*In a Nutshell:* In a race that featured a track record 20 lead changes, as well as a 40-minute red flag for rain, Aric Almirola beat out Truck Series stars Todd Bodine and Kyle Busch Saturday to win at Michigan. Almirola came through with a three-wide charge through the middle on lap 93 and never looked back, scoring his second win of the Truck season and of his career in the 100-lapper. Bodine, Busch, Ron Hornaday, Jr., and polesitter Austin Dillon rounded out the top 5.
*Who Should Have Won: Todd Bodine.* He came into the weekend with all the momentum after winning at Texas Motor Speedway for the umpteenth time, led the most laps, and was driving away before a lap 89 incident between Nelson Piquet, Jr. and Justin Lofton brought out a late-race caution. It was on this restart that Busch and Almirola were able to snatch the lead… and the race, from the “Onion.” Despite losing the victory, though, Bodine did earn a consolation prize from Almirola: maintaining the point lead.
*Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:*
*1) Is this year’s championship race a two-team affair already?*
Ron Hornaday finished fourth, his sixth top 10 in the last seven races after a disastrous start to 2010. Timothy Peters scored his third consecutive top-10 finish after recovering from back-to-back runs of 23rd and 25th at Kansas and Dover. But in the end, at yet another intermediate track, it came down to a race between Billy Ballew Motorsports’ Aric Almirola and Germain Racing’s Todd Bodine. Oh, and Kyle Busch…
Bodine and his No. 30 team have been making 1.5 and 2-mile ovals their bread and butter since their championship season back in 2006, and Almirola has picked up right where Kyle Busch left the No. 51 team, proving to be a contender at every single one of the larger ovals on the circuit. While a number of other drivers, including Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton in the Thorsport camp, Hornaday, Peters, and now even Austin Dillon have stepped up their game at these facilities, the fact is that Almirola and Bodine already have over 100 points on the field.
Sure, one of those drivers could get back in the hunt by pulling off a few wins in a row. But the way Almirola and Bodine are running, racing for wins yet still posting consistent results, seeing them battling for the victory just as they did at MIS this Saturday may well prove to be a telling microcosm for the championship chase as the 2010 season moves forward.
*2) Will Austin Dillon be racing Trucks in 2011?*
After this weekend’s result, which saw Dillon win his second consecutive Truck Series pole, run in the top 10 all day, and recover from a lap 82 penalty for removing equipment from his pit box to finish fifth, the answer appears to be no… because Richard Childress Racing’s Nationwide Series program will likely be calling.
Dillon’s now scored three top-10 finishes in the last four races on intermediate ovals, and has led 38 laps in the last two races after leading none in the first seven of the season. Coming into 2010, these larger ovals were the biggest question marks facing Dillon, who, between a fourth-place finish in Nationwide Series competition at Memphis and full campaigns under his belt in East Series racing, has had plenty of short track experience already. Now that the longer ovals are also clicking for RCR’s most visible development driver, it’s not hard to imagine the No. 3 returning to Victory Lane in 2010… and for Dillon to be promoted for 2011.
*Truck Rookie Report*
*Brett Butler (No. 47)*
*Jennifer Jo Cobb (No. 10)*
*Nelson Piquet, Jr. (No. 15)*
*Austin Dillon (No. 3)*
*Justin Lofton (No. 7)*
*Dillon Oliver (No. 01 – shared ride)*
*Michael Guerity (No. 01 – shared ride)*
*Terry Jones (No. 95)*
*No. of Rookies in the Race:* 6
*No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10:* 2; Austin Dillon, finished fifth
Nelson Piquet, Jr., finished tenth
*Rookie Of The Race:* Austin Dillon
Though not equaling his career-best third-place run at Texas last week, a fifth place at Michigan was none too shabby for the Truck Series’ hottest rookie.
*Worth Noting / Points Shuffle*
Aric Almirola’s second win of the 2010 season allowed him to close the gap between he and point leader Todd Bodine to 55 markers as the Truck Series prepares to take a month hiatus. While the top six in points stayed stationary after the weekend’s race, Matt Crafton’s blown engine allowed Jason White, David Starr, and Ricky Carmichael all to jump he and his No. 88 team in the standings. Crafton now sits 10th in points, 345 out of the top spot after a 27th-place result.
Chris Fontaine’s decision to add his No. 84 team to the entry list at Michigan late in the game proved to be the right decision, as Fontaine delivered a lead-lap, 17th-place finish… which, in addition to being a solid performance for his operation, was also his fourth such 17th-place run of the 2010 season.
Nelson Piquet, Jr. has now scored three top-10 finishes in four Truck starts, with his 10th-place result Saturday making up for a disappointing day in ARCA competition the day before. That saw him finish 12th after running nearly all day in the top 5 before getting caught by a late caution during green-flag pit stops.
“My truck was all over the place, so I could run the top in (turns) one and two and the bottom in three and four. When you can only run a specific line and you can’t move around the race track anywhere else, then you’re stuck. Especially here, you can’t pass a guy down on the bottom of one and two, because you’re loose down there, and you can’t go up high in one and two and get on their outside because then you’re going to be loose in three and four. Just frustrating that we didn’t have it right.” _- Kyle Busch_
“I didn’t think it was the greatest place to be. But I knew we were going to run wide open through the corner. We were either going to crash, or we were going to make it out the other side — because I knew how important clean air was.” _- Aric Almirola on his three-wide pass for the win_
The Camping World Truck Series next heads to the Iowa Speedway a month from now, on Sunday, July 11th at 1:30 PM. Last season, Mike Skinner dominated, leading 180 laps en route to winning from the pole in the Trucks’ first race at the track that Rusty built. Coverage will be featured on SPEED and your “local MRN affiliate.”:http://www.racingone.com/stations.aspx.
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