Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: 2011 WinStar World Casino 400K at Texas

In a Nutshell: Ron Hornaday Jr. took the checkered flag 0.936 seconds ahead of rookie Parker Kligerman to win the WinStar World Casino 400K Friday night (June 10) at Texas Motor Speedway. Though Hornaday actually crossed the start/finish line in second, he was the beneficiary of a black flag issued to then-leader Johnny Sauter and scored his first win this season. David Mayhew, Brian Ickler and Joey Coulter rounded out the top five.

Who Should Have Won: Hornaday. Sauter and Austin Dillon clearly had the fastest trucks in the field, but Dillon was involved in a wreck with a loose Matt Crafton that took him out of contention for the win though his crew did manage to keep him on the lead lap while making repairs to the No. 3 Chevrolet. And though Sauter was actually the first driver to take the checkered flag, the black flag also flew simultaneously and the win was handed to Hornaday, who crossed the line in second just as it should have been.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. How did Steve Arpin fare in his Truck Series debut?

ARCA standout Steve Arpin rolled into Texas Motor Speedway with high hopes for a strong run in his Truck Series debut after winning his one and only appearance at the mile-and-a-half track, the Rattlesnake 150. After qualifying fourth, the driver of the No. 32 Mike’s Hard Lemonade Chevrolet dropped a few spots thanks to handling problems.

But under the second caution, crew chief Doug George made the call for two tires, giving Arpin the lead on the restart. He held the lead for four laps under green-flag conditions before veterans Hornaday and Sauter took first and second from him.

See also
Tearing Apart the Trucks: Germain's Texas Dominance Stopped? & Arpin's Debut

However, the night wasn’t over for Arpin, who would drop a few spots and work his way back up. It was shaping up to be a solid debut for the young driver until he got loose and slid up the track right in front of Dillon, who committed to moving inside to avoid wrecking the No. 32. It was then that Arpin moved back down the track trying to save his truck, but contact with Dillon sent both drivers through the grass, bringing out the record-tying ninth caution with just 31 laps to go. It was then that Arpin went one lap down while his team made the necessary repairs to his truck; he was left to settle for a 23rd-place finish in his debut.

Despite losing it late in the race, Arpin was definitely impressive in his Truck Series debut. It’s not often you see a rookie driver leading guys like Hornaday along with the rest of the field. If there’s one thing that can be said, it’s that Arpin clearly has the talent to make it in NASCAR and it’ll be a treat to watch him grow behind the wheel in his four other races scheduled this season.

2. Did NASCAR make the right call to black flag Johnny Sauter?

Sauter rolled into Texas Motor Speedway with quite a bit of confidence in his ability to head to victory lane for the second time this year after participating in Goodyear’s tire test earlier this season. However, it wasn’t meant to be for the driver of the No. 13 Chevrolet. Within the last 30 laps, Sauter radioed his crew chief complaining he felt a flat right-rear tire and then later worried about his fuel pressure gauge reading zero.

But it wasn’t either of those that took the win away from Sauter. It was a simple lane change prior to the start/finish line on the final restart of the night. Starting outside Hornaday, Sauter easily pulled ahead of the driver of the No. 33 Chevrolet and wasted no time moving into the bottom lane, still leaving a small lane of track open below him.

“As soon as the green dropped, I was yelling, ‘He’s in my lane, he’s in my lane!” Hornaday said. “I knew the rules. I would have been fine with it either way. At that time, we had a second-place truck. It was a call and NASCAR made it. I would have expected it if it was me.”

And NASCAR saw it the same way Hornaday did. When Sauter took the checkered flag, the black flag also flew indicating he had broken the restart rule and would not be awarded the win. A visibly upset Sauter, who was scored 22nd as the last driver on the lead lap, was very short with reporters as he walked away from the garage area Friday night.

“He got a lane to race down there,” Sauter said. “We both spun the tires. I was just trying to save the truck.”

And when asked whether he’d talk to NASCAR to get a clarification on the call, Sauter simply said, “It’s official, isn’t it?” and kept right on walking.

While I can understand why Sauter was so upset after leading nearly 60 laps and pulling out to as much as a four-second lead at times, I have to side with NASCAR on this one. As he does every week, Series director Wayne Auton made it very clear during the drivers meeting

“He said, ‘This is your last warning.’ I think he said it three times,” Hornaday said of Auton’s reminder. “‘You go into another guy’s lane, better give it back before you get to turn 1.’ Sticky call, but you can’t change lanes until you pass the start/finish line. And I hate that rule.”

