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Top Contenders Top Truck Qualifying At TMS

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, November 3 2011

Austin Dillon's fight for the Camping World Truck Series championship heated up in Texas on Thursday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

FORT WORTH, Texas – Separated by 11 points and approximately five-hundredths of a second, James Buescher and Austin Dillon will resume their bids for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship at Texas Motor Speedway Friday night.

Native Texan Buescher – who trails first-place Dillon by 11 points – made a statement by earning the Keystone Light Pole Award during time trials Thursday night for the 13th annual WinStar World Casino 350k. Buescher’s best of two laps around the 1.5-mile TMS quadoval was timed in 29.824-seconds and 181.062 mph. Dillon posted numbers of 29.870/180.783 to set up a made-for-SPEED TV front row.

Buescher bagged his third pole of the season and second in six races at TMS, including the WinStar World Casino 400k here in June. Buescher is within striking distance of his first title in spite of the fact he failed to qualify at Phoenix International Raceway in February, and has yet to win his first series race.

“We got to win the race for the championship (points),” said Buescher, driver of the No. 31 Exide Batteries Chevrolet Silverado fielded by Turner Motorsports. “The pole doesn’t give us any points; it gives us track position and that (No. 1) pit stall. It’s the end of the season and we got to work hard to finish up

James Buescher won the pole for Friday's Camping World race. (Chris Graythen for Getty Images)

the year we’ve had. We’ve got to finish up strong, and I think we’re showing that.”

Friday night’s race is the penultimate round of a 25-event schedule that will conclude at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 18.

“This is a fun racetrack for me, being my home track and where I got started in racing,” said Buescher, a native of Katy, which is located near Houston, living in nearby Plano. “Still haven’t won a race on the big track and hopefully we can do that tomorrow for the points. It’s definitely somewhere I do want to win. I want to win at a lot of places but this is one of them high on the list.”

Dillon said he feels that Buescher – like himself 21-years-old – is overdue for that first Victory Lane visit. “I feel like I’m overdue,” said Dillon, driver of the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops/Tracker Boats Chevy fielded by Richard Childress Racing. “I got four wins in the Truck Series and I want five. Texas is a great track for us. I love this track. I love racing here. Cool that (Sprint) Cup guys are here for this one, so it’s going to make it tougher – Kyle (Busch) and Kevin (Harvick) will be battling up there for sure.

“Qualifying, I really don’t even look at that for this race. I feel like the trucks that handle well in traffic will be good. And there’ll be some pit strategy played – two tires, four tires and gas. So it’ll be a good race. I’m looking forward to running up-front.”

Dillon, in fact, said he spent most of Thursday’s two practice sessions setting up for the 147-lap/220.5-mile race.

”I feel like we were hoping for a top-five (in qualifying) and jumped up there to second,” said Dillon, the grandson of team-owner Richard Childress. “I feel like we’ve got a great downforce truck that will race really well. That’s what I worked on all day. Took my brother (Ty) out there and Joey Coulter and we raced in line – switched from the front to the middle to the back to see what our trucks did. I feel like mine was really, really good. It should be fun.

“You have so much grip here, running wide-open is like Talladega and Daytona. But when you get out there in a race, it’s a totally different atmosphere. The air is pushing you around, you’re sideways, you’re sliding the front end and trying to get a happy medium that you can race in traffic. It’s so aero-sensitive in how short you can make the track. We’re very comfortable that ours is very snug and ready to race.”

Four-time series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. – tied for third in points with Johnny Sauter, 15 behind Dillon – will start ninth after lapping at 180.00 mph in the No. 33 OneMain Financial Chevrolet. Sauter, the last of 39 trucks to make qualifying passes, wound up 12th at 179.826 mph in the No. 13 SafeAuto/Curb Records Chevy.

Hornaday was handed victory in the WinStar World Casino 400k here on June 10, when race-leader Sauter was black-flagged for illegally changing lanes on the night’s final restart. Sauter, who had passed Hornaday for the lead with a powerful run through Turn 4 on Lap 130, was penalized for moving from the outside lane in front of Hornaday before crossing the start/finish line on Lap 167 under NASCAR’s green-white-checker flag rules.

Hornaday posted his 48th career victory that night while Sauter was relegated to a 22nd-place finish in a race that featured track records for most leaders (19), lead changes (11) and cautions (10).

Busch, winner of the fall event here in 2009 and 2010, will start fourth after a lap at 180.451 mph. Busch, owner-driver of the No. 18 Traxxas Toyota Tundra, led a race-high 80 of 147 laps and withstood a green-white-checkered finish last fall to prevail over Sauter by 0.386-seconds. Busch goes into the race ranking first in series wins (8) and laps-led (877), and second in fastest laps run (437) and top-five finishes (15).

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, November 3 2011
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