In a Nutshell: Darrell Wallace, Jr. took the checkered flag 0.329 seconds ahead of German Quiroga to win Saturday night’s Drivin’ For Linemen 200 at Gateway International Speedway. Wallace took the lead for the final time with just three laps remaining and held on for his second career victory. Timothy Peters, Johnny Sauter and Ron Hornaday, Jr. rounded out the top 5.
Who Should Have Won: Simply put, Darrell Wallace, Jr. had one of the strongest trucks in the field Saturday night, and this time, the sophomore driver was able to recover from some bad luck in the first half of the race. After leading the first 62 circuits, Wallace made a pit stop, only to have the caution come out, trapping him one lap down and forcing the No. 54 team to take the wave around. But that wasn’t all of the adversity on that stop: The rear tire changer failed to get the left rear tire completely onto the truck, and when the jack dropped, Wallace tried to leave. Without the tire securely on the truck, the left rear quarter panel was damaged, and the team was forced to jack the truck back up. But despite the setback, Wallace kept a clear head and led three times for a race-high 85 laps en route to victory lane.
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.
German Quiroga and Erik Jones Tangle
With just a handful of laps remaining, Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates Darrell Wallace, Jr. and Erik Jones led the field to green, with a strong and very hungry German Quiroga in third. After battling for an entire lap side by side, Jones took the top spot, and the driver of the No. 77 Toyota worked his way past Wallace. A small wiggle by the driver of the No. 51 Toyota ended in an angry Jones wrecked into the inside wall and Quiroga out in front of the field.
“We had really fast ToyotaCare Tundra tonight and once we got the lead I thought we had things well in hand — unfortunately we got dumped,” Jones said after leaving the infield care center “I got just a little free, but we got hit right in the left rear by the 77 truck and got turned around. The guys gave me a great truck and I feel like we should’ve been in victory lane. Congratulations to my teammate Darrell Wallace Jr. on picking up the win for KBM and Toyota.”
Quiroga’s view of the accident wasn’t all that different, and he didn’t deny that the wreck may have been partially intentional.
“I knew we had a shot for the win. He started getting loose, he drove in really deep into turn one,” Quiroga said. “I just kept on going and I tried to move to the left and give him enough room, but he was already sideways. I couldn’t tell if someone was pushing or not, but I just kept on driving straight.”
It’s hard to determine whether the incident was fully intentional, though Quiroga didn’t deny that he kept right on driving when the two made contact. I’m sure the closing time the driver of the No. 77 experienced put him on the back end of the No. 51 a little quick than he expected, but at the same time, there’s at least a bit of an expectation to lift when it comes to trying to avoid a wreck. Instead, Quiroga kept right on going, leaving another driver wrecked while he was left to continue racing for his eventual career best runner-up finish,.
We can debate all day as to whether Quiroga should have handled the incident differently, but when it comes to a driver looking for his first career victory, you’ve got to expect that he’ll be less likely to lift when there’s contact with another driver. However, with that being said, the driver of the No. 77 hasn’t been making very many friends on the track this season, including his own teammate, and that’s likely to come back to bite him at some point this season.
John Hunter Nemechek Shines
John Hunter Nemechek slapped the wall in practice on Friday but managed to qualify a solid 12th for his fifth career start. Though he ran well throughout the race, a simple look at his 15th-place finish would leave you wondering why I bothered to mention him this week. But it’s what he did during the race that turned heads.
Having taken the top spot during a round of green flag pit stops, Nemechek led his first career laps on Saturday night, but that wasn’t all. After defending champion Matt Crafton found his way to the lead for 10 laps, Nemechek took advantage of a solid restart to grab the lead and try to get away from the field. Crafton made multiple attempts to pass the young driver, but the 17-year-old always managed to fight back on the outside. Crafton finally managed to take the top spot just laps before his right front tire blew, taking him out of the race.
