NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Truckin’ Thursdays: A Quintet Of Strong 2014 Starts

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With just two races under their belts already, the Camping World Truck Series doesn’t return to the track for another month. But in those first two events a few drivers have already shown some promise for what could be an outstanding season for them. I already touched on Ron Hornaday, Jr.‘s success last week, scoring two solid top-10 finishes in what is currently a race-by-race schedule.

While the veteran has certainly had a decent start to the year, he’s not the only one.Johnny Sauter is actually the only driver at this point to have two top-5 finishes on the season. After finishing third at Daytona in a race that’s normally quite unkind to the driver of the No. 98 Toyota, Sauter followed up at Martinsville with a fourth-place finish, ruffling plenty of feathers along the way. He now sits tied with Timothy Petersatop the standings, and Peters would likely have had two top-5 finishes this year if not for some late race contact at Martinsville where he was bumped back to sixth on the final circuit.

Timothy Peters, whose truck came up just short to Kyle Busch at Daytona this February is one of several series regulars off to a solid start in 2014.
Timothy Peters, whose truck came up just short to Kyle Busch at Daytona this February is one of several series regulars off to a solid start in 2014.

Of course it’s not like Peters’ start to the season is all that unexpected. He’s run quite well since joining Red Horse Racing in the middle of the 2009 season. Interestingly enough, this season is the fourth out of six, counting this year, that Peters has started off with top 10s in the first two events. In each of those seasons, he’s finished inside the top 10 in points, including his runner-up campaign to 2012 champion James Buescher.

Meanwhile, Peters’ RHR teammate,German Quiroga, is already doing his best to shake off any signs of a sophomore slump. While Quiroga ran around Martinsville like a virtual wrecking ball, he managed to avoid any retaliation (though his teammate clearly showed his displeasure after the race was over) and finished seventh. Having improved upon his tenth-place result in the season opener at Daytona, Quiroga has already surpassed his performance from last season and is on track to surpass his six top-10 finishes from last season. Additionally, he sits inside the top 10 in points, something he failed to do at all during his rookie campaign.

Another driver looking to avoid a sophomore slump is Ryan Blaney. Having joined Brad Keselowski Racing for a handful of events in 2012 before moving to a full-time schedule in 2013, Blaney is off to a solid start with a pair of top 10s. He currently sits just four points behind the leaders in the standings, tied with defending champion and Martinsville winner Matt Crafton.

The difference between Quiroga and Blaney though, is that the latter may have a few more distractions this season. He’s already scheduled to run 15 Nationwide Series events for Penske Racing and will make at least two Sprint Cup Series starts this year. Currently, he’s expected to run in Cup next month at Kansas Speedway and again in October at Talladega Superspeedway, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Team Penske give him another opportunity if the results are promising.

Jeb Burton is yet another driver in his sophomore season trying to make a name for himself in the Truck Series. Having been booted from his ride with Turner Scott Motorsports after his primary sponsor failed to make their payments, Burton was left hanging in the wind for this season until ThorSport Racing picked him up for a couple of one race deals at Daytona and Martinsville. Though he struggled mightily with handling at Martinsville and finished 21st, he did post a seventh-place finish at Daytona. Couple the uncertainty of whether he’ll even race a full schedule this year and the chemistry, or lack thereof, in a team that he’s hardly worked with, it’s likely to be an uphill battle, especially since ThorSport has often struggled to have a third team perform.

Two races is just a drop in the bucket for the entire 22-race schedule, but these drivers are already in a good position to move forward into the upcoming summer months where racing will be much less scarce. Plenty can and will happen before the end of the season, and those that are struggling now could easily string together some great finishes and change the entire landscape of the standings, and only time will tell who will rise to the top and who will fall behind.

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