Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: 2015 Rhino Linings 350 at Las Vegas

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In a Nutshell: John Wes Townley took the checkered flag 3.827 seconds ahead of Timothy Peters to win Saturday night’s Rhino Linings 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Townley managed to run great fuel mileage to have enough in the tank when those around him, including late-race leader Matt Crafton, ran out of gas. Ben Kennedy, John Hunter Nemechek and Brandon Jones rounded out the top five.

Who Should Have Won: Townley, with help from spotter Terry Cook, managed to stretch his fuel farther than those he was racing to take his first career win. The key here, though, is that he didn’t just get lucky with a fuel-mileage win. Sure, he was one of the ones to make the most of every drop in the tank, but he was stout for most of the race, even making an impressive pass on Crafton earlier in the race for the lead. As Townley’s performance has improved over the last year-and-a-half or so, it was only a matter of time before the breaks fell the right way for the No. 05 team, like they did on Saturday night.

Race Rundown

Austin Theriault Suffers Hard Hit, Compression Fracture

Less than 20 laps into Saturday night’s race, the side-by-side excitement took a back seat to a hard hit for Austin Theriault into the outside wall. Contact from teammate Tyler Reddick, who got loose and slid across the track trying to right his truck, send Theriault’s No. 29 straight into the wall before it slid down the track and came to a rest at the infield grass.

After what seemed like forever wondering whether Theriault was alright, safety crews assisted him from the truck where he immediately sat down in the grass. In a move that confused many across social media, safety workers removed his helmet and laid him, unstrapped, on a backboard where he was transported to the infield care center. Shortly afterward, Theriault was airlifted to University Medical Center in Las Vegas.

In the early Sunday morning hours, Brad Keselowski Racing released a statement updating Theriault’s condition.

Theriault underwent a comprehensive CT scan of the upper body, which showed a 10% compression fracture of the lower back. Theriault was released and will travel back to North Carolina where he will follow up with an orthopedic specialist for further treatment.

No further updates are expected today.

Though as of press time, nothing else has come from the team regarding Theriault’s condition, he did take to Twitter late Saturday night and on Sunday.

After Theriault’s truck came to a rest, I quickly found myself irritated that the television cameras panned over to his teammate coming down pit road as those in the booth talked about the potential championship implications that Reddick’s damage could have caused. But late Saturday night, I was talking to a friend who pointed out that when Theriault’s truck slid down the track, his head was against the steering wheel and he was just along for the ride, likely knocked unconscious (Note: This is just speculation, not reported) by the impact.

A check of the replay confirmed that he was in fact laying against the steering wheel as much as his belts would let him, not moving at all, and fresh removed from the loss of Justin Wilson in IndyCar, it’s likely the producer noticed that as well and made the decision not to show the truck or the replay until there was confirmation that Theriault was alright.

What makes me so angry about this incident isn’t that Reddick couldn’t right his truck and wrecked his teammate. It’s that there was a wall that unprotected by a SAFER barrier! Did NASCAR and Las Vegas Motor Speedway learn nothing from Kyle Busch‘s Xfinity Series wreck at Daytona?

Beyond that, you would think LVMS would be overly conscious of safety, given that the last driver lost in IndyCar prior to Wilson was Dan Wheldon at that track in 2011, though it was a different circumstance. I don’t know about you, but I will be looking for some sort of an explanation from the speedway in the coming days, along with (hopefully) an announcement that those walls are being replaced.

Quick Hits

Townley scored his first career victory in his 87th Truck Series start. By comparison, two-time champion Crafton went winless in 177 races before he first visited Victory Lane. I’m not trying to say Townley is suddenly going to become a championship contender in the coming years, but it’s interesting to note just how long Crafton went before his first win, especially looking at where he and the No. 88 team stand today.

Travis Pastrana made his return to NASCAR for the first time since 2012 Saturday night. After qualifying 17th, the driver of the No. 31 GunBroker.com Chevrolet ran a quiet race and nearly made it inside the top 10 before dropping back to his eventual 16th-place finish, two laps down.

Brennan Poole made his Camping World Truck Series debut Saturday night behind the wheel of the No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet. After starting 14th, Poole battled a tight handling truck until track conditions changed, causing a loss of rear grip. Despite his struggles, the team adjusted and helped him finish a solid 11th in his debut race.

I had an awesome time out there tonight. GMS Racing is a great organization to work with. They supplied me with a great truck and a hard working crew. I wish we could have grabbed a top 10 but we brought home a truck in one piece and had a strong finish. Late in the race, I began to feel free on entry and lost grip in the rear. Harold (Holly, crew chief) made an adjustment that helped a lot, but not long after it just went in the opposite direction and put us back to square one. I can’t thank everyone enough for this tremendous opportunity and experience. This would not have happened without the support from my sponsors DC Solar and MTO Café.

For the first time since his win at Eldora Speedway in July, Christopher Bell returned to the Truck Series. After qualifying fifth, he ran right around the top five for much of the night, but after running out of fuel, Bell was forced to settle for a 14th-place finish. Not bad, considering he’s primarily a dirt racer with very little experience with the aerodynamics that affect the Truck Series.

Erik Jones was sent to the rear of the field prior to the green flag after an engine change. But despite giving up his 15th-place starting spot and struggling with handling for much of the race before running out of fuel late, the championship leader managed to salvage a ninth-place finish out of the night; he was the last truck on the lead lap when the checkered flag flew.

Red Horse Racing teammates Peters and Kennedy posted their best results of the season Saturday night, finishing second and third, respectively. In a season that has been tough on the part of consistency for both drivers, the pair of top-three finishes will be a key for RHR as the season continues on the downhill slide to the season finale next month.

