*In a Nutshell:* James Buescher took the checkered flag 1.292 seconds ahead of Parker Kligerman in Friday night’s Kentucky 201 at Kentucky Speedway. Buescher led three times for a race high 64 laps en route to his fourth victory of the year. Ty Dillon, Joey Coulter and Brian Scott rounded out the top 5.
*Who Should Have Won:* James Buescher. Turner Motorsports and Buescher in particular have excelled all year on the intermediate tracks, and Kentucky was no different. After qualifying eighth, the driver of the No. 30 Chevrolet spent just 33 laps working his way toward the front. He took the lead for the final time on pit road under the sixth caution and never looked back, pulling out to a more than two-second lead at times.
*Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:*
*1. How did John King and Dakoda Armstrong fare in their returns to the series?*
Friday night’s Kentucky 201 marked the return of Daytona winner John King and fellow rookie Dakoda Armstrong, who had both been released from their rides when sponsorship money ran out. King piloted the No. 5 Wauters Motorsports Ford, filling a spot left without a driver when the team parted ways with Paulie Harraka.
“I’m looking forward to having John in the truck with us this weekend,” Team owner, Richie Wauters said. “He is a good short track driver and comes from the Late Model Series which I feel teaches these young drivers how to handle the equipment better when moving up the ladder into the NASCAR divisions.”
But it wasn’t meant to be for the 24-year-old. After starting 24th, King rode around minding his own business when Max Gresham got loose, wrecking himself and Timothy Peters. The driver of the No. 5 Ford attempted to use evasive action to make it through the aftermath but got caught up by the No. 17 Toyota as it spun down the track. The extensive damage caused King to retire after just 53 laps; he was credited with a 25th-place finish.
Meanwhile, Dakoda Armstrong joined Turner Motorsports with Mudd Advertising in a one-race deal that the rookie called his “last straw” for the 2012 season. Piloting the No. 4 Chevrolet, the 21-year-old didn’t even make it to the green flag before smoke billowed from his truck. Armstrong ran just 16 laps before being forced to retire to a 31st-place finish.
“I think the motor just took a crap. Unfortunately right from the get-go, it was blowing smoke out of the headers,” Armstrong said. “As soon as we took the green, there was no power. It was gone; it’s really disappointing. Everyone worked real hard to get this thing going.”
There was a sliver of good news reported on SPEED when they talked to Armstrong, though. It sounds like Steve Turner, owner of Turner Motorsports has offered Armstrong another shot at the No. 4 since the engine let go long before it should have, however there was no mention of when that opportunity might pop up.
Simply put, both King and Armstrong would likely rather forget they even raced at Kentucky. In what appeared to be just one-race deals, both drivers would’ve liked to make a statement rather than fail to make it even to the halfway point. Whether either one will make another start this year is still up in the air, but you can bet they’ll want to make the most of it should the opportunity arise.
*2. Where will Joey Coulter end up for 2013?*
During Friday night’s race broadcast on SPEED, Ray Dunlap reported that the deadline for Joey Coulter to sign with Richard Childress Racing for next year had passed. However, he had spoken with the father of the driver of the No. 22 Chevrolet, who told him there’s still a small chance that Coulter could end up with RCR in 2013 but that they had been talking to other teams as well, including Kyle Busch Motorsports and Eddie Sharp Racing.
But the question is where he might end up and which team would be most beneficial as he plans to run another full season in Trucks and battle for the championship.
The obvious choice would be for Coulter to remain with the No. 22 team. Richard Childress Racing does have some of the top equipment in the series and is established all the way up the NASCAR ladder into the Cup Series. Additionally, the team chemistry is already there since the 22-year-old has been with the organization for two years now.
But with that being said, there are still other options out there. Kyle Busch Motorsports hasn’t featured a solid full-time driver since signing Tayler Malsam with plans to run the entire year in 2010, though that only lasted seven races before sponsorship sidelined the young driver. Fast forward to 2012 and you’ve got Jason Leffler, who piloted the No. 18 Toyota in a handful of races but was never intended to compete the full season; he was released from the team last month after “disappointing results” that featured six top 10s in nine races. With that being said, the team has got decent equipment but has failed to keep up with the rest of the field without stability behind the wheel. Should the organization find a driver they can commit to for an entire season, it would turn out beneficial to both parties as that consistency will help the team improve their performance overall, which would in turn help the driver as well.
The next option mentioned on the SPEED broadcast was Eddie Sharp Racing, a team that has made strides with both Justin Lofton and Cale Gale this year. Lofton has some question marks for next year’s sponsorship that lean on the results of the presidential election in November, however ESR does have a verbal commitment with the driver as well, and with nothing announced for Gale for next year yet, there’s always the possibility of the No. 33 team opening up as well. I would be shocked if ESR planned to field a third truck without having both of their current teams consistent week after week, though. So for a deal with ESR to work for Coulter, one of their two drivers would be left without a ride.
And that brings us to Turner Motorsports, a team that arguably has some of the best equipment in the series at this point. The big problem there, though, is a lack of open seats. With Miguel James Buescher, Miguel Paludo and Nelson Piquet, Jr. already in three of their trucks, there isn’t a whole lot of open space this season. However, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Buescher make the jump to Nationwide full-time next year, and because of that, there would an opening behind the wheel of the No. 30 Chevrolet. Coulter would likely have to compete with Kyle Larson, who’s made just two starts behind the wheel of the No. 4 and snagged a top-10 result both times, including a best finish of sixth in Atlanta. Though Turner does have some of the best equipment in the series, it’s likely a long-shot for Coulter to find himself at home there.
