_Author’s Note: Hey readers! As the 2012 draws to a close, we’re planning for next year. Please click here to send me an email 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:* Cale Gale took the checkered flag 0.14 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch to win the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway Friday night. Gale restarted on the front row alongside Busch during the green-white-checkered finish and drove the No. 18 Toyota up the track, pinning him to the wall to score his first Camping World Truck Series victory. Joey Coulter, Nelson Piquet, Jr. and Miguel Paludo rounded out the top-5 finishers.
*Who Should Have Won: Cale Gale.* Gale started fifth and ran unnoticed inside the top 5 for much of the night before finding himself alongside Kyle Busch on the final restart. He peeked his nose inside Busch several times before finally driving up alongside him, nearly wrecking both competitors in the process. In the end, it took some rough-and-tumble driving — exactly what made the Truck Series famous in the first place — but it was Gale who came out on top in what can only be described as one of the best finishes the Truck Series has seen since Erik Darnell barely edged Johnny Benson to snag his first career victory at Michigan in 2008.
*Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:*
*1. Which driver was at fault in the Ty Dillon / Kyle Larson wreck?*
With just a handful of laps remaining, Ty Dillon found himself within one point of champion James Buescher while the leader was still in his sights, making it look like the last lap would truly decide the champion as Buescher struggled a bit on the restart just a few laps earlier. But those hopes came crashing to a halt when he and Kyle Larson got together, wrecking both trucks and sending rookie Ryan Blaney hard enough into the wall to knock the wind out of him. Blaney, though clearly shaken up, got out of the No. 29 Dodge under his own power.
But who was at fault in that wreck?
Ty Dillon likely saw that Larson had one heck of a run to his inside and moved down to block; however, the driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet had his truck nearly alongside the driver of the No. 3 before Dillon made his move, wrecking both drivers. Don’t believe me? “See for yourself.”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnMIoLuWpCE
I saw plenty of rumblings on Twitter — and SPEED, for that matter — that said Larson should have backed off because Dillon was racing for the championship but that’s just plain asinine. Yes Dillon was racing for the title, but Larson was also racing for his first career win. I’m so sick of drivers feeling like they have to tip toe around the championship contenders and not race them hard. Plenty said Larson should have exercised better judgment knowing the situation the driver of the No. 3 was in, but I completely disagree. If anything, it’s Dillon who should have been aware of his own situation and not driven down on the No. 4 Chevrolet.
But one thing is for sure after seeing Dillon’s post-wreck comments: he will make a great champion some day soon. After seeing his championship hopes expand and then fall apart in a matter of moments, he was very composed in the aftermath, something that several Sprint Cup drivers still struggle with.
“I hate it had to come down to us hitting the wall like that. I feel bad for my guys, but I’m really proud of them,” Dillon said. “It just wasn’t our year. The Lord didn’t have it in his plans for us, but I’ve gotta thank him anyway for blessing the season for us.”
And while Larson showed some remorse for being involved in Dillon’s wreck, he didn’t take blame, having not seen a replay of the accident.
Larson did later post on his “Twitter”:http://www.twitter.com/KyleLarsonRacin page about the incident.
“Watched the replay of the wreck. Feel REALLY bad for @tydillon. I definitely would never wreck someone on purpose. I just drove over my head. Also would never do that to help a teammate out. Can’t really express how bad I feel about it all.”
In the end, it comes out as a lesson learned by both drivers. However, I can’t fault Larson for racing hard for a shot at Victory Lane, especially after spending as much time out front as he did.
*2. What happened on the green-white-checkered finish?*
For the second week in a row, the Truck Series saw a green-white-checkered finish decide the winner of the race. When Ty Dillon and Kyle Larson got together, Kyle Busch had a substantial lead and looked like he was on the way to his first win on the year, but Cale Gale managed to drive alongside and pinned Busch to the outside wall, snagging his first career victory by a nose.
When asked to describe what happened, Busch kept it short.
“I got drove into the fence,” he said. “That’s it.”
And Gale didn’t waste any time trying to deny that’s exactly what he did.
“It’s not my style, but I know that, if I could pinch him a little bit, I could get the advantage, and pretty much, that’s what I was thinking at that point. A guy like me, it’s my first opportunity to come down for the checkered flag in a NASCAR race,” Gale said. “When it comes down to the final straightaway to win at Homestead in the last race, and your first NASCAR win, I believe anybody would do it.”
I’ve often been someone that disagrees with wrecking a fellow competitor to get a win, however, in this case, neither driver wrecked. Yes, both nearly lost it after taking the checkered flag, but despite some damage both trucks were facing the right way at the finish. The Ford EcoBoost 200 marked the second consecutive race where the leader on the restart for the green-white-checkered finish didn’t make it to Victory Lane.
