Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: 2011 Kroger 250 at Martinsville

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In a Nutshell: Johnny Sauter took the checkered flag 0.453 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch to win the Kroger 250 Saturday afternoon (April 2) at Martinsville Speedway. Sauter led three times for 48 laps to score his third career Truck Series victory and his first at the .526-mile paperclip. Ron Hornaday Jr., Kevin Harvick and a heavily-damaged Timothy Peters rounded out the top five.

Who Should Have Won: Sauter. Sauter started on the pole and quickly pulled out front at the drop of the green flag. Though he was on different pit strategy than half of the field, the driver of the No. 13 Chevrolet easily drove toward the front of the pack each time he encountered a setback in track position. With just two laps remaining, Sauter executed a nearly perfect bump-and-run on Kyle Busch to become the first Truck Series regular to score a victory this season.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. What happened between Todd Bodine and Kevin Harvick?

It wouldn’t be Martinsville if there weren’t drivers upset with each other after tangling on the track. And that’s just what happened between Harvick and Todd Bodine Saturday afternoon.

It all started with a little bump that Bodine attributed as a typical incident at Martinsville.

“He broke loose and I ran into him. It wasn’t anything intentional,” Bodine said after the race. “It wasn’t anything other than he broke loose and I ran into him.”

But Harvick clearly thought it was more. After the first bump, he slammed the back end of Bodine’s Toyota, got him loose and then caught his left-rear corner, sending the No. 30 spinning. Bodine wasn’t surprised he went around, though.

“I knew running into [turn] 3 what he was going to do. He’s short-tempered,” Bodine explained. “He’s like me. You’re racing hard and you think somebody runs into you on purpose and they don’t. It’s Martinsville.”

See also
The Big 6: Questions Answered After the 2011 Kroger 250 at Martinsville

Harvick had a different opinion, though, saying the spin was well-deserved.

“The guy just doesn’t even try to pass you,” Harvick explained. “He just runs into the back of you. And I wasn’t in the mood for it today, so I just returned the favor.”

But Harvick doesn’t anticipate any tension on his part in the future… barring another incident later in the season.

“As far as I’m concerned, we’re even,” Harvick said. “He hit me first; I hit him second.”

Frankly, it looked like Bodine’s bump on Harvick was unintentional and just a product of close racing at Martinsville. But it was very clear that Harvick did intentionally spin Bodine in retaliation because it came in the form of a bump first and then a tap on the left-rear corner that sent the No. 30 Toyota around.

That being said, there’s no real reason to worry about the future between these two as Harvick only runs part-time in the series. This wasn’t the first time the two have tangled and I’m certain it won’t be the last.

2. Where did Kevin Harvick come from?

After his little spat with Bodine, Harvick made a long visit to pit road where the team adjusted the camber in hopes of leveling the tire wear on his No. 2 Chevrolet. It was there that he went two laps down and what should have been out of contention for the win. But when the checkered flag flew, Harvick was right in the mix, scoring a fourth-place finish.

So where, exactly, did he come from?

After going two laps down, Harvick returned to the track just as the green flag flew on lap 78. Just 10 laps later, the caution flew again and Caleb Roark took advantage of the Lucky Dog, leaving Harvick the first vehicle not on the lead lap.

Under a lap 109 caution, Harvick received the Lucky Dog thanks to a Chase Mattioli spin and found himself only one lap down. But it wasn’t until Ricky Carmichael spun, bringing out the eighth caution that Harvick found himself back on the lead lap thanks to the short green-flag runs between cautions.

The No. 2 crew immediately pitted, bolting on a fresh set of sticker tires and Harvick tore through the field, sneaking into the top five with less than 50 laps remaining. But in the closing stages of the race, it seemed having to pass so many trucks to work his way into contention had taken a toll on Harvick’s equipment. Though he was within striking distance of leader Kyle Busch on the final restart, it became very clear he didn’t have the truck to make it into victory lane.

That being said, Harvick should be pretty pleased he managed to go from running two laps down to a solid top-five finish in a truck that gave him trouble in the early running of the Kroger 250.

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 sixth
Rookie of the Race: Whitt

Rookie Quote

“We were snug off and snappy loose for most of the race, and the guys did a great job getting it dialed in for me to be comfortable on those corners. I was running really hard and it’s the hardest I’ve raced this year, which is good. For the first time this year, I didn’t hesitate to run with the front runners or be conservative. Short tracks are my roots, so when I heard Cowboy (Starland, crew chief) say over the radio, ‘Get mad, girl!’ I knew I had to start racing the race track hard. It felt really great.” – Johanna Long on her career-best finish of 18th

Points Shuffle

Sauter’s victory propelled him up four spots in the standings to lead teammate Matt Crafton by five points. Peters and Whitt are tied for third, seven behind the leader. Hornaday Jr. moved up one spot and rounds out the top five, nine points out of first.

Clay Rogers dropped two spots after a 16th-place finish and holds a slim one-point lead over seventh-place Austin Dillon. Defending series champion Bodine dropped one spot to eighth after a hard-fought 14th-place finish. Max Papis remains ninth while Miguel Paludo jumped two spots to round out the top 10.

Quotable

“I think Kyle got in the corner and got loose. He got loose and swung back around and tried to come back down, and I was there and I made contact with him. It’s pretty cool when you can beat Kyle Busch.” – race winner Johnny Sauter

“We had a shot and we gave it away. I just hate it. We had a really good truck, [but] on the that last restart I couldn’t turn. The front tires were just beat off it. If we didn’t have that last caution come out (lap 241), we probably would have been all right. Johnny [Sauter] was good, but I hate to lose at Martinsville. I’d love to win one here someday.” – Kyle Busch, finished second

“It was a good race – very eventful. Look at this Tundra, it’s tore up. I can’t say enough about Butch Hylton (crew chief) and all of these guys. We just never give up. We didn’t have a great truck from when we unloaded. To come home and get a top five, this is what this team needed. We’ll go to Nashville from here.” – Timothy Peters, finished fifth

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series takes a couple weeks off before heading to Nashville Superspeedway for the Bully Hill Vineyards 200 Friday, April 22. In 2010, Kyle Busch dominated, leading 131 of 150 laps to beat out Harvick by nearly half a second. Coverage begins at 2:00 p.m. ET on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

About the author

Content Director Beth heads up management of our 30-person staff, acting as Tom’s main assistant with technology and personnel while working as Frontstretch’s Truck Series expert. The author of Truckin’ Thursdays and the coordinator of the site’s pre and post-race coverage, she also runs a periodic charity column that spotlights when NASCAR gives back. A childhood transplant to Texas, Beth is a 15-year writing veteran who has contributed content to BRANDT and Athlon Sports, among other outlets.

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