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Tracking The Trucks: NEXTEra Energy Resources 250

Tracking The Trucks: NEXTEra Energy Resources 250

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Key Moment: Kyle Busch, making his move on Turn 3 of the final lap darted to the outside of Timothy Peters just enough to pull his nose alongside. The No. 17 Toyota couldn’t block, allowing Busch to build momentum, sidedraft on that outside line and eke ahead at the checkers by 0.016 seconds — the eighth-closest finish in Truck Series history.

Timothy Peters held the lead, heading to the white flag lap but it was Kyle Busch’s No. 51 who wound up beating him to the checkered.

Key Players: Peters ran second, while defending race winner Johnny Sauter helped boost Busch down the backstretch before settling for third. Ryan Truex and Ron Hornaday, in one-race deals for Turner Scott Motorsports rounded out the top-5 finishers. 2013 Series champion Matt Crafton struggled with handling and poor track position all night – although that was sometimes by choice – and wound up 13th.

Who Should Have Won: Peters. On a night where Daytona transformed into old Bristol, making the outside line a kiss of death Peters was the only one who could hang tough. Taking the lead from that position, in his No. 17 Toyota he led 20 laps and was in position to cash in heading to the white flag. But in defending the lead, Peters got a little too far out front, by his own admission, breaking the draft behind him and allowing Busch and company space to build some speed.

“I’m kicking myself,” he said. “But you can’t back up too fast because you know that you’ll get run over.” Either way, Busch pulled a phenomenal move that left Peters, arguably the fastest car clutching a silver medal.

Three Things To Remember
1. Tandem drafting, pushing, whatever rules you set the Big One still happens anyway.

NASCAR, heading into Daytona put strict rules on tandem drafting for both the Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series. Cars were only allowed to “bump” each other lightly, not push within the draft and any violations would be strictly enforced. That left drivers playing nice, during the race’s first half but also hurt the quality of competition. It’s tough to have hard racing when you put out a restraining order on making contact.

That still didn’t stop the big wreck, though, as a racing incident caused by Ross Chastain, Parker Kligerman, and Mason Mingus wiped out one-third of the field on Lap 74. Mingus, inching up a lane surprised Kligerman, who slowed and wound up bumped by Chastain behind him.

“At the end of the day,” Kligerman said. “You chalk it up to a racing incident, but I feel bad I was the first truck to spin out. You get bumped, you want to hold onto it.”

He didn’t. But on a day where NASCAR was trying hard to eliminate any sort of contact, it was a simple reminder that bumping’s going to happen whether rules are in place or not. So why bother to police such activity in the first place, creating subjective decisions and drama when you’re never going to fully prevent it?

Thankfully, it seemed officials took the hint. As the stretch run started, post-wreck drivers got more aggressive, slamming away but thankfully NASCAR kept away from using the penalty box.

2. Talented rookie Ben Kennedy could be in a lose-lose situation… along with NASCAR.

Make no mistake, Brian France’s nephew impressed from the drop of the green Friday night. Leading the most laps (52), it seemed like the rookie was a driver to beat until a weird incident leaving pit road. Setting the car in the wrong gear, Kennedy appeared to stall and left so slowly he fell to around eighth place — even though he crossed pit exit in first. Officials, then were left to decide a 50/50 proposition as to whether Kennedy kept enough speed to hold the lead.

Timothy Peters held the lead, heading to the white flag lap but it was Kyle Busch’s No. 51 who wound up beating him to the checkered.

Timothy Peters held the lead, heading to the white flag lap but it was Kyle Busch’s No. 51 who wound up beating him to the checkered.

Ben Kennedy kept up with the Kyle Busches of the world until a pit road blunder cost him too much track position to fight back from.

In the end, they went back and forth before putting Kennedy midpack. But those wavering moments were an ugly reminder of the terrible position NASCAR was in. What if they go the other way, Kennedy stays first and winds up winning the race? Those on the other side of that 50/50 call say NASCAR’s playing favorites with the nephew’s CEO. It’s a situation no other major sport has faced before; it’s not like Roger Goodell’s son is playing quarterback for the Broncos.

In the end, I think NASCAR made the wrong call here. But did that mean they were playing it safe, keeping the public from thinking they favored Kennedy? It’s a tough situation for the rookie to be in, almost like another obstacle that needs to be overcome. Considering he’s got talent, proven during the first half of that race in Daytona that seems inherently unfair.

3. Kyle Busch could run roughshod over the Truck Series once again.

Kyle’s victory was his 36th in the Truck Series in 116 starts. It’s an absurd winning percentage of 31.3, meaning he wins one out of every three times he slips behind the wheel there. That’s bad for the competition; for with another limited schedule on the horizon for 2014, where Busch has quality equipment from Toyota it’s looking like another 4-5 wins are on the horizon.

“It’s me in the Truck Series,” he joked about why some fans were so mad after his win. “People don’t like it. I’m stealing candy from a baby.”

