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Tracking the Trucks: Careers For Veterans 200
Credit: Mike Neff

Tracking the Trucks: Careers For Veterans 200

In a Nutshell: Johnny Sauter and teammate Matt Crafton each took just a couple seconds of fuel in the closing laps of Saturday afternoon’s Careers for Veterans 200 at Michigan International Speedway. Though Crafton came off of pit road side-by-side with Sauter, who had pitted a handful of laps earlier, the momentum the No. 98 Toyota carried was enough to give him the lead and the win. Ron Hornaday, Jr. finished third, followed by Tayler Malsam. Kyle Busch rounded out the top 5, breaking his streak of winning every race he had entered this season.

Who Should Have Won: Johnny Sauter. In a race slowed by a single caution just nine laps in, pit road strategy was the name of the game Saturday. Darrell Wallace, Jr. and Timothy Peters were the only drivers to stay on the track under that yellow, setting them up on a different pit cycle. With the way the laps wound down and no other cautions fell, it came down to a final pit stop for just enough fuel to make it to the end. As it turned out, Jeff Hensley, who just joined the No. 98 team for Michigan, made the right call, giving his driver just enough fuel to win the race and celebrate before being pushed to Victory Lane.

Race Rundown:

Qualifying Confusion

The Truck Series held qualifying for Saturday afternoon’s race early on Saturday morning, and all was normal until the final session. Waiting one another out until the last possible moment in hopes of posting the fastest speed, the trucks in the final round all scrambled to the track with just seconds remaining. But the timing was off for all by Ryan Blaney’s No. 22 team. He was the only driver to cross the start / finish line before time ran out in the session, awarding him the pole with an official speed of 173.152 mph, well below teammate Joey Logano’s 187.647 mph, a record for the series.

Because Blaney was the only driver to have crossed the start / finish line before the session ended, he was the only one to have his lap count in the final session. The remainder of the top 12 were set based upon their speeds posted in the second round. I’m not sure whether to be confused or amused. The length of the qualifying rounds hasn’t changed this season, and it’s rather odd that so many teams would fail to estimate their timing properly. I guess that’s what happens when you push the limits, trying to outsmart the competition, and I can almost guarantee that’s not a mistake those teams will make again.

Travis Kvapil’s Return Cut Short

Subbing for an injured John Wes Townley, who is still waiting to be cleared to return to competition following an ARCA wreck at Pocono Raceway, Travis Kvapil piloted the No. 05 Zaxby’s Toyota. A heavy favorite based on his two wins and four top 10s in five previous starts, Kvapil completed just eight laps before his hopes for a trip to Victory Lane went up in smoke … literally.

“[The truck gave me] no warning. It definitely broke, unfortunately, and it looks pretty major under there. There’s holes in the oil pan, so that’s not a good sign,” Kvapil said from the garage area. “[I'm] just really thankful for the opportunity–Mike Beam and the Zaxby’s team gave me a marvelous truck. It was incredibly fast.

“The drafting was definitely going to play a big factor. Had a couple good runs out there, was already having a lot of fun. The truck was handling super, wide open easily. I was looking forward to what strategy we could work out to get some track position and stay up front there. It was fun to drive a fast race car again and I’m really thankful for the opportunity.”

The caution that flew for Kvapil’s blown engine turned out to be the only yellow that slowed the field on Saturday afternoon. John Wes Townley hopes to be back in the No. 05 Toyota Wednesday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Quick Hits:

* In what was a bizarre day for teammates, Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates Kyle Busch and Darrell Wallace, Jr. both pushed their fuel mileage too far and ran out of gas. After struggling to get their trucks restarted, Busch and Wallace finished fifth and 11th, respectively. Meanwhile, Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney both suffered similar issues with the front ends of their Fords. In both cases, the bottom part of the nose piece separated, leaving a large gap just above the grille. Logano and Blaney were forced to make extensive pit stops for damage repairs and finished 18th and 21st.

* Saturday afternoon’s event marked the fastest race in Truck Series history. Slowed by a single caution for six circuits on lap 9 following Travis Kvapil’s blown engine, the average speed for the Careers For Veterans 200 came out to 161.110 mph. The previous record was 154.737 mph, also set by Sauter, for the November, 2012 WinStar World Casino 350. That race was slowed by two cautions for nine laps.

* Just a single race removed from being an innocent victim in the German Quiroga / Tyler Reddick tangle at Pocono two weeks ago, rookie Tyler Young posted a career-best finish of 14th. His previous high had been 15th at Texas and Eldora earlier this year.

* Johnny Sauter’s victory make the 2014 season his sixth consecutive one with at least one win. He now sits two seasons shy of Dennis Setzer’s record of eight.

