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*In a Nutshell:* Kasey Kahne took the checkered flag 1.116 seconds ahead of Ron Hornaday, Jr. to win the Too Tough to Tame 200 Saturday evening at Darlington Raceway. In a race slowed by a record-tying ten cautions and a nearly eight-minute red flag, Kahne dominated much of the race leading 95 of 147 laps en route to his third victory in four Truck Series starts. Todd Bodine, Matt Crafton and James Buescher rounded out the top 5.
*Who Should Have Won:* *Kasey Kahne.* Kahne started on the outside pole behind the wheel of the Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 18 Toyota and was quick to challenge polesitter Cole Whitt for the lead. But it wasn’t until lap 42 when Kahne finally sniffed the top spot for the first time. Once out front, the driver of the No. 18 easily pulled away from the rest of the field, stretching out to a more than three-second lead by lap 53. Though Whitt, James Buescher and Elliott Sadler each took their turn out front in the latter stages of the race, it was Kahne who found the top spot again on lap 97. Despite facing three restarts, Kahne never relinquished the lead and held on for the second victory for KBM this season.
*Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:*
*1. How did “The Lady in Black” treat the first-time visitors?*
The Too Tough to Tame 200 field featured 16 drivers who had never run at Darlington Raceway in any series. The majority of the list was comprised of this year’s Rookie of the Year contenders, but there were a couple drivers who just haven’t visited the 1.366-mile track. Though there were a few drivers who left Darlington relatively unscathed, most of the field–first-timers and veterans alike–met the forces of the “Lady in Black” throughout the night.
So without further ado, here’s a look at the first-timers that visited Darlington:
*Jeffrey Earnhardt, No. 1 Fuel Doctor USA Chevrolet*
After wrecking his primary truck, Jeffrey Earnhardt was forced to a backup and had to start the race at the back of the field. For the most part, he managed to stay out of trouble Saturday evening in a truck where he ran his first laps during the pre-race pace laps. Though he slid across the wall a few times, Earnhardt ran in the 20s most of the race until he brought out the record-tying tenth caution with eight laps remaining. But the damage to the No. 1 truck wasn’t too bad, and Earnhardt was able to finish the race 20th on the lead lap.
*Jamie Dick, No. 07 VIVAAutoGroup.com Chevrolet*
Jamie Dick had a relatively calm night at a track where not being noticed isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Though he kept his nose clean, the leaders manage to lap the No. 07 a few times leading to a couple of lucky dog awards thanks to the large number of cautions. Despite getting two laps back, Jamie still finished 24th, one lap down.
*Miguel Paludo, No. 7 Stemco Duroline Toyota*
Miguel Paludo’s night started off rough when he was involved in the first caution that flew thanks to contact in turn one on the first lap. His No. 7 Toyota suffered heavy damage as a result of the wreck, but Paludo was able to continue, though not competitively. He finished 27th, 12 laps down.
*Nelson Piquet, Jr., No. 8 Qualcomm / Nelson Piquet Chevrolet*
Though he managed to start off alright, Nelson Piquet, Jr. didn’t completely avoid the iron fist of the “Lady in Black.” He was involved in one of the incidents that forced NASCAR to throw the sixth caution of the night on lap 73. After bouncing off of Parker Kligerman and cutting a tire in the process, Piquet ran into the outside wall. Later, he again bounced off the wall, this time catching the front end of Johanna Long’s machine on the way off the wall. He was left to settle for a 32nd-place finish after completing 93 laps.
*Chase Mattioli, No. 10 CollegeComplete.com Ford*
Chase Mattioli would probably like to forget Darlington as quickly as possible. His race started off with a lap 7 spin in which he managed to avoid damage and continue on the track without bringing out the yellow. He received the lucky dog twice under the third and fourth cautions to get back on the lead lap before bouncing off the wall in turn two and again continuing on without causing a caution, though there was definitely sheet metal that flew off of the No. 10 truck (the caution flew just a few laps later for debris). The time spent repairing the damage put Mattioli well off of the lead lap, and it only got worse as he once again slammed the wall, bringing out the seventh caution. The damage was finally terminal, and Mattioli was forced to settle for a 34th-place finishing after completing just 55 of the 147 scheduled laps.
