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In a Nutshell: Aric Almirola took the checkered flag 0.898 seconds ahead of James Buescher to win the Dover 200 Friday afternoon (May 14) at Dover International Speedway. Almirola came from two laps down and maintained the lead on a green-white-checkered finish to score his first career Camping World Truck Series win. Rookie Justin Lofton, Ricky Carmichael and Todd Bodine rounded out the top five.
Who Should Have Won: Kyle Busch. Busch’s No. 18 Toyota-sponsored Tundra was the truck to beat from the moment on-track activities began Thursday afternoon. Busch led both practice sessions before qualifying on the pole Friday morning. The race was no different as the 25 year-old-driver/owner easily dominated much of the Dover 200 and led 172 of 204 laps. Late-race vapor locking issues combined with running out of fuel just before the green flag flew for the GWC left Busch to settle for a 16th-place finish, two laps down. This was his first DNF since Kansas in Sept. 2008.
Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race
1. How did Aric Almirola do that?
Almirola had been on the verge of scoring his first career win since late last season but had yet to visit victory lane until Friday afternoon. 79 laps in, it looked like the win would once again elude the driver of the No. 51 Graceway Pharmaceuticals/AKAwareness.com Toyota when an unscheduled green-flag pit stop for a cut tire left him two laps down. So how exactly did he manage to make it to the front when it counted most?
The first fortunate event for Almirola came when he realized he had a cut tire before he slammed hard into the unforgiving outside wall. Just 12 laps after his unscheduled pit stop, the caution flew, and the driver of the No. 51 Toyota took advantage of the wave-around rule implemented by NASCAR along with the double-file restarts earlier this season.
Then, on the fifth caution with 87 laps remaining, Almirola had himself in position for the lucky dog and earned his second lap back. He slowly worked his way through the field and took advantage of the seventh caution for a fresh set of tires. Along with Johnny Sauter, Almirola started mid-pack and made quick work of drivers on old tires.
With four laps remaining, Almirola found himself fourth on the restart following the ninth caution. A slip-up by Johnny Benson stacked up the field, and then-leader Busch couldn’t get his truck going either. Austin Dillon‘s blown engine set up a GWC finish, and Almirola pulled away then after Bodine couldn’t get his truck going.
Though he had a strong truck and made a great evasive move to miss Busch on a restart with four laps remaining, Almirola refused to take credit for his run to the front.
“To come back from two laps down after blowing a right-front tire and fighting hard and getting one of our laps back and racing and getting back on the lead lap,” Almirola said in victory lane. “Track position is so tough here. You have to have a phenomenal truck to do what we did today. I’m not going to take any credit for that.”
Almirola should be proud of his accomplishment Friday afternoon. Despite having taken advantage of the wave-around rule and the lucky dog, it was the driver that set himself up in the top five in the late stages of the race to take advantage of Busch’s late-race troubles.
2. Should races be shown on a tape delay?
Friday afternoon’s Dover 200 was run at 4:45 p.m. local time but didn’t air on SPEED until 8:30 p.m. local time. As a result, anyone who wanted to wait until the race aired to know the results was forced to stay away from Twitter, NASCAR.com, Facebook and more. I walked away from my laptop so I wouldn’t be tempted to look. But should any NASCAR races be shown on a tape delay?
In these days of social media prominence with access to Twitter and Facebook, the simple answer is absolutely not, but I do understand why the decision was made. The lack of lights a the mile-long oval doesn’t allow for night racing, and television ratings would have been absolutely dismal if the race were shown live.
That being said, it would certainly be helpful for those posting on Twitter and Facebook to share some sort of a spoiler warning when posting. I refuse to ask teams not to post on Twitter just because fans may learn of race results before they get a chance to view it.
Though it seems like a race should never be shown on tape delay, it came down to the choice of the lesser of two evils. You either upset some fans by having the results out on the web before they’ve even seen the race or you run it in a time slot most fans would miss because they’re still at work or traveling home from work.
You can’t please everyone, and in this situation, SPEED and NASCAR made the decision that was in the best interest of the series.
No. of Rookies in the Race: 4
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 1; Lofton, finished third (career best)
Rookie of the Race: Lofton
“This is huge. This is big for us especially going into Charlotte. Going into this stretch we really needed it, man. All of us were kind of getting down on ourselves. I’ve got the hardest working group of guys out there. To reward them with this was pretty cool. Two spots up would’ve been better though. I just drove it for all I could this race.” – Justin Lofton
Worth Noting/Points Shuffle
Almirola moved up two spots with his first career win and now sits atop the points standings. Bodine remains in second, just 27 points out of first. Timothy Peters dropped two spots to third after a second consecutive finish outside the top 20. Ron Hornaday Jr. remains in third and sits 125 markers behind Almirola while Matt Crafton moved up one spot to round out the top five.
Ricky Carmichael‘s career-best finish moved him up two spots to sixth, and just four points behind him sits Sauter, who dropped two spots despite a 15th-place finish. David Starr‘s best finish this season (sixth) moved him up three positions to eighth, 183 points out of first. Mike Skinner moved up one spot and sits just three points behind Starr. Jason White dropped three spots to round out the top 10.
Due to a lack of sponsorship for his No. 14 Ford, Rick Crawford was forced to sit out this weekend. The Dover 200 marked only the second race Crawford has missed since he joined the series 329 races ago in 1997. The 51-year-old driver missed the 2005 Built Ford Tough 225 presented by Greater Cincinnati Ford Dealers after a hard crash in practice. In his place, Boris Said started 35th only to crash out 48 laps in and finish in the same place he started.
Almirola marks the 11th different winner in 11 Truck Series races at Dover International Speedway. The 26-year-old driver marked the third consecutive driver to score his first career victory at the high-banked concrete oval.
Billy Ballew Motorsports pulled out chassis No. 11 for Almirola this weekend at the Monster Mile. Prior to Friday afternoon, that chassis had 10 wins in 23 starts; nine with Busch and one with Shane Hmiel.
“What a truck! We had a good truck right off the trailer. We tried a few things the last couple of weeks at Nashville and Kansas, and we got off our game. We went right back to our basics and it’s working, man. I’m so excited. I can’t wait to go to the rest of these races. To do it the way we did it, to come back from two laps down, blowing the right-front tire and not damaging our truck. What a race!” – Aric Almirola
“It’s only our second run out with this No. 31 Wolf Pack Rentals team and I can’t thank Steve, Sandra and the whole Turner family enough. This is my best finish in NASCAR and it’s awesome that we were able to finish this well so quickly. This is out team’s first top-five finishes and we got two of them. I’m probably just as excited as Aric [Almirola] is and this is definitely the start of good things to come.” – runner-up James Buescher
“I’m almost in shock. I’m happy for myself, but most of all I’m happy for this team. This is why you never give up. Honestly, it was a horrible weekend from the first incident in the first practice. We battled a lot of adversity this weekend, but this just shows that you have to stay positive and never give up. This finish makes all of the hard work worth it and it helps me a lot as a driver.” – Ricky Carmichael, finished fourth
Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 Friday night. In 2009, Hornaday Jr. notched another in the win column while Busch spent the entire race driving through the field after two different penalties sent him to the back of the pack. Coverage begins at 7:30 p.m. ET; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.
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