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Trucks

Historic First Win for Darrell Wallace Jr.

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – The clock struck one for Darrell Wallace Jr. on Saturday afternoon at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, as he earned his first career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win in the Kroger 200.

By claiming the victory, Wallace Jr. became the first African-American driver to win a NASCAR national touring series event since Wendell Scott won in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) in 1963, a span of five decades.

While the Kyle Busch Motorsports driver was celebrating his triumph, tempers were flaring in the garage following a late-race tangle between Ty Dillon and Kevin Harvick. A bump from Dillon sent Harvick, making a rare start for NTS Motorsports around and subsequently collecting point’s leader Matt Crafton and Chase Elliott. Harvick and Dillon entered pit road before Harvick stopped in Dillon’s pit stall to voice his displeasure.

From there, chaos ensued as crew members for the Richard Childress Racing stables fired back with words of frustration and also what seemed as a sledge hammer was thrown at the No. 14 Anderson’s Maple Syrup Chevrolet Silverado. Harvick would pull his machine behind the wall and be done for the day, while Dillon continued on to finish 22nd.

On the final restart, Wallace in his No. 54 ToyotaCare Toyota Tundra held off a challenge from Brendan Gaughan and Jeb Burton to collect Toyota’s 11th NCWTS win of the season and fifth of the year for KBM.

Ben Kennedy in just his fourth NCWTS race for Turner Scott Motorsports finished fourth with Ryan Blaney recovering from an early race spin to finish fifth.

Denny Hamlin, the pole sitter recovered from a spin to bounce back to sixth, German Quiroga Jr. was seventh, Talladega winner Johnny Sauter eighth, Scott Riggs ninth and James Buescher comprised the remainder of the top-10.

Just three races remain on the 2013 NCWTS calendar. Next up is a return trip to the Lone Star State for some Friday night racing. The WinStar World Casino 350K is set for November 1, 2013 with live coverage on FOXSports 1, the Performance Racing Network and SiriusXM Satellite Radio (Channel 90).

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Editorial Trucks

Old School: Martinsville Truck Race is a Throwback to the Past

By Matt Weaver (MARTINSVILLE, Va.) – Today’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race from Martinsville Speedway is a snapshot of what the tour was always meant to be and should be once again.

NASCAR released the Truck Series schedule for next season on Friday with few changes and little fanfare. Sure the Mudsummer Classic at Eldora is back but Rockingham and Iowa Speedway have been replaced by New Hampshire and Gateway respectfully.

The vast majority of the schedule serves as Sprint Cup companion events. The only true short tracks on the schedule are two stops at Martinsville, the new stop at Gateway on June 14 and Bristol. The only standalone dates are Gateway, Eldora and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.

This wasn’t always the case when the tour was first conceived.

The Super Truck Series — as it was called back then — was designed to be a throwback to a bygone era. Races were held at venues like Louisville, Milwaukee and Evergreen. The original scheduled featured 15 short tracks, two road courses and three superspeedways.

Pit stops on the tour were abandoned in lieu of a halfway break that was designed to place an emphasis solely on the driving talent and the racing product. More to the point, it provided a link between short track Late Model racing and the Sprint Cup Series — all while maintaining its own “tough truck” identity and personality.

Today the Truck Series has no such personality. Its character is dependent on the Cup venue it travels to and how many of their stars attend the race.

And the sheer number of events that now take place on a Cup weekend only dilutes from the bigger show on Sunday. It all blends together and only the stars on the Cup tour benefit from the NASCAR spotlight.

So let’s celebrate Martinsville as the last link to the Truck Series of yesterday. While this is still a Cup Series companion event, it also remains a popular place for Late Model prospects to make their debut. Today’s race alone will see the debut of Daniel Hemric and John Hunter Nemechek.

And while Denny Hamlin — a Sprint Cup invader — is on the pole, a host of short track aces including Hemric, Jeff Agnew, Chase Elliott and Max Gresham are waiting in the background to catch him.

Unfortunately, the background is where these could-be stars have remained for much of the past decade as the development tours have been  homogenized into the larger Sprint Cup system. And while a return to short track racing may not increase the tour’s viability, it will give it the personality and identity that it lost a decade ago.

Today’s race at Martinsville will make that more clear than ever before.

