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Rookie Mistake Leads To Rookie Victory At DIS

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 25 2012

Rookie driver John King beat the veterans to the checkered flag in Friday night's season-opening Camping World Truck Series Race in Daytona. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Brian Lawdermilk)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Staring at the prospect of a third green/white/checkered flag restart Friday night, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie John King’s thoughts wandered to his post-race apology to Johnny Sauter.

Contact between King and Sauter during the second GWC laps around the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway sent the latter crashing into the outside wall just before the start/finish line, abruptly ending the veteran’s bid for victory in the 13th annual NextEra Energy Resources 250. The resulting debris from a multiple-truck wreck brought out a red-flag stoppage, giving King more than enough time to organize his “mea culpas.”

“Golly, I flat-freakin’ wrecked him,” a disconsolate King radioed into his crew during the time-out.

“I apologize to Johnny Sauter. I shouldn’t have been there because I am so inexperienced. (But) here we are,” King said – from all places – Gatorade Victory Lane after an improbable win in the series’ 2012 season-opener. “I closed-up on him (Sauter) real fast. I was in the trioval and I couldn’t get off of him. I closed-up on him too fast and just wrecked him. Just inexperience – a rookie mistake.”

That said and duly documented, King was practically speechless after scoring his first win on DIS’ famed high-banks after only eight series starts. “Man, I’m a rookie, I’m not supposed to be here,” said King, a 23-year-old resident of Kingsport, Tenn. “This is unreal. This Red Horse Racing team is unbelievable. From the owner to the tire guy – everybody does their job. I don’t know what to say. I have never driven anything so smooth in my life as that race truck. It’s just a dream come true.”

Red Horse Racing was founded in 2005 by former Mobil Corporation executive Tom DeLoach and Jeff

A wreck on the final lap of the Camping World race at Daytona sent the truck of Joey Coulter flying into the catch fence. It was just one of several big wrecks in the race. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Brian Lawdermilk)

Hammond, veteran NASCAR crew chief-turned-TV analyst.

King, who started 23rd, led Timothy Peters across the finish line to give Red Horse Racing a 1-2 result after completion of an event-record 109 laps. Justin Lofton finished third in the No. 6 College Complete Chevrolet Silverado fielded by Eddie Sharp Racing. Travis Kvapil, the 2003 series champion and driver of the No. 09 Toyota fielded by RAB Racing, placed fourth. Meanwhile, Red Horse Racing’s Todd Bodine _ Truck Series race-winner at DIS in 2008-09 – was sixth, posting his seventh top-five finish in eight starts.

Despite his late-race miscue, King showed plenty of patience after losing the draft early in an event scheduled for 100 laps. “Just stayed with it. Got lucky, got a caution and got back up,” said King, driver of the No. 7 Toyota Tundra. “Stayed right on my yellow brick road (the double bottom line) and just made it up towards the front.”

By time what was left of the original 36-truck field was pacing toward the third/final GWC, King was definitely up on the wheel. “I was ready for them (the laps) to be over real quick,” said King, whose previous career-best finish of 15th was recorded in his series debut at Bristol Motor Speedway in 2010. “Timothy (Peters) stuck with me and pushed me right to the end. I’ve got great teammates.”

Peters didn’t try to contain his excitement over the result after exiting his No. 17 Tire Kingdom/Service Central Tundra. “How about John King?” Peters said. “Go back to ‘Top Gun’ – you never, ever leave your wing man, right? I will tell you, awesome finish to Daytona. I’m so happy for John and Todd (Bodine) _ great night for the organization.”

Chad Kendrick, King’s crew chief, said the rookie wisely stuck to a pre-race script. “We had a game plan,”

John King's crew celebrates victory. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Brian Lawdermilk)

Kendrick said. “First of all, I got to say this was a truly, truly team effort from the whole organization _ from the shop, to the track, all three teams worked together. We talked in practice, formulated plans what we were going to do in the race.

“We did the race the way we planned it from the start, from taking the tires the first stop, to not taking tires the rest of the race. Taking the fuel. John did an awesome job coming onto pit road and coming around. He had to come around the No. 19 (Brad Keselowski’s twitter Dodge Ram) twice to take fuel. One time we got blocked in by the truck in front of us. But we stuck to our plan.

“And this truck (Chassis 140) has won this race…this is the second time. It won in 2010 with Timothy Peters. I guess it’s ironic Timothy helped push us to this win with John in it. John’s a great, great kid _ awesome to work with. I mean, you put somebody in good equipment, they have a good head on them _ I guess you always have a shot.”

A native of Fort Blackmore, Va., King got his start racing on dirt in a Crate Late Model in 2006. King continued in the Late Model division until 2008, when he was asked to join the Bill Elliott Driver Development program in the UARA-STARS Late Model division on asphalt. Friday night, King gave Toyota Racing Development its sixth consecutive win in the NCWTS season-opener _ most of any manufacturer. It also marked the third time a driver had earned his first series win at the “World Center of Racing.” The others were former Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip in 2011 and Robert Pressley in 2002.

