Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks
In a Nutshell: Matt Crafton took the checkered flag 0.167 seconds ahead of Joey Coulter to score his third career victory in Saturday afternoon’s SFP 250 from Kansas Speedway. Crafton took the lead with fresher tires for the second and final time on lap 138, and despite numerous challenges from Coulter, he led the final 30 laps to become the 13th different winner in 13 events at the speedway. Rookie Ryan Blaney, Brendan Gaughan and Johnny Sauter rounded out the top 5.
Who Should Have Won: Some would argue that James Buescher clearly had the truck to beat, and on Friday and early Saturday, that was the case as he swept both practice sessions before barely edging teammate Miguel Paludo for the pole. But in the end it was Matt Crafton who truly had one of the best trucks on the track. After struggling for much of the day Friday, the driver of the No. 88 Menards Toyota thought it would be another race to run for their best finish possible rather than a trip to victory lane. After starting sixth, he remained inside the top 10 for much of the day, with the exception of a round of green flag pit stops. After that stop, he steadily climbed through the field until taking the lead two laps after the tenth restart of the afternoon, a lead he held until the checkered flag flew.
Welcome to the newest addition to Tracking the Trucks! In this section for each race, we’ll take a look at the most important things to know just in case you weren’t able to watch it. Love it? Hate it? Just want to tell me something about? Let me know in the comments below.
Turner Scott Motorsports continues to show their strength … sort of: The Turner Scott Motorsports teams once again flexed their performance muscles, this time at a mile-and-a-half track, the type that was so good to them last season. Defending champion James Buescher led both practice sessions on Friday and backed that up with a record-breaking pole speed. And if that’s not enough, his teammates Miguel Paludo and Jeb Burton posted laps good enough for second and third, respectively.
When the race began, the trio remained together on the track for much of the early stages. But despite their strong start, things started to turn sour for the organization. On lap 35, Buescher got loose inside Paludo and pushed him into the outside wall, causing significant damage to the No. 32 Chevrolet. The damage turned out to be terminal, and the Brazilian was credited with a 31st-place finish.
“This is a tough one to swallow. Today should have been our first win, a top 3 for sure, and instead we’re in the garage. I’m so disappointed for my guys. they’ve been doing such a good job, both on pit road and in the shop, so I hate that this is how our races ended,” Paludo said. “This is going to be a huge hit for us in the points, unfortunately. But the bright side is that for the fourth race straight, we had a truck that could have won. We had the handling right from the first lap of practice. This is a race-winning team, a championship-winning team.”
Buescher apologized for the incident on the radio almost immediately, but it’s gotta be difficult for any driver to accept that a teammate took them out of the race less than a quarter of the way in. Despite that contact, Buescher ended up running well for much of the remainder of the race before struggling for grip with his final set of tires. Turner Scott Motorsports continues to bring strong trucks each and every week for all three of its drivers, and if they can manage to start posting the results that reflect their on-track performance, the rest of the drivers will be trying to play catch up.
ThorSport Continues Strong Start: With just four races completed on this year’s schedule, ThorSport Racing boasts three victories, with the only other one—Rockingham—going to Kyle Larson with the aforementioned Turner Scott Motorsports. After struggling much of last year, ThorSport teammates Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton continue to make waves and now hold the top two spots in the standings. Though teammate Todd Bodine has posted back-to-back DNFs, the drivers of the No. 88 and No. 98 trucks have more than made up for it. When asked during his post-race press conference about their success this season, race winner Crafton’s response was short and sweet.
“I have to thank Duke and Rhonda Thorson (team owners)—doing it out of Sandusky, Ohio. Everybody said it can’t be done and we are making fools out of all the ones that said it can’t be done.”
While there’s still plenty of season left to race, it appears the field may be chasing the ThorSport drivers for many weeks to come.
Cautions, Cautions, Cautions…and a Red Flag: If there’s one story that truly dominated the day more than any other one, it’s the number of cautions the drivers sat through all day. For a while it seemed like every time the green flag flew, the yellow flag wasn’t all that far behind. The race was slowed by 11 cautions for 52 of the 167 laps. Additionally, the red flag came out alongside the eighth caution after debris was strewn all over the track from an incident that involved Todd Bodine, Brennan Newberry and Bryan Silas. And as a result of those cautions, only half of the field actually finished the race.
First Truck Series race on the repaved surface: The last time the Camping World Truck Series came to Kansas Speedway, the track surface was a bit different. Following the April race weekend, the Speedway put down a fresh layer of pavement and reconfigured the 11-year-old track. In addition to changes to the frontstretch and infield, the old 15-degree banking in the turns was changed to progressive banking that varies from 17 to 20 degrees, and since the series only visits the 1.5-mile oval once each season, the SFP 250 was the first event most of the drivers got to experience it on.
Perhaps the biggest difference drivers saw was the change in the amount of grip they found on the track. I spoke with several drivers in the garage area on Friday that bragged about how easy it was for them to run without needing to peddle the throttle.
“This new pavement, there’s so much grip, you can drive these trucks wide open the whole time,” Joey Coulter said. “Kansas has always been one of my favorite tracks, and the repave made it all faster. You can run everywhere. These trucks can’t go any faster than what they’re going. It’s fun to race them like that.”
But aside from that grip, the speeds have increased tremendously. Both practice sessions saw at least 20 drivers running laps faster than the track qualifying record, set by Bill Lester in 2005.
“This is definitely a different Kansas than it has been in the past, that’s for sure,” Crafton said. “At first, I wasn’t a big fan of the track, because everybody was around the bottom. Halfway through the race, people started moving up, and we started getting a second groove. It wasn’t easy to run side-by-side, but you could run somewhat side-by-side, and that’s what was really cool about it.”
