NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: fred’s 250 powered by Coca-Cola

Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks

In a Nutshell: Timothy Peters took the checkered flag 0.143 seconds ahead of Tayler Malsam to win the fred’s 250 powered by Coca Cola at Talladega Superspeedway Saturday afternoon. Peters held the top spot and remained there through a green-white-checkered finish to make 2014 his sixth consecutive season with at least one win. Spencer Gallagher, Tyler Reddick and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top 5.

Who Should Have Won: Throw everyone’s name in a hat and grab one. Seriously. Talladega has been known as the great equalizer where anyone who survives any carnage on race day has a shot at the win. As is usually the case on the superspeedways, several drivers who don’t typically run near the front of the field found themselves inside the top 10 in the closing laps, but it was Timothy Peters who used the entire track to keep himself out front for his first win this season.

Race Rundown:

Three Drivers Debut

As I wrote on Thursday, three drivers made their Truck Series debuts on Saturday afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway. Milka Duno, Daniel Suarez and Cody Ware headed into the superspeedway with one agenda: finish the race and gain some experience.

Milka Duno suffered a blown engine after completing just five laps in practice. The team was forced to put a new engine in the truck, and as a result, Duno was unable to run during qualifying and had to start dead last. After starting in the back of the field, it didn’t take long for the driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet to lose the draft. Duno ended up finishing 25th, five laps down. On the plus side, the Venezuelan avoided the Talladega carnage and was running at the end.

Meanwhile, Daniel Suarez started 17th and ran inside the top 10 at times during the day. In fact, he was up as high as eighth late in the going before running out of gas. But despite that, Suarez was able to get enough fuel to finish the race in 15th.

Cody Ware was actually the only driver of the debuting trio not running when the checkered flag flew, though that’s not to say he wasn’t running well earlier in the race. After starting 31st, Ware took his time in the draft and ran as high as 11th in the early stages on Saturday, but he officially retired with overheating issues after 70 laps and was credited with a 27th-place finish.

All three of the debuting drivers managed to avoid the carnage brought on by a couple of wrecks, and Ware was the only one not running at the finish. I’d say that’s not a bad day for the competitors who had not yet run in the Truck Series and chose to tackle a track like Talladega.

Subjective Tandem Drafting Calls

Every time NASCAR heads to the superspeedways this season, drivers are constantly reminded that tandem drafting for “an extended period of time” would be an offense that would cause a penalty to be assessed. Saturday afternoon was no different when the sanctioning body determined Joe Nemechek had locked bumpers with Matt Crafton and called both drivers down pit road for a pass-through penalty. Crafton’s team was none too pleased with Nemechek and showed their displeasure by climbing on the pit wall and gesturing as Nemechek drove through.

If the sanctioning body chooses to penalize for tandem drafting, that’s their choice, however it’s wrong for the the driver being pushed to suffer the consequences when the driver behind them hooks up to the back bumper. What is the pushee expected to do? Make some drastic lane change that could end up causing a big wreck? No thanks! It’s definitely a rule that NASCAR should revisit before the sport has to face the superspeedways again next season.

Ben Kennedy’s Scary Wreck

Last year’s Talladega race ended with a terrifying wreck that left Miguel Paludo on his roof and about a dozen cars damaged as the field crossed the start / finish line, and though everyone made it through the green-white-checkered finish this time around, the scary one was earlier in the race. Joe Nemechek clipped Ben Kennedy’s right rear corner, sending him hard into the outside wall, up into a slide on his driver’s side and back into the wall again. In the process, the bumper and radiator, among other parts from Kennedy’s No. 31 Chevrolet, slid across the track.