*Truck Rookie Report*
*2012 Rookie of the Year Candidates:*
*Dakoda Armstrong* (No. 98–team suspended)
*Ty Dillon* (No. 3)
*Dusty Davis* (No. 20)
*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 Homestead)
*John King* (No. 7–released from team)
*Bryan Silas* (No. 99)
*John Wes Townley* (No. 09)
*No. of Rookies in the Race:* 15 (add Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Jake Crum, German Quiroga, Ryan Lynch, Travis Miller, Tim George, Jr. and Blake Koch)
*No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10:* 2; Cale Gale, finished first; Ross Chastain, finished tenth
*Rookie of the Race:* Cale Gale
*2012 Rookie of the Year: Ty Dillon: 1 win, 7 top 5s, 17 top 10s, 3 poles*
“Kyle’s (Busch) a racer. He’s been in the same position I’ve been in. We’ve all seen hungry racers get an opportunity and take it. That’s what you have to do in this sport. He owes me, but I saw the checkers in the final race. That’s all I can say.” _Cale Gale_
“I was really hoping to earn another top-10 finish — I think the NET10 Wireless Tundra was capable of that, we just got too far behind early in the race. I am thankful to NET10 for trusting in me for these four races and to everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports for helping me get up to speed in the trucks. I’m hopeful that I will be running in the Truck Series again next year — it has been a great experience.” _German Quiroga, finished 15th_
“This was not the way I wanted to end the season. First of all, I have to thank Gere (Kennon, crew chief) and the rest of my guys for giving me a really fast truck. We were fast right off the hauler. I like Homestead-Miami Speedway. I was loose during qualifying and nearly lost it in turn four which gave us a bad starting position. That pretty much sealed our fate with a short race. Every position was a fight. I did get a good restart for the green-white-checkered finish and then lost the air and spun out on the final turn. I’ve learned a lot about racing the trucks this year and I’m looking forward to next year.” _Tim George, Jr., finished 18th_
_Author’s Note: SPEED failed to mention George’s spin at any time during the broadcast. I suppose it’s understandable given everything going on with the race winner and the champion as well as the repurcussions for Dillon’s block on Larson, however I’m not willing to give the network a free pass on this one. There’s no reason to ignore anyone involved in any kind of on-track incident… period. For more on the Ford EcoBoost 200 broadcast, don’t forget to check out Couch Potato Tuesday by Phil Allaway._
“We just had to go out there and win the race and make something happen. I just tried to make something happen there at the end, I got to second and the points were looking good. We just missed that championship by a little bit, but I’m all right with everything that played out. We were going for it. We almost had it. We were trying to hit the home run in the bottom of the ninth and almost did it. But it’s all right. We’ll be back next year, fighting harder than ever.” _Ty Dillon, finished 25th_
“[That hit] felt pretty hard. I don’t know how it looked but it felt pretty hard. It’s one of the worst hits when you get clipped like that. You don’t think you’re going to get clipped. We struggled a little bit all night and just really couldn’t find speed, but I really wish we could have at least finished. I think we could have wrestled a decent finish out of it. Every time you’re getting turned around into the wall it’s not really a good thing.” _Ryan Blaney, finished 28th_
_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:* Joey Coulter managed to capitalize on back-to-back third-place finishes and the misfortune of fellow competitors Parker Kligerman and Ty Dillon in the last two weeks to gain two spots in the standings. He ended the season a solid third in the championship battle.
*Biggest Loser:* Simply put, *Ty Dillon* would probably like to rewind the last ten laps of the Ford EcoBoost 200 and try again. After turning down to block Kyle Larson, both drivers found themselves with a significant amount of damage, and if that wasn’t enough, Dillon was also held on pit road for a lap for passing the pace car under the resulting caution. He ended up finishing 25th, five laps down. As for the championship battle, he dropped his second position in two weeks and brought home a fourth-place result.
Final Standings After the Ford EcoBoost 200
|*Driver*||*Points*||*Behind*||*+ / -*|
|Nelson Piquet, Jr.||747||-61||—|
* James Buescher bested his previous high of third in the series standings to score his first championship in his fourth full-time season by just six points over Timothy Peters.
* Buescher, at 22 years of age, became the second-youngest champion in series history. Austin Dillon was 21 when he won the 2011 championship.
* Buescher scored a series high four victories and ten top-5 finishes (tied with Timothy Peters). Ty Dillon led the field in top 10s with 17 in 22 races (77%).
* Having joined the series in 2009, Turner Motorsports also snagged the owners’ Championship this year and boasted seven victories between three different drivers — Kasey Kahne, Nelson Piquet, Jr. (two) and James Buescher (four).
* Buescher’s crew chief Michael Shelton also celebrates his first career championship. His previous best came with Buescher last season in a third-place result.
