With just six races remaining in the 2012 season, James Buescher finds himself in a familiar place. Going into Las Vegas Motor Speedway last year, the driver of the No. 31 Chevrolet sat just three points behind eventual champion Austin Dillon. This season he’s just four markers behind Dillon’s younger brother Ty, but in 2011, Buescher moved away from the championship lead as the races wore down, finishing third in the standings. In those final five events, the driver of the No. 31 posted an average finish of 13th, and a third-place spot in the standings was pretty impressive given he had one less start than the rest of the leaders.
With just seven races remaining to determine the 2012 Camping World Truck Series champion, the series heads off to Kentucky Speedway for a Nationwide Series companion race this weekend. While a visit to Kentucky may not be all that spectacular on its own, six champions have also won in the Bluegrass state during their respective championship seasons.
It all began back in 2000, the inaugural season for the Truck Series at Kentucky when Greg Biffle snagged his third of five wins that year, in a season where he finished outside the top 14 just once; a 25th-place result at Texas in November. Just two years later, it was Mike Bliss who scored his third of five victories in 2002, winning the championship after leading the standings for the final ten races of the year.
The Camping World Truck Series rolls into Iowa Speedway for a standalone event this weekend, but the off week wasn’t without its problems–at least for one driver. Dakoda Armstrong became the latest victim of the sponsorship woes that have plagued the series for a few years now, and 2012 in particular. He marks the third rookie this season to have started intent on running the full schedule only to have the rug pulled from beneath them, though Max Gresham’s parting with Joe Denette Motorsports hinged on performance more than sponsorship.
Having made 15 starts behind the wheel of the No. 98 Toyota for ThorSport Racing, Armstrong showcased a variety of different sponsors and even posted a career-best finish of third at Michigan International Speedway just a few weeks ago. In a rookie campaign that has featured plenty of ups and downs, Armstrong appeared to be making some improvements week after week but never managed to find enough backing to finish off the season. As a result, next year remains up in the air for the young driver, however he definitely has age on his side when it comes to finding another home somewhere across NASCAR.
Ty Dillon’s victory in last Friday night’s Jeff Foxworthy’s Grit Chips 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway marked the 11th different–and sixth first-time–winner in the Camping World Truck Series this year. The current record for most wins in a single season sits at 14–set in 1998 and 2005–and with eight races left on the schedule, it’s a mark that could be broken.
But the question that remains: who might break through and add their name to the list of victors?
At Talladega anyone could make a trip to victory lane in that race – assuming all 36 trucks aren’t wiped out in a massive wreck. After all, remember what happened at the last superspeedway race the Truck Series had in Daytona this February. John King executed an ill-timed bump on Johnny Sauter, sending him spinning and ended up snagging the victory. But that wild card aside, there are plenty of drivers that have yet to win this year and could easily do so before season’s end.
_Welcome to the latest edition of Miguel Paludo’s Driver Diary. Every few weeks, Miguel sits down and tells the Frontstretch all about the latest in his on track career as well as his personal life. Kick back and enjoy as Paludo dishes on Bristol, looks forward to Atlanta and so much more._
We were a little off in practice at Bristol. We tried some different things with the right front because Dover is one-mile long and concrete and Bristol is almost the same, just shorter. We had a plan to try and if it didn’t work, we could go back to what the No. 30 and No. 31 (teammates Nelson Piquet, Jr. and James Buescher) had. And we actually did that because first practice wasn’t really good, and then in the second practice we were around 12th. My hopes were to qualify in that same area, around 12th or 13th, but we just didn’t have speed in qualifying.
For Peters, it’s a night that reminds us how strong his No. 17 team has been throughout the season. He clearly leads the team in his performance, grabbing his second victory (Iowa) in six races and the fifth in his career. After starting in the runner-up spot, the driver of the No. 17 Toyota wasted little time, taking the top spot before the field completed a single lap. And despite charges from teammate Todd Bodine, Brad Keselowski and even runner-up Parker Kligerman on each restart, Peters always left his competitors eating dust. It’s no easy feat to lead every single circuit at the world’s fastest half-mile, where anything can happen, especially after a recent reconfiguration. Heck, it’s near-impossible to do it at _any_ racetrack: Wednesday night marked the first time since Louisville in July, 1997 a Truck Series driver led every lap of a race.
As the Camping World Truck Series heads to Michigan International Speedway, a couple of drivers won’t be in the rides you’ve become accustomed to seeing them in.
Parker Kligerman, who was released from Brad Keselowski Racing following a solid seventh-place finish at Pocono, announced last week that he had joined Red Horse Racing to pilot the No. 7 Toyota vacated when Daytona winner John King was released just five races into the year.
This weekend, as many as five drivers – Jimmie Johnson, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski – could mathematically clinch their spots inside the top 10, assuming they leave Michigan with at least a 145-point gap over 11th place. But perhaps the more appealing race to keep an eye on is …
Saturday’s Pocono Mountains 125 marked the halfway point of the Camping World Truck Series schedule. That’s right … it took nearly six months to get the first half completed, a bit unbalanced as the series will run its final 11 events in right around three months. But despite the lack of momentum, thanks to a poorly designed schedule there have been plenty of exciting moments to keep viewers interested.
In just 11 events, the Truck Series has seen four different drivers grab their first career victories, a potpourri of new personalities gracing the top spot.
Not that long ago, many though the Camping World Truck Series was in danger of dissolving thanks to sponsorship woes that resulted in teams scaling back at the least and shutting down at the worst. But the 2012 season has brought with it a breath of fresh air in what appeared to be a quickly dying series. Despite having the best racing on the track, the division suffered from a variety of maladies that could have easily seen NASCAR make the decision to quit supporting it. Now, the Truck Series stands on a much healthier ground and has even surpassed the Nationwide Series in lasting power.
First and foremost, fans finally have the opportunity to get to know the drivers that make up the fields week in and week out. Having endured a 2011 season that focused mostly on Kyle Busch and rest the of the Sprint Cup drivers overshadowing the series regulars, there has been a rebound in the popularity and coverage.
Chicagoland was a great race for us. We were just in the wrong place one, two, even three times. But we had a really great truck. We went from 30th to the top 10 after the first problem and even lead or stayed in second for a while. Then we ran up there toward the top 5 but kept having problems. I’m really proud of my team though because we were finally headed the right direction.
The problem we’ve had has been entry into the corners. We’ve always been too loose or too tight, but we changed a rear end housing and used something different. We had been using the same one we used all last season, but with the new one, it gave me a much better feel for what I was looking for. We were actually neutral going into the corners this weekend and that made it easier to drive. Plus Mike (Hillman, Jr., Crew Chief) is getting a better feel for what I like on the track every week and that helps a lot.
*In a Nutshell:* James Buescher took the checkered flag 0.247 seconds ahead of Brendan Gaughan to win the American Ethanol 225 at Chicagoland Speedway Saturday night. Buescher went two laps down thanks to a carburetor change, but managed to get both back before bolting on a set of four fresh tires and making quick work of the field en route to his third win this year. Timothy Peters (who started at the back of the field thanks to an engine change), Matt Crafton, and Parker Kligerman rounded out the top 5.