*In a Nutshell:* Ron Hornaday, Jr. took the checkered flag 0.438 seconds ahead of Austin Dillon to win the Kentucky 225 Saturday evening at Kentucky Speedway. Hornaday fought off a hard-charging Dillon to score his 50th career Truck Series victory. James Buescher, Nelson Piquet, Jr. and Brian Ickler rounded out the top-5 finishers. Ricky Carmichael came home sixth and was the last driver left on the lead lap thanks to a late-race round of green-flag pit stops.
*Who Should Have Won:* Though Austin Dillon was the fastest truck in both practices and started on the pole, it was veteran *Ron Hornaday, Jr.* who taught the youngster a thing or two about holding a late-race lead. Uprooted from his normal No. 33 ride, Hornaday stood a better chance of helping the No. 2 truck maintain the owner’s points lead than Cale Gale, and the 53-year-old proved the swap to be beneficial. Leading four times for a race-high 42 laps, the series veteran stepped up his game right when he needed it the most and held on to a lead that was in jeopardy with just a handful of laps remaining.
*Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:*
*1. How did Ty Dillon fare in his Truck Series debut?*
Ty Dillon, brother to Austin and grandson of Richard Childress, made his Truck Series debut Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway. The current ARCA Racing Series point leader brings with him seven victories and 14 top-10 finishes in 17 starts this season.
“I’m really excited for this weekend. We tested a truck earlier this year at Pikes Peak (International Raceway), and I learned a lot about the handling of the truck,” Dillon said heading into the event. “I know that Flash (Crew Chief Scott Naset) and the guys have worked really hard to put a good truck together. I can’t wait to get there and see what we have.”
After running 16th and tenth-quickest in the first and final practice sessions, Dillon qualified his No. 21 Bad Boy Buggies / Realtree Chevrolet in 15th. Within the first 30 laps, the 19-year-old had worked his way into the top 10. After struggling on pit road and stalling the truck twice under caution, the team chose to use pit strategy to move up to second under the fifth yellow flag.
It wasn’t until 45 laps remaining, when Dillon was forced to pit for fuel, that he ran into a more serious problem. Once again, he stalled the No. 21 Chevrolet and lost two laps in the process. Ultimately, he was left to settle for an 18th-place finish, three laps down.
Older brother Austin was pretty positive in evaluating his sibling’s debut.
“It was fun seeing him up there running, I think he learned a ton. He was good enough to run in the top 10, and he ran in the top 5 for a long time. Very impressed,” older brother Austin said. “He also helped me in lapped traffic, so that was nice of him, and he raced me clean. He’s going to be one to beat; he’ll probably have a shot at the championship next year and rookie of the year, for sure.”
But the driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet was a little more subtle with his praise.
“It was awesome, a blast,” said Ty. “We actually ran out of gas twice. We came here to learn, and I felt like they all knew we were here.”
Sure, Dillon finished 18th, three laps down, but the most important thing he gained was some valuable experience. Having run out of fuel a few times, that’s a mistake that can be learned from; the 19-year-old now knows how to handle his truck and will be able to take it in stride. Having run inside the top 5, Dillon showed some of the talent that has helped him earn seven wins in the ARCA Racing Series so far this season all while proving he’ll be a threat next season when he moves to the series full time.
*2. How did the Turner Motorsports crew swap affect Blake Feese and Ricky Carmichael?*
Last Tuesday, Turner Motorsports announced the road crews for the No. 4 of Ricky Carmichael and the No. 32 of Blake Feese would be swapped after both teams have put on mediocre performances for much of the season. As a result, Doug George moved atop Carmichael’s pit box while Mark Rette moved over to Feese.
“We’re trying something different with both teams this weekend. Our teams go to the race track each weekend with the goals of consistently competing at a high level and raising the bar for our sponsors and fan,” team owner Steve Turner said. “As we look ahead to next season, we’re in the process of evaluating both programs. Turner Motorsports continues to work towards having all three of our trucks run up front not only for the rest of this season but in 2012 and beyond.”
Was the move actually one that helped the team this weekend? Let’s start with Blake Feese. The driver of the No. 32 started 35th and made little noise on the track throughout the race, but the important thing is the solid 12th-place finish in just his seventh series start. The only result he’s posted that was any better came on fuel-mileage – a fourth-place performance a few weeks ago at Atlanta.
“Great job tonight by my “@TurnerMotorspts”:http://twitter.com/#!/turnermotorspts crew and “@mikehermanjr”:http://twitter.com/#!/mikehermanjr spotting. We’ll take that and go to Vegas. Thank you all,” Feese said on “Twitter.”:http://twitter.com/#!/BlakeFeese Certainly, the crew swap worked out for him.
Then there’s Ricky Carmichael, who seemed to take an ever bigger benefit from the behind-the-scenes changes. He matched his season-high finish of sixth Saturday evening, scoring just his second top-10 finish in the 11 races since the series last visited Kentucky in July.
