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Head2Head: Bigger surprise at halfway point of Truck season?

August 01, 2011, , NASCAR.com

With his win at Nashville, Austin Dillon closed to within four points of leader Johnny Sauter at the halfway point of the season. One look at the standings shows this isn't your typical Truck Series season. Youth is ruling the series with five under the age of 25 in the top 10. Meanwhile, series veterans have found some difficulty staying consistent on a week-to-week basis.

At halfway point, what's the biggest surprise in the Truck standings?

YOUTH MOVEMENT STRUGGLING VETERANS

We knew these guys had potential. We knew eventually they would make their mark. But what Austin Dillon, James Buescher and Cole Whitt have been able to do this season has been remarkable, and yes, surprising.

Where has Buescher come from? The 21-year-old had an OK 2010 season for Turner Motorsports, but his name didn't come up before the season as a championship contender. It's there now. In 12 races, Buescher has five top-fives, 11 top-10s (career high) and his first pole. Despite missing the Phoenix race, Buescher is just 20 points out of first and has been the most consistent driver in the series. He lone finish outside the top 10 came at Martinsville in April.

As a rookie, Whitt has shown tremendous promise that very few anticipated. Two top-fives, seven top-10s and fifth in points, Whitt has been consistent, has raced very clean and has even held the point in five events. In a series filled with strong veterans, Whitt has quickly made a name for himself.

Dillon may be the least surprising. After a solid rookie campaign, the sky was the limit in 2011 and he has lived up to the enormous expectations. His average start, average finish and laps led are all above '10 -- an impressive feat considering a small drop off would have been accepted.

These three weren't supposed to be in the mix. Names like Sauter, Crafton, Hornaday, Bodine, Starr -- they are supposed to be at the top of the standings. Instead, they are looking up at an impressive group of kids barely old enough to vote.

Bill Kimm, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

The Camping World Truck Series standings sure do look different this year, but it's more for who's not on top than who is.

All credit due to Johnny Sauter, Austin Dillon and James Buescher, who have definitely claimed top billing in the series. But the veterans are being relegated to the second -- or third -- tier, and the fact that neither Ron Hornaday nor Todd Bodine are in the championship battle is a much bigger surprise.

Bodine has had to move to Randy Moss Motorsports on a part-time basis after his Germain Racing team failed to come up with the sponsorship needed to run the complete season. This is the defending series champion, people. Not some hanger-on. And his team couldn't get the funding needed to put him in top-flight equipment for the full season?

In addition, this is the furthest into a season Bodine has gone without a victory. The latest into a season he had gone was the 12th race of 2005. We're heading into No. 14.

As for Hornaday, he has visited Victory Lane. He won at Texas, but even that was due to Sauter's black flag violation as opposed to dominating driving by Hornaday.

Both are still in the top 10, but they're behind three -- count 'em, three -- rookies. Think that's where the prideful vets planned on being this year?

Neither do I.

Youth movements are necessary for the sport to continue forward. But the rapid drop-off in the title-chasing ability of both Hornaday and Bodine is easily the biggest shocker of the season.

Jill Erwin, NASCAR.COM

The opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.

But which is the bigger surprise? Bill Kimm and Jill Erwin have their thoughts. Read theirs and weigh in with your own in the comments below. And don't forget to vote for whose argument you agree with more in the poll at the right.