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With the Camping World Truck Series off for the next couple weeks, it’s time for teams and drivers alike to take a step back and regroup in preparation for the final four races of the season. Of course, along with off weeks comes a lack of news coming out of the series. In fact, it’s almost as if the series doesn’t exist during their breaks, so this week, I bring you a few random thoughts and observations.
*Record Breaking Year*
Parker Kligerman’s victory last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway marked the eighth different first-time winner (John King – Daytona, James Buescher – Kansas, Justin Lofton – Charlotte, Joey Coulter – Pocono, Nelson Piquet Jr. – Michigan, Ty Dillon – Atlanta, Ryan Blaney – Iowa) the series has seen this season. It breaks the previous record of seven set in 1997 and matched in 1998.
Also with his win, Kligerman became the 13th different winner this year, tying a number set back in 2004. However, the record for most winners in a season came in 1998 and again in 2005 when 14 different drivers visited victory lane. It’s a mark that’s not unreachable with four events still left to go. With guys like Matt Crafton, Miguel Paludo, Jason White, Cale Gale and Ron Hornaday, Jr. still winless this season despite how they’ve run, 14 is a number that can not only be tied but broken.
Perhaps what’s more impressive about the number of winners this year is the average age among that group. Back in 2005 when the record of 14 was most recently hit, just two drivers were under the age of 30–Kyle Busch (20) and Brandon Whitt (22)–and nine were over the age of 40. This year, eight of the winners are 29 or younger, and Todd Bodine stands as the only driver over 40 to visit victory lane. Additionally, Ryan Blaney became the youngest winner in the Truck Series at the ripe age of 18 years, eight months and 15 days, breaking the previous record of 20 years and 18 days set by Kyle Busch back in 2005.
Whether the series will tie or break the record for most winners this year remains to be seen, but even if that record stands, there are plenty of others that have made this season one of the best in recent history.
It’s hard to talk about the Truck Series and not point to the epic battle that’s shaping up between leader Ty Dillon and James Buescher, who currently sits just one marker behind. It’s a margin that withstood Talladega, a track known to crush championship dreams with one wrong move and heads off to Martinsville in a couple weeks. The remainder of the top 5 all find themselves within 50 points of the leader, however Timothy Peters (-26) and Parker Kligerman (-34) are the only two left that have a shot–and a long-shot at that–to challenge for the championship.
I documented earlier this week in Tracking the Trucks how Kligerman would need to gain nearly nine points in each of the remaining events to have a shot at stealing the championship. On the other hand, Peters is in a slightly better situation and would need to gain almost seven markers on the leader. But even if he were to win each of the remaining four events (not counting potential bonus points for most laps led), Peters would still need Dillon and Buescher to finish no better than fourth.
Compare this year to last and you’ll see that with four races remaining, Austin Dillon held a slim five point advantage over Johnny Sauter but that the top 5 was a little closer together, separated by a mere 25 points–and they hadn’t even run Talladega yet. The margin actually closed slightly when Dillon escaped the superspeedway with a three marker lead over James Buescher after Sauter finished 15th. Fast forward to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and the driver of the No. 3 Chevrolet found himself with a 20 point lead over Sauter and a 28 marker cushion over Buescher, the only two drivers still mathematically eligible to win. In the end, the championship came down to a solid tenth-place result for eventual champion Dillon after Sauter did everything he could, winning the rain-shortened event.
Regardless of how many drivers enter the battle in the season finale at Homestead this year, you can bet that it’ll be a battle that comes down to the final laps. And all each contender can do to truly give himself a shot is to win the race and let the rest play out. After all, remember how the 2011 Sprint Cup Series season ended–in a tie that was broken by the number of victories Tony Stewart and Carl Edwards had. In that case, Buescher has the edge with four wins unless Dillon starts on a winning streak.
*Gresham Returns to Roots During Off Week*
Max Gresham will spend this off weekend by heading home to Gresham Motorsports Park to pilot the No. 18 PitBoxes.com Late Model car for Ronnie Sanders Racing. Gresham has a Pro Late Model victory at Mobile International Speedway in Alabama earlier this year.
“Although we’re looking forward to our next race with Eddie Sharp Racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Martinsville Speedway, a driver never really forgets his roots,” Gresham said. “In my case, that means a return to the short tracks. And my favorite, of course, in Gresham Motorsports Park. It’s always a thrill to go back to the half-mile track I am proud to call home.”
Gresham, whose grandfather Jim is a the primary member of Track Properties, LLC, a real-estate holding company that owns Gresham Motorsports Park, has spent much of his down time in the Truck Series running at the half-mile track.
“Since it’s the last race of the season at Gresham, we expect a big field of cars,” Gresham continued. “That always ramps up the competition a little more. Whoever wins on Saturday will be able to carry that momentum throughout the entire off season.”
The grandstands and trackside parking will open at 4:00 PM Saturday for practice in the Pro Late Models, Outlaw Late Models, Trucks, Sportsman / Renegades and the Mini-Stock classes. Feature events will begin at 7:00 PM.
In ten Camping World Truck Series starts this year, Gresham has a best finish of 18th at Rockingham Speedway with Joe Denette Motorsports.
*Update:* “We were really good at the end and we were coming for them. We had a great truck and we were patient all day to put ourselves into position at the end. I feel like we were in the right line to make it to the front and have a shot at the win, but I was coming off the wall and I just got sucked aero-wise into the No. 23. Talladega is one of those tracks where anything can happen and a finish like this is no reflection of your team or your equipment. Jeff [Hensley] made great calls strategy-wise and my spotter did a great job all race. This isn’t how we wanted to finish, but we can be proud of everything we did today.” _Miguel Paludo_
*Tweet of the Week:*
“*@miguelpaludo:*”:http://www.twitter.com/miguelpaludo Nervoso em casa assistindo o fim da corrida da Cup. / I’m nervous right now watching Cup race GWC. #NASCAR #BigOne
“*@PatiSouzaPaludo:*”:http://www.twitter.com/patisouzapaludo Oli e eu eu e Oli – Oli and I I and Oli ❤ “http://instagr.am/p/QlODjavcK-/”:http://instagr.am/p/QlODjavcK-/
*Photo of the Week:*
Did you know Beth is participating in the Step Out Walk to end diabetes this November in Dallas, TX? Want to know how you can help? Click on the Step Out image above to learn why she’s walking and what you can do to make a difference.