Though Nemechek led more than 50 laps, he dropped back a few positions as the late stages of the race wore on, and a slow leak in a tire, caused by contact with German Quiroga, sent the No. 8 Toyota spinning. Having avoided the worst case scenario and only suffering minor damage, Nemechek headed down pit road for service, only to be hit with a commitment cone violation. That pretty much ended any shot Nemechek had at finished in the top 10, but he has nothing to be ashamed of. Despite the adversity in the late stages of the race, the young driver turned plenty of heads and those who hadn’t paid attention to him previously are definitely doing so now.
* German Quiroga raced Saturday night in memory of his friend, Carlos Pardo, who was killed in a NASCAR Mexico crash five years ago Saturday night. The driver of the No. 77 Toyota had a special decal inside his truck in Pardo’s memory.
* Jon Wes Townley wasn’t at Gateway International Raceway on Friday for the series’ practice sessions. Instead, he was in Michigan racing the ARCA event. Coming into the race on Saturday, the No. 5 team struggled with radio problems that kept Townley from communicating with his crew chief easily. During one of the cautions, the team quickly swapped out the radio, and Townley finished a quiet eighth.
* Darrell Wallace, Jr.’s victory leaves Toyota seven for seven this season when it comes to trips to victory lane. Kyle Busch and Matt Crafton have combined for the other six wins, with four and two, respectively.
Truck Rookie Report
2014 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Tyler Young (No. 02)
Tyler Reddick (No. 19)
Ben Kennedy (No. 31)
Mason Mingus (No. 35)
No. of Rookies in the Race: 16 (add Cole Custer, John Hunter Nemechek, Erik Jones, Ray Black, Jr., Ted Minor, Scott Stenzel, Adam Edwards, Charles Lewandowski, Caleb Roark, Korbin Forrister, Gray Gaulding and Chase Pistone)
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 2; Cole Custer, finished sixth; Chase Pistone, finished ninth
Rookie of the Race: Mason Mingus, finished 12th
Note: Only drivers declared for the rookie battle are eligible to win the Rookie of the Race honors.
“I’m really bummed. We were bad fast on that second long green-flag run, and if we’d been able to hold onto our spot and get the field bunched up with a restart, we would have had at least a top five, if not a win. It was really unexpected that we ran out of fuel; we were careful on the first pit stop to get our Turner Scott Motorsports truck full and everyone said they saw the fuel go into the overflow tube. I know [crew chief Michael] Shelton and the guys are going to go back and look into why we didn’t get the fuel mileage we expected. It’s such a disappointment to not finish as high as we were capable of running, but the guys never gave up. I’m glad we were able to get back onto the lead lap and fight until the end. We’ve got a week to regroup before Kentucky, and I’m looking forward to seeing what we can do there.” Ben Kennedy, finished 14th
“On the initial start when I went from second to third it just kind of went in and popped back out and when I went to third there was nothing left. It just kind of went in and popped back out. On the next restart I thought I missed a shift but it turns out I didn’t have third gear. We had good speed in the race and ran some really good, fast laps. To finish where we did on the lead lap was a pretty good considering everything we had to manage. We had a really good truck in qualifying. Doug and all the guys did a great job preparing the truck. We made an extra run in that second session but we were able to advance to the final round.” Tyler Reddick, finished 13th
“It was really an uneventful weekend for this Young’s Motorsports team. We unloaded Friday and just kept working on the truck, making it handle better. We started 22nd and I battled with a truck that was “free-in” most of the race, but the truck actually got better as the race went on. Todd (Bodine) was a huge help, especially during the race with my line – it’s a tricky place to get around. Track position was key and I just got stuck a couple laps down and couldn’t get it back. Unfortunately, we got turned on the last lap, getting into Turn 1. It was hard racing, and something that just happened – we got right reared and got in the fence. I hate it because we will have to go back and put a body on it, but overall it was a decent weekend.” Tyler Young, finished 17th
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.
Biggest Winner: Darrell Wallace, Jr.’s victory marked his third top-10 finish in seven races this season, and as a result, he jumped two spots and moved back inside the top 10 in points. Having suffered through a variety of bad luck this season, the win meant a celebration and a healthy points gain. The sophomore driver still sits 43 markers behind the leader, but moving back into the top 10 should at least mean a confidence booster for the No. 54 team.
