The Ford EcoBoost 200 season finale for the Camping World Truck Series Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway promised to be exciting but what unfolded was even better than anyone could have imagined. When the smoke and sparks cleared it was Cale Gale who won his first Camping World Truck Series race and James Buescher escaped with the 2012 Truck Series Championship.
With two laps remaining Ty Dillon made a charge from sixth on the restart with five laps left to be in second place and only one point behind Buescher as they ran on the track. Buescher was in his own battle trying to keep trucks with fresher tires behind him knowing he could not give up any more points to Dillon.
That's when 20-year old Kyle Larson, who had the best truck of the night, charged into Turn 1 on the bottom of Dillon for second place. Dillon had been running a higher line but tried to squeeze Larson, knowing how important it was for him not to lose any points. Larson clipped the apron and got into the side of Dillon forcing the No. 3 truck hard into the outside wall. Larson's No. 4 truck back into the wall then came across and clipped Ryan Blaney who slammed head on into the outside wall hard.
Buescher was able to weave his way through the mess without any damage and then survive an exciting green-white-checkered finish and come home in 13th which was good enough for him to win hid first NASCAR Championship. It is also the first NASCAR Championship for Turner Motorsports.
"Just about went into the fence myself but held it together and everything came our way," Buescher said from the championship stage. "It's not all just about this race, it's been a long season and this truck has done a lot for us. It has won us four races and now it won us a championship. I can't thank all these guys on this Turner Motorsports team enough."
When the race began, Buescher led Timothy Peters by 11 points and Ty Dillon by 12 and knew he could clinch the title with a finish of seventh or better. As the race unfolded though he was never in the top seven and started 17th.
Parker Kligerman led the field to the green with his second pole of the season. He would lead the first five laps before Nelson Piquet Jr. passed him on lap 6. By lap 15 Buescher moved up to 11th on the track. The first caution then came out on lap 36 for debris on the backstretch with Piquet still in the lead. On the round of pit stops though Kyle Busch's team got him out in front of Piquet for the lap 41 restart.
On lap 44 the second caution fell for Brian Silas's No. 99 truck which got sideways and hit the wall. Kyle Busch still led on the lap 50 restart but Kyle Larson, last week's runner up and only making his fourth start in the series, showed his muscle by passing Busch on lap 51. At lap 67 of the 134 scheduled laps Larson led and Buescher still was in good shape for the championship. He was in ninth, with Dillon in sixth and Peters in 13th.
After a round of green flag stops and then more laps run under green lap 100 hit with Dillon still in sixth, Peters in 10th and Buescher the last truck on the lead lap in 12th. Then the third caution fell on lap 104 when Max Gresham got into the wall. Larson led the trucks onto pit road but Johnny Sauter grabbed the lead with a two tire change.
On the lap 108 restart Larson struggled and dropped to sixth quickly while Kyle Busch shot to the lead. Matt Crafton ran up to second and by lap 111 Larson was back to third. On lap 122 Crafton drove to the inside of Busch for the lead but was unable to make the pass. Then on lap 124 Gresham blew a tire and hit the wall again to bring out the fourth caution. For the lap 129 restart with five to go Busch led Crafton, Larson, Sauter, Kligerman and Dillon. Buescher was ninth but did not pit while some trucks behind him came in for fresh tires.
Kyle Busch jumped out to a good lead but Ty Dillon got a great restart and flew up into the second position where he was only one point behind Buescher with two laps to go. Buescher was being challenged by some trucks and if Dillon could hold second it might win him the title. Kyle Larson then drove deep into Turn 1 and Dillon squeezed him, when the two touched Dillon's championship hopes went careening into the wall.
"I hate it had to come down to us hitting the wall like that," Dillon said. "I felt bad for my guys. I am really proud of them. I mean what a year, not very many rookies get to go do the things we did this year."
Dillon would finish in 25th, Larson 27th and Blaney 28th. The red flag came out to clean up the mess.
For the green-white-checkered restart on lap 139 Busch led Cale Gale, Sauter, Joey Coulter, and Miguel Paludo. Timothy Peters was eighth and Buescher was 11th. Busch jumped out to the lead but Gale made a run off Turn 4 to the white flag. By the time they got to Turn 3 Gale dove below Busch and the two were neck and neck coming off of Turn 4. Busch and Gale touched coming to the checkered flag and Gale's No. 33 squeezed the No. 18 into the outside wall just before the finish line where Gale clipped Busch by a nose for his first career win.
"I can tell you right now, coming off of four, that just isn't my driving style but it's my first chance to taste NASCAR victory and I know it was Kyle Busch but I don't get opportunities like this very often," an emotional Gale said in victory lane. "I've had a great opportunity this year and don't know what's in store for me next year but I had to take it while I could."
Gale became the 16th different winner of the 2012 season in only 22 races and he was the ninth first time winner. Busch only ran three Truck races this season but went winless. He was not happy with the loss and would not comment on the way Gale beat him. He only thanked his sponsors and said, "It just doesn't matter."
Coulter finished third, Piquet fourth, Paludo fifth, Sauter sixth, Kligerman seventh, Peters eighth, Justin Lofton ninth, and Ross Chastain 10th. Buescher took it cautious and finished 13th.
He won the title by six points over Peters. Coulter ended third in the points 19 back, with Dillon fourth 24 behind and Kligerman fifth 30 back. It was a great 2012 season for the Trucks and race fans can look forward to the 2013 season with eagerness.
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