*In a Nutshell:* Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag 0.434 seconds ahead of Johnny Sauter to win the O’Reilly 200 Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. Harvick took the lead for the first and final time on a lap 98 restart and went on to lead the final 103 laps, scoring his third consecutive Truck Series victory. Todd Bodine, James Buescher and Timothy Peters rounded out the top 5.
*Who Should Have Won:* *Kevin Harvick.* Once again, Kevin Harvick had a strong truck underneath him in the No. 2 Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet. After starting sixth, Harvick spent much of the first half of the race heading toward the front of the field. And once he got out front, he never looked back. Despite a hard charge from Johnny Sauter on the final restart, Harvick pulled out to an insurmountable lead to score his 12th career Truck Series victory.
*Questions and Notes After the Race:*
*1. What really happened between Kyle Busch and Elliott Sadler?*
Kyle Busch probably hasn’t had one of his best weeks. After going to court and facing the penalty for being busted driving 128 mph in a 45 mph zone, the driver of the No. 18 Toyota headed off to Bristol Motor Speedway for the annual mid-week Truck Series showdown.
In a race that was definitely not without fireworks, Busch made several moves early in the running of the O’Reilly 200, and one of those moves had him cutting across the nose of Elliott Sadler’s No. 24 AMFMEnergy.com / Pellet & Wood Stoves Chevrolet. In return, Sadler gave the No. 18 Toyota a could of hard rear end bumps before the two split up until later.
It was the later incident that brought on the commotion and ultimate finger pointing. On a lap 98 restart, Busch wanted the high line and moved up the track to take it. The problem was that Sadler’s No. 24 already had a nose in the spot Busch wanted to occupy. The end result was Busch spinning out with heavy damage to the front end of his truck.
But that wasn’t the end. With obvious damage to his truck that needed major repairs (and would later turn out to be terminal), Busch stayed out on the track an extra lap just to ensure Elliott Sadler wouldn’t head to victory lane either.
When asked about the incident after the checkered flag, Sadler was quite gracious and described the incident exactly how it looked after watching multiple replays.
“Early in the race he really ran me high and ran me in to the wall and I let him go. That time, I honestly think his spotter just didn’t tell him I was on the outside of him and he came up. And I was there–I didn’t have time to check up or anything,” Sadler said. “He just wrecked himself, and I hate that he thinks it’s my fault. And I hate he came and wrecked us and tore up a good truck. We had a great chance to win tonight. I know he’s mad and upset, but I wish he’d just watch the tape and understand what happened before he came back and retaliated the way he did.”
And if the blatant retaliation wasn’t enough, once Busch finally spoke to the media, he implied Sadler took him out because he works for KHI before he went on to describe his version of what happened.
“Yeah, I’m sure he [wrecked me intentionally]. Where does his paycheck come from?” Busch said after he emerged from the terminally damaged No. 18 Toyota. “We were racing earlier tonight and I pulled a slide job on him and he ran into me three times after that. Then got clear of him for a while and on that restart there I was trying to slide him and get up to the top. The spotter said I was clear and I was clear at the time. Maybe I was too late. He wrecked us and I’m not going to put up with it.”
But the funny thing is that Sadler wasn’t even driving for KHI Wednesday night. In fact, it was his first start behind the wheel for Joe Denette Motorsports.
“That shows you how smart Kyle Busch is. He wasn’t even driving for us tonight,” KHI team owner Kevin Harvick said when asked about the incident in victory lane. “Joe Denette owns that truck and those guys came here to do what they had to do. We can get as dirty as Kyle Busch wants. If he doesn’t want to race like that, then we’ll race somewhere else.”
Regardless of who Sadler was driving for, Busch would have been smart to take a look at the tape before he started running his mouth. He took himself out and acted like Sadler had wronged him in some way. Sure, maybe Sadler could have backed off when Busch ran up the track on him for a second time, but after earlier contact I don’t blame him at all for holding his ground.
However, with all of that being said, Busch did claim that his spotter cleared him, and judging by the amount of Sadler’s front end that caught the right rear corner of Busch’s truck, it’s probably true. But that doesn’t give him a right to stay out on the track an extra lap just to spin the competitor he felt wronged by.
Ultimately though, I don’t expect anything more from this–at least not on Sadler’s part. The two do meet again in tonight’s Nationwide Series race, so there’s always a possibility for more to come of it. But with that being said, I’d like to think both drivers are smart enough to look at it as a Bristol thing and move on.
*Start and Park Number Down at Bristol*
In a refreshing change from last week’s VFW 200 that saw eight start and park teams at Michigan, there were only two start and park drivers this week–Mike Garvey and Brent Raymer, who ran a combined total of seven laps. But the bad part is that the two drivers who failed to make the field–Jennifer Jo Cobb and Norm Benning–each have run the full distance barring terminal damage to their trucks. In a nutshell, two spots were wasted on teams that wouldn’t even run a full ten laps of the 200 scheduled.
*Buescher Scores 12th Top-10 Finish*
James Buescher scored his 12th consecutive top-10 finish this season with a solid fourth-place effort. And despite having missed the race at Phoenix, he currently sits just seven points out of the championship lead in second. Though there are still many races left this season, it would be quite a story if Buescher were able to pull off the championship with a missed race on his resume.
