By Brian Smith
When it comes to NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races at Dover International Speedway, Kyle Busch is quite familiar with being out front. And the Friday, May 30 “Lucas Oil 200” race was no exception.
Busch was out front for much of the race’s 200 laps, but was challenged steadily by Matt Crafton through the first 156 laps. But with 43 laps to go, Crafton found the wall in a wreck and Busch drove to his fourth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win at Dover, a record at the track.
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Busch finished 2.123 seconds ahead of Ryan Blaney to stay perfect on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season – he’s won all four races he’s entered. He picked up his third win in the last four years here at Dover, leading 153 laps in the process, and his 39th NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win. He had started from the pole, which was determined by owner’s points after Thursday’s qualifying was rained out.
“We had a really good truck,” Busch said. I think it stems off last year and maybe a little bit the year before too of just working on our stuff and trying to make it faster. Our guys have prepared some really cool trucks to drive. Our trucks were really good on the long runs, and other guys would kind of start slipping and sliding around a little bit.”
Busch led the last 80 laps, including through two caution periods. The last one ended with 20 laps to go. Five laps into that run, Ryan Blaney passed Johnny Sauter for second place but couldn’t catch Busch.
“We were able to kind of work our way to the front and everybody did a good job on pit road all day,” Blaney said. “With about 50 or 60 to go we had a pit stop and had a loose left-rear wheel, and fortunately we caught it before we went back green. Then we had a caution about 20 laps later and we were able to start sixth and get to work from there. But I don’t think anybody was going to catch [Busch]. He was something else. Hopefully we can learn what they’re doing in [Busch’s] camp and apply that week in and week out.”
The Monster Mile was chewing up and spitting out trucks from the very start. There were three cautions within the race’s first 25 laps. Mason Mingus was the first to lose control on lap 6. Justin Jennings hit the wall on lap 17 and Bryan Silas spun out on lap 23.
After that, the remaining trucks settled down, and Busch started driving by people like he was speeding down the left lane on the interstate. All was well until he pulled down pit road to stop under green on lap 75 and before he could, Brennan Newbury spun down the frontstretch and hit the inside wall. Busch had to keep going and head around again before he could actually take his stop.
Because of that, Busch had to restart eighth. He was back in third within five laps, but appeared to be content staying there behind points leader Crafton and Blaney, who were running first and second, respectively. He maybe had a bit of concern about driving in traffic, but not much.
“These things are a little more aero-sensitive than last year’s trucks,” Busch said. “They’re fun to drive, but they’re a challenge to drive, especially here.”
Unlike some previous races at Dover over all three of NASCAR’s top series, that was the worst luck Busch had all day. At lap 120, he reeled in Crafton and went back in front after the defending series champion had led 46 laps.
Busch continued to run up front under green until lap 134, when Cole Custer, who hadn’t gotten his truck full of fuel at the previous pit stop, ran out of it. Busch maintained his lead through the stop, and took off ahead of the pack with 63 laps to go.
Other than the time Busch was running third, Crafton was the only one who was able to get within a second of him. But on lap 157, Crafton’s right-front tire went down and he slammed into the Turn 2 wall. Before Friday, he’d posted six straight top 10 finishes at Dover, and had finished 47 consecutive NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races.
Sauter, Brandon Jones and Joey Coulter rounded out the top five, with John Hunter Nemechek, Ben Kennedy, Tyler Reddick, German Quiroga, Jr. and Peters making up the remainder of the top 10.
“They’ve just got fast trucks right now,” Sauter said. “Kyle’s a great driver, we all know that. But we also know that he’s not unbeatable. We’ve got some work to do, and I’m pretty confident that we can catch him.”
Peters, who came into the race second in the points, wasn’t able to take full advantage of Crafton’s misfortune as he started running off the pace with about 10 laps to go. Only seven of the 35 cars that started the race finished on the lead lap.