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TRUCKS: Tight Race At The Top

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NASCAR likes to emphasize the importance of winning, but consistency remains one of the keys to a championship run in any of NASCAR’s top three series.

Take, for example, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, which rolls into Las Vegas Motor Speedway this weekend for Saturday night’s Smith’s 350, race No. 17 of 22 on the 2012 schedule.

Only two drivers have multiple Truck Series race victories this season: James Buescher has won four of 16 races so far this year and Timothy Peters has triumphed twice. And yet it is one-time victor Ty Dillon who sits atop the points standings by a narrow 4-point margin over Buescher.

Buescher has four victories and nine top-five finishes to Dillon’s one win and five top fives, but Dillon is actually 4 points ahead. The reason? Dillon has been more consistent and has had fewer bad finishes. Dillon has 14 top 10s in his No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet already, with his worst two finishes being a 21st at Bristol and a 12th at Chicago.

For Buescher, there have been a few stumbles along with the victories this season. The Turner Motorsports driver opened the season with a 17th-place run at Daytona, and finished 17th and 30th in the two races at Iowa Speedway. Add in a 22nd-place run at Charlotte and a 15th at Texas and it’s clear that although Buescher has had a very, very good year, he needs to eliminate some of the bad days.

Speaking of which, third-place Peters has had three disappointing races in a row, finishing 13th at Atlanta, 19th at Iowa and 21st at Kentucky. During that period, he has gone from a 17-point lead over Buescher to trailing Dillon by 26 markers and Buescher by 22.

Then again, Buescher could be the man to beat under the lights in Sin City on Saturday. His four victories so far this year all came at 1.5-mile tracks — two at Kentucky and one each at Kansas and Chicago.

Another man to keep an eye on this weekend is Parker Kligerman. Since becoming Peters’ teammate at Red Horse Racing five events ago, Kligerman has finished in the top five four times, including a pair of runner-up finishes at Bristol and Kentucky. He has moved up to fourth in points, just 30 back of Dillon.

As for Dillon, this will be his first start at LVMS.

NOTES: Travis Pastrana will make his Truck Series debut at Las Vegas, where he will drive the No. 98 ThorSport Racing AM/PM Toyota. He’ll also compete in the final race of the 2012 Global Rally Cross championship series at LVMS ... Also making his debut at Vegas will be Ryan Reed, who will be behind the wheel of the No. 5 Racehard.com /RyansMission.org Wauters Motorsports Ford F150 … David Mayhew, who finished seventh in last year’s Smith’s 350, is the latest to drive the Kyle Busch Motorsports No. 18 Toyota. Mayhew, a native Californian living in Bakersfield, most recently competed for Brad Keselowski Racing and was a Truck Series pole winner in 2011 with Kevin Harvick Inc. … The No. 6 Eddie Sharp Racing (ESR) Chevrolet will have a new look this weekend with the Imperial Valley Full Plate Group on the truck. The group consists of several business owners from the Imperial Valley of Southern California. … There have been five different Truck Series winners in the last five LVMS races and 13 different winners in the past 14 races at the 1.5-mile track.

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.