Podcast #119 — Hamlin once again king of Pocono

Show notes

Recap: Gander RV 400

  • Hamlin gets some revenge and wins.
  • Kurt Busch and Ricky Stenhouse get in Twitter Beef
  • Bubba and Suarez argue postrace
  • Bubble Drivers 
    • 13. Erik Jones 559
    • 14. Kyle Larson 557
    • 15. Clint Bowyer 532
    • 16. Ryan Newman 532
    • ——–
    • 17. Jimmie Johnson 520
    • 18. Daniel Suarez 501
    • 19. Paul Menard 464
    • 20. Ricky Stenhouse 444

Do We Care?

  • XXX 

News Items: 

Preview: Go Bowling at the Glen

  • Picks
    • James: Erik Jones
    • Eric: Kyle Busch

Dark Horse

    • Eric: Ryan Newman
    • James: Matt Dibenedetto

Preview: Eldora Dirt Derby from Eldora Speedway

  • Picks
    • Eric: Stewart Friesen
    • James: Ross Chastain
  • Shoutouts if any
    • XXX

Fantasy League Update

Close show 

  • Where can we be found on social media?
  • James @jameskuch on Twitter
  • Eric @TSuperspeedway on Twitter
  • Facebook: Facebook.com/TheSuperSpeedway

 For more of the podcast:

  • Website address: www.thesuperspeedway.com
  • Podcasts will be found on there as well. 
  • Find us on iTunes, Google Play and Soundcloud

Become a Patron at www.patreon.com/thesuperspeedway

Podcast #118 — Harvick holds off Hamlin for first 2019 win

Show notes:

Recap: Foxwoods Resort Casino 301

  • Kevin Harvick outduels Hamlin
    • Harvick’s first win of the season.
    • Hamlin and Kyle Busch led 231 laps
  • 750hp still > 550hp – Discuss
  • Bowman wrecks everything
  • Bubble Drivers
    • 13. Kyle Larson 519
    • 14. Erik Jones 516
    • 15. Ryan Newman 509
    • 16. Clint Bowyer 505
    • ——–
    • 17. Jimmie Johnson 488
    • 18. Daniel Suarez 488
    • 19. Paul Menard 445
    • 20. Ricky Stenhouse 428

Do We Care?

  • We should put the Front Row Pit crew swap here

News Items: 

Preview: Gander RV 400

  • Pocono is putting PJ1 down in the turns this weekend in an attempt to create more than one groove.
  • Radio-Style broadcast returns for NBC
  • Picks
    • Eric: Erik Jones
    • James: Kyle Larson

Dark Horse

    • James: Ryan Newman
    • Eric: William Byron
  • Shoutouts if any
    • XXX

Fantasy League Update

Close show 

  • Where can we be found on social media?
  • James @jameskuch on Twitter
  • Eric @TSuperspeedway on Twitter
  • Facebook: Facebook.com/TheSuperSpeedway

 For more of the podcast:

Podcast #117 — Kurt Busch beats Kyle Busch in battle of the brothers at Kentucky

Show notes:

Recap: Quaker State 400

    • Kurt Busch wins the battle of the Buschs
    • Kyle said he didn’t have any hard feelings after the race, but he did have a little punishment for Kurt

 

  • Audio (1:35) Kyle Busch Postrace

 

    • Kurt Busch talked about the last laps in his postrace press conference, starting with a question about the tire rub with a lap to go. 

 

  • Audio (2:21) Kurt Busch Postrace

 

    • We know what we know
      • SHR issues on race day
      • DON’T USE THIS WEEK: The 19 team can’t be a championship favorite. 
        • Average results on this track type. Flatter banking 1.5 to 2.0 ovals. 
          • Fontana – 8th, Texas – 12th, Kansas – 19th, Chicago – 9th, Kentucky 19th. 
    • Erik Jones’s third-place finish moved him into the top-16 in points and on the bubble. I had a chance after the race to ask him what his strategy will be going forward. 

