*In a Nutshell:* Kyle Busch took the checkered flag 3.816 seconds ahead of Austin Dillon to win the F.W. Webb 175 Saturday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Busch led all but ten laps on the way to scoring his 30th career Camping World Truck Series victory. Kevin Harvick, Ron Hornaday, Jr. and Johnny Sauter rounded out the top-5 finishers, while Matt Crafton wound up sixth and was the last truck on the lead lap.
*Who Should Have Won:* Hands down, *Kyle Busch* had the truck to beat Saturday afternoon. After leading the final practice and starting on the pole, Busch wasted no time pulling out front. Jumping out to as much as a six-second lead at times, Busch led the first 130 laps until a round of green-flag pit stops. And it only took ten laps after that for the field to cycle through, letting the driver of the No. 18 reclaim the top spot – a position he never relinquished until the checkered flag flew.
*Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:*
*1. Did NASCAR make the right caution calls Saturday?*
The F.W. Webb 175 was slowed by just two cautions Saturday afternoon, both for debris. And the only real on-track incident came when David Starr spun on lap 75, resulting in no caution being thrown. But did NASCAR make the right decision in all three cases?
We’ll start with the first caution that flew on lap 61 for debris. At that point, James Buescher, who held the points lead coming into Saturday’s race, was just a few truck lengths from going a lap down to leader Kyle Busch. And suddenly, there was debris on the track that SPEED’s cameras just couldn’t seem to find. Coincidence? Hard to tell, but unless we can see the debris, I’m willing to call fake caution on NASCAR.
Consider this scenario for a minute: Buescher came into New Hampshire with a seven-point lead over Austin Dillon despite having missed the second race of the season at Phoenix. I’ve talked about it before, saying that it would be a pretty large accomplishment for the No. 31 team to win the championship with one race less than the rest of the field he’s fighting. So it certainly makes me wonder whether the first caution was authentic or if it was something to give Buescher and his team a chance to fix their handling problems and remain on the lead lap. Seems pretty fishy if you ask me.
And that leads us to the second caution that flew just four laps after the first one. This time, SPEED showed a rather large chunk of debris on the track that could have posed a problem to tires as well as the safety of the drivers on the track. Simply put, that was a caution that needed to fly.
Then, shortly after the restart from the second caution, David Starr spun on lap 75 and managed to right his truck long before the leaders got back around the track. As a result, NASCAR chose not to throw the caution, and it’s a call I agree with. Since Starr was well on his way again before the front of the field made it back around the track, there was no reason for the caution to fly, and frankly it’s refreshing to see the yellow being held back to give drivers a chance to recover from single-truck spins like this one.
So, if you consider all three incidents, you could say NASCAR, for the most part, made the right calls Saturday afternoon, but the glaring problem still lies in that first caution. Had Buescher gone a lap down so early in the race — especially with the blistering pace being set by the leader on track — it’s likely that instead of netting a seventh-place finish, Buescher would have easily been outside the top 10 and the point standings would be considerably different than they are at this point.
But with all of that being said, only NASCAR knows for sure what debris they saw on the track, and if it was a bogus call, you and I both know they’re never going to come out and say it.
*2. Who will end up at Eddie Sharp Racing in 2012?*
On Friday, Eddie Sharp Racing, which currently fields the No. 6 CollegeComplete.com truck for Justin Lofton, announced they had acquired two of the three Truck Series teams currently fielded by Kevin Harvick, Inc. The team will now field three full-time entries starting in 2012, including the No. 8 and No. 33 trucks. ESR will continue to operate out of their 40,000 square-foot facility in Denver, NC.
“The timing couldn’t have been any more perfect. We are ready to take this opportunity head on to utilize what Kevin and DeLana (Harvick, KHI Team Owners) have built,” ESR Team Owner Eddie Sharp said. “It was a marriage made in heaven, because we were ready to move forward at ESR, and this opportunity worked out perfectly. With KHI, you have a turnkey, successful program at the ready.”
“I’m excited about the future of ESR, really excited. We’ll have driver and sponsor lineup announcements coming within the next few weeks. To see everything progress with Kevin and DeLana’s help, and the support from Chevrolet, it’s a dream come true.”
In just ten races with ESR, Justin Lofton, driver of the No. 6 CollegeComplete.com Chevrolet, has a single top-10 finish, a seventh at Bristol. He currently sits 15th in the points standings, and ESR has already said they’re working toward next season with Lofton. So the question that remains is who will fill those other two spots.