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NASCAR Cup Series Trucks

Opportunity Knocks for Hamlin at Martinsville

By Matt Weaver (MARTINSVILLE, Va.) – Denny Hamlin is in need of good vibrations and felt them when qualifying on the pole for Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Martinsville Speedway.

The Virginia half-mile could provide a double-dose of opportunity for Denny Hamlin to erase some of the frustrations that have surrounded him for much of the season. His struggles have been well-documented, from the fractured back that sidelined him for four races this spring to the competition woes that have followed him ever since.

It’s been especially frustrating because the No. 11 team never seemed to find the rhythm that their teammates secured — and the injury to Hamlin didn’t help. And since his return, the numbers haven’t improved either as Hamlin has scored only four top-10s while dodging questions over his health and medical decisions.

A return to Martinsville seems to be exactly what the Virginia-native needed to right the ship and make the best of what has been a difficult summer.

And with him scoring the pole for Sunday’s Cup race, Hamlin now has two plausible shots to earn his first NASCAR victory of the season as he is also competing in the Camping World Truck Series race on Saturday afternoon.

He’s also coming off several strong races that has his confidence soaring.

“We ran top-10 the previous two or three races before that before blown engines or what have you — running out of gas and some other challenges that we’ve had,” Hamlin said. “It’s been super tough on us and it will make you stronger in the end and obviously, if we could get a win this weekend by no means will it fix or make us feel good about our year, but it will definitely give us something to smile about in the off-season.”

Hamlin’s first shot at Victory Lane will come on Saturday as he will drive for Kyle Busch Motorsports in the Truck Series — where he has won the previous two fall races at Martinsville. And in the Cup Series, Hamlin has become one of the top-five statistical certainties at the paperclip-shaped track.

In 15 Cup starts, Hamlin has amassed four victories and an average finish of 8.20. A fifth Cup Grandfather Clock trophy just may remove some of the lingering ghouls from his tumultuous season.

“It’s been a very trying year,” Hamlin said. “I guess that would probably be the key word to our year, but you’ve just got to suck it up and realize that we had seven great years and there’s a lot of great drivers that have missed the Chase once or twice or have gone winless throughout a season.”

So Hamlin isn’t looking to fix all the wrongs from this season but this weekend could go a long way in terms of seeing him regain the edge that will be needed for him to contend with next season looming over the horizon.

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Trucks

Rookies Shine in Truck Series

By Stephanie Adair – While Matt Crafton dominates the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series point standings, there is another title to be won. The series’ Rookie of the Year title, involving three up-and-coming drivers, is becoming a close battle as this season comes to an end. Ryan Blaney leads second-place Darrell Wallace Jr. by 12 points while Jeb Burton trails in third, 16 points behind the leader.

Jayski.com sites that the “Sunoco Rookie of the Year” candidates are awarded points based on entry, competition, top-10 bonus points, and voting panel points… points are awarded based on his/her best 14 events in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series”.

Points during competition are awarded based on the following criteria:

–          Attempting to qualify for a race earns the rookie one bonus point.

–          The highest-finishing rookie in each race earns 10 points, the second-highest will be given nine points, etc.

–          Bonus points are awarded for a top 10 finish. A rookie who wins a race is awarded 10 points, second place gets nine points, etc.

–          The “Sunoco Rookie of the Year” panel will meet during the final weekend of the season and reward favorable conduct in these categories: “conduct with NASCAR officials; conduct and awareness on track; personal appearances and relationship with the media. The panel rates each driver on a scale of 10 to one with 10 being the maximum.” The points will be averaged and added to their overall total respectively.

With four races to go Blaney who has lead the “Rookie of the Year” standings, for the past two months, may be in jeopardy of losing his position. Wallace Jr. has made an impressive surge posting three top 5s in the last six races. During last week’s race at Talladega Superspeedway, he was the highest finishing rookie placing 17th. Blaney recently had two top 10s; two of those finishes were 20th or worse. In a matter of a few races, the small points gap could disappear quickly.

However, don’t forget about the third place Jeb Burton. He currently sits only four points behind Wallace Jr. and has been very consistent all season. In the last five races, he has two top 10s and only one finish outside of the top 20. Burton could be considered as the “dark horse” in this competition. If the other two rookies find adversity in the next few races, he could be able to capitalize on it.

