_Author’s Note: Hey readers! As the 2012 season is winding to a close, we’re already planning for next year. Please click here to send me an e-mail or let me know in the comments below what you’d like to see in Tracking the Trucks that currently isn’t in there. Is there something you don’t like about this format? I want to know that too! I’ll collect your comments throughout the rest of the year and the offseason and debut the new and improved Tracking the Trucks in February for the season opener at Daytona. Thank you for your dedicated readership! –Beth_
*In a Nutshell:* Brian Scott took the checkered flag 0.666 seconds ahead of Kyle Larson to win the Lucas Oil 150 Friday night at Phoenix International Raceway. Scott took advantage of a green-white-checkered finish, pulling ahead on the restart to become the 15th different winner this season. Joey Coulter, Timothy Peters, and Ryan Blaney rounded out the top-5 finishers.
*Who Should Have Won:* *Kyle Larson.* Sure, Brian Scott took the checkered flag first; however, if it weren’t for the caution that set the field up for a green-white-checkered finish, it would have been the newly-crowned K&N Pro Series East champion celebrating in victory lane. After dropping like a rock on the initial start, Larson worked his way back into the top 5 before making a bold three-wide move on the restart with 42 laps remaining to take the lead. He ended up losing that lead on the green-white-checkered finish, but he still held on for a spectacular runner-up result.
_Welcome to the newest addition to Tracking the Trucks! In this section for each race, we’ll take a look at the most important things to know just in case you weren’t able to watch it. Love it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments below._
*Cautions Breed Cautions:* After going caution-free for the first 36 laps, the Lucas Oil 150 was slowed by six yellows in the following 37 circuits. In fact, the longest green flag run in between cautions at that point came in the form of a three lap sprint between the first and second yellows. At the end of the night, the race had been slowed by nine cautions for 46 laps (30.7% of the race), still well short of the record of 13 set in the 2007 Casino Arizona 150.
*Tempers Flare / Red Flag Flies:*
And that brings us to the eighth caution, where German Quiroga dove inside Brendan Gaughan heading into turn one and clipped the No. 2 Chevrolet, sending both drivers spinning. When the duo came to a rest on the track, Gaughan wasted little time getting out of his truck, heading over to Quiroga’s and having an animated “conversation” with the NASCAR Mexico driver before heading into the ambulance for the mandatory trip to the infield care center. Because of the amount of fluid left on the track, NASCAR was forced to throw a red flag for cleanup before allowing teams to continue in their trek to the finish.
Quiroga was immediately apologetic in his interview.
“I think I braked too late and he [Brendan Gaughan] braked too early, and that’s what took us out there,” Quiroga said. “I want to apologize first of all. I did not want to wreck anybody here. I’m learning. I just saw the replay and I could not avoid him–I tried. I’m very disappointed for my sponsorship–for Net10 Wireless–they have been supporting me for these four races. We’ll catch up next time.”
By the time SPEED got to Gaughan following his trip to the infield care center, he had a smile on his face, even if it was a pretty sarcastic one.
“He overdrove the corner, and he screwed up,” Gaughan said. “At least he was smart enough to know that he made a mistake, so that’s a start.”
And while Quiroga’s decision to dive inside the driver of the No. 2 the way he did was definitely questionable judgment, he deserves a huge amount of credit for admitting he made a mistake. It’s not uncommon for a young driver learning his way around a new series to find himself in a tough spot every now and then, and as long as he learns from his mistakes, Quiroga will continue his NASCAR career while trying to earn the respect of his fellow competitors.
But as far as Brendan Gaughan goes, it’s really hard to blame him for being upset. He was clearly wrecked by a mistake another driver made. And to make matters worse, it was his last start behind the wheel of the No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet–one where he was on track for a solid top-5 result. Frankly, I’m quite surprised he managed to keep his cool as well as he did while talking to SPEED.
*Green-White-Checkered Finish:* Just when it looked like Kyle Larson was home free and all set to grab his first career victory in just his third start, points leader James Buescher suffered a blown right front tire that brought out the ninth yellow of the night, setting the field up for a green-white-checkered finish. Once the race restarted, Brian Scott used momentum and a little of a loose condition for Larson to take off and leave the rest of the field in his dust in an uneventful two lap sprint to the checkered flag. Buescher’s team worked furiously to repair the damage to his No. 31 Chevrolet and managed to keep him just one lap down; he finished 17th and now leads Timothy Peters and Ty Dillon by 11 and 12 points, respectively.