On Sunday, “Jayski reported”:http://www.jayski.com/cts/ctsnews.htm that they’re hearing Cale Gale will fill one of those open spots. Gale has a handful of Truck Series starts for KHI with his lone top-10 finish — ninth — coming at Bristol in 2007. Granted, it’s just a rumor, but it wouldn’t surprise me since Gale is at least a little familiar with KHI’s equipment already.
And if Gale is one of the two drivers to fill the new rides, that still leaves one more spot open, and frankly I hope it ends up being Ron Hornaday, Jr. remaining in the No. 33 Chevrolet. Since ESR is planning to continue on with the manufacturer, a four-time series champion would be just the ticket to help get their program off the ground when they take on two more full-time teams.
What happens will only come in time, but it sure would be nice to know that Hornaday has a ride before the season ends.
*Truck Rookie Report*
*2011 Rookie of the Year Candidates:*
Joey Coulter (No. 22)
Dusty Davis (No. 15 – No longer racing due to sponsorship problems)
Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 1)
Chris Eggleston (No. 27)
Craig Goess (No. 46 – Left team due to performance issues)
Justin Johnson (No. 51 – No longer racing due to sponsorship problems)
Parker Kligerman (No. 29)
Johanna Long (No. 20)
Chase Mattioli (No. 99)
Miguel Paludo (No. 7)
Nelson Piquet, Jr. (No. 8)
Cole Whitt (No. 60)
*No. of Rookies in the Race:* 12 (add Todd Peck, Jeff Agnew, Wes Burton, Blake Feese, and debuting drivers German Quiroga, Bobby Santos and A.J. Russell)
*No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10:* 1; Miguel Paludo, finished tenth
*Rookie Of The Race:* Miguel Paludo
NASCAR Mexico driver *German Quiroga* made his first career Truck Series start Saturday behind the wheel of the No. 51 Telcel Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports. After qualifying 17th, Quiroga managed to stay inside the top 20 for much of the afternoon. Aside from being lapped in the early stages of the race, Quiroga did what any debuting driver wants to do — he finished the race and gained some valuable track time while he was at it. When the checkered flag flew, the two-time Corona Series champion brought home a respectable 16th-place finish, three laps down.
*A.J. Russell* and Sacred Power Motorsports made history this weekend, becoming the first Native American-owned team with a Native American driver. After qualifying 31st, a full 3.5 seconds behind the pole time, the driver of the No. 73 Dodge already had a big hole to dig out of, and it didn’t get any better when the green flag flew. Running a fastest lap that was more than ten miles an hour slower than the race leader, Russell quickly went several laps down and was left to settle for a 26th-place finish, 28 laps off the pace.
Once the F.W. Webb 175 hit the 100-lap mark, it looked like *Joey Coulter* and the No. 22 team had really picked up the pace, passing several competitors on a track that so many struggled to make moves on. But that march to front was short-lived when Coulter pitted from the lead he had grabbed thanks to green-flag pit stops with 39 laps remaining. He was pegged not once, but twice, for speeding entering pit road, taking himself out of contention for a solid top-5 finish. But despite the dual penalties, Coulter still brought home an 11th-place result, just one lap down.
After starting sixth and hanging around inside the top 15 for much of the day, *Nelson Piquet, Jr.* looked like he was setting up for another solid top-10 finish when disaster struck the No. 8 Chevrolet. With just 48 laps remaining, Piquet, Jr. was forced to pit after a problem with his battery popped up. Though his team was able to switch out the defective part, Piquet was left to settle for a 24th-place finish, ten laps off the pace.
“It was a tough race with long green flag runs. We made the right adjustments and Rick (Gay, Crew Chief) made an awesome call with two tires at the end and that paid off. I don’t know why, but four tires took like ten laps for the pressure to build up and the truck to be good. With two tires, the truck was awesome right away. Good day for us, top 10 and on the lead lap _(Author’s Note: Paludo was actually the fourth truck one lap down)_. I want to gain as many points as I can for the end of the season. Days like this are good to finish in the top 10.” _Miguel Paludo, finished tenth_
“Overall, I am very happy with the end result and I believe that Telcel will be happy with my performance as well. The guys at Kyle Busch Motorsports were a pleasure to work with and provided me with a Telcel Tundra that was definitely a top-10 truck. I got caught up in traffic and went a lap down in the early stages of the race. When the race stayed green for a long period, I was never able to get back on the lead lap. I enjoyed my first experience racing in the Truck Series and hope to be back soon.” _German Quiroga, finished 16th_
*Worth Noting / Points Shuffle:*
Start-and-park teams ran rampant through the F.W. Webb 175. In the 35-truck field, nine drivers — Jeff Agnew, J.J. Yeley, Josh Wise, Butch Miller, Todd Peck, Chris Jones, Mike Harmon, Bobby Santos, and Jennifer Jo Cobb — were out of the race before even hitting the halfway point. Cobb didn’t complete a single lap before retiring with “engine” problems, and most of the other start-and-park teams didn’t complete 20 laps with excuses ranging from clutch, to brakes, to transmission and even overheating. In fact, Agnew was the driver to make it the farthest — he retired after 80 laps, claiming “ignition” problems.
