By Brian Smith
For a while, it looked like the winner of the Lucas Oil 200 was going to be whichever truck managed to survive 200 laps around the Monster Mile. Eventually, things calmed down – but still, only nine of the 32 cars that started Friday’s “Lucas Oil 200” NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Dover International Speedway were on the lead lap at the end of it.
Three of those cars provided a rather exciting finish to the evening, and it ended up being Tyler Reddick driving to the checkered flag at the end of a crash-filled affair. Reddick passed Erik Jones in turn three with seven laps remaining and opened up a lead of just over a second by the time the race concluded. Jones’s Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Daniel Suarez also caught him, and ended up finishing second, while Jones was third.
“We worked really hard Thursday to better our truck, and overnight we put together a better package for Friday, and it was just really solid,” Reddick said. “I knew we had a top-five truck starting the race. It’s a good way to get the season going for us.”
It was the second win of the season for Reddick, but afterwards the driver and his crew chief Doug Randolph lauded it as a team effort. Teammate Ryan Blaney had done quite well on Thursday and set a track record on Friday in qualifying for the pole, and his input helped Reddick’s team set themselves up for a better day.
“It was definitely a full organization effort,” Randolph said. “We weren’t as good as we thought we should be in practice. Our teammate was really good and we leaned on them overnight, and it helped us a lot. It was a crazy race today. There were so many cautions, so many pit strategies. Halfway through we made a decision to try to get some track position and hope the race played out a certain way, and luckily for us it did.”
The crazy race included eight cautions for 41 laps, and six of those eight cautions made up 30 of the first 79 laps. It started 15 laps in, when Jennifer Jo Cobb spun in front of Reddick on the front stretch and hit the wall. She was none too pleased with Reddick, letting him know on two consecutive laps before finally departing with the medical crews.
A single-car spin on lap 28 was followed by a five-car wreck on lap 34, and six more cars found problems in five separate incidents between laps 48 and 142.
The final 60 laps of the race ran clean though, and it was at that point that Jones arrived on the scene. A call to take just two tires sent him out of that caution period with the lead, and he held onto it for almost enough time – but the race slipped away with seven miles to go.
“The last three weeks it just hasn’t worked out for us,” Jones said. “But we didn’t have a shot to win before we came in and took two tires. We came out on the restart and got the lead, but we just didn’t have enough tire there at the end.”
A particularly frustrating aspect for Jones is that he’s led more than half the total laps in the last three Camping World Truck Series races, but none of them have been the final lap.
“Being that close to a win three weeks in a row, it’s just tough to swallow,” Jones said. “It’s a bummer for this race team. We’ve been so fast and we haven’t had any wins to show for it.”
Daniel Hemric finished fourth, an impressive feat considering his 19th-place starting position. Ben Kennedy also rose considerably, starting 18th and finishing sixth. In between was Matt Crafton, who finished fifth on his own version of a frustrating day. He was slated to re-start third after that final caution on lap 140, but he was caught speeding on pit road and had to restart well out of the top 10. The two-time series champion retained his current points lead, but now sits just 11 points ahead of Reddick and 14 ahead of Jones.
The race ran at an average speed of 102.990 MPH and took just over an hour and 56 minutes to complete. There were 15 lead changes among eight drivers; Custer led five times for 67 laps, which was the race high.