As the Camping World Truck Series rolls into Kentucky Speedway for the final race in a string of nine consecutive weeks, it’s time to take a look back at what the last eight weeks have brought. We’ve had everything from poor judgment to first-time winners and everything in between.
So without further ado, here’s your look back at the last eight races:
When the Truck Series rolled into Iowa, the drivers were refreshed and ready to race after a month off. Austin Dillon started out the weekend well, scoring his third consecutive pole position, and throughout the garage, everyone pointed at the No. 3 team as the one to beat. When Sunday rolled around, Dillon proved those predictions to be correct. Just as he had all weekend, the 20-year-old dominated, leading 154 of 205 circuits on the way to his first career victory.
We didn’t know it at the time, but this would become the last Truck Series race held at the 1.25-mile track. Kevin Harvick scored his first career pole in his 105th series start. But the race didn’t run as planned on Friday night – a downed power pole off the property left the power out at the track, forcing a postponement until Saturday. Despite complaining of a stiff neck before the race, Harvick overcame that pain, dominating on the steamy afternoon to beat out fellow Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski by more than five seconds.
Then, in late July, the track announced they didn’t plan to renew their NASCAR sanctions for 2011 due to financial difficulties. The president and CEO of Dover Motorsports, Denis McGlynn, mentioned the economy as one of the leading causes of the decision.
Timothy Peters started on the pole and had the strongest truck early in the running before the handling changed. He led 71 laps on the night but had nothing for the win when the laps wound down, bringing his No. 17 Red Horse Racing Toyota home 10th. It was Ron Hornaday Jr. who came out victorious, claiming his first victory since Nashville last August. He took the lead for the final time with 48 laps remaining to cap off a total of 129 laps led in the 200-lap race.
The July 31st visit marked the Truck Series’ inaugural visit to the 2.5-mile track. In a special qualifying session, trucks were released in 25-second intervals. In a race that was hyped in the weeks leading up to it, the Truck Series didn’t disappoint. Chaos ensued when the field entered turn 1 on the first lap, but the drivers managed to run nearly a third of the race before the second caution flew. Ultimately it was Elliott Sadler that pulled off an emotional victory, his first in NASCAR since 2004.
The next day, Sadler had a scary wreck in the Cup Series race that had the NASCAR community in an uproar over safety concerns at the track.
In the second Truck Series visit to the 1.333-mile track, Todd Bodine started on the pole but faded quickly after the green flag flew. A failing tire was the cause of Bodine’s fading truck, but a caution saved the day for the No. 30 team. He was able to pit for service and work his way through the field to win by more than four seconds over Dillon.
It was at this point in the season when the broadcast team on SPEED decided the championship should go to Bodine. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the race season is 25 races long, not 14.
The Aug. 14 race marked the first time in six years the Truck Series had been to the 1.366-mile egg-shaped track thanks to the Milwaukee Mile not hosting the series this season. Peters led the first 47 laps before handing over the lead to Hornaday Jr. in favor of a visit to pit road. Eventual winner Bodine started eighth and methodically worked his way to the front before stretching his final fuel run for 71 laps with the help of several late-race caution flags.
The annual midweek showdown at Bristol featured your typical short-track bumping, rubbing and some intentional wrecking Officially the record books will show Kyle Busch won from the pole, but anyone who watched the race knows that’s far from the truth. The No. 18 team made unapproved adjustments after Busch qualified on the pole and was forced to drop to the rear of the field.
But his run to the front wasn’t without incident. Just 36 laps in, the driver of the No. 18 found himself boxed in behind Jennifer Jo Cobb with Bodine outside. Any other driver would likely have held his position for a lap or two, but Busch took it upon himself to push Cobb out of his way, spinning her in the process.
And of course, it wouldn’t be Bristol without tempers flaring. Dillon became quite upset with Matt Crafton after late-race contact saw the No. 3 Chevrolet collect Dennis Setzer and Max Papis, bringing out the caution flag with the white flag and ultimately sealing the win for Kyle Busch. Dillon, who was running two laps down at the time, returned the favor in the form of multiple bumps to the No. 88 Chevrolet after the checkered flag flew.
Once again, NASCAR used the multi-truck qualifying session in which two drivers were released on the track in separate intervals. Bodine was the last to go out to make his run and sat on the pole in what could become a more frequent qualifying style in the coming weeks. After all, if the fans and drivers enjoy it, why not continue doing it?
In what has become your typical fare when Busch is in the field, the No. 18 Toyota once again dominated the race, leading 121 of 154 laps on the way to his fourth win this season and 20th overall in the Truck Series. But it wasn’t without challenges for the driver/owner. Aside from a couple of slip-ups on pit road, Bodine raced Busch hard and may have had a shot at the win if he hadn’t gotten loose on the low side of the track in the closing laps.
Tonight’s race at Kentucky Speedway is followed by two weeks off before a Saturday afternoon showdown at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that will coincide with the first race in the Chase for the Championship in the Sprint Cup Series. Then it’ll be a month off before the series reconvenes at Martinsville on Oct. 23 to start off the final five-week stretch to the championship.
You never know… we just may have a championship team that ran the season primarily out of the owner’s pocket.
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