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In a Nutshell: Kevin Harvick showed up and vanquished everyone again. A qualifying rain-out on Friday (March 26) gifted Harvick the pole and he took full advantage of it. Harvick led a race-high 187 of the 250 laps on his way to the victory in Saturday afternoon’s Kroger 250. It is his eighth career Camping World Truck Series victory and his second this year.
It also marks Harvick’s fourth victory in as many truck races, dating back to Phoenix in November last season. KHI teammate Ron Hornaday Jr. finished second, followed by Brian Ickler, making his debut for Kyle Busch Motorsports, in third. Timothy Peters and Johnny Benson rounded out the top five.
Who Should Have Won: Harvick. He simply had the best truck the entire weekend. Harvick, driving the No. 2 Tide Chevrolet, set the fastest time in both practice sessions on Friday (again). Granted, it was not by much over the rest of the field, but he had a clear advantage over the pack. During the race, Harvick was able to stretch out his advantage to as much as four seconds. He was only passed on the racetrack once in the entire event.
Questions You Should be Asking After This Race
1. How did Narain Karthikeyan do in his NASCAR debut?
Narain said before the race that all he wanted to do at Martinsville was to complete all the laps in the No. 60 Safe Auto Chevrolet and learn about racing in tight quarters. Based on what happened Saturday, Karthikeyan still has a lot to learn about racing in NASCAR, but so far, so good.
Early in the race, Karthikeyan dropped like a rock and was lapped fairly soon. As the race kept going, though, Narain began to find his pace and settle into a rhythm. That lasted until lap 113, when he had minor contact with the No. 95 of fellow newcomer Lance Fenton entering turn 1. Fenton spun, and was hit by the No. 76 of Brian Johnson Jr. in the left side, just in front of the driver’s compartment. Karthikeyan was able to drive to the high side and avoid additional contact.
15 laps after the restart from the Fenton crash, a yellow was thrown for fluid on the track, which allowed Karthikeyan to get back on the lead lap. There, he stayed until a stack-up on the backstretch on lap 151 just after a restart resulted in Karthikeyan hitting the inside wall and going back a lap down. Then just to make matters worse, Karthikeyan’s No. 60 Chevrolet was spun out in turns 3 and 4 by Clay Greenfield on lap 199. Luckily, Karthikeyan was able to recover before being lapped again.
The coming together on the track between Hornaday Jr., Johnny Sauter and Mike Skinner was crucial for Karthikeyan, as it allowed him to get back onto the lead lap via the free pass. From that point, Karthikeyan held his position to finish on the lead lap in 13th.
2. How did Johnny Benson fare in the No. 15 on Saturday?
Fairly well. As a result of qualifying being rained out on Friday, Benson lined up in ninth on the grid. Early on in the event, Benson progressed up to fifth with a pretty good truck. However, Benson spun out in turn 4 on lap 62. Luckily, there was no damage to the truck and Benson continued on, though further back in the pack. Shortly afterwards, the third caution flew for Greenfield’s spin, which brought everyone to pit road.
In the second half of the race, Benson held steady in the top five, never advancing above fourth place, but running very competitively. For most of the last 30 laps of the race, Benson was under attack from his Billy Ballew Motorsports teammate, Aric Almirola. At one point, Benson exclaimed over the radio that “He (Almirola) just keeps hitting me!” Even though Almirola was likely faster towards the end of the race, Benson was able to hold off his teammate for a fifth-place finish.
3. Rick Crawford made his 325th career start on Saturday. How did he do?
Unfortunately, not very well. Crawford cut a left-front tire early in the race, forcing him to pit under green. This cost Crawford two laps and prevented him from realistically being able to compete on Saturday.
Crawford lost two additional laps in the pits due to issues later in the race. As a result, Crawford brought his No. 14 home in 19th place, four laps down.
In commemoration of Crawford’s 325th start, the No. 14 truck sported “retro decals” at Martinsville. Circle Bar Truck Corral, owned by team owner Tom Mitchell, is serving as the team’s primary sponsor until new sponsorship can be found. One of the retro decals was one advertising the Strategic Air Command on the tailgate. This decal was featured on the No. 14 during the 2003 Craftsman Truck Series season.