* All trucks passed post-race inspection, but…

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: 8 (add Adam Edwards, Spencer Gallagher, Todd Peck, Caleb Roark and Jimmy Weller, III)

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 0

Rookie of the Race: Tyler Young, finished 14th

Championship Checkup:
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: Johnny Sauter’s trip to Victory Lane, combined with Ryan Blaney’s misfortunes spelled success for the driver of the No. 98 Toyota Saturday afternoon. Sauter now holds a nine point lead over teammate Matt Crafton.

Biggest Loser: Ryan Blaney held a slim seven-point margin over Johnny Sauter coming into Saturday afternoon’s race. After starting on the pole, the driver of the No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford led just ten laps before dropping to a disappointing 21st-place finish. He now sits third, 16 markers behind Sauter.

Points Update: ThorSport teammates Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton, who each moved up one spot in the standings, sit 1-2. Ryan Blaney, who dropped two positions is now third, and Ron Hornaday, Jr. is fourth, 19 points behind the leader. Darrell Wallace, Jr. rounds out the top 5. Red Horse Racing teammates German Quiroga and Timothy Peters sit sixth and seventh, respectively. Rookie Ben Kennedy is eighth, followed by Joey Coulter. Jeb Burton rounds out the top 10.

Quotable:

“I’m so proud of this team – everybody at ThorSport on this Nextant Aerospace Toyota, everybody at Triad and TRD – everybody that makes this possible. Duke and Rhonda Thorson. That last lap, I knew I just had to get on pit road right – no mistakes. And I hit it right. When I got to the line, I was at 4,800 in second gear and I was like, ‘That’s perfect.’ I’m so proud of Jeff Hensley (crew chief) – coming over here (for his first race). This is just a great day. This is the thing we needed to swing [the points lead]. I’m just so proud of this team – these guys. We’ve had a good year, but not a great year. We’ve been consistent. We finally got speed this weekend.” Race winner Johnny Sauter

“We had a very fast Menard’s Toyota Tundra. Track position was everything. We got shuffled back at one point and worked our way back up there. Like I said, if you got underneath somebody and didn’t get the pass done and you had the train that came on the outside – you would get shuffled back five spots. So, it was so hard to be in the right place at the right time. The Menard’s Toyota Tundra was pretty good all day. I think if we would have had the lead – definitely could have won the race. Track position was key.” Matt Crafton, finished second

“We had a great day at Michigan [International Speedway] in the Rheem Comfort Products Chevy. You don’t get a great truck like this one every day. The Rheem guys did a great job of preparing it, and Doug [George] made great calls during the race. We just ran out of time there at the end to catch the two trucks in front of me. Michigan is a lot of fun when you get a great driving truck like this one. I can’t thank Mr. [Steve] Turner and Mr. [Harry] Scott enough for giving me this opportunity.” Ron Hornaday, Jr., finished third

“We had an awesome truck this weekend; it was so fast and it handled flawlessly. Hillman and the guys at Turner Scott Motorsports make my job easy when they bring me such great equipment to work with. Michigan is my kind of track; it’s basically like Daytona without the drafting. I was able to race with other drivers, and race hard. My spotter Eddie D’Hondt was great today and helped me a lot when I would get a run. I can’t thank everyone within this organization enough for their hard work and support. It feels great to get my career-best finish with a great team and a great sponsor like Outerwall on the truck.” Tayler Malsam, finished fourth

“We showed during the first half of the race that KBM had the two fastest trucks out there today, unfortunately both us and the 54 ran out of gas and neither Darrell (Wallace, Jr.) or myself were able to finish what we started – can’t seem to catch a break at this track.. Proud of everyone at KBM and ToyotaCare for the streak we had going – wining my first five starts this year and six dating back to Homestead last year – it’s unfortunate that it had to end, but we’ll look to get another streak started next week at Bristol.” Kyle Busch, finished fifth

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series has a short week before heading off to Bristol Motor Speedway Wednesday night for the UNOH 200. Last season, Kyle Busch led just the final seven laps en route to a 0.050 second victory over Timothy Peters. Coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

About Beth Lunkenheimer

Beth Lunkenheimer
Co-Managing Editor of Frontstretch since 2012, Beth heads up management of our 30-person staff, acting as Tom’s main assistant with technology and personnel while working as Frontstretch’s Truck Series expert. The author of Truckin’ Thursdays and the coordinator of the site’s pre and post-race coverage, she also runs a monthly diary with owner Harry Scott. A native of Texas, Beth is an eight-year writing veteran who has contributed content to BRANDT and Athlon Sports, among other outlets.

One comment

  1. Like everyone else in the US that is not related to a series driver or employed by Toyota I did not bother to watch. How empty were the stands?