As the season comes to a close, wins would be most beneficial in each driver’s quest for the “Rookie of the Year” title. Blaney and Burton both have one win while Wallace Jr. has yet to visit Victory Lane this season. A win would gain a rookie at least ten points. If the two other competitors don’t finish well, he could take the title points lead.

The battle for the NCWTS Rookie of the Year, featuring three talented drivers of NASCAR’s future, has become a close competition. It may just end with a down-to-the-wire finish.

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Trucks

Crafting a Championship with Consistency

By Vito Pugliese – Last week, I surmised that if James Buescher was going to catch Matt Crafton for the 2013 Camping World Truck Series title, he’d need to make some serious hay while the sun was shining at Talladega. Crafton’s steady-as-she goes performance this year, finishing out of the Top 10 all of once (an 11th…what a bum…) so far this year, has made it difficult to make up any significant ground on him – and keep it. Would Talladega be where Buescher finally makes a race of the 2013 Championship?!

In short, no. Buescher was collected in a lap 79 crash that saw his No. 31 Rheem Silverado nose head-on into the backstretch wall, after Ron Hornaday tried to squeeze in under Justin Lofton exiting Turn Two. The resulting crash would relegated Buescher to 26th place, although he did lead 16 laps in the event, gaining him an extra point. Crafton escaped the last lap mele that saw Miguel Paludo get overturned and tumble into the wall, as well as Kyle Busch take a vicious hit into the one wall that is constructed of concrete, with nothing soft or SAFER about it.

Crafton is as Crafton does, escaping with a ninth place finish and a lap led. His 17th Top 10 of the year leaves him with a 57-point lead over Ty Dillon and 58 points over Buescher in third. The finish highlighted Ty Dillon’s 14th place finish despite 26th laps, and an opportunity lost to gain some points on the championship leader – as well as the last lap fracas at Mosport back on September 1st when he crashed on the final turn of the last lap while leading after contact with Chase Elliott sent him plowing into the tire barrier.

Heading into Martinsville this weekend, the future doesn’t look too promising for these two closest pursuers. Crafton finished second here earlier this year, while Buescher and Dillon were 14th and 18th respectively. Just as with Talladega anything can happen at Martinsville with a flat tire or getting nerfed out of the way can send you careening towards Clay Earles beautifully manicured bushes lining the turns. With four races remaining however those sorts of incidents are looking to be far and few between given Crafton’s consistency the past nine months, and begins to make the real challenger here the No. 88 ThorSport team themselves.

We’ve seen it before in motorsports and other sports in general: playing to not lose is what will get you beat. Look at the Detroit Tigers in Game 2 of the ALCS as recently as a week ago;  over-managing with a 4 run lead resulted in a grand slam by Big Papi, and a meltdown of epic proportions that erased a record setting pitching performance and likely cost Jim Leyland his job. I don’t believe things would be that dire within the ThorSport camp, but taking your foot off the gas this late in the game – terrible pun intended – can get you into trouble quicker than anything. I’m not so sure I see that happening with this bunch however. His run is eerily similar to that of Matt Kenseth’s 2003 Winston Cup Championship performance, where with but one win all season long, he drove the competition into submission with consistent finishes, smart strategy, and keeping his car in one piece.

While the title fight might not quite be over, the fat chick with the pipes might just be preparing a cup of chamomile tea, and ready to belt out a Whitney Houston-esque III-eee-III from, “I Will Always Love You” after a weekend of pink hot dogs, grandfather clocks, and freight trains.

 

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Trucks

Despite Crash, Crafton Pulls Away in CWTS Title Fight

By Kelly Crandall – Of the 100 scenarios that the Fred’s 250 at Talladega could have ended with Saturday afternoon, the most likeliest one, again, played out.

The leaders all crashed coming to the finish line, leaving Johnny Sauter unscathed for his third win of the season. Behind him carnage covered the track as 12 trucks were totaled when Miguel Paludo got into the back of Jeb Burton to start the chain of events.

In the grand scheme of things it didn’t make a dent. Matt Crafton leaves Alabama with his point lead still intact. Where he was sitting coming off turn four he possibly could have finished first or second, the worst perhaps sixth depending on how the draft went. Instead he was caught in the mess and finished ninth, but still extended his lead.