 

  • Audio (0:29) Erik Jones postrace

 

    • Cole Custer
      • He IS the championship favorite.
    • Eric’s Experience from the weekend
      • Friday after practice some of the Cup drivers had media availability and one of those was Ryan Newman. I wanted to ask him how he was working the strategy being that he was on the bubble for the playoffs, but someone else beat me to it, and it led to some funny answers from Newman

 

  • Audio (1:53) Ryan Newman Racing Hard

 

      • Clint Bowyer is always interesting. I didn’t ask him any questions, but before his qualifying run, he came over and was chatting with reporters. First he was messing with Bob Pockrass a bit. 

 

  • Audio (1:14) Clint Messing with Bob

 

      • Next someone asked him where the best grip was on the track, and he of course had a funny answer. 

 

  • Audio (1:38) Clint Re Best Grip

 

      • One of the photographers posted something on Twitter Thursday night during the truck race praising Bubba Wallace for shooting photos during the race. I hung out after his qualifying run to ask him about that, and got to ask him a couple other questions as well. 

 

  • Audio (1:28) Bubba and Eric

 

      • Next the conversation turned to throwing the football with fans at Daytona, and Claire B. Lang had a question about that. 

 

  • Audio (1:10) Bubba Re Football

 

Do We Care?

  • Glampground

News Items: 

 

  • Audio (0:53) Christopher Bell

 

Preview: Foxwoods Resort Casino 301 from New Hampshire Motor Speedway

  • Picks
    • James: Kevin Harvick
    • Eric: Kyle Larson

Dark Horse

    • Eric: Ryan Newman
    • James: Daniel Suarez
  • Shoutouts if any
    • James: Three Wide Life Show
    • Racing Electronics LEGEND
    • Age Filter Twitter

Fantasy League Update

Close show 

  • Where can we be found on social media?
  • James @jameskuch on Twitter
  • Eric @TSuperspeedway on Twitter
  • Facebook: Facebook.com/TheSuperSpeedway

 For more of the podcast:

Kurt Busch outduels his brother Kyle to win Quaker State 400

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart

Kurt Busch, driver of the #1 Monster Energy Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag ahead of Kyle Busch, driver of the #18 M&M’s Toyota Camry Toyota, to win the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 Presented by Walmart at Kentucky Speedway on July 13, 2019 in Sparta, Kentucky. Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

By Eric Young

SPARTA, Ky. — A late-race caution turned into a battle of the brothers as Kurt and Kyle Busch dueled during an over-time finish at Kentucky Speedway Saturday night with the elder brother, Kurt, coming out on top and claiming his 31st career victory. 

“What an amazing finish to have it go our way right there,” Kurt said in the media center after the race. “It’s amazing what happened for us to have that restart, and have Kyle Larson behind me in the sixth position. The spotter said, ‘Teammate’s going with you.’ And I’m like, ‘Well, is he really?’ And he did, and he did a phenomenal job, and I didn’t have to look in the mirror, and all I had to do was play offense out in front of me. And what a battle. What a battle with my little brother, to race him side-by-side. To try to play the chess game and 180 miles an hour on the side draft. We’re wide open through turns one and two, and we were trying to go wide open through three and four, and it was a matter of me just staying as close as I could to his right rear quarter panel, because he was on my left rear down the straightaway. I had to be on his right rear in the corners.”

Kurt said as he drove into turn three on the final lap, he focused on Kyle’s door. 

“I could see the number 18 in my left, and I never lifted until I heard him lift,” Kurt said. :And then I’m like, wait a minute, I still have to miss the wall. And he gave me just enough room, as a true racer would. Or as my little brother would.”

Kurt said he was proud to finish the race one-two with Kyle. 

“Put on one hell of a show, one of those old-school-type races where two guys duking it out just happen to be brothers, different manufacturers. But this one I can’t wait to go watch the video of and tell people about it and show people the sport of NASCAR and the production and the pride that everybody has to try to get to victory lane was shown in those last few laps.”

Kyle said it was unfortunate to come up just a bit short at the end. 

“I got him cleared by just a little bit into three, and I think I could have slid up in front of him, but I think if I did I would have knocked the wall down on the exit,” Kyle said. “It was just going to be carrying too much speed for how bad my front tires were and how tight I was. So we just didn’t quite make the right adjustments there through the final pit stop, putting right side tires on it, we got way too tight.”

