Daytona Beach, FL – Rookie John King provided another filled NextEra Energy Resources 250 Camping World Truck Series race.
King, a 23-year-old native from Kingsport, TN, grabbed the lead during the second of three attempts at a green-white-checkered finish when he bumped then frontrunner Johnny Sauter and punted him into the outside wall in the tri-oval area. The incident triggered an 11-truck pileup, which forced NASCAR to halt the race briefly for track-cleanup efforts.
It looked as though Todd Bodine emerged as the leader after the wreck occurred, but when NASCAR looked at the replay of the incident, King was credited with top position for the final restart.
Then as the field crossed the start/finish line to complete the second-to-last lap in the 109-lap affair, Joey Coulter got bumped from behind and then flew into the catch fence on the frontstretch before he flipped around and tumbled back down on the track. Coulter walked away from the crash unscathed.
King won the race under caution. Driving the No.7 Toyota for Red Horse Racing, King claimed his first truck victory in just his eighth start. He also became the third driver to score his maiden win in the series at Daytona, joining Robert Pressley (2002) and Michael Waltrip (2011).
"I'm a rookie; I'm not supposed to be here," a jubilant King said in Daytona's Victory Lane. "This is unreal. I'll tell you what, this Red Horse Racing team is unbelievable, from the owner [Tom DeLoach] to the tire guy, everybody is doing their job. I don't know what to say. This is a dream come true."
King's win comes one year after then-Sprint Cup Series rookie Trevor Bayne shocked the auto racing world by taking the checkered flag for the Daytona 500. Bayne's win came in just his second start in NASCAR's premier series.
Timothy Peters, who is King's teammate, finished second, while Justin Lofton, Travis Kvapil and Jason White completed the top-five. Bodine, a Red Horse Racing driver and two-time truck race winner at Daytona, took the sixth spot.
"I'm so happy for John, his crew chief, Chad [Kendrick], and Todd, way to go for him tonight," Peters said. "It was a great night for the organization."
Chris Fontaine and Ward Burton, the 2002 Daytona 500 winner, finished seventh and eighth, respectively.
Ty Dillon placed ninth in his first race as driver of the No.3 Chevrolet for Richard Childress Racing. Ty's older brother, Austin, drove that truck during his championship season in trucks last year. Austin is now competing in the Nationwide Series full-time.
Sauter, who won last year's season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway and finished second to Austin Dillon in points, wound up with a 24th-place finish in this year's season-opener.
"We were in a position, and I felt like I was in the catbird seat there," a dejected Sauter said. "Daytona has been an Achilles heal for me for whatever reason. In the Truck Series, it's just been impossible for me to get a finish [at Daytona]. I had no expectations going into the race today, and am I surprised that I'm sitting here with a 24th-place finish, no."
The race, which was extended nine laps, featured six multi-truck wrecks, including a vicious crash involving pole sitter Miguel Paludo.
Late in the race, Paludo lost control coming out of turn four and went sideways before he slammed head-on into the inside retaining wall along the frontstretch. The hard impact caused his truck to spin around 360 degrees in the air after it ricocheted off the wall. The 28-year-old Brazilian was not injured.
"That was a hard hit for sure. I lost my breath," said Paludo, who led a race- high 56 laps. "I just got loose. It was wide up there."
The Truck Series takes four weeks off before returning to action on March 31 at Martinsville Speedway.