_Author’s Note: Hey readers! As the 2012 draws to a close, we’re planning for next year. Please click here to send me an email or let me know in the comments below what you’d like to see in Tracking the Trucks that currently isn’t in there. Is there something you don’t like about this format? I want to know that too! I’ll collect your comments throughout the rest of the year and the offseason and debut the new and improved Tracking the Trucks in February for the season opener at Daytona. Thank you for your dedicated readership! –Beth_
*In a Nutshell:* Cale Gale took the checkered flag 0.14 seconds ahead of Kyle Busch to win the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway Friday night. Gale restarted on the front row alongside Busch during the green-white-checkered finish and drove the No. 18 Toyota up the track, pinning him to the wall to score his first Camping World Truck Series victory. Joey Coulter, Nelson Piquet, Jr. and Miguel Paludo rounded out the top-5 finishers.
*Who Should Have Won: Cale Gale.* Gale started fifth and ran unnoticed inside the top 5 for much of the night before finding himself alongside Kyle Busch on the final restart. He peeked his nose inside Busch several times before finally driving up alongside him, nearly wrecking both competitors in the process. In the end, it took some rough-and-tumble driving — exactly what made the Truck Series famous in the first place — but it was Gale who came out on top in what can only be described as one of the best finishes the Truck Series has seen since Erik Darnell barely edged Johnny Benson to snag his first career victory at Michigan in 2008.
*Questions You Should Be Asking After the Race:*
*1. Which driver was at fault in the Ty Dillon / Kyle Larson wreck?*
With just a handful of laps remaining, Ty Dillon found himself within one point of champion James Buescher while the leader was still in his sights, making it look like the last lap would truly decide the champion as Buescher struggled a bit on the restart just a few laps earlier. But those hopes came crashing to a halt when he and Kyle Larson got together, wrecking both trucks and sending rookie Ryan Blaney hard enough into the wall to knock the wind out of him. Blaney, though clearly shaken up, got out of the No. 29 Dodge under his own power.
But who was at fault in that wreck?
Ty Dillon likely saw that Larson had one heck of a run to his inside and moved down to block; however, the driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet had his truck nearly alongside the driver of the No. 3 before Dillon made his move, wrecking both drivers. Don’t believe me? “See for yourself.”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnMIoLuWpCE
I saw plenty of rumblings on Twitter — and SPEED, for that matter — that said Larson should have backed off because Dillon was racing for the championship but that’s just plain asinine. Yes Dillon was racing for the title, but Larson was also racing for his first career win. I’m so sick of drivers feeling like they have to tip toe around the championship contenders and not race them hard. Plenty said Larson should have exercised better judgment knowing the situation the driver of the No. 3 was in, but I completely disagree. If anything, it’s Dillon who should have been aware of his own situation and not driven down on the No. 4 Chevrolet.
But one thing is for sure after seeing Dillon’s post-wreck comments: he will make a great champion some day soon. After seeing his championship hopes expand and then fall apart in a matter of moments, he was very composed in the aftermath, something that several Sprint Cup drivers still struggle with.
“I hate it had to come down to us hitting the wall like that. I feel bad for my guys, but I’m really proud of them,” Dillon said. “It just wasn’t our year. The Lord didn’t have it in his plans for us, but I’ve gotta thank him anyway for blessing the season for us.”
And while Larson showed some remorse for being involved in Dillon’s wreck, he didn’t take blame, having not seen a replay of the accident.
Larson did later post on his “Twitter”:http://www.twitter.com/KyleLarsonRacin page about the incident.
“Watched the replay of the wreck. Feel REALLY bad for @tydillon. I definitely would never wreck someone on purpose. I just drove over my head. Also would never do that to help a teammate out. Can’t really express how bad I feel about it all.”
In the end, it comes out as a lesson learned by both drivers. However, I can’t fault Larson for racing hard for a shot at Victory Lane, especially after spending as much time out front as he did.
*2. What happened on the green-white-checkered finish?*
For the second week in a row, the Truck Series saw a green-white-checkered finish decide the winner of the race. When Ty Dillon and Kyle Larson got together, Kyle Busch had a substantial lead and looked like he was on the way to his first win on the year, but Cale Gale managed to drive alongside and pinned Busch to the outside wall, snagging his first career victory by a nose.
When asked to describe what happened, Busch kept it short.
“I got drove into the fence,” he said. “That’s it.”
And Gale didn’t waste any time trying to deny that’s exactly what he did.
“It’s not my style, but I know that, if I could pinch him a little bit, I could get the advantage, and pretty much, that’s what I was thinking at that point. A guy like me, it’s my first opportunity to come down for the checkered flag in a NASCAR race,” Gale said. “When it comes down to the final straightaway to win at Homestead in the last race, and your first NASCAR win, I believe anybody would do it.”
