NASCAR Notes: Championship Potential During The Lucas Oil 150
BY DAVE GRAYSON
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will take the green flag this Friday night, at the Phoenix International Raceway, for the annual running of the Lucas Oil 150. This race generally creates a lot of excitement because of the challenging aspects of this famed one mile oval. The race is 150 laps/150 miles around a basically flat track. Turns one and two are only banked at 11 degrees while turns three and four only has nine degrees of banking. Adding to the potential Phoenix drama is the fact that there are 35 pre entries for this race and that’s likely to present a challenge regarding passing. This is especially true for race leaders attempting to negotiate their way around slower traffic.
The final results of the Lucas Oil 150 could possibly crown a new series champion one week prior to the official end of the season. That one of the two goals driver Matt Crafton, and ThorSport Racing will be looking to accomplish at Phoenix. Crafton leads James Buescher by 46 points and Texas race winner Ty Dillon by 47 going into this Friday’s Lucas Oil 150. If Crafton can score his second win of the season at Phoenix – or exit leading the second-place competitor by 49 or more points – he will clinch the title before the series reaches Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Nov. 15 season finale.
In 12 previous starts at PIR Crafton has eight top-10 finishes highlighted by a third-place finish in 2004. “We just love that track and have a lot of experience there from the Featherlite Southwest Tour days,” Crafton said. “We’ve run good enough to win there, and that would be really special to have a great race next weekend.”
Crafton’s team, ThorSport Racing, also hopes to clinch the owner’s title this weekend as well. Prior to the Texas race, the No. 88 Toyota team held a small lead over the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota shared by Kyle Busch and several additional drivers. That lead grew from 15 to 32 points after Busch experienced engine issues to end his night early, making it a little more difficult to challenge for the title. After the race Busch announced he would not be competing at Phoenix where he’s won twice. Erik Jones will pilot the truck this weekend.
If ThorSport Racing wins the owner’s title it will be the first in the 18-year history of the Sandusky, Ohio-based team and owners Duke and Rhonda Thorson.
It also appears that a third championship could be settled a week early following the conclusion of the Lucas Oil 150. Toyota can clinch the 2013 Manufacturer’s Championship this weekend by earning third-place points or better.
Then, there’s the possibility of the Phoenix race resolving the series’ rookie title as well. That’s because the good news continues to roll in for Darrell Wallace Jr. Wallace finished seventh at Texas Motor Speedway and in doing so was able to overtake Ryan Blaney in pursuit of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award.
Wallace, who made history two weeks ago becoming the first African-American competitor in nearly 50 years to win a NASCAR national series event, used his seventh-place showing at Texas to overhaul his good friend Blaney and lead the freshman competition by a single point (210 to 209) heading into the final two races of the season. Wallace had trailed Blaney by 12 points before closing the gap at Martinsville and Texas. Jeb Burton, who joins Wallace and Blaney as the only Sunoco rookie contenders to pick up a win this season, sits third in the standings (-14).
The Corona-California based Lucas Oil returns to sponsor this exciting event for the sixth, consecutive, year. Lucas has long been directly involved in the American racing industry through multiple vehicle sponsorships and racing event promotions, at all levels. Seeing a need for better lubricants in this industry, the Lucas people went to work again. The end result being a line of high performance engine oils and gear oils that are second-to-none in the racing industry. Lucas racing products have proven themselves on NASCAR, NHRA, IHRA, PPL, and USHRA tracks across the country.