As evidenced by the large number of cautions caused by drivers getting loose inside their fellow competitors, it’s clear to see what Crafton meant by running “somewhat side-by-side.” Even when they weren’t wrecking, there was definitely plenty of competition and passing on the track, and as the surface ages, I wouldn’t be surprised to see that improve even more.
Spencer Gallagher may want to forget his debut weekend: After failing to qualify for last weekend’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200, Spencer Gallagher came into Kansas knowing he would make the field by virtue of only 36 trucks on the entry list. But despite the pressure being off, it wasn’t exactly the weekend that the young driver had hoped for. His troubles began on Friday with two spins in practice, and it didn’t get any better on Saturday. His engine blew during qualifying, forcing his small team to scramble to change engines before the drivers needed to get on the track.
Gallagher started the race at the back of the field and brought out the second caution with a spin. With no damage, his teamed bolted on a fresh set of rubber and moved on with their race. But on lap 110, he was involved in an incident with David Starr that damaged his truck enough that he was forced to call it quits early. Gallagher was credited with a 22nd-place finish.
Truck Rookie Report
2013 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Ryan Blaney (No. 29)
Jeb Burton (No. 4)
Brennan Newberry (No. 14)
German Quiroga, Jr. (No. 77)
Ryan Truex (No. 30)
Darrell Wallace, Jr. (No. 54)
No. of Rookies in the Race: 6 (add a debuting Spencer Gallagher)
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 2; Ryan Blaney, finished third and Darrell Wallace, Jr., finished seventh
“My team today battled hard and it paid off. This is a testament to all the work BKR and Ford Racing have put in the past months to get to a competitive level week in and week out at the race track. We look forward to heading into a small break in action, building on the momentum we currently have achieved. Charlotte is a few weeks away and I can’t wait to get back in my Cooper Standard Ford F-Series and go racing!” Ryan Blaney, finished third
“Our Liberty Tire Toyota Tundra was pretty good all day. We were on the tight side and we weren’t able to do much when we caught the draft. Learned a lot and we’ll take this truck onto Charlotte and see what we’ve got there.” Darrell Wallace, Jr., finished seventh
“I feel very bad. We had a very good truck. For sure it was a top 5 truck and we were fighting for position, and unfortunately Kyle (Busch) kept me down, pinched me down and I went loose, so we touched the wall and the guys did a very good job to repair the damage. We came back from being a lap down to almost fighting for a top 10. We ended up 11th with this Toyota Tundra Net10 Wireless 77 truck, but I wish this could be a better result for us. I mean, I feel bad. I don’t feel like and 11th spot. I tell you this: I feel like last.” German Quiroga, finished 11th
Johnny Sauter continues to sit atop the standings and holds a 12 point lead over teammate and race winner Matt Crafton, who moved up one spot. Rookies Jeb Burton, who dropped one spot after a 15th-place finish, and Ryan Blaney sit third and fourth, respectively. Ty Dillon rounds out the top 5.
Defending champion James Buescher gained another position after posting his first top-10 finish of the year, and Brendan Gaughan, who gained four spots on his fourth-place result sit sixth and seventh. Rookie Darrell Wallace, Jr., who moved up one position sits eight followed by Joey Coulter, who moved up three spots is ninth. Dakoda Armstrong rounds out the top 10.
The biggest loser inside the top 10 was Miguel Paludo, who fell six spots following a wreck after contact with teammate James Buescher while the two battled for the lead. He ended up credited with a 31st-place finish after completing just 35 laps.
“It feels damn good [to be in victory lane]. I can’t thank the guys enough. This truck was junk yesterday. This thing was horrible. The guys changed so much on this thing—you always hear people say it, but they changed four springs, sway bar, sway bar arms—I mean tons of stuff. There’s a bunch more stuff that they changed that would probably lose everybody. But they made a wholesale change and what that comes down to is teamwork and believing in each other and then going out there and doing it.” Matt Crafton
“It felt like Daytona [chasing Matt Crafton in the closing laps]—I knew we were both in the gas and stood on it all we could. It didn’t seem like either one of us could gain or lose anything. I’m just so proud of these (No.) 18 Tundra guys—we’ve kind of gotten off to a slow start. We came here, regrouped. We got in a little bit of a jam at the beginning of the race and these guys just kept digging, kept digging and great pit stops. Harold (Holly, crew chief) played pit strategy perfect. It’s just awesome—I’m so happy for everybody on this Tundra.” Joey Coulter, finished second
“I can’t believe Ryan (Blaney) got around me on the last lap using the outside line. I didn’t think anyone ran a higher line than I do. He made a great move at the end and it was tough to give up third, but I’ll take a top-5 finish any day. Shane Wilson (crew chief) made some great calls today that helped us gain track position, and my crew did a great job in the pits. our team is getting into a pretty good rhythm right now. I hope we can keep this momentum going even though we’re about to take a three-week break.” Brendan Gaughan, finished fourth
“I can’t thank my guys enough for all the hard work they put into this Rheem Chevrolet for this weekend. We had a fast Rheem Silverado all weekend and I felt like we had a legitimate shot at the win, but our last set of tires didn’t have the grip like our previous set. I feel like we are gaining on the competition and I feel like we will be in victory lane very soon.” James Buescher, finished tenth
Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series goes into another nearly month-long break before heading off to Charlotte Motor Speedway on Friday, May 17th. Last season, Justin Lofton scored his first career victory over Brad Keselowski despite struggling on every restart throughout the night. The North Carolina Education Lottery 200 will be televised on SPEED beginning at 7:30 PM ET; it can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM Channel 90.