“[But] until the rules are changed or everybody else grows up and can beat me, then we’re racing, so…”

Kyle is certainly right. It’s not like he dominated Daytona; the Truck guys stole the majority of the spotlight while the No. 51 Toyota ran solidly within the top 5. And without his presence, the series loses Busch’s truck and perhaps that of Darrell Wallace, Jr., with Toyota unwilling to foot the bill for up-and-comers without the star power of Busch running occasionally alongside.

The rules are what they are, folks. It’s an age-old, tiring argument and you can’t blame Busch for working within them to run a business.

Quick Hits

- Ron Hornaday, after running fifth for Turner Scott Motorsports offered a sly smile and a “stay tuned” when asked if he’d run for the organization again. Rheem sponsored the former champion in a one-race deal; however, TSM doesn’t have a second full-time driver to complement Kennedy in the No. 31 which makes Hornaday pairing up with this program all the likelier over the short-term.

- Jennifer Jo Cobb, who has struggled through the years in Trucks had an embarrassing incident when her gas man spilled more fuel in her pit box than was actually put inside the truck. Luckily, nothing caught fire but it caused the No. 10 to run out of gas, on-track and stall on the backstretch just before the halfway mark.

- Travis Kvapil, in what could be a full-time return to competition was in position to challenge for a top-10 finish with MAKE Motorsports before engine problems late. Oil on the track, from his No. 50 with 13 laps remaining caused the final caution.

- Jimmy Weller III has a ninth-place finish under his belt, an excellent Daytona debut. He also pulled a nice save, as his No. 08 was spun harmlessly across the finish line as the trucks came storming to the checkered flag.

Truck Rookie Report
2014 Sunoco Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Ben Kennedy (No. 31)
Mason Mingus (No. 35)
Tyler Reddick (No. 19)
Tyler Young (No. 02)

No. of Rookies in the Race: 9 (add Sean Corr, Michael Disdier, Ryan Ellis, Justin Jennings, Jimmy Weller III)

No. of Sunoco Rookie Contenders to Finish in the Top 10: Zero (Tyler Reddick was the best of the four, in 12th) *No. of Rookies Overall in the Top 10: One (Jimmy Weller III, ninth)

Frontstretch Rookie of the Race: Ben Kennedy

Author’s Note: Only drivers who have declared for the rookie of the year battle are eligible for the Rookie of the Race award.

Championship Checkup:
It’s a bit too early to be talking title; there’s only one race complete out of 22. But Timothy Peters, with his runner-up finish starts off the year with the point lead, edging Johnny Sauter by two. It’s a much better start for the 2012 championship contender; last season, an ugly Daytona wreck left Peters in a hole from which he would never recover.

Ron Hornaday sits third in the standings, hoping to nag that full-time ride for TSM while Ryan Blaney and Jeb Burton round out the top 5.

Quotable:
“I think today was a bigger win because I completed the quadfecta, I think it’s called. Being able to win all four here in Daytona… just pretty special.” Kyle Busch, race winner

“It’s always easy to sit here and play Monday Morning QB. Kyle got the right push at the right time from Johnny. Had to get right down to the bottom so I wouldn’t lose second.” Timothy Peters, finished second

“All three Thorsport trucks are in one piece. If you can’t win it, you want to finish it and that’s a solid start to the season.” Johnny Sauter, finished third

“I told them I don’t have a rookie stripe but I’m a rookie. This is only my fourth Truck race ever, my fourth superspeedway race, and man, I figured out when the 17 got up in front of me, I pushed him. And as soon as I pushed him, he took off. And I went with him. And I just kept doing it, and before I knew it, he was leading. And I saw Ron in my mirror, backed up to him, and if it wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would have happened. I gotta thank him big time for that. That was a true teammate move right there.” Ryan Truex, finished fourth

“You just don’t want to step over that boundary. You don’t know how far to push and shove. We bumped about six times down the straightaway without latching onto them. Hopefully, that was OK and we came home with a top 5.” Ron Hornaday, finished fifth

“Sorry we couldn’t do any better. Worked with Timothy really well there. I couldn’t get pushed as much as I could push. I was good behind the 17. Tried to push him and tried to bump him… we were racing, worked great with some people and then there are others, I can’t figure out how to work with them. Maybe it’s me.” Ross Chastain, finished 30th, eliminated in Lap 74 wreck

Up Next: A six-week vacation, that’s what. The Truck Series doesn’t race again until Martinsville, the shortest track on their 22-race schedule at the end of March. The Kroger 250 will run at 2:00 PM on March 29th, televised on FOX Sports 1 and broadcast by MRN Radio affiliates.

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About Tom Bowles

Tom Bowles
The author of Bowles-Eye View (Mondays) and Did You Notice? (Wednesdays) Tom spends his time overseeing Frontstretch’s 30 staff members as its majority owner. Based in Philadelphia, Bowles is a two-time Emmy winner in NASCAR television and has worked in racing production with FOX, TNT, and ESPN while appearing on-air for SIRIUS XM Radio and FOX Sports 1's former show, the Crowd Goes Wild.