NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: 2010 O’Reilly 200 at Bristol

Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks

In a Nutshell: Kyle Busch won the O’Reilly 200 – his third consecutive Truck win at Bristol – when he took the checkered flag under caution ahead of Aric Almirola. Busch pitted once around lap 30 and had just enough fuel to hold onto the lead through a green-white-checkered finish and celebrate with a burnout. Ron Hornaday Jr., Mike Skinner and Justin Lofton rounded out the top five.

Who Should Have Won: Busch. The record books officially show Busch starting on the pole, but the driver of his self-owned No. 18 Toyota had to drop to the rear of the field following an unapproved adjustment after qualifying. Busch made quick work of the field and took the lead when Skinner pitted for fuel under the eighth caution. He went on to lead the final 116 laps on the way to his 19th career Truck Series win.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. Does Kyle Busch have any patience in him?

Following unapproved adjustments to his No. 18 NASCAR.com RaceView Toyota, polesitter Busch was forced to drop to the rear of the field before the field took the green flag Wednesday night. In typical “Rowdy” fashion, Busch made quick work of much of the field before getting caught up behind Jennifer Jo Cobb with Todd Bodine alongside him on lap 36.

Instead of showing patience for a few laps for the traffic to get out of the way of a clearly faster truck, Busch chose to shove Cobb’s No. 10 self-owned Ford out of his way. She ended up spinning to bring out the fourth caution, but kept her truck from sustaining damage on the inside wall while Busch drove off with the position.

But why?

Clearly Busch had a strong truck, and everyone knows the lower speeds Cobb has been running all season in a truck funded almost entirely out of her own pocket. Just 36 laps into a 200 lap race is hardly a time to start shoving other drivers out of the way. And it’s even worse when the driver putting the spin on someone else isn’t even racing full-time in the series.

Regardless of who you’re racing with, a little respect on the track goes a long way. And Busch would be wise to remember that in the future.

2. Should Austin Dillon have been upset with Matt Crafton?

Following a brief red-flag stop to clean up the aftermath of the David Starr/Ken Schrader wreck that brought out a record-tying 12th caution, the typical chaos of a green-white-checkered finish ensued. As the field came to the white flag, Matt Crafton bumped Austin Dillon, who was two laps down to the field, multiple times before Dillon was finally forced up the track into Max Papis and Dennis Setzer, bringing out the 13th and final caution along with the white flag.

Once the checkered flag flew, Dillon made his irritation with Crafton quite clear as he ran into the No. 88 Ideal Door/Menards Chevrolet more than once. When asked about the incident after the race, Crafton was apologetic as he explained his intentions as the field approached the white flag.

“I understand they’d be upset. That’s the last thing we wanted to do, to wreck him,” Crafton said. “That was not intended. I tried to get him up off the bottom and was not intending to wreck him. I just got into him a little harder than I meant to.”

But does Dillon really have a reason to be upset with Crafton?

Absolutely not! Dillon was running two laps down and had little chance to improve his position in the final laps, but Crafton was still running on the lead lap. The driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet tried to justify his irritation with Crafton, but his argument just doesn’t hold water.

“We didn’t have anything for anybody at the end, but Crafton wasn’t racing for position either,” Dillon said after the race. “I know he was on the lead lap, but the lead-lap trucks were plenty far ahead of him.”

Um, sorry Austin, but that doesn’t make any sense. Both trucks Dillon hit – Setzer and Papis – were on the lead lap and racing Crafton for position. But despite that, whether the rest of the lead lap trucks are just two feet or 200 feet away, a driver not on the lead lap – especially coming to the white flag – should do everything in his power to stay out of the way of those on the lead lap.

And if Dillon doesn’t learn that lesson pretty quickly, he’ll have a pretty tough end to his rookie season and an even tougher sophomore season in the Truck Series, because these drivers don’t forget.

Truck Series 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: 8 (add debuting drivers Miguel Paludo, Jake Crum and John King, as well as Jerick Johnson and Clay Greenfield)
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 1; Lofton, finished fifth
Rookie of the Race: Lofton

Lofton scored his third top-10 finish in the last four races on Wednesday night. The driver of the No. 7 visitPIT.com Toyota managed to avoid major damage all night despite being around multiple wrecks as they happened. The closest was when Cobb spun and rolled down the track, as Lofton barely squeezed through.

After being involved in three separate incidents on the track during the race, Dillon’s streak of consecutive top-10 finishes ended at eight, tying the record for a rookie set by Ricky Hendrick.

