Race Weekend Central

Tracking The Trucks: NextEra Energy Resources 250

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*In a Nutshell:* Johnny Sauter waited patiently, spending the first half of the race riding in the back while others took their turn out front. After going 4-for-4 on wrecks at Daytona, during his career he dodged them, scuttled out front on Lap 85 and used teammate Todd Bodine to hold on for his first ever victory at Daytona.

*Who Should Have Won:* *Ty Dillon.* Richard Childress Racing’s No. 3 truck was dominant during the first half of the race; in all, Dillon led three times for a race-high 56 laps. But as wrecks popped up during the second half, Dillon lost track position and fell towards the back half of the top 10. Whether others had recognized Dillon’s speed or the sophomore just made some bad moves, he was never able to assert himself up front when it counted down the stretch. Dillon, who finished sixth has to be sitting there this Saturday morning wondering what could have been.

*Race Rundown*
_Welcome to the newest addition to Tracking the Trucks! In this section for each race, we’ll take a look at the most important things to know just in case you weren’t able to watch it. Love it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments below._

*Gaughan’s Goofball Move:* Considering past Truck Series editions, this one was relatively tame with just six cautions — only three of which were for multi-truck wrecks. Perhaps the most serious was on Lap 55, when Brendan Gaughan tried to jumpstart a middle line entering Turn 3. The gap closed, almost immediately and Gaughan turned German Quiroga, Jr. around right into the No. 14 of Brennan Newberry. Chaos ensued, catching drivers Chris Fontaine’s No. 84 as innocent victims as trucks were slung all over the track like ping-pong balls.

To add insult to injury, SPEED mistakenly aired a swear word from Gaughan after the incident. Unfortunately, for this one the only swearing he should have been doing is at himself, in private. The middle lane was difficult to establish Friday night, for Truck regulars and it was almost impossible at times to go more than two-abreast. With over 45 laps remaining, Gaughan got greedy, trying to simply create room by himself where there wasn’t and it cost him.

*1-2 In The Championship… 1-2 In Daytona Problems:* For James Buescher and Timothy Peters, last year’s battle for the title turned into this year’s hole to climb out of. Buescher should be happy to salvage 13th after contact with Darrell Wallace, Jr. on pit road, during the race’s first caution on Lap 28 resulted in several extra stops to fix the damage. They did get it going right, Buescher battling for the lead at one point down the stretch but then needed to dump teammate Ryan Truex just before a flat tire wrecked that No. 30 in front of the field. From that point on, the reigning champ was simply battling for scraps and got involved in the last-lap incident, with Jeff Agnew that helped bring out the end of the race.

For Peters, his day ended far worse after intentionally running at the back to avoid all the wrecks. Following the first multi-car incident, on Lap 55 his spotter claimed, “We’ve gotten rid of all the idiots now! Let’s go!” But once Peters started competing closer to the front, shooting through the middle with Matt Crafton he still was left vulnerable to get caught in a wreck. When Truex’s tire went flat, causing a spin on Lap 93 Peters had nowhere to go and drilled his Toyota into the mess. That left him sitting in the garage, 27th at the checkered flag and well off the championship Chase to start 2013.

*Questions You Should Be Asking Yourself After This One*

*1. Did Kyle Busch Wait Too Long To Make His Move?*

During the Truck race’s final restart, on Lap 96 Kyle Busch knew he needed to separate teammates Johnny Sauter and Todd Bodine. Making quick work of Bodine’s No. 13, the No. 51 led a charge into second place and settled quickly behind the No. 98. Everyone knew Busch was going to make a move, with Ron Hornaday behind him but the caution came out before he could even think about things entering Turn 1. So does Busch regret not trying sooner, especially when that white-flag caution situation looms at practically every plate race?

The answer here, according to Busch was simple – a resounding “no.”

“If I would have made the move right then and there coming to the white, probably myself and Johnny Sauter would have finished about 30th,” he told me. “Everybody would have drove right by us if I would have made the move coming to the white.  You got to do what you got to do taking the chance it’s going to go the full 100.”

“If we would have made it down to the backstretch, they would have wrecked off of two down the backstretch, I bet they would have let us come back to the checkered flag.”

But they didn’t — with the wreck clogging up Turn 1 — and NASCAR had no choice but to throw the caution for safety reasons. Sometimes, Lady Luck goes against you in racing and that’s why Busch will be waiting until 2014 to earn that Daytona trophy.

*2. What always makes the Truck racing here so great?*

One day after Daytona’s Duels, the Truck race was thrilling from start to finish, with no problems running side-by-side and the inside line, which has struggled on the Cup side having an edge over all other grooves. So what gives with this chassis? Why does it always produce better racing here?