*Dusty Davis, No. 15 Vision Airlines / Emerald Coast Toyota*
Davis carried his team as he tried to stay out of trouble all evening. After starting 21st, he kept himself out of trouble and managed to finish 15th.
*Johanna Long, No. 20 Panhandle Grading and Paving Toyota*
Johanna Long didn’t qualify well in her family-owned No. 20, but that didn’t stop her from trying to log laps and stay out of trouble in hopes of keeping her truck in one piece for the series’ visit to Nashville. And stay out of trouble was what she did until late race contact from Nelson Piquet, Jr. cut Long’s right front tire, causing her to run right into Ricky Carmichael’s spinning No. 4 Chevrolet. Despite the hard hit on the frontstretch that brought out the red flag, Long climbed from her wrecked machine on her own power and was left to settle for a disappointing 31st-place finish.
*Joey Coulter, No. 22 RCR / Darrell Gwynn Foundation Chevrolet*
Joey Coulter managed to keep himself out of the headlines for much of the early stages of the race until he was involved in one of two incidents that brought out the sixth caution on lap 73. It appeared Coulter was run into from behind by Jason White while slowing down for a wrecking Nelson Piquet, Jr. As a result, the No. 22 Chevrolet suffered significant damage and spent several laps in the garage getting repairs. With just 41 laps remaining, Coulter took his badly damaged–yet somewhat repaired–Chevrolet back out to log laps in hopes of gaining some spots and points. The move turned out to be successful thanks to the problems faced by Johanna Long, Ricky Carmichael and Tayler Malsam–Coulter gained three spots and finished 28th, 36 laps down.
*Tayler Malsam, No. 25 One Eighty Toyota*
Tayler Malsam started deep in the field and was forced to fight his way through traffic, but despite that, he managed to avoid most of the incidents on the track. Then, with just 44 laps remaining, Malsam’s No. 25 started smoking, a sure sign of engine trouble. The damage proved to be terminal, and Malsam was forced to settle for a 29th-place finish.
*Parker Kligerman, No. 29 Penske Truck Leasing Dodge*
Parker Kligerman tried to run his own race and just bring his No. 29 Dodge home in one piece. While his truck was far from undamaged, Kligerman did pull out a 14th-place finish. On the way to that respectable finish, Kligerman made contact with Nelson Piquet, Jr. cutting down a tire on the No. 8, but other than that, Kligerman raced a smart race that showed in his lead lap finish.
*Brad Sweet, No. 32 Great Clips Chevrolet*
Brad Sweet turned a lap worth a 21st-place starting spot but was forced to start from the back of the pack due to unapproved adjustments to his truck for repairs likely made after spinning on the second lap of his qualifying run. Already deep in the field, Sweet was forced to work his way through traffic. But that run through traffic didn’t last long when Sweet hit the wall in turns three and four on lap 13 to bring out the second caution. Though the team initially started working on repairs, the damage was too severe, and the driver of the No. 32 was left to sit out the rest of the race and settle for a 36th-place finish.
*Craig Goess, No. 46 Greenville Toyota of N.C. Toyota*
With the help of spotter David Green and veteran crew chief Trip Bruce, Goess was continually reminded to race the track rather than his competitors. And that strategy paid off for the No. 46 team. When the green flag flew over the field for the final time with three laps remaining, Goess managed to restart 12th, but something happened with his truck keeping him from restarting properly. As a result, he dropped back to his finishing position of 19th.
*Justin Johnson, No. 51 Vision Airlines / Wounded Warrior Project Toyota*
Johnson started off the race in 20th with hopes of learning about Darlington and bringing his truck home in one piece. But it wasn’t meant to be for the No. 51 team: Johnson brought out the fourth caution on lap 36th after a hard hit on the inside wall following a spin. As a result of the terminal damage, Johnson was the second driver to drop out of the event and finished 35th.
