Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: 2011 Smith’s 350 at Las Vegas

Author’s Note: It is with a heavy heart that I submit Tracking the Trucks this week. While working on it this week, I caught wind of the vicious accident in the IndyCar season finale and was drawn in, waiting for news while fearing the worst and hoping and praying for the best. Then, the word came that Dan Wheldon had passed away, it hit like a ton of bricks. I sat next to my husband in tears watching the five-lap tribute after the news came out.

See also
The Yellow Stripe: Tragedy in the Face of Triumph, a Tearful Goodbye for Dan Wheldon

My thoughts and prayers go out to Wheldon’s wife Susie, his two boys Sebastian and Oliver, Dan’s friends and family along with the entire racing world. Life is too short … Dan Wheldon you will be missed. For this week only, I’m going with a shortened Tracking the Trucks. The full breakdown will return next week with the Coca-Cola 250 powered by Fred’s from Talladega.

In a Nutshell: For the second consecutive race, Ron Hornaday Jr. piloted the No. 2 Chevrolet for Kevin Harvick Inc. and took it straight to victory lane. After starting on the pole, Hornaday lead four times for a total of 107 laps to score his 51st career victory ahead of Matt Crafton. Timothy Peters, Johnny Sauter and Todd Bodine rounded out the top five.

Points leaders Austin Dillon and James Buescher both finished outside the top 15 after being involved in early incidents. Dillon spun early, bringing out the first caution on the second lap of competition. Meanwhile, Buescher was the innocent bystander caught up Blake Feese‘s spin to bring out the sixth caution. Dillon and Buescher finished 17th and 21st respectively, both well off the lead lap.

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: 12 (add David Mayhew, Feese, Cale Gale, Johnny Borneman III, Lance Fenton, BJ McLeod and a debuting Max Gresham)

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 4; Nelson Piquet Jr., finished sixth; Mayhew, finished seventh; Cole Whitt, finished eighth; Parker Kligerman, finished tenth

Rookie of the Race: Piquet

“I can’t say enough about my team and how hard they worked today. We had a few set-backs during the race, but the guys never gave up and we were able to earn a pretty solid finish. We are still looking for that first win, but with a team like this I’m sure we’ll get one by the end of the season.” – Nelson Piquet Jr.

Rookie Notes: Max Gresham Debut

NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Champion Gresham made his Truck Series debut Saturday afternoon behind the wheel of the No. 66 World Crown 300/Gresham & Associates Chevrolet for Turn One Racing. After starting 32nd, Gresham wasted little time working his way inside the top 20 before he was caught up with Max Papis, bringing out the third caution.

Although he was able to continue after the left-front contact with Papis, the afternoon didn’t get any better for the No. 66 team. Gresham was once again caught up in another driver’s wreck when a spinning Brent Raymer collected the No. 66 as then two went hopping through the infield grass.

“We got in a wreck with Max Papis early on. There was nothing I could do about it. He came right up in front of me. It was the same thing on the second one,” Gresham said. “In both cases, there wasn’t a thing I could do about it. I just hate it for these Turn One Racing guys. They worked their guts out all weekend. It stinks for them. Our truck was pretty fast. We just had an unfortunate day.”

Gresham is scheduled to make his next series start in two weeks at Martinsville Speedway for the Kroger 200.

Worth Noting/Points Shuffle

Once again, the Truck Series took a back seat to other SPEED programming. After bailing out of coverage of the FW Webb 175 post-race from New Hampshire Motor Speedway to show Barrett-Jackson just three weeks ago, SPEED once again cut their coverage short. Right after Hornaday took the checkered flag, post-race coverage was cut off to show NASCAR RaceDay from Charlotte.

And though they went back to Las Vegas long enough to interview race winner Hornaday, the finishing order and points standings weren’t shown. The bottom line on RaceDay only showed the top-five finishers along with Dillon and Buescher, while the points standings only showed the top three.

Despite a 17th-place finish, Dillon actually extended his lead to five points over Sauter, who moved up one spot. Buescher dropped a spot to third but finds himself just seven point back. Hornaday moved up a position and cut his points deficit in half from 42 to 21. Peters dropped a spot and rounds out the top five, just 25 markers behind the leader.

Crafton and Todd Bodine each jumped two spots to sixth and seventh, respectively, and are separated by a mere two points. Whitt dropped a position to eighth while Joey Coulter dropped three spots to ninth. Parker Kligerman rounds out the top 10.

Quotable

“I cannot thank Kevin and DeLana (Harvick, team owners) enough for putting me behind this No. 2 Champion Chevrolet and for believing in me to come out and win races. Bruce Cook (crew chief) and all the guys on this team really work hard and put together a great race truck. This is fun.

“We wanted to come back with Champion and redeem ourselves from the finish we had in Michigan. I’m proud to be able to bring them to victory lane. I’ve been here 10 times before and finally got a victory. Now I only have seven tracks on the schedule without a win. That’s pretty cool.” – Ron Hornaday Jr.

“Great day today! Truck drove great all race long! Guys did a great job on pit road! Off to Dega next week!” – Timothy Peters, finished third

“The restarts there at the end absolutely killed us, and we definitely had something for Hornaday. I was hoping to get to victory lane again here in Vegas, but it’s OK, we literally beat the odds today. I can’t believe we tore up our truck like that all day with incidents and still ended up as high as we did. That’s a testament to how the guys set this truck up on my team. This was a solid run for us and a real points help.” – Johnny Sauter

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway next weekend for the Coca-Cola 250 powered by Fred’s Saturday afternoon. Last season, Kyle Busch took the checkered flag 0.002 seconds ahead of Aric Almirola on a green-white-checkered finish. Coverage begins at 4:00 p.m. ET on SPEED; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate.

About the author

The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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