*Truck Rookie Report*
*2012 Rookie of the Year Candidates:*
*Dakoda Armstrong* (No. 98–team suspended)
*Ty Dillon* (No. 3)
*Dusty Davis* (No. 15–team suspended)
*T.J. Duke* (No. 07–not entered at Phoenix)
*Ross Chastain* (No. 08)
*Cale Gale* (No. 33)
*Max Gresham *(No. 8)
*Paulie Harraka* (No. 5–released from team)
*Caleb Holman* (No. 75–not entered at Texas)
*John King* (No. 7–released from team)
*Bryan Silas* (No. 99)
*John Wes Townley* (No. 09)
*No. of Rookies in the Race:* 16 (add Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, David Mayhew, Ryan Truex, Matt Merrell, German Quiroga, Todd Peck, Brian Weber, Jeff Choquette, Stephen Leicht, and Blake Koch)
*No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10:* 4; Kyle Larson, finished second; Ryan Blaney, finished fifth; Cale Gale, finished seventh; Ryan Truex, finished tenth
*Rookie of the Race:* Cale Gale
_Note: Only drivers who have officially declared for the Rookie of the Year battle are eligible to be the Rookie of the Race. Otherwise, it would have been Kyle Larson with his runner-up finish._
“On that restart there, [Brian Scott] took the air off me going into [turn] one, and I got loose. He just worked momentum around me. But second is not bad in just my third truck start.” _Kyle Larson_
“We had a really fast Draw-Tite RAM tonight. The hole in the nose hurt us a big, but this BKR team never gave up, and I appreciate their effort. I’m really looking forward to Homestead next weekend. I’m not ready for this season to be over!” _Ryan Blaney, finished fifth_
“The Rheem team built me a great Chevrolet for tonight’s race. Up until this weekend, I had never raced at Phoenix International Raceway. It’s a really fun track and my team built me one of the best trucks that we’ve had all season. We were definitely a top-5 truck, and with how everything was playing out, I think we had a shot at the win. We got a little bit behind when we spun near the halfway point, but I’m really proud of how hard my team worked to get our truck repaired and back in contention. These guys have done such a great job all season. I can’t wait to get to Homestead-Miami Speedway with them next weekend.” _Cale Gale, finished seventh_
“Fun night. Proud of the Hillman racing guys. Thought we had a truck to win, just got too tight at the end.” _Ryan Truex via his “Twitter”:https://twitter.com/Ryan_Truex page, finished ninth_
“I would like to thank Steak and Grape / MMI Services and Brad Keselowski for the opportunity. We came up a bit short of what we had hoped this weekend, but many thanks to Jeff Stankiewicz and the BKR team for their efforts. I’m looking forward to the future and appreciate the chance to compete with Brad Keselowski Racing.” _David Mayhew, finished 12th_
“It’s frustrating to have such a good truck and get caught up in a wreck like that. I’m proud of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops team for working so hard this weekend and getting us back on track after the incident. We’re not out of this championship hunt yet. We’ll do our best next weekend in Miami.” _Ty Dillon, finished 15th_
_Welcome to the newest addition to Tracking the Trucks. Each week we’ll take a look at the championship picture and find out which drivers were affected the most by the racing on track. Love it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments below._
*Biggest Winner:* “Timothy Peters*, who led the standings for much of the middle part of the year, came into Phoenix with a 25-point deficit to leader James Buescher. But a solid fourth-place finish allowed him to close that gap. Now, with just one race remaining, Peters is just 11 markers behind with a pretty good shot at having a chance to snag the championship from under Buescher’s nose. After all, remember that Johnny Sauter managed to gain 14 points on Austin Dillon in the season finale last year. And even though it wasn’t enough for Sauter to come out on top, that kind of a gain would hand the Red Horse Racing driver his first career championship.
“It was a crazy night and I’m just glad we finished because it was a big points night for us. But it’s sort of bittersweet for me, because I know we had a better Tundra than the fourth-place finish shows. This Red Horse Racing team worked really hard all day to give me a fast truck and they did just that. Butch Hylton [Crew Chief] made a great strategy call in the middle of the race to put us in position for this finish, and now we have a legitimate shot at this championship heading into Homestead. That’s all we can really ask for.” _Timothy Peters_
*Biggest Loser:* Ironically, the biggest loser in the championship battle at Phoenix was Peters’ RHR teammate *Parker Kligerman.* He came into the one-mile oval with a shot to close within striking distance of points leader James Buescher, and for a while it looked like he may have been able to do just that. But a loose truck on the restart following the third caution saw the driver of the No. 7 Toyota head straight to the outside wall, collecting Matt Crafton in the process. Though the team repaired the truck and he headed back out on track, they were forced to pack it in before the checkered flag flew for a disappointing 27th-place finish. He now sits 37 points behind after dropping to fifth heading into the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend.
“Our Toyota Tundra was really loose all night, and I was trying everything I could inside the truck to tighten it up but it just wasn’t enough. On that last restart, I thought we were going to be ok, but when another truck passed by us, it just changed the air and being so loose, just sent me spinning and into the wall. At the end of the day, it was a mistake on my part because I could catch it, but that’s racing. We’re going to Homestead with a brand new Tundra and just one goal in mind–and that’s to win.” _Parker Kligerman_
Standings After the Lucas Oil 150