Kyle lost the lead to Joey Logano a few laps before the final caution, which came out when Darrell Wallace Jr. spun in turn two. He said it was that tightness that cost him then as well. 

“That’s what lost us the race with the 22,” Kyle said. “22 got us, we were going to lose anyway, so at least I salvaged the same place that we would have finished anyways.”

Logano was unable to salvage a similar finish, going from the lead to a finish of seventh in the final two laps. 

“The caution came out at the wrong time,” he said. “It happens. You try to think through your notebook on how to have a good restart. I thought I was going to have a decent one but I got stopped on the left rear there when Kyle got into me. That is what it is. That stopped all my momentum. The 1 had a huge run and I didn’t have anywhere to go. I couldn’t block them all. I tried to stop the 18 on his right rear by side-drafting. I saw the 1 coming and felt like if I could get in front of him that we were so low at the time if I blocked the 1, he would just go to the middle and pass me. I felt like I couldn’t stop the 1. I was in a bad spot. Once I got stopped on the left rear on the restart, I was a sitting duck and they just went by me on both sides.”

Logano said he thought it was a good race for the fans. 

“Yeah, it was a great race,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. You had strategy and a lot of cautions. You had probably the best Kentucky race we’ve ever had. Even down to that last bit, I think if I was a race fan I’d say that it was a good finish. Maybe I’m a little too close to the fire to say that it was a good finish right now.”

Erik Jones was able to bring his car home third and called it a “solid day.”

“The car was good until the end,” he said. “We got a little tight, but overall we had a positive day and you can’t take a whole lot away from that.”

Jones said on the final restart, he needed some help to have a chance at the win. 

“I needed a mistake from somebody or a really good restart,” he said. “And we got a really good restart, we just didn’t quite get cleared. I had to be really patient getting into three on the bottom. I didn’t want to get loose and get up into those guys, but getting behind Kyle and Kurt, if somebody made a mistake, I was just trying to stay at bay and hoping in three and four they would wash up and I would get a chance to sneak by. But they’re good drivers. They’re incontrol, they know what they’re doing, and they kept it clean and kept it straight.”

Jones said he was hoping the two would get together and take each other out. 

“Oh for sure, I think any racer would have been in my spot,” he said. “You want that win. And I knew there wasn’t enough time and I didn’t have the car to do it against them. And I needed a situation where they were going to move out of my way and they tried. They definitely tried to. But we just didn’t quite get there.”

Kyle Larson has had an up and down season, but followed his teammate’s victory with a fourth-place finish at Kentucky. He was asked if there was a rivalry between he and Kurt about who would get to victory lane first. 

“I pushed him to the win, so I wouldn’t say there was a rivalry at all,” Larson said. “We’re teammates, so I think we both want to see each other succeed.”

He then acknowledged there might be a slight rivalry there. 

“I won the All Star race, so I beat him to victory lane,” Larson said. 

Denny Hamlin rounded out the top five Saturday night. 

“Yeah, we definitely had a fast car — a car that was fast enough to run up there with those guys, but obviously going to the back of the pack there with 80 to go was detrimental to try to win the race. We had to make a call with no tires there and we didn’t gain track position. We had worse tires than everyone around us and still was able to come up fifth, so pretty happy with that effort. We have fast cars every week. As long as we have a clean race, we have chances to win and we just can’t have the penalties that we have and wrecks that we’ve had. It’s just a combination of things where we’re really, really close.”

After the race, Kyle Busch said there were no hard feelings with the way Kurt raced him.

“No hard feelings,” Kyle said. “That was fine. It was good. He’s got to find his own ride home because I’m not waiting for him.”

Kurt was asked in the media center what his brother had said to him postrace. 

“I haven’t seen him yet, but I was supposed to fly home with him and now I’m looking for a plane ride,” Kurt said, laughing. “So that’s Kyle. Wouldn’t even wait. We shared a plane ride earlier this year, I think it was Phoenix, where he won, and I had to sit there and wait for him to do his whole victory lane.”

But Kurt said he’ll get him back Sunday. 

“We’re going over to his house tomorrow for a little get together on a Sunday off, and I’m going to plop the trophy right down on his kitchen counter,” he said, smiling.