The big question mark that hangs over any of the available options is sponsorship. With so many drivers sidelined this year thanks to a lack of funds to keep their operations going, Coulter will have to work hard with whoever he ends up with to ensure he makes it through the entire season and doesn’t end up sidelined like so many young talent has over the last few years.
*Truck Rookie Report*
*2012 Rookie of the Year Candidates:*
*Dakoda Armstrong* (No. 98–team suspended)
*Ty Dillon* (No. 3)
*Dusty Davis* (No. 15)
*T.J. Duke* (No. 07)
*Ross Chastain* (No. 08)
*Cale Gale* (No. 33)
*Max Gresham *(No. 24–released from ride)
*Paulie Harraka* (No. 5–team suspended)
*Caleb Holman* (No. 75)
*John King* (No. 7–team suspended)
*Bryan Silas* (No. 99)
*John Wes Townley* (No. 09)
*No. of Rookies in the Race:* 15 (add Ryan Blaney, David Mayhew, Brennan Newberry, Jeff Agnew, Jake Crum, Tim George, Jr. and Travis Miller)
*No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10:* 2; Ty Dillon, finished third; John Wes Townley, finished 10th
*Rookie of the Race:* Ty Dillon, finished third
“I’m really excited about this third-place finish tonight at Kentucky. Marcus Richmond (crew chief) and the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops team put together a fast truck and worked hard all day. We’re really working hard to keep this momentum going throughout the rest of the season. I think we hit the curve at the right time, and I know we can continue to put up a good battle for the championship. Three top 3s in a row–what more could you ask for? It’s not easy to finish three times in a row in the top 3–first, second and third the last three weeks. If we keep doing that, the wins are going to come. We’re still a young and learning team, and we’re going to keep fighting for these wins.” _Ty Dillon, finished third_
“We were tight all race really; started off really tight and never got it good enough in traffic to move around. Never got any better, really. Clean air was pretty huge. It was a tough start to the day for the Cooper Standard RAM. The guys worked really hard on the back up, and I appreciate their effort. I’m looking forward to getting back with the BKR team in Talladega.” _Ryan Blaney, finished 11th_
“This was an unfortunate night for the No. 2 Applebee’s / Potomac Family Dining Group Chevrolet team. We couldn’t avoid being involved in the incident, but the crew worked hard to get us back on track. I know that we all wanted to put together a better night for Applebee’s and Richard Childress, especially on his birthday.” _Tim George, Jr., finished 18th_
“We had one of the fastest trucks tonight in clean air but struggled in traffic. We worked on our Steak and Grape / MMI Services RAM a lot tonight. Unfortunately, a parts failure sidelined us tonight. I’m looking forward to Las Vegas next weekend and getting back behind the wheel of my No. 19 BKR RAM in Texas.” _David Mayhew, finished 26th_
Ty Dillon remains the points leader, however his lead shrank to just four markers over race winner James Buescher, who moved up one spot. Timothy Peters dropped one position after being involved in another on-track altercation, this time not of his own making; he sits 26 points behind the leader. Parker Kligerman remains fourth, 30 markers behind Dillon while Joey Coulter moved up one spot to round out the top 5.
Matt Crafton dropped to sixth and sits just three markers outside the top 5. Justin Lofton remains in seventh followed by Nelson Piquet, Jr. Miguel Paludo jumped two spots after posting his best finish this year of eighth. Ron Hornaday, Jr. rounds out the top 10, 125 markers behind the leader.
“We’ve had some tough breaks this year, so to be able to win races when you have the opportunity is really cool. Robbie Fast was my spotter tonight. Jeff Dickerson is up in New Hampshire. [Fast] was spotting for me in Texas and at the first Iowa race. We had those two races robbed from us, so it was cool to finally win with him. Michael Shelton (crew chief) made an awesome call to only take two tires at the end and get that track position. Clean air was really important to us tonight, and once we got the truck out front it was on kill.” _James Buescher_
“I’m disappointed that I let my team down and didn’t get the best restart I could on our early fuel-only stop; I could’ve had the lead but I just didn’t judge it right. And then I spun out racing for third. But I can’t be too upset because this Red Horse Racing organization gave me another really fast Toyota Tundra, and it allowed me to come back to finish second, which in the big picture, is a great points finish. We didn’t put a mark on this Tundra and that’s what you need to do to be effective in this championship hunt. This is definitely a championship caliber team, and I’m going to be a championship caliber driver for these next six races and get that win we deserve.” _Parker Kligerman, finished second_
“I had a great truck tonight. I really thought we had the Chevrolet Silverado to win, but during that last run it cooled down a bunch and we just got too tight. Everyone at RCR is doing a great job for us and I can’t thank them enough.” _Joey Coulter, finished fourth_
“It was fun to come out here and represent Dollar General, Flexco, M&Ms, everybody and just have the opportunity to run the Truck Series here in Kentucky. Track position was everything. When we were out front, we were able to run pretty good. We just had to overcome too many positions on the last run to get up there and really challenge for the win. Congratulations to James (Buescher). I wish we could’ve gone up there and battled him, but hopefully we learned how to improve this mile-and-a-half program. Because I finished in the top 10, Dollar General will give 10 percent off Monday on online purchases, so remember to go online and buy some stuff.” _Brian Scott, finished fifth_
*Up Next:* The Camping World Truck Series heads to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next Saturday night for the Smith’s 350. Last year, the series visited the 1.5-mile oval in mid-October; Ron Hornaday, Jr. led a race-high 107 laps en route to the victory. The race will be broadcast live on SPEED beginning at 8:00 PM ET; it can also be heard on your “local MRN affiliate”:http://www.motorracingnetwork.com/Affiliates/Affiliates.aspx#showFindStations or SiriusXM Channel 90.