“I just can’t thank – Johnny (Sauter), everybody on this team, we just never give up. Had very, very slow trucks by ourselves, but when they locked it was game on,” Crafton said afterwards on working with his teammate. “It’s a shame that the 19 (Ross Chastain) – I don’t know why the 19 came up and got us in the left rear quarter panel. I don’t know if somebody hooked him and turned him. There at the end, I thought we were going to have something. I started to pull out and do something too there at the end.”

Crafton crossed the finish line while still spinning backwards. After having point raced all day, going back and forth through the field to avoid trouble, he was pushing his teammate on the final lap, ready to pounce at the right time.

“Absolutely, we were going to go for the win. That’s what they pay me for,” he said. “It was going to be side-by-side ThorSport finish, for sure.”

But when the carnage started, Chastain, who had been hit by Parker Kligerman, clipped Crafton. From there he was just along for the ride.

Yet Crafton’s last minute turn of fortune wasn’t enough for his competition to capitalize. He extended his point lead by over a full race on new second place in the standings, Ty Dillon. Heading to Martinsville Dillon trails by 57 points after finishing 14th.

The defending CWTS champion, James Buescher, had been sitting second coming into the day. But a hard crash on lap 79 ended his day early, he finished 26th and fell to third in points, 58 behind Crafton.

Buescher was one of the strongest trucks Saturday, drafting with another Chevrolet in Dillon. The two could go from the back to the front seemingly effortlessly. They led a combined 42 of 94 laps.

Crafton however, is in firm control of his own destiny with four races remaining in the 2013 season.

“This is a bittersweet finish. We had such a fast truck,” Dillon said. “The No. 3 Bass Pro Shops team worked really hard this weekend to give me a rocket ship. I hate that we lost our drafting partner (James Buescher). We worked really well together and could have been up there at the end to contend for the win. I just couldn’t get hooked back up with anyone to tandem back to the front in in the final laps.”

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

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Trucks

Kligermans Gives BRG the Ride of Their Lives at Talladega

By Kelly Crandall – The best Parker Kligerman was going to end up at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday afternoon was in Victory Lane.

The worst, possibly fifth the way he was sitting as the first part of the big wreck broke out on the last lap. Instead, Kligerman crashed with the rest of the leaders in the tri-oval, the second part of which he appeared to have triggered when he got into the back of Ross Chastain, who he was pushing at the time.

Through it all, Kligerman and his No. 20 Toyota from Bragg Racing Group came home fourth. It was the first race the team had run in the CWTS this season and for Kligerman, it was a top five finish after winning the event a year ago.

“I haven’t seen the replay, but first of all thanks for the opportunity by the Bragg Racing Group and George Bragg for giving me this chance to come out here and defend my victory from last year and I thought we had a good chance there,” Kligerman said after being released from the infield care center.

“When you’re that bottom tandem coming with three or two (laps) to go and you’ve already run a lap or two, you get so hot that the outside two tandems and the tandem behind you has the biggest run. I was trying to back Chastain and I saw the 4 (Jeb Burton) coming, so I knew we couldn’t so I just went for it and tried to push the 19 into the tri-oval.”

According to Kligerman he hit the apron, which then shot him back up into the field, starting the second half of the big wreck. He ended up stuck together with Dakota Armstrong and Chastain as they all crossed the finish line.

As ugly as it ended, it was a pretty day for BRG. The team comes out of Mississippi where they primarily run late models with Bragg’s son Josh. He’s won the track championship a few times at Mobile International Speedway as well a Pro Late Models championship. Saturday the youngest Bragg was the crew chief for Kligerman on a team so small that as pointed out on the national broadcast, they didn’t even have a TV in the pit box to keep track of the action.

There isn’t a fully operating website, either. Their Facebook page only has 269 likes and it doesn’t appear they have a Twitter account.

And the truck that made it to the track? It came from Kyle Busch Motorsports (whom Kligerman drives for in the Nationwide Series), purchased after Busch ran it in the season opening race at Daytona. It had a Joe Gibbs Racing engine under the hood.

Kligerman worked closely with Busch on Saturday, drafting with him and the two had been lined up together late in the going. BRG has run CWTS races before with Grant Enfinger and Rick Crawford but Saturday they came the closest to winning a race. Kligerman led five different times for 16 laps.

“Unfortunate, still think I got a top five. The cool thing is the Bragg’s are a Late Model group out of Alabama and we had four or five guys on our crew this weekend,” Kligerman said of the team he was driving for. “We went out and finished fourth against all these other top teams. It was a fun day.”