There were 15 lead changes among 10 drivers Saturday night, with Kyle leading the most at 72 laps. Daniel Suarez led 52 before having issues on pit road. Kurt led 41 and Clint Bowyer 40.

There were seven cautions for 35 laps. 

Look for a full recap of Saturday’s race later this week on The SuperSpeedway Podcast, as well as a preview of the upcoming weekend at New Hampshire.

Truex looks to go back to back to back at Kentucky Speedway Saturday night

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart

Martin Truex Jr., driver of the #78 Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Quaker State 400 presented by Walmart at Kentucky Speedway on July 14, 2018 in Sparta, Kentucky. Photo by Sarah Crabill/Getty Images

By Eric Young

SPARTA, Ky. — The past couple years, Speedway Motorsports Inc. could have named Kentucky Speedway Martin Truex Jr. Speedway. 

Truex has led 326 of 541 laps of the 2017 and 2018 editions of the Quaker State 400 en route to the victory in both races. He had the fourth-best average finish of 10.1 of active drivers at the track, having competed in all eight races at the speedway. 

And while Truex is certainly a favorite Saturday night at Kentucky, this isn’t the same Kentucky Speedway that we’ve seen in recent years. Combined with a new aero package this season and reduced horsepower, NASCAR has also applied traction compound to the outer grooves in the turns in an attempt to widen out the racing area. 

Truex qualified eighth for Saturday’s race. He said the changes have definitely made the team have to change directions a bit. 

“Definitely a lot on our mind coming here just because of this year and what it’s been all about,” Truex said. “It’s so different. I think back to the last couple of years and we’ve really been able to kind of come in here with the same strategy, mindset, setup and look for the same things throughout the weekend. Now, with the new cars this year and PJ1 on the track, all those things, different tires, it’s quite a bit different. We didn’t have a great day of practice. Hopefully we’ll make some good changes for the race. It’s tough these days when you come with a new package you don’t get a lot of practice, so we were off quite a bit to start and playing a little bit of catchup now.”

But Truex said he always welcomes new challenges. 

“I think that’s one of the most unique parts about our sport and what we do as drivers and teams,” he said. “This stuff is always changing. You could win four or five races in a row or whatever, and you go to a different race track and you’ve got a new challenge. They change the tires all the time. The rules of the cars are changing all the time. I would say that all the top drivers are consistently working on how they drive the cars and how do they do better? How can you be better because everybody is doing that? It’s a huge challenge to try to stay near the top of this sport and that’s part of what makes it fun.”

He said Friday that the verdict was still out on what the traction compound would do for tonight’s race. NASCAR threw another loop to teams early Saturday by reapplying the compound to the turns. 

“Based on watching the truck race, it looked like in three and four there were some options,” Truex said. “One and two, I think it’s just you’ve got so much banking and so much more speed that running higher is just the longer way around and we’re already using so much throttle through the corners that you just lose time. It kind of felt that way again today for us.”

“It’ll be interesting to see how much it changes at nighttime,” Truex said. “Is it going to grip up a lot or what’s going to happen there Is the bottom going to be better than it was today? Still a lot of questions. I would say in general, I didn’t think the PJ1 felt as sticky as I expected it to be. I expected it would be really no chance at all in running the bottom and everybody would be in the sticky stuff. But it seemed like there was a mixed bag, so that’s always a good thing I think.”

Custer, Bell dominate Xfinity race at Kentucky, Custer comes out on top

NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco 300

Cole Custer, driver of the #00 Haas Automation Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco 300 at Kentucky Speedway on July 12, 2019 in Sparta, Kentucky. Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

By Eric Young

SPARTA, Ky. — Friday night’s race at Kentucky Speedway was mostly a three-car race, with Cole Custer earning his fifth win of the 2019 season, leading 88 of the 200 laps and holding off Christopher Bell after green flag pit stops in the final stage. 

“This one just goes out to my team,” Custer said in victory lane. “The car was unbelievable at the end. They knew exactly what to do with it when the track changed, and I was just lucky to drive it there at the end.”

Custer said with the application of the traction compound this year, it presented a new challenge and made it almost like a new track. 

