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In a Nutshell: Clint Bowyer took the checkered flag 1.038 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch to win the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway Friday night. Bowyer took the lead for the final time on a lap 96 restart and never looked back. Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton and Aric Almirola rounded out the top five.
Who Should Have Won: Bowyer. Bowyer started third and took the lead from Austin Dillon following the first caution. He stretched out to a more than five-second lead until Jason White‘s blown motor brought out the second caution. He continued leading until Busch pulled ahead following the third caution, but the fourth caution allowed Bowyer to gain a spot on pit road and restart on the front row with James Buescher. With new tires, the driver of the KHI-fielded No. 2 Chevrolet easily pulled to the front, leading the final 55 laps and 80 overall Friday night in a well-deserved victory.
Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race
1. How did Tom Hessert fare in his Truck Series debut?
Tom Hessert III scored one win and 15 top-10 results en route to a third-place finish in the ARCA Racing Series standings earlier this season. Friday night marked his Truck Series debut behind the wheel of the Germain Racing No. 9 Toyota that he qualified 21st.
Coming into the weekend, Hessert was optimistic at the chance he had to prove himself in the Truck Series.
“Racing in the Truck Series is a tremendous opportunity, especially pairing with a team like Germain Racing. Having a teammate like Todd Bodine is a priceless commodity,” Hessert said. “I’ve raced a couple of times at Phoenix in open-wheel cars. We have high expectations for a very solid showing, and I can’t wait for Friday.”
But it wasn’t meant to be. While minding his own business and gaining valuable seat time, Hessert found himself involved in the third caution of the night. When Ricky Carmichael got loose inside Brad Sweet and spun, Hessert saw what had happened ahead of him and slowed to avoid the wreck. But Tayler Malsam, who was behind Hessert at the time, didn’t see the action on the track and ran into the back of the No. 9 Cherry Hill Classic Cars Toyota. The damage proved terminal when overheating from the wreck caused him to retire after running just 84 laps; the Cherry Hill, N.J. native was credited with a 31st-place finish in his debut.
Though it wasn’t quite the ending he would have wanted, Hessert should be happy with the time he did spend on the track. Despite being knocked out after less than 100 laps, the 24-year-old driver did nothing wrong and should look forward to Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend.
2. How did Todd Bodine win the championship?
When Bodine beat Johnny Benson by 127 points to win the 2006 Truck Series championship, it marked the first time Toyota got to celebrate a national series title in NASCAR racing. During that season, Bodine scored three wins, 16 top-10 finishes and had an average finish of 8.4. This one was even better, as in 24 starts, the Chemung, N.Y. native has racked up four wins, 16 top fives, 19 top-10 finishes and an average finish of 6.5.
Following the second race of this season at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March, the driver of the No. 30 Toyota took the points lead from Timothy Peters by a slim four-point margin. Peters took the top spot once again the following race and held on until Almirola took that lead over following a win at Dover.
It was May when Bodine once again found himself atop the standings following a second-place finish at Charlotte, and he never relinquished that spot the rest of the year. But it wasn’t easy along the way. The team pieced together sponsorship all season, and when those funds weren’t available, the Germains fielded the No. 30 truck anyway.
“The Germains made the commitment before the season started that we are going to run the [No.] 30 truck for the whole season,” said Bodine. “Obviously we thought that we could pick up more sponsorship along the way and ease that burden off of them. We were fortunate to have Valvoline on for some races. I’m very proud to represent them and what they’ve done for our sport.”
Lee White, President of Toyota Racing Development, USA, is pleased with Bodine’s championship.
“Since our first year competing in the upper levels of NASCAR in 2004, Todd and the Germain family have been an integral part of the Toyota program,” White said. “They have consistently competed for race wins and championships, and Todd and the Germains have been great ambassadors for Toyota both on and off the track. On behalf of all our associates at Toyota and TRD, I would like to congratulate Todd and the entire No. 30 Tundra team for another remarkable season.”
And I’d like to add my own personal congratulations to Bodine and the entire Germain Racing team. It’s incredible to think how much the points leader has struggled for sponsorship and has been largely funded out of the pockets of the Germains, but they persevered and achieved their goal. Enjoy it, guys, because every one of you deserve it!
Truck Rookie Report
No. of Rookies in the Race: 10 (Add Greg Pursley, Caitlin Shaw, Tim George Jr., Sweet, David Mayhew, CE Falk and a debuting Hessert III)
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 2; Dillon, finished seventh and Lofton, finished ninth
Rookie of the Race: Dillon
- George Jr. made his second career Truck Series start Friday night at Phoenix. Following a 29th-place finish in his debut at Phoenix last season, the 19-year-old driver finished 22nd after starting 28th.
- More than a year after finishing 24th in her Truck Series debut with Red Horse Racing at O’Reilly Raceway Park, Shaw made her second career start behind the wheel of a second Mario Gosselin-owned truck. She was five laps down when she got loose and ran hard into the outside wall to bring out the fourth caution of the race. The damage was terminal, and the Albuquerque, N.M. native was relegated to a 30th-place finish.
- Pursley made his third career start behind the wheel of the No. 62 Gene Price Motorsports/Star Nursery Chevrolet Friday night. The K&N Pro Series West driver received the “Aaron’s Lucky Dog” award twice and finished 17th. The 42-year-old driver also ran in the 3 Amigos 125 K&N Pro Series West race Saturday afternoon and scored his third career win.
- Dillon will appear on The Price is Right Monday on CBS with Sprint Cup Series driver Bowyer from 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. ET. The two will present NASCAR-themed showcases: a trip to North Carolina to visit the NASCAR Hall of Fame, a trip to Miami for the season finale weekend and a Chevrolet Impala.
Bodine clinched his second career championship Friday night and now joins Jack Sprague and Ron Hornaday Jr. on the list of drivers who have won multiple Truck Series titles. Almirola remains second, while Sauter finds himself 46 points behind in third. Crafton and rookie Dillon round out the top five.
Peters sits sixth, nearly 100 points ahead of Hornaday Jr. in seventh. Mike Skinner is just 21 points behind Hornaday in eighth while David Starr and White round out the top 10. White holds a slim 23-point lead over Buescher in 11th.
“Everybody back at the shop did such a great job building this thing. They were excited about it before we came down here, and any time these guys get excited about building a truck back at the shop, you know as a racecar driver that you’re going to have a good hot rod, and we certainly did. I love this season, and I think this is some of the best racing we have in NASCAR. It’s fun to be back in it.” – race winner Clint Bowyer
“The guys gave me a great Z-Line Designs Tundra, but the No. 2 (Clint Bowyer) was the class of the field tonight. We would’ve liked to have won the race, but you take a good truck like this and you run second with it and beat the guys you’re here to beat and we’ll look to next week and try for a win there. We knew that running well, the points would take care of themselves, and it’s good to have that little bit of cushion going into next week. We’ll be looking at the banquet next Monday.” – Kyle Busch
“During the past five years, we have been one of the most consistent teams in the Camping World Truck Series. I can’t thank the guys on this Germain Racing team enough for all their hard work over the years, both at the track and in the shop. We’ve had some ups and downs since our 2006 championship, but this one is extra special to share with the Germain family, the Hillman family (crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. and general manager Mike Hillman) and all the sponsors who have supported us throughout the year.” – champion Todd Bodine
Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway to close out the season with the Ford 200 Friday night. Last season, Kevin Harvick led 108 laps en route to a nearly one-second victory over Crafton. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or on Sirius Channel 128.