Aric Almirola captured Friday afternoon’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Dover International Speedway, scoring his first series victory in a startling late-race upset.
PDF> UNOFFICIAL RESULTS: Dover 200 - DOVER
Kyle Busch led more than 170 of the 200 laps, but fuel-pickup problems at the end of the race cost him what looked like a sure race victory. And it allowed Almirola to come back from a 2-lap deficit to put Billy Ballew’s No. 51 Toyota Tundra in victory lane.
James Buescher, who is returning to the the Truck Series, finished second in his Turner Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado. Third was Justin Lofton’s Red Horse Racing Toyota, followed by Ricky Carmichael’s Chevy. The top four drivers all had career-best finishes, while former champ Todd Bodine claimed fifth.
It was an unlikely and impressive way for Almirola to win his first Truck Series race and take over the series points lead. “What a truck,” said Almirola. “We had a good truck right off the trailer. ... To do it the way we did it, to come back from two laps down, blowing a right-front tire, not managing our truck. I just want to thank the fans. What a race!”
Busch, who was quickest in both of Thursday’s practice sessions, started the race from the pole and immediately raced out to the lead straightaway.
At the one-quarter distance, Busch led the Kevin Harvick Inc. No. 33 Chevrolet Silverado of Ron Hornaday Jr. by more than 2 seconds. Then it was Hornaday’s teammate, Elliott Sadler, followed by ThorSport Racing’s Matt Crafton and Aric Almirola.
On Lap 53, Max Papis, who was running in 10th place, blew a right-front tire, sending his Germain Racing Toyota hard into the outside wall at the end of Turn 2. Under the ensuing caution, most of the leaders pitted, Busch holding the lead for the Lap 59 restart, with Hornaday challenging hard for the top spot.
On Lap 60, Hornaday passed Busch when his Toyota twitched in Turn 2, but Busch went back on point after just two laps. Busch got on the radio and said his truck was stalling briefly on the restarts. By Lap 70, Busch’s lead over Hornaday was 1.238 seconds.
Aric Almirola, who had run in the top five for most of the race, had a right-front tire go down on Lap 79, necessitating an unscheduled pit stop.
Mike Skinner and Terry Jones had an incident for the fourth caution of the race on Lap 86. That sent the leaders back down pit road, Busch losing an advantage that had been 3.9 seconds. Busch had a bad pit stop, coming out fourth behind his KBM teammate Tayler Malsam, Sadler and Timothy Peters when the green came out on Lap 91.
Busch went back on front on Lap 99, Sadler following him into second place.
Sixteen laps later, a debris caution came out, which Almirola to get back on the lead lap. Most of the leaders stayed out, while Sadler pitted for four fresh Goodyears. The green came out on Lap 119, Busch leading Sauter and Hornaday.
It took only five more laps until another yellow flew, this one for Mario Gosselin’s spin on the frontstretch. The trucks at the front of the field pitted, as they were now within their fuel window to finish the race.
But several drivers stayed out and took over the lead, the order now Jason White leading Sadler and Johnny Benson, while Busch restarted 11th. But Busch managed to get all back to the front in just 10 laps, stretching his to 1.2 seconds over Benson in just a couple of laps.
Timothy Peters, who led the points coming in, was the next driver to suffer a right front-tire failure, bouncing off the wall on Lap 145 and losing a brake caliper in the process. Sauter pitted for four tires, while Busch stayed out, not expecting to pit for the rest of the race.
The green came out again on Lap 152, Busch again comfortably in the lead over Sadler, Benson and Hornaday. Sadler’s strong run came to an abrupt end after a right-front tire failed with about 30 laps to go.
The race restarted on Lap 177, Busch easily leading Benson, Crafton and Almirola.
With eight laps to go, Sauter slapped the wall. On the restart with 4 laps to go, Austin Dillon’s truck blew up and oiled down the track, while Busch had a terrible restart and fell to third behind Almirola and Todd Bodine. Benson, who was second heading into the restart, couldn’t get going either.
That led to a final green-white-checkered, but just as the restart was about to happen, Busch pulled off the track and Almirola led the final two laps to claim a remarkable first Truck Series victory.
PDF> UNOFFICIAL RESULTS: Dover 200 - DOVER
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEEDtv.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100 and e-mail him at Jensen is the author of “Cheating: The Bad Things Good NASCAR Nextel Cup Racers Do In Pursuit of Speed,” and has appeared on numerous television and radio shows. Jensen is the past President of the National Motorsports Press Association and an NMPA Writer of the Year.