Brian Scott, given another shot at victory, passed Kyle Larson with two laps to go and won Friday night’s Lucas Oil 150 Camping World Truck Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.
The 20-year-old Larson, freshly crowned the K&N Pro Series East champion, was on the verge of stunning the Camping World Truck Series framework in only his third start in the series.
Larson outran Scott into the final five laps, managing to survive a series of crashes, and had the lead when series point leader James Buescher, who was running seventh, blew a right-front tire and hit the wall, prompting a caution.
That wiped out Larson’s lead, and, on the two-to-go restart, Scott moved around Larson to take the lead for good.
“If it hadn’t been for that caution, I don’t think I could have done it,” Scott said. “It got a little too tight on the long run. Kyle Larson’s truck was too fast. It was the only truck all day I couldn’t close in on.”
Larson came oh-so-close to scoring a major upset.
“I had him beat in that green-flag run,” Larson said. “On the restart, he took the air off my truck going into one, and I got loose.”
The win was the second of Scott’s career. The other came at Dover in 2009. He became the record 15th different winner of the Truck season.
The drivers contending for the series championship had a tough night. When the checkered flag finally fell, Buescher left town with an 11-point lead over Timothy Peters and a 12-point edge over Ty Dillon. The season will end next week at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Following Scott, who drove a Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota, and Larson in the top five were Joey Coulter, Timothy Peters and Ryan Blaney.
Dillon finished 15th, and Buescher was 17th.
Despite a clean start that saw 36 straight green-flag laps, the race developed into a wreckfest as drivers fought the tight groove on the track and each other. There were six cautions before halfway.
“Everybody thinks we should go racing on dirt,” said Johnny Sauter, one of the crash victims. “We can’t even race on asphalt.”
The championship drama began early as Buescher slid too close to the wall on his first pit stop, resulting in the team changing two tires instead of four.
On lap 56, Parker Kligerman lost control of his truck, slid and was hit by Matt Crafton. Kligerman, who entered the race fourth in points, 27 behind Buescher, finished the race but with a crippled vehicle.
Five laps earlier, Jason White slid through turn four and was hit by Todd Bodine, who had dropped low hoping to avoid White’s truck.
On lap 67, the trucks of Nelson Piquet Jr., Johnny Sauter and Ron Hornaday Jr. were involved in a hard crash on a restart.
The eighth caution appeared when German Quiroga ran into and spun Brendan Gaughan, a crash that collected Dillon and almost ruined his chances to run for the title next weekend.
Gaughan was enraged by Quiroga’s move. Their trucks stopped side by side on the track, and Gaughan jumped from his vehicle and ran over to Quiroga’s to emphasize his anger.
“First of all, I didn’t want to wreck anybody,” he said. “I think I braked too late. I could not avoid him. I tried.”
Gaughan said, “He overdrove the corner. He screwed up.”
Dillon’s truck sustained right front damage during the crash, but he was able to finish the race.
NASCAR put the race under a red flag after the crash so crews could clean up fluids from the trucks.
Scott, whose Nationwide Series deal with Joe Gibbs Racing will end next week, is looking for a ride for next season. The win should help that search.
“It’s huge,” said Scott, 24. “I’m on the market. I’m looking for something. I don’t know whether it’s going to be Nationwide, Truck. I feel like I can still be competitive. The last two years have been rough.”
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.