“I think the track was a lot different this year, so I kind of almost had to relearn it a bit,” Custer said. “So I think I got better and better as the race went on, got more comfortable with it, and I think the track changed a lot also, and I think Mike (Shiplett, crew chief) did a good job just keeping up with that, knowing what was going to happen.”

Custer said he is becoming more comfortable as one of the top contenders. 

“I think so for sure,” he said. “It just comes with experience, doing it more and more. You build that experience obviously and that confidence. It’s just something that comes with time, I guess. Obviously you have to have the car to do it, and we had a great car tonight. I just can’t thank all my guys enough. 

Bell dominated the early part of the race, leading 72 laps and winning the first two stages of the race. But despite closing the gap during green flag pit stops, Bell was unable to catch Custer to race him for the win during the final stage. 

“We were really good early and my car felt really good late, we just got beat,” Bell said. “Probably just got a little bit too comfortable there, a little bit too tight. We just have to work on a couple things and we’ll come back and get this Ruud Supra in victory lane.”

Bell told his crew before the pit stop at the stage break that his car was tight, but he didn’t want to adjust it and go too far. In the end, that might have been what cost him the race. 

“I’m not going to say we got worse,” he said. “My car was really good. Probably just got a little too comfortable there, a little bit too tight. We just have to work on a coupel things and we’ll come back and get this Ruud Supra in victory lane.”

The two also contended with challenges from Brandon Jones, fresh off a strong performance the night before in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race before being involved in an accident. Jones likely would have been part of the battle at the end, but engine trouble forced him out of the race. 

“A lot of smoke in the cab,” Jones said. “I couldn’t really get the motor over 7,000 RPMs, so kind of a telltale sign for me that the motor was letting go there at the end. That’s twice this weekend that we’ve been leading the race and something has taken us out — whether it’s been mechanical or an incident on the track. What are you going to do? We’ve been running first both races this week and that’s what we’ve got to do, at least on my behalf.”

“I hate it,” Jones said. “We had Menards and we had Swiffer on the car this weekend. It was going great for us. I think we had the car to win the race tonight. But all in all, these guys worked really hard and I think they’re all behind me and we’re going to get this thing figured out.”

The entire final stage ran caution free, and with the fast pace set by Custer, only five cars remained on the lead lap at the conclusion. Tyler Reddick came home third, Michael Annett had another strong performance finishing fourth, and Chase Briscoe finished fifth after leading 14 laps. 

There were 13 lead changes among eight drivers and five cautions for 24 laps. The Xfinity Series next heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway July 20 for the Roxor 200.

Christopher Bell hopes Kentucky can translate to another victory

NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco 300

Christopher Bell, driver of the #20 Rheem Toyota, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning during the NASCAR Xfinity Series Alsco 300 at Kentucky Speedway on July 13, 2018 in Sparta, Kentucky. Photo by Jerry Markland/Getty Images

By Eric Young

SPARTA, Ky. — Christopher Bell has a victory in each of his last two starts at Kentucky Speedway, but those each came in a different series. Bell won last year’s Alsco 300 in the Xfinity Series and won the Gander Outdoors Truck Series race the year prior. He hopes his success at the 1.5-mile track will allow him to earn his fifth victory of the 2019 season in the Alsco 300 Friday night. 

“For whatever reason, Kentucky Speedway has been really good to me,” Bell told media Thursday. “I’ve been able to win my last two starts here in the truck series and the Xfinity series. We’re off to a good start this weekend. We were fastest in first practice. Hopefully we can keep it up.”

Bell was second fastest in final practice Thursday, trailing Cole Custer. He said the team’s mile-and-a-half program hasn’t been the greatest this season. 

“I think we’re close,” he said. “We definitely need to work on our mile-and-a-half program. I say that, but Kentucky was really strong for us last year. This will be a good test to see how we stack up against our competitors right now. We know our short track programs’ really good. So mile-and-a-half stuff is where we need to work on.”

Bell said he was surprised at how much Kentucky Speedway has weathered since last season. 

“Man, I have been shocked,” he said. “Obviously last year I think they did the tire dragon, so it added a lot of color to the racetrack. But man, this thing is white. Like outside of the PJ1 where they sprayed the racetrack is really white. So that’s good.”

