Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks
Timothy Peters was on the pole and led laps early, but Todd Bodine used his extensive experience at Darlington to come on late and ended up visiting victory lane once again at the Track Too Tough to Tame. Bodine had previously won at Darlington in the Nationwide Series and now adds a Truck Series victory to his resume.
Peters led the first 47 laps from pole before he lost the lead during a round of pit stops under caution. Ron Hornaday Jr. assumed the lead as the trucks exited pit lane and led 29 laps until another caution brought the leaders to pit road once again. Austin Dillon assumed the lead after taking fuel only. Dillon led 23 laps before he was overtaken on the seventh caution of the night by Bodine, who grabbed the lead and held off the rest of the field for the remainder of the race.
The race was slowed by nine caution flags, with only one for debris. A number of drivers were involved in wrecks, including TJ Bell, Donny Lia and Brian Ickler. Though Justin Lofton was responsible for an ugly incident that saw him get loose in turn 1 on lap 106 and collect Mike Skinner and David Starr, the biggest hit of the night was the cause of caution No. 7, when Aric Almirola got loose and clipped Ricky Carmichael. Carmichael made extremely hard contact with the outside wall.
The final 20 laps of the race were caution free, which was beneficial to many of the front runners who were cutting it close on fuel.
Second-place finisher Peters had a very fast truck all night but took sticker tires during the fifth caution of the night. Forced to battle hard to get track position back, his truck picked up a push in the late going that left him unable to do anything with Bodine. “Air was everything tonight,” said Peters. “Starting back in traffic, I just had to use up my stuff so badly to get to clean air that I had a push by the time I got to Todd.”
Hornaday and Peters were both asked during the post-race presser about slower trucks on the track and their impact on the racing. Both singled out Norm Benning for his failure to yield the racing groove to faster trucks when he was multiple laps down. Hornaday was especially critical.
“Norm Benning is a veteran. He’s done this before and he has a lot of experience and he’s the only one in the way,” Hornaday said in the post-race press conference. “He thinks he needs the groove when he doesn’t have tires on, I’ve even offered to buy him a set of tires. All the other guys I think did great. It is hard to get out of the way here and I think they did great. Norm was the only one who got in our way the last 10 or 15 laps ’cause he has to run the middle of the groove. He knows how fast we’re catching him. He needs to run in our truck once just to realize how fast we catch up to him. I think we’re all going to have a little talk with him. He’s a heck of a nice guy and we appreciate all of the support he gives to the Truck Series, but we’ve got to get him up to speed.”
Bodine admitted that being out front was a big deal but said there were two equal parts to being in front. The aerodynamic advantage was certainly a factor because the top trucks were all running similar lap times. Once a trailing truck got close to a truck in front of it, the loss of downforce made it very difficult to get past the truck in front. However, he also noted that the track itself played a role. The tricky groove and lack of fall off in the tires allowed trucks in front to maintain the preferred line throughout a run, leaving the truck behind to take the more difficult way around. With lap times so close through the field, that generally meant that the truck behind was unable to make the pass.
The most interesting quote of the entire post-race presser came from Mike Hillman Jr., crew chief for Bodine. In a statement that no one had ever imagined would be uttered at Darlington Raceway, a track where teams used to carry their tires instead of rolling them to their stalls because the abrasion would wear the tires, Hillman said “Track position was far more important than tires.”
Teams were able to run a full fuel run in practice and the race without the tires giving up more than a few tenths of a second. While the tire did make for great speed, the lack of fall off allowed teams to stay out for the last half of the race because there was no penalty for having older tires on the truck.
Bodine’s triumphed for the second week in a row, the third time in 2010 and extended his points lead to 231 over second-place Almirola. While a large deficit, it is not unprecedented for a champion to overcome such a hole. Rick Crawford lost the championship to Mike Bliss in 2002 after building up a 227-point lead.