“That’s an interesting question,” Busch said in post-race. “I actually thought about that during the race. But I think it’s just because the yellow line, it’s sort of your scapegoat, a safety zone.  When you run the top, the trucks, you’re running over the guy in front of you the whole time.  You can run third, fourth or fifth in the pack, and you’re half throttle every single lap running around there.  You got plenty in reserve to use, but you could pull out of line at any moment and stall out and not go anywhere. I think if you were running the top, guys would be dive bombing to the bottom, trying to make moves like that, trying to get back in line.”
In general, though when Trucks would pull out they had momentum as long as one other “partner” went along with them. In Cup, that number needs to be four, five, even six to build momentum and that’s why we saw a difference in the quality of competition. Plus, with a 100-lap event, the sense of urgency seemed to be there start to finish as no one wanted to be a part of losing the lead draft in case the race endured an unexpectedly long green-flag run

*Truck Rookie Report*
*2013 Rookie of the Year Candidates:*
Ryan Blaney (No. 29)
Jeb Burton (No. 4)
Brennan Newberry (No. 14)
German Quiroga, Jr. (No. 77)
Ryan Truex (No. 30)
Darrell Wallace, Jr. (No. 54)

*No. of Rookies in the Race:* 7 (add Dusty Davis, based on previous experience — only seven career Truck starts)

*No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10:* 2; Jeb Burton, finished fifth; Ryan Blaney, finished eighth

*Rookie of the Race:* Jeb Burton

*Rookie Quotes:*

“It started off kind of wild, then it settled down.  Right there at the end, I was going to do whatever the 3 did.  3 jumped up on the outside.  I didn’t feel that was the right thing to do, so I stayed down low.  Caution came out.  We needed one more lap, I think.  It would have been interesting going down the back.  But happy to get a top five.”

“It was a little calmer than what we’ve seen in the past.  Last year we did three green-white-checkereds.  I was glad we went across the finish line and I wasn’t in a wreck.” _Jeb Burton_

*Worth Noting (in place of Championship Checkup — Since we’re only one race in)*

* Johnny Sauter’s average finish at Daytona, before Friday night was 25.75.

* Ty Dillon (sixth) led the most laps for only the second time in his Truck career. The other also occurred at a restrictor plate race (Talladega) back in Fall, 2012.

* Ron Hornaday, Jr. had just one top-3 finish in 22 races last season, the worst of his career in this division. He equaled that with a third-place result Friday night.

* Clay Greenfield, fastest in practice Thursday before struggling during his qualifying effort was driving a Dodge RAM chassis that was originally built in 1999. 1999! He had mechanical issues, during the race which ruined any chance at a solid effort, finishing five laps down in 26th. Doug Turnbull of WSB reports Greenfield will run eight races this season, potentially more with sponsorship from his pavement company and 1-800-PAVEMENT.

* Matt Crafton (ninth) had a flat tire, went a lap down but got the Lucky Dog just before the race’s fifth caution on Lap 93. He gained nearly twenty positions in five laps to rise as far as he did.

*John King (18th) had his hoodpins loose for most of the last 20 laps, causing a near heart attack midpack as it looked like it was going to fly up in front of him any second. It’s a surprise NASCAR didn’t throw the black flag and force King down pit road considering how much that sheet metal was moving around.

“I can’t tell you.  I mean, if I tell you, guys are going to know and know what to expect. I had a plan.  The plan was about ready to take place, then a caution come out.” _Kyle Busch, finished second, on his plan for the last lap_

“Probably one of my toughest years in racing.  You have to be humble about it.  When Bruce come aboard, we seen what we done wrong with the trucks.  He fixed 40% of them so far.  Still got a lot of work to do.  Very confident going into the next three or four races coming up.” _Ron Hornaday, Jr., finished third, on his dismal 2012_

“Overall, I’m happy with our finish tonight. To be able to leave Daytona (International Speedway) with your truck all in one piece is always a good night. The No. 3 Bass Pro Shops team worked hard this week getting the truck ready for the race. We were fast and led a lot of laps. We’re putting the right foot forward and starting off the season right.” _Ty Dillon, finished sixth_

“Really bummed the race ended the way it did. Our GunBroker.com Tundra was great — best speedway truck I’ve ever had. I can’t thank Kyle, Samantha, Rick Ren and everyone on the No. 18 at KBM enough for the opportunity this year. It’s an honor to be running for their first driver championship.” _Joey Coulter, finished 22nd_

“I’ve got thank my guys for all of their hard work tonight. It was my fault that we got into trouble tonight, but the South Point Hotel & Casino crew put in a lot of effort and never gave up. It wasn’t the result I wanted, but we were able to finish the race.” _Brendan Gaughan, finished 29th after being involved in multi-car wreck_

*Up Next:* The Camping World Truck Series takes six weeks off before returning Saturday, April 6th at Martinsville. The race, scheduled for 1:30 PM ET will be televised on SPEED; it can also be heard on your “local MRN affiliate”:http://www.motorracingnetwork.com/Affiliates/Affiliates.aspx#showFindStations or SiriusXM Channel 90.

*Connect with Tom!*

“Contact Tom Bowles”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/14345/

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