Parker Kligerman and Kyle Larson posted identical speeds (168.824 mpg) during qualifying for the Ford EcoBoost 200. The polesitter was determined by owner points for each team, giving Kligerman his second pole of the year.
What a night for Turner Motorsports. James Buescher came out on top in the championship battle, and their other two full-time drivers snagged solid top-5 results. Miguel Paludo took advantage of the wave-around, along with fresher tires to work his way through the field to fifth place, his first and only top 5 on the year. Meanwhile, teammate Nelson Piquet, Jr. took four fresh tires right before the final restart and raced his way from 12th to fourth in just two laps, capping off what has been a standout year for the Brazilian.
Cale Gale’s victory marked the ninth different first-time winner and the 16th different driver to visit Victory Lane in what was a record breaking season. Gale joins Ryan Blaney, James Buescher, Joey Coulter, Ty Dillon, John King, Parker Kligerman, Justin Lofton, and Nelson Piquet, Jr. Four of those first-time victors accomplished the feat in their first visit to the track — King (Daytona), Blaney (Iowa), Dillon (Atlanta) and Gale (Homestead).
During the race, Phil Parsons reported ThorSport Racing will return next season with two full-time trucks. Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter will continue to pilot the No. 88 and No. 13 Toyotas, respectively. The duo combined for two wins (both by Sauter in a Texas Motor Speedway sweep), 14 top 5s and 23 top-10 finishes this season.
Mario Gosselin made his first Truck Series start since the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November, 2010. He started 24th and finished 21st, two laps off the pace behind the wheel of the No. 84 Carport Empire / ProBuilt Buildings Chevrolet owned by Chris Fontaine.
“We had a really good truck all day [Friday]. We just kind of watched Nelson (Piquet, Jr.) run up there and Kyle Larson and those guys ran a good race too — they were really fast. We, we just bided our time and kept working on our stuff and making adjustments there to try to get it better, and that last run there, the battle we had with (Matt) Crafton I was really loose, but I was giving it everything I had. Just hate it that we had that caution that came out and then we had the red flag and then — well we had a caution, then we had another caution with the red flag. Just brought too many trucks [close to me] and changed the order around too much.” _Kyle Busch, finished second_
“A third-place finish is a great way to end the season. At first I didn’t think the Rip It Energy Fuel crew was going to be able to pull off that strong of a result. We really struggled during the first part of the race. But thanks to the call Harold (Holly, crew chief) made at the end for right-side tires only, we gained a lot of track position and were able to hold on at the end. I also have to thank my guys for such an awesome season, finishing third in the point standings shows how solid this team was all season.” _Joey Coulter_
“I’ve won a couple championships in my career already, but my ultimate goal was to one day be called a NASCAR champion. Today, my dream has come true. I owe so much to my team. We’ve been through a lot the last couple seasons, including coming close to being in this same spot last year. We came into the season with the mindset to never give up. We knew what had to be done this weekend and then entire Turner Motorsports organization came in focused and ready to go.” _2012 Champion James Buescher_
“This is awesome. I’m so proud of this entire No. 3 Bass Pro Shops team. They did a great job all year and because of all of their hard work, we won the 2012 Rookie of the Year. We made goals in the beginning of the year, and this was one of them. I’m excited to be able to keep this award in the RCR family another year and win it just like my brother did back in 2010.” _Ty Dillon_[Our race] was eventful, but I didn’t help matters getting into the fence earlier in practice [Friday]. All in all, still a great effort by everybody on this Red Horse Racing Toyota Tundra team all year long. We didn’t lose it just in this race. I made some wrong choices earlier this year that got us behind the eight ball. Hey, this is the best year I’ve ever had. So, I’m disappointed not to win — anybody would be — but it’s pretty cool to come home second. I couldn’t be any happier.” _Timothy Peters_
“On behalf of Chevrolet, congratulations to James Buescher and the No. 31 Chevrolet Silverado crew on winning the 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship. James and his team demonstrated determination, perseverance and that never-give-up attitude to win their first championship. Congratulations to Steve Turner and his entire Turner Motorsports organization on this accomplishment.” _Jim Campbell, Chevrolet U.S. vice president of performance vehicles and motorsports_
“For Ty (Dillon) to have won a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in his rookie year and come down to Homestead with a chance to win the championship are great accomplishments in his rookie season. He’s continued the success he had last year after winning the ARCA Racing Series championship and, if not for some misfortune, he would be in an even better position for this year’s championship. But for him to win the rookie of the year in the Truck Series, after Joey Coulter did it last year and Austin did it in 2010, is a pretty cool deal for RCR, ECR and our family.” _Richard Childress_
*Up Next:* The Camping World Truck Series heads to the Loews Miami Beach Hotel in South Florida on Monday for their combined awards banquet with the Nationwide Series. The banquet will be broadcast on SPEED Thursday, November 29th at 8:00 PM ET.