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In a Nutshell: Kyle Busch took the checkered flag 0.302 seconds ahead of rookie Parker Kligerman to win the UNOH 225 Thursday night (July 7) at Kentucky Speedway. Busch drove from the back of the pack after missing the drivers’ meeting to score his 29th career Truck Series victory. Brendan Gaughan, Todd Bodine and Jason White rounded out the top five.
Who Should Have Won: Kyle Busch. Busch posted the sixth quickest time in the first practice session and fifth quickest in final practice before qualifying his No. 18 Dollar General Toyota in eighth. However, because he missed the drivers’ meeting, he was forced to start from the rear of the field, and in typical Kyle Busch fashion, he drove right on up to the front, leading his first lap after winning the race off of pit road under the third caution.
Though polesitter Johnny Sauter and rookie Nelson Piquet Jr. both managed to drive past the No. 18 under green, it was Busch whose truck held on until the end (Sauter broke an axle and Piquet found himself involved in the seventh caution with five laps remaining).
Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race
1. How did Josh Richards fare in his Truck Series debut?
Two-time World of Outlaws Late Model Series champion Josh Richards made his first career Truck Series start Thursday night in the UNOH 225 – he has 29 WoO LMS victories to his name. Also, the 23-year-old has just a handful of ARCA starts – eight total since 2007 – and five top-10 finishes including a pair of thirds (one in 2007 and one in 2010).
“[My truck schedule] is almost half the season, it’s a bunch of different races at a bunch of different tracks. It’s good to get acclimated and be able to go race,” Richards said in the days leading up to his debut. “I don’t expect to go win my first night out.”
And though he didn’t expect to visit victory lane, I’m pretty sure he didn’t expect what he got out of his debut either. After the green flag flew over the field to start the race, Richards immediately started passing trucks around him before crossing the start/finish line. However, he must have given back the positions as NASCAR chose not black flag him for it.
But Richards wasn’t so lucky a little later on. On a lap 22 restart following the second caution, the driver of the No. 15 Toyota once again passed several trucks on the restart, but that time NASCAR wasn’t so forgiving. He was forced to serve a pass-through penalty that put him one lap down.
And the bad night didn’t end there for Richards. The fifth caution flew thanks to a spin by Ron Hornaday Jr. who got loose inside Cole Whitt, and Richards was caught in a hard hit that destroyed the No. 15. His night ended there with a disappointing 29th-place finish.
It certainly wasn’t the debut Richards was hoping for and I’m willing to bet he’d like to forget it as soon as possible. That said, aside from the rookie errors on the track, Richards was courteous to other drivers as they passed his lap-down truck and probably earned respect from other drivers on the track. Only time will tell if the WoO driver can translate his dirt success into asphalt success in NASCAR.
2. How did Justin Lofton fare in his return to Eddie Sharp Racing?
Following an 18th-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway, Craig Goess and Eddie Sharp Racing parted ways. Goess joined ESR in 2008 and had significant success in the ARCA Racing Series before heading to the Truck Series for the 2011 season. Having recorded a single top-10 finish this season – ninth at Nashville – Goess has moved on from ESR thanks in large part to a lack of chemistry on the team.
As a result, that left the ESR ride open, and in an agreement with Germain Racing, Justin Lofton reunited with the team he won the 2009 ARCA championship with for the remainder of the season. Thursday night’s UNOH 225 marked the first race with the reunited pairing.
But it wasn’t all great news for the driver of the No. 46 Toyota. After struggling with the handling during the practice sessions, Lofton started 17th, and when the green flag flew he radioed his crew saying “We are good guys, we are good.”
Following a lap 60 pit stop, Lofton returned to track with four fresh tires and worked his way up into the top 10 and mixed it up with the lead pack. However, a late-race call by spotter David Green sent the driver of the No. 46 back down pit road with an apparent blown tire. Lofton managed to make it through the final two restarts without any trouble and brought home a solid 15th-place finish.