The same thing happened to David Ragan during the Daytona 500 earlier this year. On a restart, Ragan made the rookie mistake of moving to the bottom line when he should have stayed outside until he crossed the start/finish line, and that definitely cost him a chance at what would have been the biggest, and first, win of his career.

Like it or not, Sauter knew the rules going into this race just like the 35 other drivers out on the track. And whether the argument of trying to save the truck is true, NASCAR still has a responsibility to be consistent in their calls regardless of how the driver feels about it.

That said, it would be best for Sauter to take the next few weeks to forget about what happened at Texas and prepare to move on to Kentucky early next month. If he remains focused on the call and loses sight of the big picture, the black flag Friday night could easily spell the end of his championship hopes.

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: 11 (add Mayhew and debuting drivers Arpin and Stephen McCurley)
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 4; Kligerman, finished second; Mayhew, finished third; Coulter, finished fifth; Miguel Paludo, finished eighth
Rookie of the Race: Kligerman, finished second

Rookie Quotes

“I wanna thank these guys right here. We don’t go to a wind tunnel, we don’t go to shaker rig testing. We do none of the stuff that these top-10 teams do, and it’s almost like David vs. Goliath with us. But Brad Keselowski and Roger Penske gave me an amazing opportunity with this truck and it’s about making the most opportunities. To get this, knowing we’re one spot away from that elusive victory lane, it means the most to these guys. We can go off for the break with a lot of momentum, hopefully tweak our stuff and come back to Kentucky and go for that first spot.” – Parker Kligerman, finished second

“We had a really good truck. I gotta thank Kevin and DeLana Harvick (team owners), Steve McGowan, MMI Services, all the guys at KHI. Without this opportunity, you’re never going to run like this with these guys. All the guys on pit road did an awesome job adjusting the truck all night long and we just slowly worked our way forward and had a shot at the end and just got a little free.

“When we got to those last couple restarts, that’s definitely not what we needed. After five, 10 laps that thing really started coming to life. I think we would’ve had a shot getting up to those guys, but I learned a lot restarts behind [Johnny] Sauter and [Ron] Hornaday. You can’t ask for two better teachers than that.” – David Mayhew, finished third

“I had a blast racing at Texas Motor Speedway! It’s unfortunate that we got involved in a wreck on the final lap, but nothing could take away how well our whole team did throughout the entire race. The team has worked really hard all year, but we haven’t had the results to show it. I finally got a finish that the team deserves, so I’m extremely happy with that. Panhandle Motorsports made huge gains this weekend; hopefully we can keep the momentum and progress going at our next race. I can’t thank my team and everyone who supports me enough.” – Johanna Long, finished 11th

“Yeah I think she let go there. Dropped a valve for sure. I’ve got no power.” – Cole Whitt, finished 28th, on the radio after he brought out the seventh caution while running fourth

Rookie Notes

As the season has gone on, Kligerman has shown substantial improvement in his on-track performance and Texas was no exception. Making several veteran moves to gain positions throughout the race, Kligerman started sixth and restarted third with just three laps remaining. Though he had nothing for Hornaday on that restart, Kligerman impressed just the same. It’s only a matter of time before he visits victory lane.

Though he isn’t entered officially in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year field this season, Mayhew made just his fifth career series start Friday night behind the wheel of the No. 2 MMI Services Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc. After starting 16th, Mayhew struggled with a loose race truck, but pit strategy that allowed the No. 2 team to have a set of sticker tires available during a lap 112 stop.

Following that stop, Mayhew restarted 10th but managed to pick off drivers one by one until he passed Kligerman just as the 10th and final caution flag flew. The two raced side by side for the final three laps with Kligerman taking the edge and Mayhew scoring a career-best third-place finish.

After qualifying 18th, Long worked her way through the field and kept her nose clean throughout most of the WinStar World Casino 400K. She restarted 20th with just 25 laps remaining but managed to work her way up through the field to 11th where she restarted after the 10th and final caution of the night. Long managed to hang on to that position and scored her career-best finish before her truck was destroyed by a wrecked Travis Kvapil.

Whitt looked to have another strong truck at Texas this weekend, but it wasn’t meant to be for the driver of the No. 60 Red Bull/Fuel Doctor Chevrolet. While running fourth, Whitt suffered an engine failure that left him to settle for a 28th-place finish.