Bell said he was studying last year’s race, and he feels the traction compound will make it tougher to widen out like the Cup Series did last year. 

“Last year in the Cup race, it spread out pretty good and guys got to where they could run mid-track,” he said. “And now, I think the preferred groove is going to be right on the edge of the PJ1, and i mean out there right now, the bottom is close, but the PJ1 is still a little faster. I think the PJ1 is going to be the dominant groove.”

Qualifying for the NASCAR Xfinity Series is scheduled for 4:15 p.m. Friday, with the Alsco 300 scheduled to roll off at 7:30 p.m.

Ankrum outlasts Moffitt on fuel to win first truck series race

2018kentucky_ncwts_july

By Eric Young

SPARTA, Ky. — Tyler Ankrum won his first Nascar Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Kentucky Speedway Thursday night after Ben Rhodes had trouble and Brett Moffitt was forced to pit for fuel with one lap to go. 

“It’s pretty awesome,” Ankrum said after the race. “My vocabulary isn’t on right now. I just honestly don’t know what to say.”

“At the beginning of the year, I honestly didn’t think this was going to be possible,” Ankrum said. “I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t think we could do it. But with the support I’ve had, and kind of the pressure too. Man, I had the pressure to get a sponsor. I’m just so thankful for everyone around me and what they do.”

Ankrum said he was worried at the end of the race as he tried to chase down Moffitt, and was happy when he saw Moffitt’s truck sputter, forcing him to pit road. 

“A smile cracked on my face,” Ankrum said. “I was so worried. I couldn’t see the 24 out front. I knew the laps were winding down. I couldn’t see him. And I saw him all the way at the opposite end of the straightaway. And I was just, I honestly think I forgot to breath the last 30 laps. I just don’t know what to say. I’m just so thankful for what we’ve done here.”

Despite missing a couple of races this season because of age requirements, with a waiver from NASCAR, the win presumably earns Ankrum a spot in the playoffs, though he could still be knocked out depending on where he is in points and how many more winners there are before the regular season wraps up at Michigan in August. But sponsorship will also be necessary for Ankrum, who has struggled to find sponsorship this season. 

“We made the Chase,” he said. “Well, hopefully. Hopefully we find some sponsorship for the races the rest of the season and hopefully this is many more to come.”

Team owner David Gilliland said he is committed to racing for the championship and fielding the car the rest of the season. He noted that winning will help in the sponsorship hunt. 

For a while it looked as if Brett Moffitt would take his third win of the season and first at Kentucky, but Moffitt ran out of gas with two to go and had to take the white flag on pit road. 

“You see a lot of money fly out the window, and a win,” Moffitt said on pit road after the race. “I watched the gauge for about a lap. It started flickering around and of course the next lap it just shut off completely. So it’s unfortunate but we all tried and you’ve got to push in those situations. It’s tough to pass. You’ve got to try to get out in clean air and we did that. We were just a little too aggressive.”

Moffitt said he has never been in a fuel mileage race before, so he was learning as he went. 

“I was backing it up off of what (his crew) said and I was trying to draft off other trucks, but we knew the 17 was coming fast, so I don’t think I could have saved a whole other lap’s worth with how much I was already saving. I was basically riding down the straightaway 30 to 50 percent throttle and that’s about all she had.”

Moffitt finished seventh. 

Stewart Friesen was able to overcome having to go to a backup truck when his truck was confiscated by NASCAR prior to the first practice Thursday morning, by finishing in second place. Friesen commented on the issue at the end of the race, saying the truck is provided by GMS Racing. 

“We don’t get to pick the truck we run, we just get to run them,” he said. 

With a potential penalty coming later this week, Friesen said he just has one option left to make the playoffs. 

“We’ve got to win,” Friesen said. “That’s all it is. Seconds aren’t good enough.”

One track on Friesen’s target will be Eldora Speedway, the series’ only dirt race and the second-to-last regular season race. Friesen has a history on dirt, and has run well at Eldora over the years. 

“I’m excited to get there,” he said. “I’ve got some helpers coming to straighten us out in the dirt. The guys kind of left it up to me to call the shots last year and, we got close, but it wasn’t the right idea. I’m no crew chief, so I’m calling on some help from friends so I hope that helps us out.”