The BRG has aspirations of moving to the NASCAR levels on a full-time basis in the future. With more runs like Saturday, the little team that could might become the ones who did.

EMAIL KELLY AT kelly.crandall@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @KellyCrandall

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Trucks

Opinion: Trucks’ Plate Package is Best of Three Tours

By Matt Weaver (TALLADEGA, AL) – The Camping World Truck Series is the envy of the stock car restrictor plate racing world and features a format that the other two NASCAR national tours should dream of.

Restrictor plate racing will never be clean and the Fred’s 250 on Saturday served as a reminder to that fact. But the Trucks did provide the most satisfaction of any plate race in recent memory and mostly because it featured a combination of both the big pack and the tandems that have become more prevalent in recent seasons at Daytona and Talladega.

Event winner Johnny Sauter has raced under a variety of different plate packages during his 12-year NASCAR career and says the current format used in the Truck Series offers him the most options on the track.

“I’ve always loved plate racing so you’re not going to get me to say anything bad about it for sure,” Sauter said. “Last year, for whatever reason everyone seemed to stay more in line and with three to go Kligerman got shuffled out and I was sitting six or so back.

“I had nothing to lose so we did the tandem deal and I pushed him to the win… and everyone saw that there was speed in that, and today the guys that were pushing were making ground up.”

The problem with the current Sprint Cup Series plate package is that the cars are too bunched together and that typically only a single line can move at a time. This forces cars to go single-file for much the race — for upwards of 500 miles.

In the closing laps and off dangerous restarts, drivers are two-by-two and begin forcing the issue and the accident takes out over half the field more often than not.

The current Cup format also ensures that one driver can lead for a majority of the race and only lose the top spot on green flag pit stops or upon making a mistake on the restarts. Saturday’s Truck race made the leader a sitting duck, susceptible to those further back in the pack whom link up and charge to the front.

But once they get there, the charge typically placed the tandem too far out front and the pack would quickly catch them once the leaders disbanded.

The tandem-only format employed by the Cup Series for a few seasons is fun to watch but was mostly panned by the fans for making the passing random and too easy.

But Saturday’s race featured a little bit of everything.

The cars can’t link up for long or risk overheating, forcing them to quickly return to the pack. This made the decision of when to pull out and pair up an important part of the overall strategy and provided an entertaining race up until the carnage of the last lap.

Nothing can be done to eliminate the large multi-car accidents at Daytona and Talladega. It happened prior to the installation of restrictor plates. It happened afterwards and will happen again regardless of whether tandem is a part of the equation.

But with those factors under consideration, the Truck Series has the most entertaining flag-to-flag plate package of any of the three national tours and it’s a shame that we only see it twice a year.

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Trucks

Sauter Avoids Wild Wreck to Win Talladega Thriller

By Reid Spencer (NASCAR Wire Service) TALLADEGA, AL – His truck intact and headed in a straight line as most of the rest of the lead-lap trucks wrecked behind him, Johnny Sauter crossed the finish line first in Saturday’s Fred’s 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.

Behind Sauter—chaos. Coming to the checkered flag with a huge run through the tri-oval, Jeb Burton spun off the bumper of Miguel Paludo and flashed up the track into the Toyota of Kyle Busch, who was pushing Dakoda Armstrong toward the finish.

Paludo’s truck flipped over and slid on its roof down the frontstretch, spraying sparks as the metal scraped the asphalt. In the aftermath of the melee, Kyle Busch sat dazed—the wind knocked out of him—with his back against the concrete wall in the tri-oval.

Sauter was the clear winner, having escaped the last-lap crash to win for the third time this season and the ninth time in his career. When NASCAR sorted out the rest of the finishing order, David Starr took second place, followed by Ross Chastain, Parker Kligerman, Dakoda Armstrong and Timmy Hill.

Off the final corner, series leader Matt Crafton was pushing ThorSport Racing teammate Sauter, Busch was shoving Armstrong, and Kligerman was pushing Chastain. Those three tandems appeared ready to settle the issue between them, before Paludo and Burton entered the fray and tried to force their way through the trucks ahead of them.

Paludo and Burton, however, ran out of room, and every other potential winner but Sauter ran out of luck.

