John King survived three attempts at a green-white-checkered restart to win a wild and crash-filled NextEra Energy Resources 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race Friday night at Daytona International Speedway.
It was the first win for King, 23, who crossed the line ahead of his Red Horse Racing teammate Timothy Peters. King won in just his eighth series start. Justin Lofton was third, followed by Travis Kvapil and Jason White.
“I’m not supposed to be here,” said White. “Oh, my gosh. ... I don’t know what to say. It’s a dream come true.”
“It was an action-packed night and we were fortunate to keep our nose clean,” said runner-up Peters. “... It was a great night for Red Horse Racing.”
Turner Motorsports teammates Miguel Paludo, Nelson Piquet Jr. and James Buescher qualified in the top three spots and they led the field away from the grid.
Paludo jumped out front at the drop of the green, with the field going three-wide on the opening lap, suggesting that calamity was a distinct possibility. And, in fact, it didn’t take too long for the trouble to start.
On Lap 18, rookie Paul Harraka got loose at the exit of Turn 4 and hit Chris Cockrum first and then Jason Leffler, the new driver of the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota. “I don’t even know what happened,” said Leffler, who had nowhere to go in the incident. “I just saw the 5 truck (Harraka) come up the track.”
The leaders stopped under the ensuing caution, and Paludo held the point after taking two tires and gas.
The race restarted on Lap 24, with Paludo still in control. He led all but one of the first 41 laps, the track going yellow for a second time on Lap 43, when debris was spied on the racing surface.
This time, Paludo and teammate Buescher held on to the top two spots after a round of pit stops.
On the Lap 47 restart, Buescher moved from the outside lane and took the lead, then ducked down in front of Paludo, who dropped to second place.
They stayed that way when a caution flag for debris waved on Lap 51. Roughly half the field pitted during this yellow, though no one could go the distance without stopping from this point.
Paludo returned the favor on the restart, pulling back in front of his teammate Buescher.
On Lap 62, Eddie Sharp Racing teammates Cale Gale and Mike Skinner suffered heavy damage in a tri-oval crash triggered by John King, who moved up into Gale, who in turn went up into the outside wall right in front of Skinner. The 1995 Truck Series champion had nowhere to go and he and Gale hit hard, though there were no injuries.
Buescher took the lead back during the pitstops, Paludo coming out second ahead of Brendan Gaughan, Travis Kvapil and Max Gresham.
On Lap 84, Piquet got loose in the lead on the inside lane and Paludo spun out, going airborne before violently slamming the inside of the frontstretch wall head on in a scary incident. Fortunately, Paludo was able to get out of his truck under his own power, but his 56 laps led was all for naught.
“It was a hard hit, for sure,” Paludo said. “I lost my breath. ... But it was a good day. We led a lot of laps.”
The race restarted on Lap 91 with Jason White in the lead and Piquet on the outside of him. Three laps later, the field wadded up behind the leaders, Parker Kligerman and David Starr getting the worst of it.
That crash, and the lengthy clean up that ensued, set up a green-white-checkered finish.
White led, with Sauter on his outside and it was Sauter going to the lead only to see another big wreck behind them to set up a second green-white-checkered finish.
Sauter was out front on the second restart, but he got drilled by John King in Turn 4 on Lap 104, triggering yet another pile-up and bringing out a red flag that lasted 11 minutes and 34 seconds. All told, 15 trucks were involved in the three wrecks.
On the final restart, King led Todd Bodine and Timothy Peters.
But Coulter got turned and flipped over on the restart, freezing the field and giving King the victory.
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.