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BRISTOL, Tenn. – The O’Reilly Auto Parts 200 was part demolition derby, part chess match and part fuel-conservation experiment. In the end, Kevin Harvick was the victor as others ran low on fuel or wore out their tires at the end of the race.
Johnny Sauter put in a workman-like performance spending much of the night in the middle of the pack before coming home in second place. Todd Bodine, who is hardly a short-track specialist, soldiered home third. James Buescher and Timothy Peters rounded out the top five.
Sadler started on the pole and led the first 53 laps of the race without receiving any real challenge from behind. Behind Sadler, it was a real duel for position. Some of the series’ stars were simply not up to snuff on track. Ron Hornaday Jr., who nearly wrecked in qualifying, spun and hit the inside wall on lap 10 to bring out a yellow. Twenty laps later Josh Richards, driving a second truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports, spun and grazed the wall after contact from Miguel Paludo.
The third caution flew for a crash involving Chris Jones. Jones was spun from behind by Jake Crum in a move that Jones felt was intentional. On this yellow, Sadler and the rest of the leaders gave up their track position to pit for four tires and fuel. It was designed to be their only stop of the race.
Jason White, who pitted under the second caution of the race 20 laps earlier, took over the lead when Sadler stopped. Shortly afterwards, a multi-car crash on the frontstretch brought out another yellow. Crum, who was accused of taking out Jones in the previous wreck, was taken out of the race in this wreck, along with John King.
White led the race convincingly until the restart from the fifth caution of the race on lap 98. Harvick got a great restart and simply blasted White away. Shortly afterwards, the second supposedly intentional incident occurred when Kyle Busch tried to put his truck in a space that wasn’t big enough exiting turn 2. Busch drifted up the track into Elliott Sadler‘s left-front corner and turned into the outside wall.
Busch believed that the move was intentional on Sadler’s part, so he drove around the track slowly and dumped Sadler when he was about to lap him. Busch was out for the night and credited with 30th, while Sadler was simply out of contention for the win. He would eventually finish ninth.
After getting out of his Dollar General Toyota, Busch was candid about the crash.
“Yeah, I’m sure he [wrecked me intentionally],” Busch said. “Where does his paycheck come from? We were racing earlier tonight and I pulled a slide job on him and he ran into me three times after that. Then got clear of him for a while and on that restart there I was trying to slide him and get up to the top. The spotter said I was clear and I was clear at the time. Maybe I was too late. He wrecked us and I’m not going to put up with it.”
Towards the end of the race, fuel mileage became a concern. Parker Kligerman made a somewhat unexpected pit stop for gas on lap 173 after Jeff Agnew blew a tire and hit the wall. Under that caution, White and Brendan Gaughan each ran out of fuel. On the restart, Austin Dillon ran out of fuel, causing a mad scramble in the pack to avoid him. Dillon eventually stalled on track, necessitating another yellow.
Meanwhile, there was simply nothing that anyone could do with Harvick. Harvick led the final 103 laps to claim his third consecutive Camping World Truck Series win. It is his 12th career victory in 112 Camping World Truck Series races. This victory also gave Harvick the national touring series sweep at Bristol with wins in Trucks, Nationwide and Cup. Harvick has also accomplished that feat at Michigan, Martinsville, Phoenix and Atlanta.
Harvick spoke in his post-race press conference about his victory.
“A great night for our Hunt Brothers Pizza Chevrolet,” Harvick said. “We had a decent truck and once we got out front, we were able to dictate the race and do what we needed to do on the restarts and get the preferred line.”
Second-place finisher Sauter held back for much of the night, just waiting for that opportunity to push the truck to come along.
“Tonight was about a major strategy with my team,’ Sauter said after the race. “Crew chief Joe Shear Jr. just about knew every lap on that fuel and we were watching guys drop like flies. I was fighting our aero package and just trying to stay in there mid-race, but then I knew once we got clean air, we have a chance here. I’m so proud of the guys, we really busted tail to get this second place.”
Behind Harvick and Sauter was Bodine in third. Bodine suffered through an unusual power steering issue in which the power steering would fail at full lock, yet come when the wheel was turned back to the right. Buescher was fourth and Peters rounded out the top five. Joey Coulter was sixth, followed by Justin Lofton and Nelson Piquet Jr. Sadler and Kligerman rounded out the top 10.
The race had nine caution periods which slowed the event for 62 laps. Sixteen of the event’s 36 starters were involved in at least one crash during the event. Fifteen cars finished on the lead lap (three of which were in wrecks during the night).
The Camping World Truck Series races next Friday night (Sept. 2) at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the Atlanta 200.
About the author
What is it that Mike Neff doesn’t do? The writer, radio contributor and racetrack announcer coordinates the site’s local short track coverage, hitting up Saturday Night Specials across the country while tracking the sport’s future racing stars. The writer for our signature Cup post-race column, Thinkin’ Out Loud (Mondays) also sits down with Cup crew chiefs to talk shop every Friday with Tech Talk. Mike announces several shows each year for the Good Guys Rod and Custom Association. He also pops up everywhere from PRN Pit Reporters and the Press Box with Alan Smothers to SIRIUS XM Radio. He has announced at tracks all over the Southeast, starting at Millbridge Speedway. He's also announced at East Lincoln Speedway, Concord Speedway, Tri-County Speedway, Caraway Speedway, and Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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