Biggest Loser: Heading into Saturday night’s race, Matt Crafton held the top spot in the standings over teammate Johnny Sauter, but despite battling up front with John Hunter Nemechek for several laps, it wasn’t meant to be for the defending champion. In a wreck eerily similar to the one he experienced at Dover a few weeks ago, Crafton had a right front tire go down and went straight to the outside wall, ending his night. Though he was able to drive the truck to the garage area, the damage was terminal, costing Crafton a solid finish and the points lead. He now trails his teammate by 10 markers.
“All I can say is I must have run over something because there was no warning, just ‘boom’ and it was done,” Crafton said. “The truck wasn’t the best it had been, but it was plenty good enough (to win) so this really hurts.”
Points Update: Though we’re still far away from crowning a champion, Johnny Sauter finds himself atop the standings for the first time this season. He holds a ten-marker lead over teammate Matt Crafton, who suffered his second DNF on the year. Ron Hornaday, Jr., who is currently on a race by race schedule with Turner Scott Motorsports, sits third. Timothy Peters, who moved up one spot, and Ryan Blaney, who dropped a position round out the top 5.
German Quiroga remains in sixth on the strength of his runner-up finish, and Jon Wes Townley, who quietly finished eighth moved up one position to seventh. Rookie Ben Kennedy dropped to seventh and sits 32 points behind the leader. Race winner Darrell Wallace, Jr. jumped two spots to ninth, and Jeb Burton, who dropped one spot, rounds out the top 10.
“That was wild at the end. Erik (Jones) and I were so fast all race. Kyle (Busch) was not in the race tonight, but he dominated all race. Huge, huge shout out to ToyotaCare, this Made In America Toyota Tundra was on a roll tonight. We got into a little trouble on our first pit stop, but a little adversity never hurts anybody and we came through. If this doesn’t make you want to go out and buy a Toyota Tundra, I don’t know what does. So proud of my guys, they worked their tail off. I was iffy about this track coming into the weekend, but that was a lot of fun. Big thanks to Toyota, ToyotaCare, Coca-Cola, Alpinestars, and everybody involved.” Race Winner Darrell Wallace, Jr.
“I love this track (Gateway Motorsports Park) and had a lot of fun driving it. We had an amazing NET10 Wireless Toyota Tundra that everyone at the Red Horse Racing shop worked really hard to get ready for Gateway [Motorsports Park]. It was really important for me to come back strong after not finishing in Texas, and that’s what we did. We managed to be patient when things weren’t on our side, and we finished second which is what is going to help us stay in the fight for the championship.” German Quiroga, finished second
“We unloaded and used the extra practice time to try a lot of things through our simulation packages that we get through TRD. We never could find good speed. During the second practice yesterday [Friday] we threw everything including the kitchen sink at it, and still worked on it during final practice today [Saturday]. We continued to make adjustments during the pit stops throughout the race. (Crew chief) Marcus Richmond did a great job. The pit crew got us this top-three finish tonight. What an amazing job that they do, not only during the last stop which was the ‘money stop,’ but every time we’re on pit road they’re gaining us positions. Good job to this team, everyone at Toyota and Joe Gibbs Racing engines. We’ll take this momentum to Kentucky (Speedway) in two weeks.” Timothy Peters, finished third
“I really can’t thank my Turner Scott Motorsports team enough. They worked so hard tonight, and we recovered from a few incidents that could have ended badly for us. Our fuel man had a great save and kept us from getting a pit-road penalty early on, and Doug George and the rest of the guys worked hard to help give me the best Rheem Comfort Products Chevrolet they could. I really like this track, and I’m so glad that I was able to come back and have a strong run. We haven’t made it to victory lane yet, but I know that our win is coming soon. Hopefully in Kentucky.” Ron Hornaday, Jr., finished fifth
Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series takes a week off before heading to Kentucky Speedway on Thursday, June 26th. The UNOH 225 will air live on FoxSports 1 at 7:30 PM ET; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.