track. In his only other start, Sauter retired after just 32 laps

There are plenty of reasons to tune into the Ford 200 as the CWTS closes out the 2009 season, and it should be just as exciting as the previous 24 races this season have been.

Truck Rookie Report
2009 Rookie of the Year Candidates
Chase Austin (No. 32 – on hold due to funding)
James Buescher (No. 10)
Ricky Carmichael (No. 31 – moved to Turner Motorsports after Texas)
JR Fitzpatrick (No. 4 – part-time, shared ride)
Tayler Malsam (No. 81)
Johnny Sauter (No. 13)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 4
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 1; Sauter, finished fifth

Rookie of the Race: Sauter

“It’s (the truck) substantially tighter. I mean the farther back you go, the worse it is. It is what it is and we’ll go to Homestead. It’s frustrating. I’m proud of everybody.”

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle

Hornaday Jr. clinched the 2009 CWTS championship after a solid fourth-place finish Friday night. He currently leads Crafton by 215 points. Mike Skinner remains in third and Todd Bodine in fourth. Sauter’s seventh top-five finish of the season allowed him to jump two spots and round out the top five.

Scott sits in sixth, just 13 points behind Sauter and the chance to be honored at the CWTS banquet. Braun dropped two spots and finds himself 25 points outside the fifth position. David Starr moved up one spot to eighth and Timothy Peters dropped to ninth. Rick Crawford rounds out the top 10.

Hornaday Jr. became the oldest driver in any of NASCAR’s touring series to win a championship. Additionally, this season marks only the second time in the 15-year history of the Truck Series where the championship was decided before the final race of the season.

Just one week after Terry Cook and HT Motorsports parted ways, Mike Bliss drove the No. 25 Cajun Industries Toyota to a seventh-place finish, marking the 10th top-10 finish of the season for the No. 25 team. Meanwhile, Cook piloted Corrie Stott Racing’s start-and-park team to a 36th-place finish, citing brake problems after just three laps of racing.

Once the checkered flag flew, race winner Harvick and his driver Hornaday Jr. shared in the celebration by doing a dual burnout.

The Lucas Oil 150 saw the debuts of five different drivers Friday night. All any new driver wants is to bring his truck home in one piece while gaining a little seat time in the process.

  • Robbie Brand (No. 37 Lagunitas Brewing Co. Chevrolet): started 35th, finished 27th – struggled with his truck the majority of the day.
  • Kevin Conway (No. 71 Extenze Racing Chevrolet): started 20th, finished 19th – involved in a wreck that brought out the fifth caution on lap 135 after contact from Crafton.
  • Tim George Jr. (No. 22 Richard Childress Racing Development Chevrolet): started 26th, finished 29th – brought out the fourth caution on lap 150.
  • Brad Sweet (No. 90 Great Clips Toyota): started 23rd, finished 22nd – brought out the second caution on lap 34 with a single-truck spin.
  • Dan Brode (No. 48 Rockingham Speedway Polar Bear 150 Chevrolet): started 30th, finished 30th – retired after 61 laps, citing clutch problems.

Quotable

“This place has been great to us. I wanna thank the fans and all the people who make this possible. To see Hornaday lock up the championship tonight and win the race, I don’t think you could script it much better.” – Kevin Harvick

“We were pretty strong out there in the beginning. We didn’t have enough for the [Kevin] Harvick trucks tonight. The race was about what I expected, it wasn’t bad. I expected the [No.] 4 (Harvick) truck to be really, really good in which he was. Overall, the Miccosukee Tundra was good. We led some laps and tried to go for the win but just didn’t quite have enough on those restarts there.” – Kyle Busch, finished second

“Doug George (crew chief) and everybody on this AKAwareness.com Tundra did a really good job. I don’t know what it’s going to take to get one of these ones. It’s not for lack of effort. I can promise you that everybody is racing their hearts out. It was a fun race tonight. I’m just still disappointed, man, I want to get one of these wins some kind of bad. We tried, we raced our butts off and we came home third.” – Aric Almirola

“We’re not done yet. We still gotta get that owners’ [championship] for Kevin and DeLana (Harvick, team owners). This just is a compliment to the team. I’m glad Kevin won that thing. I knew we didn’t have a winning truck, but I had to play smart in the points. Grandma, I’m glad you’re doing better and glad you’re home.” – 2009 Camping World Truck Series champion Ron Hornaday Jr., finished fourth

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway next Friday night for the season finale. In 2008, Bodine beat out Scott for the win, but that win was a bit overshadowed by Johnny Benson beating out Hornaday Jr. by seven points to win the championship. Coverage for the Ford 200 begins at 7:30 p.m. ET; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

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