One of the most important races of the Camping World Truck Series season will be held Friday night on a landscape virtually new to series drivers.
Friday night’s Lucas Oil 150 will mark Truck Series drivers’ first run on the Phoenix International Raceway one-mile surface since the track was repaved and reconfigured last year. The trucks raced at PIR last season, but they ran on the track in February before the dramatic changes were made.
And that race brings back some bad memories for the series’ current point leader, James Buescher.
Buescher failed to qualify for last year’s race at PIR, missing the field by .02 of a second. No one knows, of course, how the rest of the season would have gone if Buescher had qualified for the race, but he finished third in points, 29 behind champion Austin Dillon. A finish in the top 10 of the Phoenix race would have given him more points than Dillon.
Twenty-one months later, Buescher returns to PIR with guns blazing. He has had an excellent season, leading the series with victories (four) and putting his name in discussions for NASCAR advancement.
Entering Friday night’s race, he leads Ty Dillon by 15 points, Timothy Peters by 25 and Parker Kligerman by 27.
Dillon, who is trying to repeat the championship won by his brother last season, led the points for four straight races from Iowa to Talladega, but Buescher moved in front two races ago at Martinsville.
Dillon leads the series in top-10 runs with 17, but Buescher has the most top-five finishes – 10.
Prior to Dillon’s run to the front, Peters held the point lead.
The season will end next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Two Truck practice sessions were held Thursday. Matt Crafton, who is sixth in points but still looking for his first win of the year, led the first session at 129.315 miles per hour. Nelson Piquet Jr. was tops in Happy Hour at 136.096.
Qualifying is scheduled at 4:30 p.m. ET today.
SPEED will televise qualifying, followed by NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Setup at 7:30 and the race at 8.
Mike Hembree is NASCAR Editor for SPEED.com and has been covering motorsports for 30 years. He is a six-time winner of the National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year Award.