Bodine, Truck Series champion in 2006 and 2010, intercepted King prior to his post-race celebration. “I told him to savor every minute of this – he’s going to Victory Lane at Daytona,” said Bodine, driver of the No. 11 Good Sam Roadside Assistance Tundra. “He’s such a good kid. He’s so polite and nice and he’s a heck of a race car driver. I talked to him before the race and I told him, ‘John, just don’t do anything and you’re going to be there at the end.’ Sure enough, that’s what happened.

“I‘m so happy for him and everybody at Red Horse Racing has worked their guts out for the last two months on all three of these speedway trucks. We should have got all three in the top-three there, but I just couldn’t get going on the restart. I tried to side-draft him and it didn’t work. I’m so happy for this team. Everybody at Good Sam Roadside Assistance, I really appreciate that they have come on board. Red Horse Racing is a great race team. Tom DeLoach deserves to be in Victory Lane.”

Sauter, the 2009 series Rookie of the Year, felt the same about his No. 13 Hot Honeys Toyota fielded by

Cale Gale and Mike Skinner were involved in one of Friday's big wrecks. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Brian Lawdermilk)

ThorSport Racing until it was punted into the wall en route to a 24th-place finish. “Thought I was in pretty good position there, but it’s just a product of superspeedway racing,” said Sauter, absolving King of intent. “I was trying to get into the trioval and I think it’s just a racing deal. It just looks like he’s (King) crossing over and he’s obviously getting help from the guy behind him – it’s probably Bodine. He’s known for driving a little bit over his head at places like this.

“You could see that I tried to do everything right and I was getting pushed the opposite way. Daytona’s been an Achilles heel for me. For whatever reason it’s impossible for me to get to a finish so I had no expectations going into the race today. Daytona in the Truck Series has a lot of incidents – always has, always will. I’m glad to see a Toyota in Victory Lane, but we wanted it to be the No. 13.”

The race ended during the third and final GWC when contact between the No. 31 AccuDoc Solutions Chevy driven by James Buescher and the No. 22 Mama Lucia Meatballs Silverado driven by Joey Coulter turned the latter’s truck into the outside wall exiting Turn 4. The No. 22 got airborne and pin-wheeled along the catch fence before slamming to the surface right-side up. Coulter exited under his own power.

Turner Motorsports appeared poised to dictate the race after sweeping the top-three spots in qualifying and leading all but two of the first 83 laps. Pole-sitter Miguel Paludo led a race-high 56 of the extended 109 laps – most laps ever run in the event. Paludo was just three laps shy of tying Mike Wallace for the most laps-led in the race – 59 in 2000.

Paludo’s night ended via a violent wreck exiting Turn 4 with 17 laps remaining, when his No. 32 Duroline Chevrolet shot left while running third – directly behind leader, teammate and fellow-Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr.’s No. 30 Qualcomm Autotrac Chevy – and into the inside wall SAFER Barrier. Paludo’s truck did a complete 360 in the air as the front clip disintegrated. “It was a hard hit for sure. I lost my breath,” Paludo said after being cleared at the infield care center. “Just got loose, two-wide up there and I couldn’t hold it.”

The night’s first GWC was set up with seven laps to go, when the No. 29 Cooper Standard Dodge Ram of Parker Kligerman and the No. 81 ZHI.com Toyota of David Starr made contact after being squeezed through the exit of Turn 4. The cleanup prompted the first overtime. Jason White had the lead for the restart in his No. 23 GunBroker.com Ford F-150, with Sauter lined-up alongside. King was third with four-time series champion Ron Hornaday Jr. fourth in his No. 9 Chevrolet.

On the restart, Hornaday pushed Sauter into the lead ahead of White, but before the white flag could be displayed, another caution flew for a wreck involving Sprint Cup regular Keselowski’s BKR Ram and Rick Crawford’s No. 73 Chevy down the backstretch. Sauter took the lead on the restart with King on his rear bumper. The pack was headed to the start/finish line when King got into the back of Sauter’s truck, triggering the multiple-vehicle wreck and subsequent red flag stoppage. The remaining trucks were led by King, with 104 laps completed. Bodine was second and Peters third heading into GWC restart No. 3.

Ty Dillon, brother of 2011 series champion Austin Dillon and grandson of NASCAR multiple championship team-owner Richard Childress, brought the No. 3 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet home ninth. And Ward Burton, the 2002 Daytona 500 champion, finished eighth in the No. 27 Chevy in his first NASCAR national touring series start since October 2007.

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

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 25 2012
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  • The small, rural community of Ft. Blackmore, VA supports John King racing completely. Very, very happy for John and the entire King family and the race team as well. Wishing John King Racing much success during the 2012 season and beyond.