Clearly, the Barrett-Jackson auction from Las Vegas, NV was more important to the SPEED team covering the F.W. Webb 175 than covering the race itself. After enduring multiple references to the auction throughout the broadcast, SPEED cut away from the post-race coverage nearly half an hour before their window ended, after a short talk with the top-3 finishers and showing the finishing order. In fact, they didn’t even bother showing the points standings before rushing off to Las Vegas. For more analysis of SPEED’s broadcast, be sure to “tune into” Phil Allaway’s Talking NASCAR TV tomorrow on Frontstretch.com.
Josh Wise made his first series start since 2007 Saturday afternoon. Unfortunately, it was with a start-and-park team, Shane Sieg’s No. 93 S&W Services Chevrolet. He only completed 14 laps before retiring to a 29th-place finish with brake problems.
Five different track records — pole speed, race speed, fewest cautions, fewest caution laps and fewest finishers on the lead lap — were broken at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Saturday:
* Pole Speed: Old Record — 130.029 mph (2010 TheRaceDayRaffleSeries.com 175 by Kyle Busch); New Record — 131.715 mph (Busch)
* Race Speed: Old Record — 112.103 mph (2009 Heluva Good! 200 by Kyle Busch); New Record — 118.712 mph
* Fewest Cautions: Old Record — 3 (2009 Heluva Good! 200); New Record — 2
* Fewest Caution Laps: Old Record — 14 (2009 Heluva Good! 200); New Record — 7
* Fewest Finishers On Lead Lap: Old Record — 8 (twice: 2001 New England 200 and 1996 Pennzoil / VIP Tripleheader); New Record–6
Thanks to a runner-up finish, Austin Dillon now sits atop the series standings by two points over James Buescher. Johnny Sauter remains third, only seven points out of the lead. Timothy Peters and Ron Hornaday, Jr. round out the top 5.
Matt Crafton remains sixth, 51 points behind the leader, with rookie Joey Coulter just seven points behind him in seventh. Cole Whitt moved up one spot to eighth after a 15th-place finish Saturday afternoon. Parker Kligerman and Todd Bodine round out the top 10 in a tie, 68 points behind the leader.
“The truck was awesome today. I can’t say enough about all these guys and everybody at Kyle Busch Motorsports. They worked their butts off. We haven’t had the best of runs at the mile-and-a-half tracks and the faster places, but feel really good about where we were today and how our short track stuff is. This is cool to come out here and run like this again. Can’t say enough about the fans too — thank you guys. Appreciate the support and it was a fun race today at New Hampshire. Put on a great performance like that and it goes back to these guys.” _Race Winner Kyle Busch_
“We were in there every lap. We even got to lead a lap which was good for our points deal. I wish we could have come out a little closer to him (Kyle Busch) to come off of pit road [on our final green flag stop]. I lost a little time getting onto pit road, and that hurt us. But we came out leading the points with six [races] to go. We’ll focus on that, and we’re happy with this finish. [The] championship has been on our mind all year. I feel like we’ve had a great truck to beat each and every week. We’re finally stringing some finishes together.” _Runner-up Austin Dillon_
“It was like a parade. It was a terrible race with everybody following each other around. I got stuck behind the (No.) 88 (Matt Crafton) there and lost half a track. It was just really hard to pass. Track position was king.” _Kevin Harvick, finished third_
*Johanna Long’s* grandfather, Johnnie F. Long, passed away Thursday surrounded by his family. Having owned and operated Panhandle Grading and Paving since 1979, Long was grateful for his long-term employees and the relationships he built with them. Visitation is scheduled for Monday afternoon, immediately followed by the funeral service at East Brent Baptist Church in Pensacola, FL. My thoughts and prayers go out to the entire Long family in this trying time.
The Camping World Truck Series heads to Kentucky Speedway for the Kentucky 225 Saturday night. Last season, the series only visited the track once and Todd Bodine led just 18 laps en route to a nearly six-second victory over Johnny Sauter. Coverage begins at 8:00 PM EDT on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your “local MRN affiliate.”:http://www.racingone.com/stations.aspx
“Contact Beth Lunkenheimer”:http://www.frontstretch.com/contact/14353/