Track conditions throw curveball to Cup veterans in Truck race
FORT WORTH, Texas -- So much for a sweep.
Both Brad Keselowski and Kyle Busch had their hopes of a three-victory weekend at Texas Motor Speedway shot down early, as the pair of drivers each failed to finish on the lead lap of Friday night's WinStar World Casino 350.
Busch was nagged by engine troubles throughout the race, eventually bowing out when smoke started billowing from under his No. 51 Toyota after completing just 96 laps. Originally thought to be the result of a decreased airflow from debris on the grille, Busch later indicated the problem may have been more mechanical.
"I don’t think there was trash on the grille, I think it was just build-up of heat in the motor," Busch said. "Ultimately there, we were just trying to suffer on and see if we couldn’t make it to the end -- see if it would live. Once they get hot a bunch of things internally start going wrong and eventually it goes real bad. I hate it for all these guys. We were in the hunt for the owner’s championship -- this pretty much eliminates it. It sucks."
Keselowski brought out the first caution of the race when light contact with Justin Lofton forced his No. 19 Ford to spin out. While Keselowski was able to keep his truck from any major damage, the mishap eliminated the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion from competing for a win. He spent the rest of the race battling for the beneficiary position, hoping for a late caution that never came and finished 21st.
With the two Cup drivers out of the equation, it opened the door for a Truck Series regular -- which ended up being Ty Dillon -- to land in Victory Lane for the fourth consecutive race at Texas, a trend that second- and third-place finishers Johnny Sauter and Ron Hornaday Jr., respectively, found hard to explain but may have a theory on.
"Why the Cup guys struggle, I don't know. It's just one of them race tracks that I think grip is (at) a premium," said Sauter, whose two wins and average finishing position of 6.1 at the track more or less qualify him as an expert on the matter. "I think you have to look at the race track and say 'OK, it's starting to get some age on it so I've been coming here for five years now in the trucks and I think I've got a pretty good feel for this race track.' ... It almost feels like Atlanta to me a little bit; it's starting to get that feel where you're slipping and sliding and every year."
While grip wasn't an issue for Busch in his short time on the track, it was evident that Keselowski -- and many others -- struggled with it all night long.
"Johnny hit it on the head, the track is just wearing and aging," Hornaday said. "We never had the lift as much as we had. If you drive it all the way through the corner you have to lift off. If you lift getting in you're fine off, so it's just one of those things where you have to drive it."