Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: 2011 Bully Hill Vineyards 200 at Nashville

In a Nutshell: Kyle Busch took the checkered flag 1.061 seconds ahead of Nelson Piquet Jr. to win the Bully Hill Vineyards 200 at Nashville Superspeedway Friday night (April 22). Busch restarted second with three laps remaining but was able to dispose of then-leader Ron Hornaday Jr. by the time the field made it to turn 4 and held the top spot until the end. Timothy Peters, Hornaday Jr. and James Buescher rounded out the top-five finishers.

Who Should Have Won: Kyle Busch. It was clear that the No. 18 was the truck to beat from the time it rolled off the hauler. Busch led both practice sessions and backed up that performance with a blistering fast lap that edged 2010 Rookie of the Year Austin Dillon by 0.03 seconds. Once the green flag flew, Busch wasted no time pulling away from the field and at times held more than a two-second lead. The driver of the No. 18 Dollar General Toyota managed to lead 140 of 150 laps – including his 20,000th lap led in NASCAR’s top-three series – Friday night to score his second win this season and 26th overall.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. Can ThorSport finally win a Truck Series championship?

For the fourth consecutive race, a ThorSport driver leads the championship standings in the Truck Series. This time, it’s Johnny Sauter, who has held the top spot since his victory a few weeks ago at Martinsville Speedway. But can they still come out on top come Homestead in November?

Well, their statistics this year certainly prove they’re capable of taking home the big trophy at the end of the season. Sauter and teammate Matt Crafton have racked up one win and eight top-10 finishes in a combined 10 starts so far this season. In fact, the two ran side-by-side, swapping positions near the top of Nashville’s field for much of the night.

Sauter remains the only Truck Series regular to make a visit to victory lane and he’s approaching this season with a better feeling than he’s ever had with any team.

“I’ve just got a lot more confidence going to the racetrack because I feel like we’re doing a lot of things right and we can win races. We’ve proven it,” Sauter said. “We’ve won three in the last three seasons, but to the point of the points deal, it’s just way too early to be worried about that. We just need to go to the racetrack and do the best job we can.”

And that’s exactly what the two teammates have done so far this season. But will one victory in the long run be enough? Sure, consistency can win championships, but in a series that’s notable for close championship battles – the last two years aside – consistency just isn’t going to cut it. Until the ThorSport teammates can start competing for the win each week rather than running for top fives and top 10s, it’ll be difficult for them to take home the big trophy come Homestead.

2. Why should you keep watching the Truck Series?

This one is actually aimed at the more casual fans who tuned in this weekend because there wasn’t a Cup Series race. For several years after I started watching NASCAR, I didn’t bother watching the Truck Series. I didn’t know who the drivers were, I was rarely home while the races were run and I didn’t bother setting my VCR – yes, I said VCR – to record them.

Fast forward to 2005, when I started to cover the series part time right here at the site that has been my home since I started writing, and I had to start watching. Little did I know how quickly I would get drawn in and that I would come to prefer to watch a Truck Series race over the Cup Series any day. One of my favorite things about the series is these drivers aren’t afraid to run all out, all the time. The races are so short there’s no time to hang back, stay out of trouble and then run to the front. Besides, the ultimate goal for drivers in the series is to get noticed and move up the NASCAR ladder.

Once again Friday night, I was reminded what got me absolutely hooked on watching these little sprint races on Friday or Saturday: the side-by-side beating and banging. Several times during the Bully Hills 200, there was three and even four-wide racing. In fact, Cole Whitt, Ricky Carmichael and Jason White took the checkered flag three-wide for positions 12-14 and it took a look at the scoring monitor to find out which one came out ahead.

For those of you that tuned in simply because there wasn’t any Cup racing to see this weekend, it’s definitely worth checking out the series again. Sure, Kyle Busch may run circles around the field (literally) when he’s entered, but if you can get past that, there’s plenty of great racing to see throughout the field. And don’t worry if you have no clue who any of the drivers are, because after watching a few races, you’ll know their name – and you may even find a favorite pretty quickly.

Truck Rookie Report
2011 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
Joey Coulter (No. 22)
Dusty Davis (No. 15)
Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 1)
Chris Eggleston (No. 27)
Craig Goess (No. 46)
Justin Johnson (No. 51)
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: 8

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 3; Nelson Piquet Jr., finished second; Craig Goess, finished ninth; Parker Kligerman, finished 10th

Rookie of the Race: Piquet Jr., finished second (Piquet Jr. scored his career-best finish Friday night after passing Hornaday Jr. and Peters on the final lap of the race)

See also
Beyond the Cockpit: Nelson Piquet Jr. on a Fast Formula 1 to Stock Car Transition

Rookie Quote

“I honestly have no words. I feel like I won. I am so happy to have the opportunity to have finished second here at Nashville. We have had such a long road to this point, but we continue to get better each week, and this race was a huge accomplishment. The learning curve in the transition from open wheel to stock cars is a lot bigger than many people think, but I’m learning. I’m excited to see how we continue to improve in each race this season.” – Nelson Piquet Jr., finished second

Points Shuffle

Sauter remains atop the points standings, but his lead has shrank to three markers over Peters who moved up a spot. Crafton dropped a spot to third and leads Hornaday, who moved up one spot, by just one point. Rookie Whitt dropped a position and rounds out the top five, 12 points out of the lead.

Dillon and Todd Bodine each moved up one position to sixth and seventh, respectively. Clay Rogers dropped two spots to eighth after a disappointing 31st-place finish. Max Papis remains in ninth, 45 points behind the leader, and rookie Kligerman moved up one spot to round out the top 10.


“I can’t say enough about this team, these guys. Happy Easter to everybody out there – it’s a happy Easter weekend. We’re proud to be out here in Nashville racing in Dollar General’s backyard. I can’t tell you enough about these guys on this team – phenomenal job. Our truck was really good; it had a great feel to it all night long. This is a series I love to race in and participate in.” – Kyle Busch, race winner

“Obviously we want to beat him (Kyle Busch). He is good, you can’t take anything away from him. You can learn from him. When we beat him – and we will beat him – it’s going to make our team shine that much more and it’s going to make the resume look a lot better. We’re going to keep fighting. What we did tonight is a championship-caliber deal for our team. I was really excited about tonight.” – Timothy Peters, finished third

“Kyle [Busch] definitely had the winning truck but we weren’t going to let him have it that easy. We brought home a clean fourth-place finish and moved up another position in the points standings. We learned a lot tonight. We’ll get our shot. It’s not far away. This couldn’t be done without all the help from our sponsors, Steak-umm and Kevin and DeLana (Harvick, team owners).” – Ron Hornaday Jr.

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series takes a couple weeks off before heading to Dover International Spedway for the Lucas Oil 200 on Friday, May 13. In 2010, Aric Almirola came from two laps down and beat out James Buescher by nearly a second on a green-white-checkered finish. Coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. ET on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

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