ThorSport Racing teammates Crafton, Cameron Hayley and Johnny Sauter, who all held the lead at some point during the race, each ran out of fuel, one after the other, in the closing laps Saturday night. Crafton could become the next target for a penalty from NASCAR following an attempt to draw a caution to allow him to pit for fuel. The driver of the No. 88 Toyota was caught on camera grabbing a piece of rollbar padding and throwing it out of his truck. Crew chief Junior Joiner was summoned to the NASCAR hauler following the race.

In an incident eerily similar to the one that took Crafton out at Gateway Motorsports Park earlier this year, Nemechek got loose inside Sauter just before the lap 50 mark, sending the pair sliding across the track. But despite the damage, the driver of the No. 98 went on to lead a handful of laps late and was on track for a solid top-five finish until he ran out of fuel and was left to settle with a 12th-place finish. While it wasn’t the result Sauter wanted, based on the damage to the truck after the contact with the wall, I’m just impressed he managed to finish on the lead lap, much less lead laps after the accident happened.

Truck Rookie Report
2015 Rookie of the Year Candidates
No. 4 Erik Jones
No. 07 Ray Black Jr.
No. 08 Korbin Forrister
No. 8 John Hunter Nemechek
No. 13 Cameron Hayley
No. 14 Daniel Hemric
No. 23 Spencer Gallagher
No. 94 Wendell Chavous

No. of Rookies in the Race: 17 (add Jordan Anderson, Bell, Chad Boat, Brandon Jones, BJ McLeod, Akinori Ogata, Pastrana, Poole, Tyler Tanner and Matt Tifft)

No. of rookies to finish in the top 10: 5; Nemechek, finished fourth; Brandon Jones, finished fifth; Hemric, finished sixth; Erik Jones, finished ninth; Hayley, finished 10th

Rookie of the Race: Nemechek, finished fourth

Points Update: Despite each facing their own problems during the race, Reddick, Crafton and Erik Jones couldn’t separate themselves by the time the checkered flag flew. The trio of championship contenders finished seventh, eighth and ninth, respectively, keeping the championship battle close. Jones now holds a four-point lead over Crafton, and Reddick isn’t far behind, just 16 markers back. Sauter and Hemric round out the top five.

Peters remains sixth, though he sits just one point outside the top five thanks to his runner-up finish. Hayley is seventh, followed by race winner Townley. Kennedy, on the strength of his third-place finish, moved up one spot to ninth, and Gallagher rounds out the top 10, down one position in the standings.


“I would have run out of gas if it hadn’t been for Terry (Cook, spotter). These guys did an awesome job with this thing. It’s been awesome this year. We just stayed up there all day, and I took care of this thing and it took care of me. This is amazing, awesome.” – race winner John Wes Townley

“It was a good run for the company and myself. We’ll take these two weeks off and try to attack the last five [races] and get into victory lane. Racing at Talladega [Superspeedway] is going to be exciting. I’m looking for redemption after the SpeedWeeks that I had with our primary and then backup truck getting wrecked. We have a lot of confidence and momentum going to Talladega as the past winner, especially coming off these three finishes that we’ve had with the No. 17 Toyota Tundra. I’m really looking forward to getting there. We had fast trucks at Daytona [International Speedway], and we’ll get hooked up with Ben [Kennedy] and run fast all day coming down to the last lap, it’s every man for himself.” – Timothy Peters, finished second

“We had a really good race tonight here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Scott (Zipadelli, crew chief) and the guys did an awesome job with our Local Motors Tundra. I’m happy for John Wes Townley and his team, too. I worked with a lot of those guys last year, and it’s exciting for them to get their first win. I’m not excited about taking a couple weeks off – I’m ready to go back racing. I knew we were close on fuel at the end and he (crew chief Scott Zipadelli) told me not to worry about it, to keep doing what I was doing. It was really close for us, but thankfully the No. 11 guys did the calculations right.” – Ben Kennedy, finished third

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series takes a couple weeks off before heading off to Talladega Superspeedway Saturday, Oct. 24. Last year, Peters survived the carnage to barely edge Tayler Malsam by 0.143 seconds at the line to score his lone 2014 victory. Coverage for the Fred’s 250 powered by Coca-Cola begins at 1 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

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#JWT won a Truck race! This must be a sign of the apocalypse. A lot of us NASCAR fans eating some crow at Zaxbys this week, me included. He earned it fair and square. That truck was fast throughout much of the race.

Man, how does Vegas have a section of the frontstretch wall without a SAFER barrier? Poor Austin Theriault literally found the one unprotected section. I thought SMI/Vegas would have learned their lesson after Gordon’s hard crash there in 2008. Thank goodness he’s seemingly ok, outside of the compression fracture.


Interesting how this was a perfect storm of events that caused this. In the video, it looked likeAustin couldn’t go lower on the track to avoid Riddick because there was a slower truck on the apron heading to pit road. He also missed the safer wall by about 10ish feet to his right. Inexcusable that after all the talk at Daytona of fixing all the walls, there still walls, especially at Las Vegas where they had a fatality a few years ago, and still nothing has been done. Even more inexcusable that it happens at Bruton Smith’s track. He has the money to do it and obviously driver safety is not as important to him despite what comes out of his pie hole.

On another note, I think Maine drivers are cursed. The last driver from Maine to be working his way up through the ranks and sniff the big 3 series was a guy named Ricky Craven. He was in a bad accident too and was never the same since. Is this really happening again? There are so few drivers from the state to make it in Nascar, so anytime they get a good ride, the fans take notice. Hopefully this isn’t a career ender for Austin and he gets back healthy behind the wheel sooner rather than later.


Thanks for the update Beth. I didn’t see the race but saw the crash later. It was scary. And seeing him knocked out inside the truck rolling down the frontstretch was even more scary. Hopefully they will continue to provide good news on him.

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