It’s only one race, but it’s still a glimmer of hope for the No. 4 team that has struggled so much this season. They currently sit 16th in points, 173 behind the leader, and it’ll be clearer next week whether Kentucky was just a fluke or if Carmichael is turning his season around. One thing is for certain, though, a sixth-place finish Saturday night should serve as a morale booster for the team.
*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 Dakoda Armstrong, Blake Feese, Cale Gale, Ross Chastain, Josh Richards, John King and a debuting Ty Dillon)
*No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10:* 3; Nelson Piquet, Jr., finished fourth; Cole Whitt, finished eighth; Dakoda Armstrong, finished ninth
*Rookie Of The Race:* Nelson Piquet, Jr.
Rookie of the Race *Nelson Piquet, Jr.* led three times for a total of 40 laps on the way to a fourth-place finish. Before Saturday night’s race, Piquet had led just 12 laps in his previous 19 starts.
ThorSport driver *Dakoda Armstrong* made his fifth career start Saturday evening. After starting 20th, the driver of the No. 98 Chevrolet moved into the top 15 before the first caution flew on lap 4. Though he did drop back after the restart, pit strategy saw him join the top 10 and remain right around there for much of the closing laps of the race. Armstrong was forced to pit with 45 laps remaining for fuel, going two laps down in the process. However, he earned one of those laps back thanks to the rest of the field pitting and managed to pull out a career-best ninth-place finish, one lap down. Armstrong’s next series start will come in a few weeks when the series visits Talladega Superspeedway October 22nd.
“Was a race to win, easily! Fastest truck and I loved the truck.. But the strategy didn’t help at all… ” Nelson Piquet, Jr., finished fourth, on “Twitter”:http://twitter.com/#!/NelsonPiquet
“We had a good handling truck in practice; we just didn’t get a chance to do a mock qualifying run and didn’t have the speed for one lap during qualifying. I knew once we got into the race that truck would handle really well. Tonight’s run was better than what we’ve been having so that’s a plus. I think in the end our strategy may have hurt us from getting a top 5, but it helped us get up there and stay there for a while because our Silverado ran so much better up in the clean air. It was a great opportunity for our team to run up at the front and really boosted everyone’s confidence.” _Dakoda Armstrong, finished ninth_
“Well needed to cool down for awhile. Amazing truck, chance to win, couple mishaps, End up wrecked. Story of the last few months.” Parker Kligerman, finished 29th, on “Twitter”:http://twitter.com/#!/pkligerman
*Worth Noting / Points Shuffle:*
For the second consecutive race, the finishing order showed just six drivers on the lead lap, breaking the previous track record of eight set in last year’s Built Ford Tough 225. The Kentucky 225 also saw a record-breaking 18 lead changes.
Austin Dillon’s third runner-up finish this season allowed him to gain a single point over championship competitor James Buescher, who trails the driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops / Tracker Boats Chevrolet by a slim three-point margin. Johnny Sauter remains third, 19 points behind the leader. Timothy Peters and race winner Ron Hornaday, Jr. round out the top 5.
Rookies Joey Coulter and Cole Whitt each moved up a spot to sixth and seventh, respectively. Matt Crafton dropped two spots and finds himself tied for eighth with Todd Bodine, who moved up one spot, 73 points behind the leader. Parker Kligerman dropped another spot after being involved in an early caution and rounds out the top 10.
“Unbelievable. This one will mean a lot when I hang my helmet up and sit out on the porch with my grand-kids. Fifty wins. Austin (Dillon) is an up-and-coming star, and at age 53, I beat him. I kind of needed that right now — a little boost. You talk to people and they all want you to bring money, and I’ve never done that. They know I ain’t got three million bucks, so my phone ain’t ringing. There’s some kids out there bringing money, and that’s the way the sport is going.” _Race winner Ron Hornaday, Jr._
“We gave ‘em hell at the end, but the old man whipped my tail. I gave it everything I had on those last laps. I was driving so hard, but the right-front started pushing really bad. I just got too tight in traffic.” _Austin Dillon, finished second_
“The Toyota Tundra was just a little bit free all night, but we were able to end the night with a solid finish. This team is in a battle for the owners’ championship and I wanted to give them a solid run to keep them in the hunt. Unfortunately, the (No.) 2 truck ended in Victory Lane and we lost a few points. The guys did a good job of making improvements throughout practice and providing me with a fast Tundra for the race, and Eric Phillips (Crew Chief) made good calls atop the pit box. I want to thank Toyota, Dollar General, M&M’s, and Flexco for their support of KBM. I’m looking forward to getting back in this No. 18 Tundra at Vegas in a few weeks.” _Brian Ickler, finished fifth_
“Ron has been the heart and soul of the Truck Series. Fifty wins is just one more incredible achievement in a career that I’m sure will one day land him in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.” _Winning Team Owner Kevin Harvick_
The Camping World Truck Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway in two weeks for the Smith’s 350 Saturday, October 15th. Last season, Austin Dillon beat out Johnny Sauter by nearly six seconds for his second career win. Coverage begins at 3:30 PM EDT on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your “local MRN affiliate.”:http://www.racingone.com/stations.aspx
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