Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks
In a Nutshell: Tyler Reddick, one year after making his first Truck Series start at Daytona, coasted to his first career win. As part of a dominant night by Brad Keselowski Racing, Reddick used blocking from teammate Austin Thierault to lead the final 33 laps, coasting to the line ahead of the field by 0.173 seconds – an eternity by modern Daytona standards. In the end, Thierault got too loose off turn 4, costing him second place but it was too little, too late for a small list of challengers that survived this wreckfest of a season opener.
Who Should Have Won: Reddick. He led a race-high 46 laps, and the superiority of Brad Keselowski Racing was never challenged when he and Theirault hooked up. Ty Dillon ran well, leading 37 laps and started from the pole. But down the stretch, his No. 33 car was shuffled back and he never really had a dancing partner to claw back toward the front, especially on a night where Daytona produced a lot of one-groove racing for the Truck Series.
Big Wrecks, Bad Move By Ben Kennedy?
This season-opening Truck race made ARCA look like the cleanest series on earth. Two wrecks, within the first 58 laps of the race involved a total of 23 trucks. In the first one, it was clear Austin Hill lost a tire, spinning out in front of the field in a wreck that left a lot of innocent victims. Justin Boston, Justin Marks, Ben Kennedy and Donnie Neuenberger were among those seriously damaged.
It’s the second wreck, though, that eliminated several of the top contenders and left many scratching their head. Kennedy, limping around the track with damage, appeared to lose a tire yet stayed in the main racing groove on the back straightaway. The leaders, seeing him running slowly up ahead, checked up to avoid him, eventually starting a chain reaction wreck. The dozen trucks involved included Johnny Sauter, Timothy Peters, Spencer Gallagher, Chris Fontaine, James Buescher, and heralded rookie candidate Daniel Hemric.
Long night with our @localmotors Toyota. Two incidents that we couldn't control. All that matters is that we did evrythng we possibly could.
— Ben Kennedy (@BenKennedy33) February 21, 2015
Other observers felt differently about Kennedy’s maneuver, wondering why he was so high on the racetrack when his problem occurred. Whatever your opinion on it, the end result left a smattering of trucks remaining in contention: just 14 were on the lead lap at the finish, with many of those looking like they raced at Martinsville, not one of the sport’s fastest superspeedways.
Reddick Comes Into His Own
Tyler Reddick had a rough first half of his rookie season in the Truck Series, going without a top-5 finish in his first eight events driving for Brad Keselowski Racing. But in his final eight starts, he had seven top-10 results and it’s clear the second-year driver is finally coming into his own.
“I think everyone knew going in that with only seven pavement races ever under my belt, there were going to be some things we had to work on,” he told me Friday night. “I felt like once we got through half of my year, there were a lot of things we improved upon. It’s unbelievable how much I learned from Daytona here last year to Homestead at the end of the 2014 season. You just feel like you’re on two completely different planets from the standpoint of readiness and comfort.”
Driving in such a high-profile ride, with teammate Ryan Blaney challenging for the championship last season, some owners might have pulled the plug early in this impatient era of NASCAR. But for owner Brad Keselowski, he never had a doubt Reddick would develop into a driver capable of contending for a title one day and becoming one of the Truck Series’ top-tier contenders.
“Patience as an owner, first off, you shouldn’t hire somebody you don’t believe in to begin with,” Keselowski added. “We believed in Tyler the whole time. But to go along with that, patience is kind of earned by a driver by having a strong work ethic, meticulous and well put together mental attitude. Tyler’s had that all along.”
An overjoyed Reddick claimed he had over 140 text messages on his phone after reaching Victory Lane. That caused Keselowski to joke, “Enjoy it now. When you get your 40th win, you’ll be lucky to get a text from your mom.”
* The Truck Series race, down the stretch was mostly tame as drivers never really got a run on the top 2 BKR contenders. Whenever someone got out of line, like Dillon, they were shuffled back as no one really had a drafting partner.
“The top line just never got rolling,” said second-place finisher Erik Jones. “The only time it did, we about had a wreck once with the 19 on the top from side drafting people so hard.”
“To get up there, you had to be pretty aggressive and work it really, really hard,” added third-place finisher Scott Lagasse, Jr. “Definitely something you didn’t want to do because you’d just make people mad by doing it.”
* Hoods, hoods, and more hoods. At least three came up during the course of the race, ruining the night for Travis Kvapil and causing scary moments for Bryan Silas and Johnny Sauter. While it was understandable these things happen, on a night where sheet metal got crumpled to bits it was an extremely large coincidence for so many to come undone. Perhaps NASCAR should look at a way to strengthen the hoodpins?
* How about Ray Black, Jr. divebombing below the yellow line on the way to the checkered flag? While Black was not penalized, since he never improved position the poor rookie didn’t seem to know it was a rule in his post-race interview. Great to see someone going for it like that, though.
Truck Rookie Report
2015 Rookie of the Year Candidates
No. 4 Erik Jones
No. 07 Ray Black, Jr.
No. 08 Korbin Forrester
No. 14 Daniel Hemric
No. 23 Spencer Gallagher
No. 29 Austin Theirault
No. 54 Justin Boston
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 4
Rookie of the Race: Erik Jones, finished second
Note: Only drivers declared for the Rookie of the Year battle are eligible for Rookie of the Race honors.
Points Update: As you would expect, Tyler Reddick heads out of Daytona with a six-point lead in the standings over Erik Jones. What’s notable is a number of drivers who are far down the list; expected title contender Timothy Peters is already 28 points behind after his wreck. Ben Kennedy is 32 back.
“I can tell you any race you lead at Daytona can be very stressful. You’re the guy in front of everyone else and you have no one else to draft off of. You’re kind of a sitting duck. You have to really just wait and be smart, just hope for the best. There was a lot of stress taken off my mind when I saw the 29 behind me, knowing I had a teammate right behind me.” – Tyler Reddick
“It’s a bit surreal sitting here as an owner. Now I know how Roger feels. It’s completely different. I always felt like as a driver, when you win a race, you’re happy about it, but in a lot of ways I feel like I just didn’t screw it up. As an owner when you’re up here, it’s completely different. To see what it means to Tyler, Doug (Randolph, crew chief), the whole team, kind of see it from a different elevation, it’s a whole different really high of emotions. Man, it’s incredible.” – Brad Keselowski, Tyler Reddick’s owner
“It’s unfortunate to finish second any day. But it’s a good run for us. We just wanted to come in here and have a good day, solid day to start off the year. Didn’t want to get caught up in anything. Accomplished that goal thoroughly. Just excited to really get the season going.” – Erik Jones, finished second
“Thought we would have a shot at it. I knew we had a really good piece. NTS built a great truck and brought it, have been a lot of fun to work with. Got caught up in that wreck early, got the nose beat in, I had my hands full. He was smart enough to recognize it and cut me some slack and be really cool.” – Scott Lagasse, Jr., finished third
Up Next: Camping World Truck Series drivers get right back after it, running in another Friday night special. This time, it’ll be at Atlanta Motor Speedway as they run the inaugural Atlanta 200 Spring race. The new event on the schedule will be televised at 5:30 p.m. beginning on FOX Sports 1.