Initially, the announcers on FOX tried to blame Chris Fontaine for bumping Nemechek and causing him to get loose, though none of the angles they showed gave any indication that the two made contact, including a quick look at the front end of Fontaine’s truck. They were silenced, however, when Nemechek came over the radio. His first concern was that Kennedy had gotten out of the truck alright, and he had, walking to the ambulance under his own power. The next statement that came out of Nemechek’s mouth was to place the blame squarely on his shoulders. He apparently got loose in the draft and couldn’t make the corrections needed to avoid the contact.

“Well, that hurt. I have a feeling I’m going to be pretty sore this week. We were so good this weekend. Our guys really deserved a win today; they built me such a fast truck,” Kennedy said. “I’m not really sure what happened, but the truck behind me got into me and at those speeds, you hit the wall fast and hard. Fortunately, Martinsville [Speedway] has been good to us in the past, so maybe next week is our week. I’m so proud of everything this team has done all year long, and we’ll just keep digging.”

In a testament to the safety advancements NASCAR has made over the years, Kennedy was able to walk away from his truck on Saturday afternoon. He’ll undoubtedly be sore for a few days, but he’ll be able to race again come Martinsville next weekend. You could see Kennedy’s body language and how disappointed he was to be out of a race where he had been running inside the top 10 for much of the day, just biding his time and waiting for the perfect moment to make the move to the front. But with that said, the rookie has gotten his first Talladega wreck under his belt and likely learned plenty while racing in the draft.

Non-SAFER Walls at Talladega

I know this topic comes up every time NASCAR races at Talladega, but why on earth are there ANY walls around that track that are not SAFER barriers? All I could think of when Bryan Silas and Brennan Newberry wrecked and headed toward the inside wall is the kind of hit Silas was about to take. Thankfully, the grass slowed him down enough and allowed him to avoid the wall, however that should never be a concern as all walls around a track of this size should be SAFER with no exceptions. My belief has always been that if it’s a wall that someone could hit, it’s likely that it will happen at some point, and waiting until a driver gets injured or worse to fix it should not be the norm.

Johnny Sauter’s Engine Failure

Johnny Sauter suffered his team’s first engine failure since 2009 on Saturday afternoon and was out of the race just 24 laps in. He was credited with a 31st-place finish, however, it wasn’t even due to faulty equipment. The DNF puts Sauter in a long-shot position to snag the championship as he now sits 36 markers behind teammate and point leader Matt Crafton.

“We evidently ran over a bolt and it went through the radiator and must have pushed the water out so fast that I didn’t have any idea,” Sauter said. “The water temperature never showed anything. We’re out of the race — the motor is blown up and it’s really unfortunate. I hate it for everybody. We’ll lick our wounds and go to the next one.”

While it’s certainly no consolation to Sauter as he sat unable to run the rest of the race at Talladega, ThorSport should be pretty proud of its equipment. Having not suffered and engine failure in more than three years is a testament to owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson and their dedication to expanding slowly and providing solid and competitive equipment on a weekly basis.

Quick Hits:

* Red Horse Racing honored Steve Byrnes, who is on leave while fighting a recurrence of cancer, by putting his name above the doors on the Nos. 17 and 77 Toyotas, driven by Timothy Peters and German Quiroga, respectively. Peters took Byrnes to Victory Lane in spirit when he won on Saturday afternoon.

“Steve Byrnes is a dear friend to all of us and it is an honor to carry his name on the truck,” Peters said after his victory. “I am so glad we were able to take him to Victory Lane today. We are all thinking about him and praying for him. He beat the cancer once, and he can do it again. He was our own guardian angel today.”

* Race winner Timothy Peters and Ryan Blaney both led four times for 31 laps, so each driver will receive a bonus point for leading the most laps, something that could make the difference for Blaney coming down the stretch for the championship.

* Saturday’s fred’s 250 ended up with a full field, and the even better news is that only two drivers chose to start-and-park. Mike Harmon never completed a lap, and Justin Jennings parked after completing two circuits, citing a vibration. The remainder of the DNFs recorded were for legitimate wrecks or engine problems.

