Truck Series prepares to heat up ‘Dega
October 18, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
Points leader Matt Crafton isn't starting in the top five.
"It really doesn't mean anything once you drop the green," Crafton said on the heels of his lap that placed him 23rd in the 36-truck field. "Yes, it is nice to have a truck that you can go out there and lead and tow the pack with – we're not going to be able to do that. But if we get in the right position … we'll be just fine at the end."
The ThorSport Racing driver heads into this weekend's race with a 41-point lead on defending series champion James Buescher (Turner Scott Motorsports). Ty Dillon (Richard Childress Racing) is third and trails by 53 after 17 races.
Rookie Jeb Burton will start on the pole, his lap of 176.182 mph good enough to earn the Turner-Scott driver his sixth No. 1 starting spot of the season. Max Gresham (Sharp-Gallaher Racing), Kyle Busch (Kyle Busch Motorsports), Buescher and Dillon completed the top five.
With top-10 finishes in this year's first 16 races – an 11th place result at Las Vegas snapped the streak – Crafton said the game plan for Talladega was simply "to get out of this place."
"That's the best way to put it," he said. "If I was saying this is my favorite race track, I'd be lying to you. The thing is, just so much of it is not in your control and that's the most aggravating part about it. You just hold it wide open and wait for somebody to make a mistake. That's what it comes down to.
"If we get out of here with a top five, that would be a win for us; if we have the right Toyota pushing us at the end of the race, we'd have a shot at winning. But we're not going to go out there and do it on our own."
Burton, a winner at Texas earlier this season, said his team didn't do a lot of drafting on Friday during practice, "so the race will be a totally different ballgame.
"Hopefully we can have a good, clean day, have some fun and lead some laps.
"It's so different; a lot of things are out of your control here. … We've got to get some more points, start building for next season. And (this race) is a good place to start."
A year ago, Parker Kligerman scored the win, taking the lead with two laps remaining before a multicar wreck unfolded on the final lap to end the race under caution.
"I remember everything about that. Obviously it was a great weekend, a redemption weekend. We had come so close to winning so many weeks in a row in that No. 7 truck – I finished second with it five or six times, something like that. It was just getting out of hand.
"It was a place I never expected it to happen. I've always been good at superspeedway racing, in the Nationwide Series I've run top-five a couple of times and led a lot of laps. … It was a big deal, and great for my career."
Kligerman, making his return to the series this year, said he expects the Childress trucks to be tough – "they do a great job and have a great motor program," he said.
"We've been fast in the Toyotas with the Joe Gibbs motors, we just don't seem to show the qualifying speed the Chevys can, specifically the RCR ones. Turner-Scott has been fast as well, so maybe it's a Chevy thing.
"Those are the kinds of trucks you look at as being fast in qualifying. As for the race, honestly it's one of those things where I say if you get me in the show, I'll find a way to run up front. The draft is a great equalizer."