After taking a few weeks off to complete his final exams, Chase Mattioli ran the Truck Series race in Texas on Friday night and headed straight off to Pocono for the ARCA 200 at his home track. After bringing out the second caution in the truck race on lap 22 for a spin through the frontstretch grass, Mattioli just rode around, finishing 24th, four laps down. And he didn’t fare a whole lot better at Pocono, finishing 18th in the fog-shortened race.

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle

The WinStar World Casino 400K was a record-breaking race with 11 leaders and 19 lead changes. Meanwhile, the race was slowed by the yellow flag 10 times, surpassing the prior record of nine cautions, a record no one wants to see broken.

Ryan Sieg scored his career-best finish Friday night as he rolled across the start/finish line in seventh. After leading eight laps thanks to pit strategy, Sieg worked his way back through the field to score the fourth career top-10 finish of his young career.

If you watched the whole race on SPEED, you were likely just as frustrated as I was to see about 10 laps of Dillon leading the field while the commentators described action all over the track. And it even resulted in not seeing what happened between Ickler and Bodine until later during a race recap. (Author’s Note: For more on SPEED’s television coverage, don’t miss Talking NASCAR TV by Phil Allaway on Tuesday.)

Welcome back, Ickler. While team owner Kyle Busch headed off to Pocono for this weekend’s Cup Series event, Ickler found himself behind the wheel of the No. 18 Toyota. After being spun out by a loose Bodine and bringing out the third caution, Ickler went a lap down but didn’t give up.

Just two laps after the restart, Ickler rejoined the field thanks to a lucky dog awarded to him when Shane Sieg spun to bring out the fourth caution. Then, with just 31 laps remaining, the 25-year-old pitted for the set of four sticker tires the team saved throughout the race and restarted 12th. And those tires were enough to take home a solid fourth-place finish.

Despite being relegated to a 22nd-place finish, Sauter saw his points grow to 20 over rookie Whitt who suffered an engine failure Friday night. Hornaday’s win propelled him up three spots to third, just 33 points behind the leader. Dillon and Crafton each dropped one spot to round out the top five.

Timothy Peters dropped back to sixth, just five points outside the top five, and James Buescher remains in seventh. Kligerman remains eighth while fellow rookie Coulter jumped two spots to ninth. Brendan Gaughan rounds out the top 10, 81 points behind the leader.

Also of note, Bodine, who jumped into the top 10 after last week’s solid third-place finish dropped four spots to 13th after being involved in two on-track incidents. The first was with Ickler, where Bodine simply got loose inside Ickler sending the No. 18 spinning. But it was the fifth caution that actually caused terminal damage to the No. 30 NTB/Valvoline Toyota. After contact with David Starr, the two drifted up the track and hard into the outside wall; Bodine was forced to settle for a 31st-place finish.


“I saw him sliding down and once he figured it out, he went back up there. I kind of saved my stuff in case that happened there. It’s just an unbelievable day. I’ll take it. The way our year has been going, we’re gaining on them, but we’re still not right yet. These guys never lay back. Thanks to Kevin and DeLana (Harvick, team owners) for believing in me. We’re never going to say die. That’s our motto at KHI.” – Ron Hornaday Jr., race winner

“Unfortunately we got into an incident with Todd [Bodine] that put us a lap down early – but the guys on this team never gave up and we fought our way back to a top-five finish. The Toyota Tundra was really loose at times but Eric (Phillips, crew chief) made great calls all night and we ended up with a strong run. I’m looking forward to getting back behind the wheel at Iowa next month.” – Brian Ickler, finished fourth

“I guess he just got a run right there at the last second. I got a little bit free off that corner. He wasn’t there and then it was like he had me right there and I was trying to get out of the throttle. I was trying to turn back left but I had gotten free so I had to wash up the racetrack. Man when you get hooked in the right rear on the straightaway that’s a hard way to go down especially at Texas. I think we had something for them right there at the end, but it happens.” – Matt Crafton, finished 29th

“Well my own stupidity I guess. I shouldn’t have been back there racing those guys. Went down in the corner and they all jacked up. I don’t know why, but David [Starr] jacked up in front of me. It was either run in the back of him or turn left and go around him, and I chose the worst of the two evils. And when I did it sucked me right to him. I really feel bad for the guys. It’s not good racing, it’s not what I wanted for sure. Our luck has been terrible this year.” – Todd Bodine, finished 31st

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series takes a couple weeks off before heading to Kentucky Speedway for the UNOH 225 Thursday, July 8. Last season, the series visited the track just once – in September – and Bodine led just 18 laps on the way to his final victory of the 2010 season. Coverage begins at 8:00 p.m. ET on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

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