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This weekend, the Camping World Truck Series heads off to Kansas Speedway for a little Saturday afternoon action at the 1.5-mile oval. In 12 previous visits to the facility, no driver has even been a repeat winner — yet. But perhaps what’s more interesting is that of those 12 different victors, four happened to notch their first career trip to victory lane at the speedway. With an entry list 37 strong and only four previous winners at Kansas entered (Johnny Sauter, Ron Hornaday, Jr., Todd Bodine and James Buescher), the likelihood of adding a 13th different winner is pretty high.
But until the checkered flag flies on Saturday afternoon, I’d like to take a look at the drivers who did score their first wins at the track and where they are now.
James Buescher – 2012
The most recent driver to earn his first career victory at Kansas came in the form of defending champion James Buescher. Driving in his fourth full-time season in the Truck Series, Buescher won in dominating fashion, leading 103 of 167 laps after starting sixth. The victory was the first of four in what would become a breakout season for the 23-year-old, and not only did he beat the rest of the field, he also beat eventual Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski. It would eventually set the tone for Buescher’s 2012 championship winning campaign.
Fast forward to today and Buescher has struggled just a bit this season. Though he’s had some impressive runs throughout first three races this season, his results don’t exactly show the kind of strength they did early on last year. Having yet to score a top-10 finish this season, Buescher sits seventh in the standings, 42 markers behind leader Johnny Sauter. However, Turner Scott Motorsports has shown tremendous performance across the board, and if the No. 31 team can begin to put together the finishes that their early-race runs have produced, Buescher could very well become the first back-to-back Truck Series champion.
Erik Darnell – 2007
Erik Darnell made his Truck Series debut in 2004 but didn’t start racing full time until 2006, however it was the following season before he headed to victory lane at Kansas. In a more than ten-second victory over Rick Crawford. It wasn’t nearly the thriller of a finish that his victory at Michigan was the following season when he crossed the line just 0.005 seconds ahead of Johnny Benson, Jr., though. Darnell remained in the Truck Series until the end of the 2008 season.
He also has a handful of Sprint Cup Series starts—seven in 2009 and two start-and-park efforts in 2011—to go along with at least one race run in the Nationwide Series from 2008 through 2012. Though he ran 31 of the 33 races in 2012 (he failed to qualify at Daytona), he has yet to make a NASCAR start this year.
Jon Wood – 2003
Jon Wood made his Truck Series debut in 2001 but it wasn’t until 2003 when he finally broke through with his first win at Kansas. After starting third, he led 67 laps, including the last 28, en route to victory lane. However, it was his second win that actually meant more because it came at his home track of Martinsville. In his four seasons in the Truck Series, Wood posted two victories, 14 top 5s and 41 top-10 results.
Fast forward to 2005 when he made his debut in the then-Busch Series. He spent two full seasons there before making his Sprint Cup Series debut in 2007. He ran just four Cup Series races in 2007 and 2008 combined, posting a best finish of 29th at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in his series debut. Since then, Wood’s plans have been undecided, hinging mostly on sponsorship availability and open opportunities.
Ricky Hendrick – 2001
The late Ricky Hendrick scored his first and only Truck Series win here in 2001. After starting on the front row, and led 32 laps before heading to victory lane nearly three seconds ahead of Ted Musgrave. The 2001 season was his only one spent in the Truck Series before running a partial season in the Nationwide Series in 2002. Sadly, his life was tragically cut short when he became one of the victims in the Hendrick Motorsports plane crash in October, 2004.
The performance of this year’s rookie class has shown in the few races the series has run so far this year, it’s not impossible for any one of them to get to victory lane, and that doesn’t even count Joey Logano, who will once again pilot a Brad Keselowski Racing F-Series Ford. In the end, even if there’s not a first-time winner this weekend, it would be great to see a 13th different driver end up in victory lane.
TV Alert: Don’t miss a special feature on the No. 32 team that will air on SPEED’s CWTS Setup show prior to the Truck Series race from Kansas on Saturday at 1:30 PM ET!
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