NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: UNOH 175

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In a Nutshell: Cole Custer took the checkered flag 1.148 seconds ahead of Darrell Wallace, Jr. to win the UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Saturday afternoon. The driver of the No. 00 took the lead on the final restart with just four laps remaining en route to his first career victory. Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter and John Hunter Nemechek rounded out the top 5.

ColeCuster_12-0130_edit3
Cole Custer, youngest Truck series winner (credit: colecuster.com)

Who Should Have Won: Cole Custer. If you look at the stats from the end of the race, it’s easy to point at 16-year-old Custer as the guy to beat since he led 148 of 175 laps Saturday afternoon. But the impressive part of his run is that crew chief Joe Shear, Jr. made the call to take four tires with just under 30 laps left. As a result, Custer restarted seventh and was the first truck with four fresh rubbers. A series of cautions and power moves by the driver of the No. 00 put him on the front row for the final restart with four laps remaining. Additionally, Custer, at 16 years, seven months and 28 days old, shattered the record for youngest race winner, set by Erik Jones last season at the age of 17 years, five months and nine days.

Race Rundown:

Mason Mingus Runs Last Race With Win-Tron

The UNOH 175 marked rookie Mason Mingus’ final run behind the wheel of the No. 35 Toyota for Win-Tron Racing after he announced during the week that he would run his last race with the organization at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. In response to that announcement, Win-Tron owners Kevin Cywinski and Nate Thiesse released a statement on the decision.

“We want to thank Mason (Mingus) for his efforts in the ARCA Racing Series presented by Menards and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with Win-Tron Racing. We wish him the best of luck in his future endeavors and hope Mason continues to obtain his goals in his professional racing career. Win-Tron Racing has been very diligent in our inaugural year in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and we feel very positive of the progression made throughout the season.

“Win-Tron Racing is and will remain committed to fielding a competitive and professional team in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, and we will continue to do so moving forward. We are devoted on fielding a truck for the remainder of the 2014 schedule.”

The rookie won’t be sidelined for the rest of the season, though. Beginning next weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Mingus and sponsors Call 811 Before You Dig and Diamond Equipment will join Billy Boat Motorsports, an organization that currently runs part-time in the Nationwide Series.

“My goal has always been to run multiple cars or trucks and multiple drivers out of our shop,” said team owner Billy Boat. “We have been building the foundation of our team, hiring talented people and building quality race cars and trucks. Having raced against Mason last year in the ARCA Racing Series, I was very familiar with his talent and determination. I hope to use these six races as a springboard into 2015, with Billy Boat Motorsports running full time entries in the NCWTS.”

Mingus finished 17th in his last race with Win-Tron. In 12 starts this season, Mingus has just one top-10 finish, a career-best tenth at Kansas Speedway in May. He currently sits 11th in points. Win-Tron Racing has not yet announced who will drive for the organization for the remainder of the year.

Crafton Battles Back From Misfortunes

Matt Crafton started at the rear of the field in 30th after he failed to make a single lap in qualifying. An electrical problem in qualifying left the No. 88 Toyota sitting on pit road while the rest of the field ran their laps.

“Actually, we were really lucky to find it in qualifying,” said crew chief Carl “Junior” Joiner”A little bad luck created some good luck.”

And that’s exactly what happened. Within three laps, Crafton had moved into 19th and didn’t stop there. During the long green-flag run that ran through most of the race, the driver of the No. 88 Toyota worked methodically through the field and put himself in position to take the lead in the late stages of the race. Though he lost the top spot to Cole Custer on the final restart, Crafton finished a solid third and actually gained points on teammate Johnny Sauter in the standings.

After the checkered flag flew, you could hear the disappointment in Crafton’s voice after getting so close to a record-breaking win and letting it slip away.

“[We] started at the back, drove to the front, got beat at the end,” Crafton said of his race. “I spun the tires and couldn’t get it in fourth gear, to be totally honest. Once I spun the tires, I was screwed right there. Then I couldn’t get it in gear, and everybody had a run on me. My bad.

“I’m just super-disappointed in the finish. I screwed up on the last restart and I got beat.”

I can’t even imagine being in Matt Crafton’s shoes and coming so close to victory lane and losing it on the final restart the way he did, but on the other hand, this kind of run is exactly what champions are made of. First, finding the electrical problem before the race began was a stroke of good fortune for the Crafton, who would have taken a serious hit in the standings if he had finished multiple laps down, or worse, failed to finish at all. Add in the strength of the No. 88 truck throughout the race that allowed the defending champion to drive to the front of the field, and there’s no major reason to walk away disappointed. Obviously a racer wants to win; after all, that’s what he’s there to do, but in a big picture scenario, Crafton was a winner on Saturday afternoon too.