I’ve often been someone that disagrees with wrecking a fellow competitor to get a win, however, in this case, neither driver wrecked. Yes, both nearly lost it after taking the checkered flag, but despite some damage both trucks were facing the right way at the finish. The Ford EcoBoost 200 marked the second consecutive race where the leader on the restart for the green-white-checkered finish didn’t make it to Victory Lane.
*Truck Rookie Report*
*2012 Rookie of the Year Candidates:*
*Dakoda Armstrong* (No. 98–team suspended)
*Ty Dillon* (No. 3)
*Dusty Davis* (No. 20)
*T.J. Duke* (No. 07–not entered at Phoenix)
*Ross Chastain* (No. 08)
*Cale Gale* (No. 33)
*Max Gresham *(No. 8)
*Paulie Harraka* (No. 5–released from team)
*Caleb Holman* (No. 75–not entered at Homestead)
*John King* (No. 7–released from team)
*Bryan Silas* (No. 99)
*John Wes Townley* (No. 09)
*No. of Rookies in the Race:* 15 (add Kyle Larson, Ryan Blaney, Jake Crum, German Quiroga, Ryan Lynch, Travis Miller, Tim George, Jr. and Blake Koch)
*No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10:* 2; Cale Gale, finished first; Ross Chastain, finished tenth
*Rookie of the Race:* Cale Gale
*2012 Rookie of the Year: Ty Dillon: 1 win, 7 top 5s, 17 top 10s, 3 poles*
“Kyle’s (Busch) a racer. He’s been in the same position I’ve been in. We’ve all seen hungry racers get an opportunity and take it. That’s what you have to do in this sport. He owes me, but I saw the checkers in the final race. That’s all I can say.” _Cale Gale_
“I was really hoping to earn another top-10 finish — I think the NET10 Wireless Tundra was capable of that, we just got too far behind early in the race. I am thankful to NET10 for trusting in me for these four races and to everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports for helping me get up to speed in the trucks. I’m hopeful that I will be running in the Truck Series again next year — it has been a great experience.” _German Quiroga, finished 15th_
“This was not the way I wanted to end the season. First of all, I have to thank Gere (Kennon, crew chief) and the rest of my guys for giving me a really fast truck. We were fast right off the hauler. I like Homestead-Miami Speedway. I was loose during qualifying and nearly lost it in turn four which gave us a bad starting position. That pretty much sealed our fate with a short race. Every position was a fight. I did get a good restart for the green-white-checkered finish and then lost the air and spun out on the final turn. I’ve learned a lot about racing the trucks this year and I’m looking forward to next year.” _Tim George, Jr., finished 18th_
_Author’s Note: SPEED failed to mention George’s spin at any time during the broadcast. I suppose it’s understandable given everything going on with the race winner and the champion as well as the repurcussions for Dillon’s block on Larson, however I’m not willing to give the network a free pass on this one. There’s no reason to ignore anyone involved in any kind of on-track incident… period. For more on the Ford EcoBoost 200 broadcast, don’t forget to check out Couch Potato Tuesday by Phil Allaway._
“We just had to go out there and win the race and make something happen. I just tried to make something happen there at the end, I got to second and the points were looking good. We just missed that championship by a little bit, but I’m all right with everything that played out. We were going for it. We almost had it. We were trying to hit the home run in the bottom of the ninth and almost did it. But it’s all right. We’ll be back next year, fighting harder than ever.” _Ty Dillon, finished 25th_
“[That hit] felt pretty hard. I don’t know how it looked but it felt pretty hard. It’s one of the worst hits when you get clipped like that. You don’t think you’re going to get clipped. We struggled a little bit all night and just really couldn’t find speed, but I really wish we could have at least finished. I think we could have wrestled a decent finish out of it. Every time you’re getting turned around into the wall it’s not really a good thing.” _Ryan Blaney, finished 28th_
_Welcome to the newest addition to Tracking the Trucks. Each week we’ll take a look at the championship picture and find out which drivers were affected the most by the racing on track. Love it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments below._
*Biggest Winner:* Joey Coulter managed to capitalize on back-to-back third-place finishes and the misfortune of fellow competitors Parker Kligerman and Ty Dillon in the last two weeks to gain two spots in the standings. He ended the season a solid third in the championship battle.
*Biggest Loser:* Simply put, *Ty Dillon* would probably like to rewind the last ten laps of the Ford EcoBoost 200 and try again. After turning down to block Kyle Larson, both drivers found themselves with a significant amount of damage, and if that wasn’t enough, Dillon was also held on pit road for a lap for passing the pace car under the resulting caution. He ended up finishing 25th, five laps down. As for the championship battle, he dropped his second position in two weeks and brought home a fourth-place result.
Final Standings After the Ford EcoBoost 200