NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: 2010 Lucas Oil 200 at Iowa

Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks

In a Nutshell: After yet another month off and the threat of rain before the green flag, the Truck Series did not disappoint Sunday afternoon. Rookie Austin Dillon beat Johnny Sauter to the checkers by 0.635 seconds to win the Lucas Oil 200 at Iowa Speedway. The driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet took the lead for the final time on lap 154 and held on through the final two cautions and a green-white-checkered finish. Matt Crafton, Ken Schrader and James Buescher rounded out the top five.

Who Should Have Won: Dillon. All weekend, competitors throughout the garage pointed to the polesitter as the one to beat come Sunday afternoon. From the drop of the green flag, it was clear the word in the garage was correct. Dillon made easy work of outside polesitter Aric Almirola and pulled out to a 1.7-second lead within the first 10 laps. By the crossed flags at the halfway point, Dillon held a more than 4-second lead on second-place Todd Bodine and had led all of the first 100 laps. He went on to lead 187 of the 205 circuits run.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. How did Greg Pursley fare in his Truck Series debut?

In a truck fielded by the owner who also fields his car in the K&N Pro Series West, Greg Pursley made his Truck Series debut Sunday afternoon at Iowa. The driver of the No. 62 has run well in just about every series he’s raced in, winning the 2004 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Championship. Pursley also has 35 starts in the K&N Pro Series West division, collecting one win and 19 top-five finishes.

In a truck he purchased from Kevin Harvick Inc., Pursley ran outside the top 10 in both practice sessions before posting a speed of 133.035 mph to start his No. 62 Gene Price Motorsports Chevrolet in the sixth position beside Sauter. Pursley ran anywhere from fourth back to 12th after that, scraping the wall just a little over a third of the way through the race.

On lap 114, the driver of the No. 62 was unintentionally spun by defending champion Ron Hornaday Jr. as he checked up to avoid trucks wrecking ahead. The pit crew managed to make the repairs needed while still keeping Pursley on the lead lap. Inside 25 laps remaining, the restart following the sixth caution saw the No. 62 truck sitting solidly in seventh. He held onto that spot through the green-white-checkered finish to score a top-10 result in his first ever Truck Series race. It’s an impressive performance, especially considering the adversity he experienced throughout.

2. Should NASCAR be considering mid-week prime-time Truck Series races?

Just last week, Lee Spencer reported on FoxSports.com that rumors were floating about some Truck Series races becoming midweek specials as early as 2012.

Will it be good for the series over the long-term? My take is it all depends on what the definition of “some” would be in this case. If we’re talking about just adding a second or third midweek race to the one we get at Bristol in August, there wouldn’t be much harm in that. But if it’s going to turn into something where the majority of races run during the week instead of on the weekends, that could be a huge disaster in the way of ratings and attendance.

Since it seems a little silly at times to run from February until November for a 25-race season, I’ve given some thought to the shortening the amount of time elapsed through the Truck Series schedule each year, but there’s just something special about the big opening weekend at Daytona and closing out the season at Homestead. The opening weekend generates all kinds of excitement about what the new season – almost always accompanied by new drivers, sponsors or rules – will bring, and the final weekend of the season tends to put a big exclamation point on all three champions across NASCAR.

So instead of moving races to the middle of the week, NASCAR needs to consider realigning the schedule to maintain interest throughout the season. With only 25 races on a schedule that begins and ends with the Nationwide and Sprint Cup series, NASCAR could better manage where the off weekends fall to keep cars on the track more consistently. Clearly, there is no reason to have two month-long breaks early on before moving into a nine-week stretch by the second weekend of July.

Truck Rookie Report

2010 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Brett Butler (No. 47)
Jennifer Jo Cobb (No. 10)
Austin Dillon (No. 3)
Justin Lofton (No. 7)
Dillon Oliver (No. 01)
Chris Eggleston (No. 21)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 5
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 1; Race winner, Dillon
Rookie of the Race: Dillon

Dillon became the first Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate to score three consecutive poles. That breaks the previous record set by 2000 Rookie of the Year Kurt Busch. By winning Sunday afternoon, he also became the second-youngest winner in the Truck Series to Kyle Busch.

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle

David Starr made his 250th career Truck Series start Sunday afternoon. In his previous 249 starts, the driver of the No. 81 Randy Moss Motorsports Toyota had four wins and 102 top-10 finishes to his credit. Despite having a rough day fighting with a truck the team just couldn’t get a handle on, Starr managed to pull out his 103rd career top-10 finish when the checkered flag flew.

Brian Ickler made his return to the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports-fielded Toyota. The 24-year-old again proved why he’s been a reliable pick for the team; he led the final practice session, started fourth, and ran in the top 10 before being involved in a lap 114 caution that put him two laps down. After being awarded the Lucky Dog twice, Ickler brought his No. 18 home in 13th.

Despite finishing two laps down in 17th, Bodine actually expanded his lead over Almirola – who wrecked out early – to 88 points. Timothy Peters dropped one spot to fourth after a blown engine knocked him out just past halfway, allowing Hornaday Jr. to move up a spot to third despite limping home a disappointing 34 laps down in 24th. Sauter remains in fifth, but is only 201 points out of first, a gain of 63 points over where he was after Michigan last month.

Mike Skinner remains in sixth, 233 points behind Bodine, and race winner Dillon jumped four spots to seventh. He now sits just 267 points behind the leader, a gain of 83 markers after his win. Starr’s fifth top-10 finish this season allowed him to hold steady in eighth, but he holds only a slim margin of three over Crafton, who moved up a spot to ninth. Ricky Carmichael dropped one spot and rounds out the top 10.

Quotable

“This truck was awesome. By that last restart, I knew it wasn’t going to be that easy. My grandpa (Richard Childress) kept telling me what line to choose, and I was saying, ‘that’s alright; we’re going to win the race.’ You got to have confidence, and that’s what we had. I just wanted to do it for the fans of this [No.] 3. This [No.] 3 is a good number to run, and I’m glad I’m running it. I feel very fortunate. I want to win a lot, and hopefully this is the first one of many.” – Austin Dillon on his first career win

“When you get that close like we did a couple of weeks ago when we finished second at Texas, you just want to win them; nonetheless, it wasn’t meant to be.” – Johnny Sauter, finished second

“It’s really special. Dale [Earnhardt] would be proud. I got pictures of Dale holding him in the winner’s circle, and he would be proud to see Austin do this.” – winning owner, Richard Childress

“It’s no big secret, we pretty much struggled through the whole race, but Doug Wolcott (crew chief) and all of the guys on our Randy Moss Motorsports team never gave up. We finished 10th and it wasn’t very pretty, but I’m glad to have another top-10. All in all, not bad for our team after where we started.” – David Starr on his 250th career start

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to Gateway International Raceway next weekend for the CampingWorld.com 200 on Friday night. In 2009, the series visited Gateway in September, where Skinner beat Sauter to the checkers. Coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. ET; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

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