*Cole Whitt, No. 60 Red Bull Chevrolet*
Cole Whitt had a dream start at Darlington when he broke the track record for qualifying and started on the pole alongside Kasey Kahne. Once the green flag flew, Whitt took the lead and pulled ahead of Kahne by nearly a second by lap 12. It wasn’t until the field hit pit road for the first round of stops when Whitt lost eight spots on a four tire stop after a lugnut fell off of the left rear and underneath the truck. But that wasn’t the end of Whitt’s problems: in what was originally labeled as a dropped cylinder, the throttle stop broke on the No. 60, and that kept him from being able to accelerate properly. Once the problem was fixed on a later pit stop, Whitt managed to pull out an eighth-place finish and jump to second in points.
*Justin Marks, No. 66 GoPro Chevrolet*
Justin Marks just didn’t have the speed the leaders had in his Stacy Compton-owned Chevrolet, he managed to avoid all ten cautions and bring his machine home in 24th, two laps down.
*Clay Rogers, No. 92 BTS Tire & Wheel Distributor / FleetHQ.com Chevrolet*
Clay Rogers did his best to remain an unknown on the track throughout the Too Tough to Tame 200. As a result, he managed to stay on the lead lap and finish 11th with little damage to his truck. And that was good enough to keep him in the top 5 in the season standings.
*2. How did Matt Crafton fare in his 250th career start?*
Saturday evening’s race marked the 250th in Matt Crafton’s 11 year career in the Camping World Truck Series. Though he has just one win to his name, Crafton has racked up 132 top-10 finishes in 250 starts, including a top-5 finish in Saturday’s race from Darlington.
Despite the carnage on the track that brought out ten cautions and a red flag, Crafton managed to keep his nose clean most of the night. He was involved in some close side-by-side racing that saw him bounce off of his competitors a few times, the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet managed to avoid disaster for much of the race.
But then disaster struck during a pit stop under the seventh caution. Crafton was flagged for missing lugnuts and forced to return to pit road to fix the problem. Despite that setback, Crafton managed to work his way through the field and took advantage of the shuffle on the final restart to score a fourth-place finish. And as a result, his points lead expanded to six points over Cole Whitt.
Considering what could have happened Saturday evening following the late race pit road penalty, Crafton and the No. 88 ThorSport team managed to pull out a very respectable top-5 finish at a track that’s notoriously tough on drivers. It’s runs like the one the team put together Saturday that will help them out as the search for their first championship moves further into the season.
*3. Can Germain Racing win another championship while piecing together sponsorship?*
Last season, Todd Bodine and the Germain Racing team weren’t even sure if they would make it to the third race of the season thanks to the lack of sponsor support committed to the team, but they pieced enough funding together week after week, allowing them to make every race and convincingly score their second Truck Series championship together.
But despite having dominated the championship battle last season, Bodine and the No. 30 team once again find themselves piecing together sponsorship week by week.
“No, we’re not even close to set,” Bodine said when asked if the team was covered financially for the entire schedule. “Tire Kingdom–I think they’re going to do four more. Valvoline’s going to do a couple and now we have one with Georgia Booth. We’ve still got a lot of races that we need to get sponsorship for, but we’re real excited about Georgia Booth because it’s such a great company.”
If anything, Germain Racing and Bodine proved in 2010 that they’re the combination that can piece together their funding as each race comes and still be competitive when the green flag flies. Sure their dream season was helped by a less than stellar season by Ron Hornaday, Jr. and the No. 33 team, but you can’t discount the hard work and determination out of the entire Germain Racing bunch.
Though they’re in a better place at this point in the season than they were in 2010, the No. 30 team is far from fully funded. But if any team can piece together a championship run while dealing with the uncertainty of whether they’ll even have the money to race the next stop on the schedule, Germain Racing is equipped to do just that.