Custer Receives Bonus in Victory Lane

As if winning a Truck Series race at the age of 16 wasn’t enough, along with his victory, Cole Custer was surprised by University of Northern Ohio president Jeff Jarvis, who revealed to the winner that he had been awarded a presidential scholarship to the university.

“It’s awesome,” Custer said of the award. “I can’t believe it. It’s such a great school and they’ve done a lot for this sport over the last few years and I can’t believe they’d do something so generous like that.”

It’s a special bonus for the young driver from a school that has been so special to NASCAR and the Truck Series in general, something that helps to set UNOH apart.

Another Short Field Plagues the Truck Series

Once again, the Truck Series experienced a short field, only putting 30 trucks on the starting grid. Add in that five of those drivers parked before completing ten laps, and it was really only a 25-truck field. Ted Minor didn’t even complete a lap in Norm Benning’s No. 57 truck, citing clutch problems, and Benning actually parked his No. 6 truck after just four circuits, claiming a rear gear issue. Justin Jennings parked after three laps, citing a vibration, and Caleb Roark ended his day after four laps in Jennifer Jo Cobb’s second truck with brake issues. B.J. McLeod completed eight laps, the most of the start-and-park trucks, before calling it a day with rear gear problems.

Youth Movement

There has been plenty of talk all season – especially at tracks 1.1-miles in length or shorter – about the youth ready to invade the Truck Series. Once again, that youth joined in at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The average age of the top-10 finishers came out to 22.5 years old, but if you were to remove 34-year-old Johnny Sauter and his teammate, 36-year-old Matt Crafton, that average age drops to just over 19 years of age. Clearly, there’s plenty of young talent ready to join the series, and some of those drivers haven’t even reached 18 yet.

Truck Rookie Report
2014 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Tyler Young (No. 02)
Tyler Reddick (No. 19)
Ben Kennedy (No. 31)
Mason Mingus (No. 35)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 17 (add Ray Black, Jr., Brandon Brown, Cole Custer, Gray Gaulding, Cameron Hayley, J.R. Heffner, Erik Jones, B.J. McLeod, Ted Minor, John Hunter Nemechek and Caleb Roark)
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 5; Cole Custer, finished first; John Hunter Nemechek, finished fifth; Cameron Hayley, finished sixth; Erik Jones, finished seventh; Tyler Reddick, finished eighth
Rookie of the Race: Tyler Reddick
Note: Only drivers who have declared for the Rookie of the Year battle are eligible for Rookie of the Race.

Points Update: Matt Crafton maintains the championship lead and has expanded his cushion to seven markers over teammate Johnny Sauter who remains second. Ryan Blaney remains third but now sits 24 points behind the leader, courtesy of a tenth-place finish behind both of the leaders. Darrell Wallace, Jr. remains fourth in the standings and didn’t lose any ground to Crafton thanks to his runner-up finish, though he still sits 35 points behind. German Quiroga rounds out the top 5, 72 points behind Crafton.

Joey Coulter remains sixth in the standings, just three markers outside the top 5, followed by rookie Ben Kennedy. Just one point behind Kennedy, Timothy Peters is eighth. Jeb Burton and Ron Hornaday, Jr. round out the top 10.

Quotable:

“It’s awesome. I can’t believe it. It’s such a great school and they’ve done a lot for this sport over the last few years and I can’t believe they’d do something so generous like that. This is a pretty special race for our team because half or three quarters of our guys are all from New England, so this is a big race for us. I love the state and I just love this track. The fans are awesome and it was always one of my favorite tracks growing up, too, so I mean I can’t believe I could come here and be in victory lane.” Cole Custer

“I thought we practiced better than we raced. We were best on the long runs and just terrible on the short runs, so all those restarts killed us. I’m not worried about the championship; I just let the crew worry about that. I just go out and try to win races.” Darrell Wallace, Jr., finished second

“I love how Cole is so humble, having a great season and we got a young, great, great driver here. He really stayed poised and calm through the last part of the race, and that was huge in keeping the team focused and giving us a chance at the win. Lots of maturity there.” Winning crew chief Joe Shear, Jr.

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads out west to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next Saturday night. Last year, Timothy Peters led just the final three laps after a late-race caution and held on to score his second win of the year. Coverage for the Rhino Linings 350 begins at 10:00 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM NASCAR channel 90.

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