Paludo, King and Crum each made their Truck Series debuts Wednesday night. Paludo, who has run six K&N East Series races this season (best finish ninth at Lime Rock Park in Connecticut) was by far the most successful of the three, finishing ninth after surviving contact late in the running. The next best finish saw Kingsport, Tenn. native King score a 15th as the first truck one lap down. Crum, who has just two starts in the K&N East Series (best finish 13th), wasn’t as fortunate as the other two debuting drivers; he was forced to retire after just 90 laps due to a fuel pump issue.

Did You Know

At least one rookie has finished in the top 10 in 12 out of 16 races this season? The O’Reilly 200 also marked the ninth consecutive race in which a rookie finished seventh or better.

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle

Almirola’s runner-up finish allowed him to gain 15 points on leader Bodine, who now holds a 211-point lead. Timothy Peters remains in third, with Johnny Sauter trailing him by 38 points in fourth. Defending champion Hornaday Jr. managed to recover from a lap 52 spin to finish third and moved up one spot to round out the top five, more than 350 points behind Bodine.

Matt Crafton‘s 11th top-10 finish this season moved him up one spot to sixth – he trails Hornaday Jr. by just 32 points. The biggest loser in the top 10 this week was Dillon, who was involved in three different incidents in the race alone following a wreck in practice. He dropped two spots to seventh, 361 points out of first. Skinner and David Starr remain in eight and ninth respectively, and Ricky Carmichael moved up one spot to round out the top 10.

Jason White suffered his third consecutive engine failure, this time after just 28 laps, and was credited with a 36th-place finish. As a result, he dropped outside the top 10 and now trails leader Bodine by nearly 700 points.

The O’Reilly 200 was record-breaking in multiple ways. The race was slowed by 13 cautions, barely knocking off the previous record of 12 as the 13th and final caution flew right after the white flag did. Also, Busch became the first driver to start outside the top 12 to win in 13 Truck Series races at Bristol.

Brad Keselowski got sideways while battling inside Hornaday Jr. just eight laps into the race and went two laps down while getting four tires and fuel as the caution flew on lap 12. He managed to take advantage of the lucky dog award twice and recovered for a respectable seventh-place finish.

2011 Schedule Released

This week, NASCAR announced the 2011 schedules for all three of their top series. The season will begin with a triple-header at Daytona on February 18th and end with the same at Homestead-Miami exactly nine months later on November 18th. Again the Truck Series schedule will feature 25 races with a few changes. The second race of the season will be hosted by Phoenix International Raceway, and the Darlington date moves to March. October will feature two standalone races – Kentucky and Las Vegas.

Quotable

“It worried me a little bit just having to start back there and try to come through traffic really unsure. We were passing guys one at a time, just kind of biding our time getting our way up there. It was a bummer deal that we didn’t get to start from the pole and kind of lead the laps and play our strategy out a little bit, but it was still cool coming from the back I guess. I wish there was an award for it or maybe a bonus for sitting on the pole, then starting in the back and coming up through there and winning. That’s just me.” – Kyle Busch

“We had a good truck tonight. I was down in the dumps all day because we didn’t have any speed. It just ran the same speed no matter what we changed – it never went faster, it never went slower. It did the same thing tonight when we took off for the race. We started 19th and we ran the same speed. Everybody seemed to fall back and come back to us. The race was just so much dictated by what line you restarted tonight.” – Aric Almirola, finished second

“We didn’t make any adjustments all night. We pitted so early that we didn’t run enough green to make a good decision on what to do so we left it alone. We were a little free all night, but Kyle [Busch] did a great job. The guys did a good job and he saved gas. That was the biggest key.” – winning crew chief Eric Phillips

“It was awesome. I appreciate all the work and all the support of Germain and Toyota. The team put the truck in one week together so I’m really proud of all the guys. I’m happy, I’m really happy. We had a tight truck, a loose truck, a lot of different trucks in the race, but you can’t imagine how happy I am. Every person I talked with said, ‘Why Bristol? It’s tough.’ It’s perfect. I’m real happy and it’s a team effort. Germain Racing did a great job and I’m real happy.” – Miguel Paludo, finished ninth, on his Truck Series debut

“Pretty much nowhere to go. She (Jennifer Jo Cobb) got spun by somebody, but if she would’ve locked the brakes and stopped the truck, maybe it would have kept her from taking us out.” – James Buescher after a lap 85 wreck caused terminal damage to his No. 31 Wolf Pack Rentals Chevrolet, finished 33rd

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to Chicagoland Speedway for the Chicagoland 225. Last season, Busch took Billy Ballew Motorsports to victory lane after pit strategy and a couple late race cautions played into his favor. Coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. ET; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

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