*Truck Rookie Report*
*2011 Rookie of the Year Candidates:*
Joey Coulter (No. 22)
Dusty Davis (No. 15)
Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 1)
Chris Eggleston (No. 27)
Craig Goess (No. 46)
Justin Johnson (No. 51)
Parker Kligerman (No. 29)
Johanna Long (No. 20)
Chase Mattioli (No. 99)
Miguel Paludo (No. 7)
Nelson Piquet, Jr. (No. 8)
Cole Whitt (No. 60)
*No. of Rookies in the Race:* 11
*No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10:* 1; Cole Whitt, finished eighth
*Rookie Of The Race:* Cole Whitt
“I don’t know what happened on that last restart. There was either air in the fuel lines or an ignition miss. I put the throttle down, and it seemed like nothing happened for five seconds, and then it came back to life. It was a disappointing finish, but overall I think we made a lot of headway as a team. I am confident we will continue to learn and grow as a team, and I’m excited to get to Martinsville in a few weeks.” _Craig Goess, finished 19th_
“Somebody spun out in front of us and with the sun just kind of going over the wall, it got really hard to see with the smoke. Just got run into from behind. I’m sure it was nobody’s fault. I hate it. We had a pretty good truck. I was really just starting to learn the place and have some fun and it’s just unfortunate we got tore up. But we’re looking forward to Martinsville.” _Joey Coulter, finished 28th_
“It just stinks cause we had a really good truck and finally got out lap back. The guys were working really hard from practice and we came a long way. It just stinks. Hopefully we can get that truck ready for Nashville because sponsorship is really low at Panhandle Motorsports, but hopefully we can get some after a good run–or almost good run–we had at Darlington.” _Johanna Long, finished 31st_
“I got inside the 1 (Jeffrey Earnhardt) truck and we were going through the middle of one and two running fine coming off of two; then he started crowding me a little bit. I got my lefts (tires) on the apron down there and just lost control of it. Unfortunately for the Wounded Warrior Toyota Tundra–we were doing pretty good up to that point.” _Justin Johnson, finished 35th_
Matt Crafton maintains the top spot in the standings after a solid fourth-place finish Saturday evening and currently holds a six point lead over rookie Cole Whitt who moved up one spot after scoring the second top-10 finish of his young career. Timothy Peters moves up two spots to third after a gamble by his crew chief to take four tires under the ninth caution. Clay Rogers, who entered Darlington just one point behind Crafton in second, dropped two spots to fourth, eight points behind the leader. Despite finishing ninth, Johnny Sauter dropped one spot to round out the top 5 and trails his teammate by nine.
Ron Hornaday, Jr.’s runner-up finish allowed him to jump four spots in the standings to sixth, just 12 points out of first. He’s followed by a tie between Todd Bodine,who jumped five spots,and Austin Dillon who dropped one spot. Mas Papis, who dropped one spot, and rookie Jeffrey Earnhardt, who dropped three spots, round out the top 10.
“The crowd here was great tonight. It was a lot of fun to race in front of such a good crowd. I love Darlington–this is an awesome race track. I came here this weekend wanting to win–that was the plan. This is a tough series. This whole team on pit road did an awesome job. We had the track position all night and just holding off Todd (Bodine) and everybody else behind him, it was quite the battle there. It was a great run.” _Race Winner Kasey Kahne_
“We knew Kasey (Kahne) was going to be tough and we both spun the heck out of the tires. I got mine hooked up first and beat him into one but didn’t quite clear him enough to make it work. It was a great race. I am so happy for Darlington Raceway–look at the crowd we got. This tells you what the Truck Series is about. These fans are hardcore, they came out here on a Saturday night just to watch trucks race. Everybody at home–we appreciate you watching. Trucks are the greatest race and I’m loving it. We didn’t want third. Second would have been better, but we’re back.” _Todd Bodine_
“I’m alright. We were fast. Just trying hard. This year I finally feel comfortable. I don’t know if I got any help, but I’ll take the blame for it.” _Ricky Carmichael, finished 30th_
The Camping World Truck Series takes a couple weeks off before headed to Martinsville for the Kroger 250 Saturday, April 2nd. In 2010, Kevin Harvick dominated, starting on the pole and leading 187 of 250 laps en route to victory lane. Coverage begins at 2:00 pm EST on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your “local MRN affiliate.”:http://www.racingone.com/stations.aspx
“Contact Beth Lunkenheimer”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/14353/
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