When James Buescher was forced to pit to change carburetors during the course of Saturday night’s American Ethanol 225, any chance of winning appeared lost, especially when he got back on track two laps down.
Buescher not only made up those two laps, he needed just one lap –- the final one –- to grab the lead and go on to win his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series-leading third race of the season at Chicagoland Speedway.
Leading just six laps in the entire event, Buescher passed points leader Timothy Peters and then held off Brendan Gaughan, who led 83 of the 150 laps, to win his second race in the last three events.
“We had issues early on where we kept losing power, so we decided to pit, changed the carburetor and the car came to life,” Buescher said. “From there, it was a matter of getting our laps back and going forward from there.”
And then, with a smile on his face, Buescher added, “We just had to pass 20 other trucks to win.”
Gaughan was looking to get his first Trucks win in nearly nine years, and it appeared he would do just that, given how strong he and his Chevrolet truck looked early on. After spinning his tires on a late restart, he valiantly rallied from sixth to settle for second place.
“I think about not winning (since 2003) every single day,” Gaughan said. “I thought tonight might finally be our night. But still, to run the way we did, and the great equipment Richard Childress gave us, this was really a great run, especially since we’re only racing a part-time schedule.”
Rather than risk wrecking on the final lap, points leader Peters wisely played it safe, finishing third. Matt Crafton finished fourth and Parker Kligerman rounded out the top 5.
“We did the right thing, used the right strategy and padded our points lead,” Peters said. “You can’t ask for much more than that – other than winning.”
Rounding out the top 10 were Cale Gale, Ron Hornaday Jr, Jason Leffler, Jason White and David Starr.
With six laps left, pole-sitter Justin Lofton slammed into the outside wall, bringing out the final caution of the race, setting up a shootout to the checkered flag between Peters and Buescher.
Gaughan, starting only his fourth NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race of the season, was hoping for his first NCWTS win since Oct. 11, 2003 at Texas Motor Speedway, his sixth triumph of that season. Unfortunately, he would come up short, extending his current winless streak to 130 races.
Bryan Silas’ spin on lap 8 brought out the first caution flag, right after Miguel Paludo and Ron Hornaday Jr. got together. Paludo bounced off Hornaday and slapped the wall, damaging the right side of his Silverado and forcing him to pit for right-side tires.
Eight laps later, although there was no resulting caution, Johnny Sauter bounced into Nelson Piquet Jr., causing heavy damage that cost Piquet a number of laps on pit road as the damage was repaired.
After getting back on the track, Piquet was forced back to pit road when the splitter on his truck snapped off, prompting a replacement and eventually causing him to miss 36 of the first 75 laps.
On Lap 45, Jason Leffler missed his pit box, forcing him to go all the way around the 1.5-mile track. Then to make matters worse, Leffler’s crew struggled to perform necessary service. As a result, Leffler went from being a top-five truck prior to his mistake to nearly two laps down.
Others also suffered pit stop mishaps, most notably drivers having issues finding their appropriate pix box, including series veterans Todd Bodine and Ron Hornaday Jr.
The yellow caution flag came out for a second time on lap 71 for debris. On the resulting pit stop, Gaughan came in only for fuel, allowing him to retain his lead over the rest of the field.
When Jennifer Jo Cobb brought out the caution flag for the third time due to a single truck spin, Buescher was forced to pit for a lengthy stop as his team replaced a faulty carburetor.
Chris Fontaine brought out the fourth caution of the race with 51 laps remaining following a solo spin.
Joey Coulter had one of the fastest trucks throughout the two practice sessions, qualified on the outside pole and remained in the top five for much of the first two-thirds of the race, but got caught up in a wreck with 44 laps left. His crew quickly repaired the damage and got him back on track (in 18th position) without losing a lap.
Four drivers were sent to the back of the field to start the race: Parker Kligerman and Chad McCumbee, both for adjustments after impound, and points leader Timothy Peters for and engine change and Johnny Sauter for missing the pre-race drivers meeting.
Several drivers reached significant milestones in their respective careers:
–Just one lap before halfway through the 150-lap event, four-time series champion Hornaday became the second driver in NCWTS history to complete 50,000 laps in his career. Hornaday finished 6th.
–Todd Bodine, who made his 200th series start, became the first driver to earn at least 200 starts in each of NASCAR’s three premier series: NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Truck Series, finished 18th.
–David Starr became the fifth driver in series history to reach 300 starts. Starr finished 10th.