Race Weekend Central

Camping World Truck Series Kroger 200 – Martinsville Speedway

Before the start of the Kroger 200 at Martinsville there were 22 drivers who had claimed a win in all three national touring series in NASCAR. After Saturday’s race there were 23 thanks to Denny Hamlin finally breaking through at claiming a win in the Truck Series. Hamlin led the race two times for a total of 68 laps, including the last 14. Hamlin beat Ron Hornaday to the line by 1.210 seconds for his first win in 12 career Truck starts. Austin Dillon was third across the line and maintained the lead in the points race by 11 over James Buescher. Johnny Sauter came home fourth with Joey Coulter coming home fifth to win the Rookie of the Race honors.

Matt Crafton started the race from the pole and led the first 11 laps before he was shuffled out and never challenged for the lead again. There were 12 lead changes during the race among eight drivers with Hamlin leading a race high 68 laps. The win allowed the No. 18 truck to close the point lead of the No. 2 in the owner’s standings to 72.

The race was slowed by seven cautions for a total of 39 laps. It lasted one hour, 35 minutes and 49 seconds. The average speed was 65.876 mph in front of an estimated crowd of 18,000 fans.

Hamlin is honored to have won in all three national series. “There’s such a great group of drivers who have won in all three series and to be in that group now means a lot to me. I told all these guys that this would mean a lot to win a Truck race. You never know what kind of momentum this builds for Sunday.”

Coulter was ebullient when he emerged from his truck after the race. “This is the greatest race I’ve ever run. Goodyear brought a great tire that let us run two wide whenever we wanted to. We’ve hit a lull lately and this is going to give us great momentum heading into the last two races of the season.”

Sauter was pleased with his day but reticent about the fact that he didn’t make up any ground on the drivers he needs to in the championship. “We had a good day. We’re in one piece, we fought hard, we led laps, whatcha gonna do? It is just really hard to gain any ground on those guys.”

Jeff Agnew ran his third race of the season and his first at Martinsville since running at the track in a Late Model years ago. “Wow, it seemed like if someone had a shot out there they took it. I spent most of the day trying not to get in trouble. We had a little trouble early but once we got back in a position to race at the end of the day we went for it. I hit the curb trying to pass Bodine and it cost us two or three spots. I’m just still learning what a truck wants. It is harder to get through the corners than a Late Model and once you get hit a few times it doesn’t know what it wants. It just drives a lot sloppier than a Late Model. It kind of wallows around.”

Brian Silas was glad to get out of the race with his truck in one piece. “We struggled early and spent the first 75 laps figuring out what the heck the truck was doing. I’d never been here and didn’t know what the truck was supposed to feel like. By the time we got to lap 80 or so I figured out what the truck should feel like and we took off. The rest of the race was fun.”

Max Gresham took the day as a learning experience. “We had a good long run truck. Once we got 20 laps into a run we were good. We got track position on a pit call early but then got freight trained on t he restart and went from fourth to like 30th. It was a learning experience and I can’t wait to get back here.”

Grant Enfinger was proud of his team’s efforts throughout the whole race. “We made the truck better all day. At the end of the race I think we were a top 10 car, we just got shuffled out and lost a lot of spots. I think we showed we were legit.”

Todd Bodine and Max Papis had a situation develop during the race that spilled over onto pit lane. “The stuff on the race track you can deal with and you can lay it off that it’s Martinsville and that’s racing and that’s part of the game,” Bodine said. “When you’re driving down pit road and the guy keeps running in the side of you – you keep turning away from him trying not to run into each other and eventually you’re going to hit a pit crew – that’s ridiculous. I had to let off and hit the brakes. I don’t know whose crew it was out there changing tires, but I was going to run into them since he (Max Papis) had me so low on pit road. That’s the part that I have a problem with. Endangering those guys – it’s dangerous enough on pit road and we don’t need idiots pulling stunts like that. This it snowballed from there. After I pulled behind him, he brake-checked me and I run into him. He got me again on the race track and run into me and then off of (turn) two, he got loose, I got under him and tried to get off him, couldn’t get off him because he kept slowing down because his rear tires were off the ground. Finally, I just dumped him around because at that point there’s no saving it. I’m going to get run into. Some of that stuff is Martinsville – some of that stuff is his stupidity and lack of experience racing at Martinsville. We’ve all done those things – I’ve done those things and I’m not proud of those things. It is part of the learning process and you have to go through it. Unfortunately, we had a great Tundra. We were fast. We had a top-five truck and we thought we had the best truck we ever had at Martinsville. For a while there we got to show it and I was running good. We were biding our time and just trying to keep the wheels on it. We got out of sync on the pit stops and that messed us up. That’s why we went down pit road with Max. From there it was everybody hitting everybody.”

“We had just a great run and Todd (Bodine) just ruined it,” said Papis. “It was going to be my best ever race so far in my career. It is not what you are expecting from a friend – I don’t treat my friends like that or my teammate like that. It’s just disappointing. I was not expecting that and we deserve better. When things like this happen, I guess it ruins team spirit.”

Timothy Peters and Brendan Gaughan also had a disagreement on the race track. “I guess he (Brendan Gaughan) just wants me to pull over for him,” Peters said. “The 32 (Blake Feese) was wounded on the bottom and he committed high and I’m going to go up under him. He ran me down and I wasn’t going to give. If he’s mad then I guess we won’t be doing any appearances together anytime soon. I’m out here to race hard for my sponsors – this is my livelihood. We’ll go on to Texas.”

“Him (Timothy Peters) and I have had a lot of problems for a lot of years and I’ve never quite got him back and he just added another notch to it,” said Gaughan. “When it does come back it might hurt a little bit. I would like to handle it like a man, but I think he would be too afraid. We’ll have to do it the other way. Our Toyota – I haven’t seen the loop scoring data in quite a while, but I believe our Tundra has passed more vehicles this year than probably anybody. We started 28th today and I would like to know if anybody picked up more than 19 positions. I hate qualifying at Martinsville and if I can ever just start up front at Martinsville – I think I would have just a normal day. But I can’t. I always mess up qualifying and it’s on me. I have to figure out how to qualify better here. Our Tundra went to the front. We got up there. We never got to the lead this time, but we got to the top-10. We got to the top-five. We were strong and in the end we just had older tires so we were just trying to keep that solid top-10 spot and we ended up coming home ninth.

Share this article

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com