After 20 races on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series tour, the series is down to the final five races of their 2011 schedule. And what a year it has been for the most diverse national touring series of NASCAR. With one of the closet title fights in series history, it’s anyone’s to take.
Austin Dillon holds a slim three point lead over James Buescher after Dillon’s hot streak of the past few races allowed the young driver to take over the series points lead. But it’s not just a two horse race by any stretch. Johnny Sauter, Timothy Peters and Ron Hornaday Jr. all have a “dog” in this fight to the championship.
But how different this championship picture could look if one single event didn’t occur. Of course, I am referring to the James Buescher DNQ at Phoenix International Raceway back in February. With the new points system in the Camping World Truck Series allowing for the minimal amount of points one driver can earn in a race being eight, it’s enough to make one wonder what the picture could look like had Buescher qualified for that race.
But the fact that he didn’t make the race makes this championship battle that much more interesting.
The new points system allows for some interesting situations. While one bad race can severely damage your championship hopes, multiple great days can boost them significantly. Austin Dillon started this season off with inconsistency, which left many people wondering about the driver that many had picked as the championship favorite coming into the season. But after a phenomenal summer stretch which lead to two victories for Dillon at Iowa and Chicagoland, Dillon found himself right back in title contention.
Much is the same for Johnny Sauter. The only difference is, Sauter started the season off as the model of consistency, quickly placing himself among the title contenders for the season. After an early season victory at Martinsville, Sauter claimed the points lead. Much like Buescher though, this points battle could look much different if not for many crucial mistakes by Sauter and crew. The lane change on a late race restart at Texas and the broken axle late at Kentucky. Both races Sauter dominated. Both races that were there’s to lose. Both races they lost.
Ron Hornaday and Timothy Peters are in the same boat. They each have their moments where they make you think they are solid championship threats. But then, they just cant’ find any speed and suffer a mediocre result. While they each have victories on the season, (Peters at LORP and Hornaday at Texas,Atlanta and Kentucky) they haven’t shown the ability to consistently run week in and week out with the top contenders.
Going into these final five races of the season, Dillon, Buescher and Sauter hold the upper hand, as they can quickly eliminate Peters and Hornaday from title contention with wins and top fives. Peters and Hornaday will need to not only continue to contend for wins, but close the deal and take home the checkered flag if they want to remain in the mix.
Sauter on the other hand, needs to minimize his mistakes, as those are the reasons why he’s in the position he’s in. A win over the next few races could very well put him back into the points lead but, one or two bad races could very well take him out all together.
The case of Dillon and Buescher is simple. The only thing they need to do is record consistent top five and top ten finishes over the final five races of the season. Being in the ‘driver’s seats’ for this championship as they hold nearly a half-race points lead(19 points) over third place Sauter, consistency is the name of the game. While a win for either driver would significantly help, but completing all the laps and keeping their nose clean will be more than enough to keep them in the race.
Regardless of what happens down the stretch, we have been treated to an amazing season thus far with the trucks. The fight for the title will more than likely come down to the final race of the season in Homestead Miami.
Races Left On The Schedule
Las Vegas Motor Speedway 10-15-2011
Talladega Superspeedway 10-22-2011
Martinsville Speedway 10-29-2011
Texas Motor Speedway 11-4-2011
Homestead Miami Speedway 11-18-2011