Another driver who had a positive day was Ross Chastain, who moved into the top 20 in points, meaning he is now eligible for the playoffs with his two official wins this season, one while he was declared for points in the truck series. 

“Another box checked on a crazy scenario that we had laid out for us that didn’t seem crazy to accomplish,” Chastain said. “Just pretty cool to be disappointed with fourth. We definitely want more. We were way too free all night, after we were way too tight in practice all day. First time this group has come to Kentucky together and all these places we come for the first time is really tough on us. So we’ll keep building a notebook and keep building the rest of the year.”

Harrison Burton finished third on the day and Dylan Lupton rounded out the top five. 

There were 10 lead changes among seven drivers and five cautions for 33 laps.

Defending Kentucky winner says being aggressive but cautious is key to making playoffs

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Buckle Up in Your Truck 225

Ben Rhodes, driver of the #41 The Carolina Nut Co. Ford, celebrates in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Series Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway on July 12, 2018 in Sparta, Kentucky. Photo by: Michael Reaves/Getty Images

By Eric Young

SPARTA, Ky. — The last time Gander Outdoors Truck Series driver Ben Rhodes was in victory lane was one year ago at Kentucky Speedway, where he scored his second-career truck series victory and secured a spot in the 2018 playoffs. 

And as Rhodes returns to his home track in Kentucky for the 2019 Buckle Up In Your Truck 225, he finds himself sitting on the playoff bubble, just 13 points ahead of Harrison Burton for the final spot. An outside winner could put Rhodes out, as could another tough weekend like he had at Chicagoland Speedway the last time the trucks competed, where he suffered motor problems before the race even began. 

But Rhodes said he is still confident his team can do what it needs to do to get into the playoffs. 

“I would say (Kentucky isn’t) our best chance, but the stage has certainly been set,” Rhodes told media Thursday. “The last few races on mile and a halves, I think we’ve had the truck to beat, and something happened. Transmission failure in Texas. Didn’t even start the race in Chicago.”

“But if you go back and look at practice, we had the times that never fell off,” Rhodes continued. “And I had the confidence. You have a feeling as a driver when it’s it, it’s it. And I knew at Chicago, that was the truck. And I hadn’t had that feeling very much this year. We’ve been close, but that was the truck. And the stage has been set now. Our best races, things have happened. The same thing happened last year, and we came here and got that win and made it to the playoffs. Similar season. I wish we were already in it.”

Rhodes said the team is balancing the strategy and taking things race by race, racing for points first and wins second.

“We’re not going to short pit,” he said. “We’re not going to come in and try to give up points to get the race win, because that’s a gamble that we can’t afford now being on the bubble. But we’re just going to be aggressive.”

“I honestly don’t even know when the cutoff is,” Rhodes said. “Haven’t looked. Don’t care to know. We’re going to go and approach every race the same. We’re there to win and we’re going to make max points no matter what. We can’t have any issues on pit road or we can’t start far back and give up points in the first stage. We definitely can’t short pit for the second stage and give up any more points either. So we’re just trying to play it smart and the wins will come if we be smart, because there’s a lot of guys who make some questionable moves, very questionable moves, on the racetrack. We don’t want to be one of them.”

The regular season for the trucks wraps up with the Corrigan Oil 200 Aug. 10 at Michigan International Speedway. Counting Thursday’s race at Kentucky Speedway, there are only four races left before the playoffs begin. Rhodes has two sixth-place finishes and one 11th-place finish in his three starts at MIS, and he said he thinks he can get it done there if need be. 

“I do,” he said. “And I want to do well there. There’s tracks that set themselves apart in the schedule that you want to do the best at. Kentucky’s number one. Michigan is probably number two, just because that’s Ford Performance’s headquarters. Everybody from Ford is there. I mean all the bigwigs. And you want to be the guy in victory lane celebrating with them, right? You want that little bit of extra support from them throughout the season. You want to become their favorite. Yeah, Michigan’s probably the second most important race on the schedule for me.”

The Buckle Up In Your Truck 225 starts at 7:30 p.m. from Kentucky Speedway.

Podcast #116 — SPECIAL EDITION — An interview with the creator of Behrend Speedway

Show notes:

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