Number of Rookie of the Year Candidates in the Race: 4
Number of Rookie of the Year Candidates who Withdrew: 1 (Oliver)
Rookie of the Race: Dillon
Once again, Dillon was able to put together the best run out of the declared Rookie of the Year candidates. However, the 16th-place finish that he earned does not really reflect how Austin ran on Saturday. With 25 laps to go, Dillon was running a strong eighth before issues cropped up that knocked up off the lead lap at the end of the event.
However, Dillon didn’t completely stay out of trouble on Saturday. On lap 145, Dillon had contact with the No. 4 of Ricky Carmichael in turn 4. The contact resulted in Carmichael spinning and hitting the No. 23 of Jason White.
Still, the 16th-place finish was enough for Dillon to gain six places in the standings and move into ninth in points. However, Dillon needs to be a little more careful around his competitors, unless he wants to have the reputation of someone who wrecks people at will.
We have a brand new points leader after Saturday’s Kroger 250. That new leader is Peters. Peters led late in the race before Harvick overtook him for the victory. Peters’s fourth-place finish was good enough to give him a 59-point lead over Almirola in the No. 51 Actinic Keratosis Awareness Toyota.
Former leader Todd Bodine had a terrible day Saturday, running back in the pack all day until the engine overheated after 173 laps. This dropped Bodine back to third, 88 points back. In fourth is Harvick, despite missing Daytona. Harvick is not running for the championship.
Two points behind Harvick is last year’s runner-up, Matt Crafton. Crafton had a quiet run to seventh on Saturday. White is back to sixth after getting involved in a wreck with Carmichael on Lap 145. The aforementioned Carmichael, who managed to come home in 10th, is now seventh in points. Tayler Malsam, in the Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 56, is three points behind Carmichael in eighth.
Rookie Dillon is now ninth in points, with David Starr right behind in 10th. Just outside the top 10 is Mario Gosselin in 11th, three points behind Starr. Hornaday Jr., as a result of his runner-up finish on Saturday, moved up to the 12th spot.
“The No. 33 Longhorn Chevrolet ran really well today. Being able to come from 31st at Martinsville to finish second is pretty incredible. This team never gave up. We did not intend to pit that early, but our truck wasn’t handling the way we wanted it to so we came in for some adjustments that really helped. That set us up for another two-tire stop to gain some track position. All in all it was a really good day for the No. 33 team. We gained some valuable points and some momentum” – Ron Hornaday Jr.
“We started in the back – 32nd by points. We had a good truck today and got up in the top five or top 10. We came in for a pit stop and I messed up by pitting outside the box and had to go to the back again. Then I got back up there, recovered and finished third. It was a pretty good truck. I have to thank Toyota and all the guys at Kyle Busch Motorsports. I’m pleased with the results.”- Brian Ickler
“It was a lot of fun to race again. These Truck races are always so exciting. There was a ton of bumping and banging. It seemed like a lot of guys were running out of patience and just trying to move guys out of the way. I sure miss being a part of it. Our Red Top Auction Toyota was a little bit too tight. It was great overall, but not quite good enough to race with the top three. Not a bad day at all, though. Hopefully I’ll have a chance to get back behind the wheel again soon.” – Johnny Benson
Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series returns this Friday night, April 2, at the Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tenn. for the Nashville 200. This is the first of two events at the 1.33-mile concrete tri-oval this season for the Trucks, and is the very first spring Truck race in Nashville. Coverage starts Friday night with NCWTS Setup at 7:30 p.m. ET on SPEED, followed by race coverage at 8 p.m. The race will also be available on MRN Radio. Check with your local MRN affiliate for details.
About the author
Phil Allaway has three primary roles at Frontstretch. He's the manager of the site's FREE e-mail newsletter that publishes Monday-Friday and occasionally on weekends. He keeps TV broadcasters honest with weekly editions of Couch Potato Tuesday and serves as the site's Sports Car racing editor.
Outside of Frontstretch, Phil is the press officer for Lebanon Valley Speedway in West Lebanon, N.Y. He covers all the action on the high-banked dirt track from regular DIRTcar Modified racing to occasional visits from touring series such as the Super DIRTcar Series.
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