“When we just crested the tri-oval there coming to the start/finish line, I saw smoke and trucks spinning everywhere,” Sauter said. “I saw Matt was gone, and I was like, ‘Uh, oh, this isn’t good.’ It’s unfortunate. It would have been pretty cool to have a 1-2 finish, but what a great day for everybody at ThorSport.”

After exiting the infield care center, Busch talked ruefully about a great superspeedway truck that left the track on a wrecker.

“It’s all done for,” he said. “It’s unfortunate. The (truck) was really awesome. I don’t know what happened. Somebody just came up from underneath me and hit me, turned me left, and then the wreck was on.

“When you see the checkered flag, and you see things going in front of you, you just keep your foot on it. I drove it all the way to the start/finish. I guess I knocked the wall down there on pit road. That wasn’t very fun. There were a couple of really good licks that I took, so there’s no sense in sitting in a hot vehicle, you might as well get out and get some fresh air.”

Crafton, who finished ninth after spinning short of the stripe, expanded his series lead to 57 points over 14th-place finisher Ty Dillon.

Justin Lofton, who was involved in the last lap crashed was examined in the infield care center and transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.

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Trucks

Truck Series Title Contenders Take on Talladega

By Vito Pugliese – One of the most curious things about the Camping World Truck Series abbreviated 22 races schedule, are the large lapses of time between events, particularly in the midst of The Chase and the companion tracks that they compete at. After a four-week sabbatical, the Tailgaters are back at it this weekend at Talladega, as the companion event for Race No. 6 in the Chase. It also is the first of the final five races in the Truck Series to help decided the 2013 Championship – and Talladega unlike any other track is going to play a role in doing just that.

James Buescher currently trails points leader Matt Crafton by 41 points, after having gained points on Crafton in five of the last six races. Leaving Pocono this July, Buescher trailed Crafton by 64 points. He’s raced it down by only 17 points in the last four months in part to Crafton’s knack for eeking out Top 10 finishes. The last race at Las Vegas was Crafton’s first non-Top 10 of the season – an 11th place run – with bonus points for leading the most laps; essentially giving him 9th place points.

For shame.

That being said if Buescher is really going to get a shot at it, he needs to gain a big chunk of points quickly, and Talladega sets the stage for that to happen. Talladega isn’t exactly Crafton’s cup of tea. In seven races there he’s finished 18th three times, 16th, 10th, with a worst finish of 31st, and a best run of 4th back in 2010. Beuscher’s stats are much more promising for the challenger; he’s finished third the past two seasons, a sixth, and a 15th. A pole in 2011 speaks more to the speed within the truck, but keep in mind he also was in a position to win the Daytona Nationwide race in 2012 – and did just that.

Considering how Crafton has run average at best at Talladega, while Buescher has been in a position to win, let’s surmise that Buescher wins this weekend, leads the most laps, while Crafton leads one lap, and comes home 15th. Buescher would leave Talladega trailing by 17 points – exactly the amount he’s gained on Crafton since leaving Pocono in July. That would have the defending Truck Series champion 24 points behind, a margin that would certainly be a deficit that would be deemed raceable over the last four events, putting some added pressure on the points leader and the team. Truck Series races aren’t that long, so it raises the level of competition and preparation that much more, to avoid a poor pit stop, mechanical issues, contact that can cut tires, and make “milking it” less of an option.

Which is all well and good, until there’s a 20 truck pile up, and one or both of these two are involved.

Should Buescher suffer a points loss of 15-20 markers, that would pretty much seal the deal for Crafton with four to go after Talladega, barring a major mechanical failure (i.e., engine parts exiting block), or a flat tire the following week at Martinsville, which can see a team go two-three laps down pretty quick. If Buescher is not able to pick up major points this week or next given Crafton’s consistency that is bordering on the absurd, and to the level of remarkability last seen in NASCAR during Jeff Gordon’s 2007 season that saw him rattle off 30 Top 10 finishes – albeit to a second place points finish given the Chase format.

So after crunching all the numbers and weighing the different scenarios…. I’m just ready to get things rolling. Talladega is what I’ve always deemed a Holiday Race. Regardless of the season, points, standings, whatever, there’s a handful of tracks each year that everyone circles on their calendars: Daytona, Indy, Bristol, Martinsville, and Talladega. With the season potentially hinging on this weekend, it takes on even greater importance.