*Truck Rookie Report*
*2011 Rookie of the Year Candidates:*
Joey Coulter (No. 22)
Dusty Davis (No. 15 – No longer racing due to sponsorship problems)
Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 1)
Chris Eggleston (No. 27)
Craig Goess (No. 46 – Left team due to performance issues)
Justin Johnson (No. 51 – No longer racing due to sponsorship problems)
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:* 9 (add Ross Chastain, Josh Richards and a debuting Jeff Agnew)
*No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10:* 3; Joey Coulter, finished sixth; Nelson Piquet, Jr., finished eighth; Parker Kligerman, finished tenth
*Rookie Of The Race:* Joey Coulter
“After qualifying so bad, we were worried about getting lapped really quick–being stuck back there behind slow trucks and your day is kind of done early. I just kind of kept rolling the top until it fanned out. That got us to mid-pack. There was a string of cautions as the race went on and different strategies played out. We were the last truck holding off on old tires–that was hard. Seems like rookie luck couldn’t get any worse when we were trying to do something right.” _Cole Whitt, finished 12th_
“It’s a shame for us–we had a good run going. We were going to stop one more time for more adjustments. We blew up. I just heard one big sound. It’s a shame, we were doing a great job here and just wanted to keep it up for the final laps. Something happened in the engine.” _Miguel Paludo, finished 31st_
Johnny Sauter expanded his points lead after a solid runner-up finish Wednesday night. He now leads James Buescher by seven points. Timothy Peters moved up a spot following his fourth top-5 finish in the last five races and now sits 15 points behind the leader. Austin Dillon dropped a spot to fourth after running out of gas on the final restart, and rookie Cole Whitt rounds out the top 5.
Joey Coulter moved up two spots after a sixth-place finish while Matt Crafton dropped another spot thanks to an unscheduled green flag pit stop that put him two laps down and left him to settle for a 21st-place finish. Parker Kligerman moved up a spot to eighth and holds just a one point lead over Ron Hornaday, Jr. who dropped to ninth. Todd Bodine rounds out the top 10, 72 points behind the leader.
*Marks Joins ThorSport in Single Race Deal*
Thursday afternoon, ThorSport Racing announced Justin Marks will join the team for the Atlanta 200 next weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Marks, who made 12 starts with Turn One Racing earlier this season, will pilot the No. 98 Chevrolet with crew chief Dan Stillman atop the pit box.
“David Pepper [ThorSport Team Manager] and I have had history since 2007 when he spotted for me in ARCA. We’d always talked every year about doing something together and the opportunity presented itself this time,” Marks said. “GoPro made a decision at the halfway point of the season to concentrate on just a couple of races to round out the year and make the most of them, with one of those events being this opportunity with the No. 98 ThorSport Racing team.”
“I’m confident at the 1.5-mile tracks like Atlanta, so I’m focused on running as hard as we can. The goal for the race team is to take another step forward with the [No.] 98 guys and help them as much as possible to prepare for Dakoda’s [Armstrong] rookie of the year campaign next season.”
Dakoda Armstrong, who made his Truck Series debut behind the wheel of the No. 98 at Iowa, will attend the race to take notes and looks at Marks being in the truck as an advantage for the team he plans to run full time with next season.
“This opportunity will give my team an extra race and experience they need since I can only drive our scheduled seven races this season and stay committed to being a rookie for next year,” Armstrong said. “We’re fortunate to have Justin on board for Atlanta so the whole [No.] 98 team can run another race and hopefully gain extra points to get us closer to locked in at Daytona.”
“First off, I just want to thank the pit crew. They’re the ones that won this race tonight. They had a smokin’ pit stop on this Hunt Brothers Chevrolet. Gotta thank everyone from Rheem, Bad Boy Buggies, One Main Financial, Budweiser, Chevrolet, everybody who helps us on this truck. Three in a row, that’s pretty cool.” _Race winner Kevin Harvick_
“I’ve said it a million time, the points can change in a heartbeat. Could be me, could be (James) Buescher, could be (Timothy) Peters, could be anybody with this new system. It’s nice and it’s humbling. But tonight was about a major strategy with my team. Crew chief Joe Shear, Jr. just knew every lap on that fuel, and we were watching guys drop like flies. I was fighting our aero package and just trying to stay in there mid-race, but then I knew once we got clean air, we had a chance here. I’m so proud of the guys–we really busted tail to get this second place.” _Johnny Sauter_
“It was pretty interesting. About the tenth lap I lost the power steering so I’m a little tired. It was a great night with Valvoline on board again this year. Of course we have International Trucks, Monaco RVs and just great sponsors and great people to be involved with. We’ve had a tough year. A lot of mistakes that I’ve made–a couple runs that weren’t real good. We got some breaks at the end when guys ran out of gas. I hate it for Brendan (Gaughan). He had such a great run going in the South Point Casino Tundra, but we kept digging and got a third.” _Todd Bodine_
“It was eventful. I wish we could have got that fourth, but we just wore our right front out there. We couldn’t run the bottom–we could only run the top with our Crescent Hand Tools Tundra. Wrecked the primary in practice and the guys pulled this one out right here and the only two laps we had on the track, we qualified eighth. We look like your one-stop shop on pit road trying to throw some adjustments at it. The guys did a great job–not only here, but the guys back at the shop. We’ll carrry this momentum to Atlanta.” _Timothy Peters, finished fifth_
The Camping World Truck Series heads to Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Atlanta 200 Friday night. Last season, this race was held in March, and Kyle Busch dominated before losing second gear and being forced to work his way through the field without it, barely edging Kevin Harvick for the victory. Coverage begins at 8:00 PM EDT on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your “local MRN affiliate.”:http://www.racingone.com/stations.aspx
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