Truck Rookie Report
2014 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Tyler Young (No. 02)
Tyler Reddick (No. 19)
Mason Mingus (No. 15)
Ben Kennedy (No. 31)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 15 (add Mike Affarano, Ryan Ellis, Korbin Forrister, Spencer Gallagher, Erik Jones, Scott Stenzel, Jimmy Weller, III, Derek White and debuting drivers Milka Duno, Daniel Suarez and Cody Ware)

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 3; Spencer Gallagher, finished third; Tyler Reddick, finished fourth; Erik Jones, finished sixth

Rookie of the Race: Tyler Reddick, finished fourth
Note: Only drivers declared for the Rookie of the Year battle are eligible for Rookie of the Race honors.

Polesitter Tyler Reddick was busted for speeding on pit road twice but still managed to work back to an impressive fourth-place finish, matching his fourth at Chicagoland Speedway earlier this season.

Rookie Quotes:

“It was a learning experience for sure. We spent most of the race just trying to figure out what to do and riding around – just trying to get to the end. Once we got down to the last 20 (laps), it was kind of time to start racing a little bit. Worked our way back up to the front and ended up fourth for the final green-white-checkered finish. Had a shot at it I felt like, but things just didn’t play out right with trucks behind us and pushing and stuff. Ended up sixth, which is a good, solid day for us. Had a fast ToyotaCare Tundra and it was a good owner’s points day. Good learning experience for me and a clean truck. Something to build on.” Erik Jones

“We wanted to position ourselves to have a chance at the end. On that last restart, I thought we were in a good spot to try and make a run at the front. The No. 13 truck jumped out, I went with him, and no one came with us. It’s hard when you don’t have much help. It’s disappointing to not get the result we wanted after running in the top 10 a majority of the day. It’s a blast to run up front like we did today.” Tyler Young, finished 17th

Points Update: As was expected from Talladega, the standings did see a bit of a shake-up. Matt Crafton headed into the weekend with a 19-point advantage over teammate Johnny Sauter, but he leaves with a 16-marker cushion ahead of Ryan Blaney, who moved up one spot. Darrell Wallace, Jr. also moved up one position and sits third. Johnny Sauter dropped two spots to fourth, and race winner Timothy Peters moves up two positions to round out the top 5. Joey Coulter dropped on spot to sixth and is followed by German Quiroga, who dropped one position to seventh. The rest of the top 10 remains unchanged. Ben Kennedy is eighth, followed by Jeb Burton. Ron Hornaday, Jr. rounds out the top 10.

Quotable:

“It feels so good to be back in Victory Lane. I am so glad I could finally get (team owner) Tom DeLoach and everyone at Red Horse Racing the win they deserve. All of the guys work so hard; from those here on the road crew, the pit crew and everyone back at the shop. We have been trying so hard every week, and just have had the worst luck this year. I can’t tell them enough how much I appreciate all of their effort; and for Tom’s (DeLoach) support.” Timothy Peters

“That was awesome out there today. This Turner Scott Motorsports team gave me an incredible truck to work with this weekend and basically made my job easy today. I can’t thank Mike Hillman Jr. and my spotter Eddie D’Hondt enough for their guidance throughout these past two days; I learned a lot from both of them. Overall, it was a great day for our entire Outerwall team. Our crew did awesome on pit road and helped me get the lead after one of those stops. I think we’ve turned our luck around and I’m really looking forward to Texas and Homestead. I wouldn’t count us out yet; I think we can still get a win before the season wraps up.” Tayler Malsam, finished second

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to Martinsville Speedway next Saturday for their second visit this season. Last year, Darrell Wallace, Jr. scored his first career victory, easily beating Brendan Gaughan by nearly two seconds. Coverage for the Kroger 200 begins at 1:00 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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JohnQ

I cannot even bring myself to watch a lap of this anymore. Was anyone there?

JohnQ

I thought the stands for the Cup race were pretty full too. Nice to see.

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