“We had a great return run with ESR. I am happy. Dan (Bormann, crew chief) did a great job in his first race,” Lofton said. “We ran up front and laid the ground work to build on. I can’t thank Eddie (Sharp, team owner), Dan and all of the guys on the CollegeComplete.com Toyota enough for all of their hard work. We had a great truck.”
Before joining ESR, Lofton had just three finishes inside the top 15 behind the wheel of the No. 77 for Germain Racing, including a 10th-place finish at Texas almost a month ago. He currently sits 19th in points, 97 behind leader Sauter.
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 – left team due to performance issues)
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 (Add Steve Arpin and a debuting Richards)
No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 2; Kligerman, finished second; Joey Coulter, finished seventh
Rookie of the Race: Kligerman
“This was an opportunity that in this day and age is gold. To be a kid without funding, without a sponsor, to come in here because of Brad Keselowski and Roger Penske. I had the mentality that if I don’t make the most of the opportunity, it will be the last opportunity I ever get. I had a pretty big run [on Kyle Busch] and thought about going to the outside and making a run at it, but there was a lot of guys in front of us in points that had a very bad day and we were about to get top points and we needed those really badly to get in the top five in points.” – Parker Kligerman, finished second
“Man, the last restart I tried to concentrate and do a really good restart and I did it, but I got caught up by the [No.] 8 (Nelson Piquet Jr.) inside of me and I couldn’t lift, so when we went into turn 3 I left a lot of room and unfortunately I think he got sideways. I know it’s not intentional, but it’s really bad for us, especially because we’re looking for the points. We had a good truck and looking forward to Iowa.” – Miguel Paludo, finished 21st
Despite a broken axle, Sauter remains the points leader by 23 over rookie Whitt, who suffered damage when he and Hornaday got together when the driver of the No. 33 Wisk Laundry Detergent Chevrolet got loose inside Whitt’s No. 60. Austin Dillon moved up a spot to third, a mere two points behind Whitt. James Buescher‘s ninth-place finish combined with difficulties for other drivers inside the top five allowed him to jump three spots to fourth. Rookie Kligerman also moved up three positions to round out the top five.
After bringing out the fifth caution, Hornaday dropped three spots to sixth while Timothy Peters dropped one spot to seventh. Matt Crafton suffered an engine failure and was left to settle for a 32nd-place finish, dropping him three spots to eighth. Rookie Coulter and Gaughan round out the top 10.
“I can’t say enough about all the guys on this Kyle Busch Motorsports team. They gave me a fast Dollar General Tundra tonight. It might not have been the best truck. It was certainly fast enough at the end there when it mattered. We got some good restarts there and stayed out of the trouble behind us. It’s a big program and there are a lot of people and that’s why we’re able to come to the racetrack.” – Kyle Busch
“[I’m] happy as hell [about my finish]. Our motor was great. I just told our engine tuneer that we ran this baby on that last restart red every gear, put it at nine grand and just kept on going. I love my restarts. I do a little bit different restart stuff than most other people in Toyotas or other makes and that’s why it paid off right there – great restart. I learned from [Ron] Hornaday and [Jack] Sprague years ago. I was hoping we would get the [No.] 20 (Kligerman) to smack the (No.) 18 (Busch) a little and maybe get us the ‘W,’ but we’ll take third right now.” – Brendan Gaughan
“We missed the setup bad. It was just not good. We kept making adjustments and we kept coming in and working on it and we never give up. That’s what we’re about at Germain Racing, we don’t give up. We had a new sponsor on our truck tonight, Georgia Boot, and we wanted to have a good run and here we are fourth.” – Todd Bodine
Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to Iowa Speedway for the Coca-Cola 200 presented by Hy-Vee Saturday night. Last season, Dillon had the truck to beat from the moment the team unloaded the No. 3 Chevrolet, and he topped it off with the victory by more than half a second over Sauter after leading 187 of 205 laps. 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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