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*In a Nutshell:* After nearly a year of waiting, Ron Hornaday, Jr. returned to Victory Lane Friday night at O’Reilly Raceway Park. He took the lead for the final time with 48 laps remaining, then held on to beat Kyle Busch to the checkered flag by 2.095 seconds. Matt Crafton, his teammate Johnny Sauter, and James Buescher rounded out the top 5.
*Who Should Have Won:* *Ron Hornaday, Jr.* Though Timothy Peters started out as the strong truck, leading the first 62 laps, his truck faded just as Hornaday’s started coming to him. Pit strategy put Peters out front again under the fifth caution at lap 142, but the driver of the No. 33 Georgia Boot Chevrolet took just four laps to assume his spot in front of the field, where he stayed until the checkered flag flew. Hornaday, Jr. led 129 of 200 laps on the way to his first victory since dominating the Toyota Tundra 200 at Nashville Superspeedway last August.
*Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:*
*1. How did Johanna Long fare in her first Camping World Truck Series outing?*
Friday night’s AAA Insurance 200 featured three different drivers making their Camping World Truck Series debuts. Johanna Long just turned 18 last month and made her series debut behind the wheel of the No. 15 Billy Ballew Motorsports-fielded Toyota.
She started racing at age 14, securing Late Model Championships in the Blizzard Series and Gulf Coast Series during the 2009 season. After starting in the 15th position, the Drive for Diversity participant quickly dropped outside the top 20 and held steady there through much of the race before moving up to her finishing position of 17th, three laps down.
Though she failed to finish on the lead lap, Long managed to stay out of trouble all night and learned quite a bit in the process.
“Our truck was really good tonight. On our first run, I was trying to learn the truck and get a feel for the track. I made a lot of mistakes that put us back in the field,” Long said. “I felt a lot more comfortable as the race went on, though.”
“I wish we could have restarted it at lap 100. My crew did an awesome job, and I’m really glad that I get to work with them.”
Long’s next Truck Series appearance is scheduled for Nashville Superspeedway on August 7th, with hopes to make at least one more start after that at a track not yet identified.
Though Long was the highest finisher among the debuting drivers, she wasn’t the only one Saturday night. She was joined by Nick Hoffman and Ryan Rust. Hoffman started 26th and finished 23rd, while Rust started 35th and finished 28th.
*2. Can Todd Bodine “run away” with the 2010 championship?*
Once again, Todd Bodine showed why he already has one Truck Series championship under his belt. Prior to the green flag, he expressed concern with the direction the truck was headed in during the final practice session. His concerns were valid, as they struggled with a very loose truck for much of the race Friday night.
However, a conservative strategy ensued once problems for Aric Almirola provided an opening for Bodine to expand his points lead. Though the driver of the No. 30 Toyota wasn’t pleased with his truck, he was pleased with the effort and the seventh-place finish, bringing it home in one piece to increase his lead over Almirola to a healthy 177.
“Well, we missed it. We kind of were afraid of it after practice, and how it was in practice is exactly how it was in the race,” Bodine said. “The last stop, we actually overadjusted it and got it too tight. But to take a bad truck and finish seventh… that’s how you win points.”
“We pulled away from Aric (Almirola) a little bit. Johnny (Sauter) finished a couple in front of us, so he gained a little bit. We can’t complain, having a seventh with a bad truck.”
Bodine couldn’t have said it better Friday night. While they never were a threat for the win, the No. 30 team made the most of a tough situation, pulled off their tenth top-10 finish in 12 races and expanded their lead over second-place Aric Almirola.
Now that Ron Hornaday, Jr. has made his first visit to Victory Lane this season, I expect many wins to follow for the No. 33 team and, in turn, large points gains on the leader. Assuming that happens, the four-time series champion will likely be Bodine’s biggest obstacle to scoring his second career Truck Series championship this season. But if the No. 30 team can continue to race how they have all year, they can be proud of themselves regardless of the outcome at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
*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)
*No. of Rookies in the Race:* Four
*No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10:* 1; Austin Dillon, finished sixth
Austin Dillon posted his fifth consecutive top-10 finish Friday night and his seventh in 12 races this season. He still holds a commanding lead over Justin Lofton in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year standings with 13 races remaining.
*Rookie Of The Race:* Austin Dillon, finished sixth
*Worth Noting / Points Shuffle:*
Next weekend at Pocono, the Camping World Truck Series will feature a unique qualifying format on the 2.5-mile triangle. Using times from Friday’s first practice session, the leaderboard will be inverted, with the slowest truck taking the track first. That will determine the qualifying order for the event; trucks will be sent out on the track in 25-second increments for two laps of qualifying. That will put multiple trucks on the track in a road course style format, the first time we’ve seen that used on an oval.
For the first time in six years, the AAA Insurance 200 featured three female drivers. Aside from the debuting Johanna Long, who finished 17th, Jennifer Jo Cobb posted a 26th-place finish and Michelle Theriault was credited with a 32nd-place finish after struggling with an overheating truck.
Aric Almirola has once again been tapped as a backup driver for Hendrick Motorsports. This time, it’s for Jeff Gordon, whose wife Ingrid Vandebosch is set to give birth to their second child in the next few weeks. Almirola will be on hand at Pocono should the need arise; he had previously been on hand as a backup driver for Jimmie Johnson in the event that his first child, Genevieve, came on race day.
Todd Bodine remains atop the leaderboard, and capitalized on Aric Almirola’s troubles Friday night. Bodine now holds a 177-point lead over Almirola in second. Johnny Sauter remains in third, just five points behind second. Ron Hornaday, Jr.’s win moved him up two spots to fourth, tied with Timothy Peters, who dropped a spot and rounds out the top 5, at 212 points out of first.
Austin Dillon climbed another spot in points to sixth and sits 277 points behind Todd Bodine. Matt Crafton’s fourth top-5 finish of the season moved him up one spot to seventh, now trailing Dillon by just one point. Mike Skinner dropped three spots to eighth, while David Starr and Jason White round out the top 10.
“We couldn’t do it without Ernie Cope and all these guys on this Chevrolet. They worked their guts out, changing the truck after last weekend. It’s just a great day. Hopefully it keeps a little bit quiet. It took Ernie to come over here and settle everybody down. The guys were getting a little anxious. We know we’ve got a winning team. We just had to prove it to them.” _Ron Hornaday, Jr._
“We started off really good and then when the night came, we just got too tight. Everybody did a great job on our Toyota Tundra. It’s still a great night. We sat on the pole and came home with a top-10 finish; that’s what we needed to do. We’ll just go on to Pocono.” _Pole sitter Timothy Peters, finished eighth_
“We’re struggling. I don’t know what spot we were racing for, but it’s bad. We were a lap down trying to work on our truck and get it better. There’s 100 laps to go, and the 60 (Narain Karthikeyan) kept running into me every corner. This place is as wide as they come for short tracks. Pick a lane.” _Aric Almirola, after a lap 97 caution took him out of the race_
The Camping World Truck Series makes its debut at Pocono Raceway Saturday afternoon. Pocono was added to the schedule this season, in place of the usual visit to Auto Club Speedway for the second race on the schedule. Coverage begins at 12:30pm EDT; the race can also be heard on your “local MRN affiliate.”:http://www.racingone.com/stations.aspx
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