Mistakes magnified during green-flag racing at MIS
August 16, 2014, Brad Norman, NASCAR.com
RELATED: Play NASCAR Fantasy Live
BROOKLYN, Mich. -- It started hours earlier with a befuddling qualifying session in which 11 of the 12 trucks eligible for the pole didn't log an official lap in a mistimed show of gamesmanship. The oddities carried over into Saturday's Careers for Veterans 200, where race favorites were continually knocked out of contention in a variety of ways.
As Johnny Sauter shot thick plumes of smoke into the clear blue Michigan sky following his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Michigan International Speedway, several drivers steered their vehicles -- many of them battered -- into the garage after a day in which teams couldn't afford to make a mistake.
An early-race caution flag on Lap 9 turned out to be the only yellow flag of the day, and the proliferance of green-flag racing harshly exposed pit-road mistakes and general truck trouble.
"It's one of these races where you can't have any mistakes," Jeb Burton said in his hauler following an eighth-place finish. "And we made one."
He wasn't the only one, either.
Burton's No. 13 team misfired on a Lap 55 green-flag pit stop. The 22-year-old was running second before coming down, but he lost approximately 10 seconds. A slip while changing the left rear tire caused the team to re-jack Burton's truck and fix the problem after they had already lowered the truck.
Burton was ninth once the pit stops cycled through, and like so many others, he needed a restart to catch back up -- the restart never came. He was ahead of ThorSport Racing teammates Sauter and Matt Crafton prior to pitting. That duo went on to finish first and second, respectively.
"I thought I could have won today, but that pit stop killed me," Burton said. "I came in running second ahead of my teammates, and they go on to finish 1-2 and I (finish) eighth because I lose so much time on pit road. And we never had a caution to rebound. It was pretty frustrating."
Others knew the feeling, especially teammates. Kyle Busch Motorsports drivers Darrell Wallace Jr. and Kyle Busch both went dry while hitting pit road in separate stops, and both trucks wouldn't initially refire. Busch recovered for a fifth-place effort -- the first time this year he hasn't won a Truck Series race in which he started.
Wallace's issue came much later on Lap 76, and he was two laps down and in 16th place when he finally got back on the track. The driver led a race-high 48 laps and was ahead of the field by eight seconds on Lap 60.
Wallace Jr. declined to comment, but after the race tweeted:
Fastest truck doesn't always win the race.— Darrell Wallace Jr (@BubbaWallace) August 16, 2014
The front of Logano's truck began grating the track just prior to Lap 30, and he had to visit pit road multiple times.
Blaney's No. 29 Ford experienced the same problem on Lap 76, dropping him well out of the top 10. He had to make a second stop for another round of bright yellow tape and finished nine laps down, dropping from first to third in the driver standings in the process.
"It just wasn't a good race for us because our nose was falling off the truck," Blaney said while walking to his hauler. "We were fine. I thought we had a fast piece in the beginning, then we started to get really tight and then the nose started falling off of it. It was an unfortunate day."
Plenty of other drivers would agree.