Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: 2011 VFW 200 at Michigan

In a Nutshell: Kevin Harvick took the checkered flag and the caution flag ahead of Timothy Peters to win the AAA Insurance 200 Friday night (Aug. 19) at Michigan International Speedway. Harvick held onto the top spot on a green-white-checkered finish to score his second victory in four starts this season. Miguel Paludo, James Buescher and David Starr rounded out the top five.

Who Should Have Won: Harvick. The driver of the No. 2 TapouT Chevrolet started sixth and dropped back thanks to an early pit stop. And while he didn’t necessarily have the truck to win the race at the beginning, tire strategy and a large number of trucks that were knocked out late in the running of the VFW 200 opened the door for Harvick. He led just 13 of the 102 laps run to become the first driver to win in all three series at Michigan.

Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race

1. What exactly triggered the caution with five laps remaining?

When Johnny Sauter spun with just 15 laps remaining to bring out the fourth caution, that set the field up for an 11-lap dash to the finish, but that run was short lived as carnage ensued on the backstretch of the restart lap. But what exactly triggered the big wreck that took out multiple top trucks?

Rookie Parker Kligerman, who was running third at the time, attempted to pass Mark Martin inside, but when Harvick dove inside the driver of the No. 29 to take the field three-wide for the lead, Kligerman got loose, slid up the track and caught Martin’s No. 32, setting off a wreck that ultimately saw four trucks retired and many more damaged.

Too add insult to injury, after his initial contact with Austin Dillon, Kligerman’s front end was bent up enough that he couldn’t see, and that combined with brake failure caused the driver of the No. 29 to plow hard into the back end of the No. 3.

A visibly upset Dillon expected the wreck to happen shortly before it did.

“I knew he was gonna wreck. It’s part of racing. I’m just mad because I had a fast truck.”

Simply put, it came down to inexperience with the side draft. Though Kilgerman said he feathered the throttle, it just wasn’t enough to stop the chain reaction accident that took out several strong trucks with just a handful of laps remaining. But what continues to impress me about Kligerman is his maturity in the series – he’s been so grateful when he has run well and is equally apologetic when something goes wrong that’s clearly his fault.

While he’s concerned that he may not get another chance as a young driver to earn the respect of the field, the attitude he had after the checkers flew should certainly help out.

2. How did Colin Braun fare in his Truck Series return?

Billy Ballew Motorsports announced earlier this week that they would field the No. 51 Bullet Liner Ford for 2008 Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year Colin Braun. Braun took his No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford to victory lane last time he visited the 2-mile track in 2009 before moving to the Nationwide Series for the 2010 season, but how did the the driver of the No. 51 fare Saturday afternoon?

After qualifying 15th, Braun started off the race trying to work his way through the field. But on lap 13, Todd Bodine moved up the track after getting loose, knocking Braun’s No. 51 into the wall and spinning rookie Joey Coulter. But that wasn’t the end for the driver of the No. 51 Ford – Braun managed to hang around throughout the race and avoid the wreck with five laps remaining as well as a last-lap accident to bring home a solid ninth-place finish.

At this point, the partnership between Braun and Billy Ballew Motorsports was just a one-race deal, but it was certainly nice to see the young driver back in the series where he scored the Rookie of the Year in 2008. While it wasn’t the spectacular visit to victory lane the team was hoping for, Braun should be proud of the ninth-place finish after taking damage early and managing to avoid the late-race carnage with just a handful of laps remaining.

Truck Rookie Report
2011 Rookie of the Year Candidates
Joey Coulter (No. 22)
Dusty Davis (No. 15 – No longer racing due to sponsorship problems)
Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 1)
Chris Eggleston (No. 27)
Craig Goess (No. 46 – Left team due to performance issues)
Justin Johnson (No. 51 – No longer racing due to sponsorship problems)
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: 7 (add Dakoda Armstrong and Peyton Sellers)

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 1; Miguel Paludo, finished third

Rookie of the Race: Paludo

Rookie Quotes

“Today was a great day for us. We had an awesome truck – this is the same truck we used at Dover with a new body. These guys did great. I couldn’t get [Kevin] Harvick on the second restart but I went and raced with him. I’m really proud of my guys on this Stemco-Duroline Toyota Tundra. We just need to keep moving forward. We have Bristol on Wednesday – it’s my first race track that I’ve been to last year, so let’s keep digging.” – Miguel Paludo, finished third

“I’m really proud of this whole ThorSport Racing team. We’ve all worked really hard since our last race and I think our improvements showed today. I was really looking forward to racing hard with the front pack those last 10 laps, but I just got hit from behind during the Big One on the backstretch and I couldn’t save it. It’s a tough break for us but we have some time before our next race at Chicago to rebound and build on what we had going before the accident.” – Dakoda Armstrong, finished 24th

Points Shuffle

The top five in the standings are now separated by a slim 32 points. Despite spinning across the track in the late stages of the race, Sauter recovered and has reclaimed the points lead by five over Buescher, who also moved up one spot. Dillon dropped two spots after being involved in a caution with five laps remaining. Peters, who sits 12 points behind the leader, and Cole Whitt round out the top five.

Matt Crafton remains in sixth, 44 points behind his teammate. Ron Hornaday Jr. moved up two spots after a solid seventh-place finish, and rookies Coulter and Kligerman each dropped a spot. Defending champion Bodine rounds out the top 10, 71 points out of the lead.

Quotable

“[Michigan International Speedway] has always been a fun racetrack for us, but as a program we’ve had some struggles here over the years. I didn’t think we had the truck to win, but we had good tire strategy and that caution came out [with nine laps remaining] and with fresh tires we were able to get under Mark [Martin] and some others. It was ugly but it was a lot of fun.” – Kevin Harvick, race winner

“It was a great day. I can’t say enough about the guys on this Crescent Hand Tools Toyota Tundra. Our Red Horse Racing team did a great job on pit road. We had a run on the [No.] 2 [Kevin Harvick] down the back, but he can cut through the center better than we could with our Tundra. Great points day. How about Miguel [Paludo] – great run for him as well. Tom DeLoach (team owner) gave me an awesome opportunity – it doesn’t get any better than this.” – Timothy Peters, finished second

“Our Zachry Toyota Tundra wasn’t very good when the race started. You have to run wide open here at Michigan – it’s a momentum track. I was running there deep, getting out of the gas a little bit and turned the wheel and it just snapped off from underneath us. Jason Miller (crew chief) and Matt Faulkner, my engineer, they just kept working on it and right through that last pit stop they did a couple changes and man that thing came alive. What an awesome day for us. We’re excited, we just keep getting better and better every weekend. That was a great race for the fans – pretty awesome.” – David Starr, finished fifth

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to Bristol Motor Speedway for their annual mid-week showdown Wednesday night. Last season, polesitter Kyle Busch started at the back of the field after unapproved adjustments and scored his third consecutive Bristol victory. Coverage of the O’Reilly 200 begins at 8:00 p.m. ET on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

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