Caution Fest at Martisville

April 2, 2011
by Lee

Credit: Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images for NASCAR -- Johnny Sauter celebrates winning the Kroger 250 with a burnout at Martinsville Speedway.

Caution fest is about to begin at Martinsville Speedway as the drivers of the NASCAR Camping World Truck series prepare to do battle. Okay, so the race is not called the caution fest, but it is actually the Kroger 250. Past truck races at Martinsville generally seemed to be slow and full of caution. We will see if the pace car leads the most laps today, or if the field can find a way to stay under green.

Two big story lines before the trucks take the green flag to keep an eye on today. The first story is tires. Goodyear decided to bring a new tire to Martinsville for this race weekend, but an all too familiar problem is occurring. The tires are not rubbering in the track, but are wearing into clumps of rubber building up at the upper part of the groove. I have not seen any reports of tires blowing out, but we have not seen race conditions yet. Normally this race can be run with only one pit stop, with the tire concerns, we will have to see if more stops will be needed.

Second story to keep an eye on are the two double duty drivers from the Sprint Cup circuit driving in the race today. Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch will give it a go with the Camping World regulars. The story here is whether the regulars can beat the Cup drivers to the checkered flag.

The trucks have started and are on their pace and parade laps. Johnny Sauter will lead the field to the green flag. Starting alongside Sauter will be Cole Whitt in the second position. Other drivers to watch today are Ron Hornaday starting 10th, Todd Bodine starting 15th, and Ricky Carmichael starting 20th. Cup regulars Harvick starts in the 3rd position, and Rowdy Busch starts 5th.

Sauter takes the green flag and the field roars to life. Sauter is cleanly through the first turn on the bottom. Sauter leads the first lap. Busch uses the chrome horn on Austin Dillon on the second lap to take a position. Busch got into the turn hard and hit Dillon kind of hard, but both soldier on.

Justin Lofton brings out the first caution by destroying the back end of his truck. Lofton cut down on Norm Benning who was running in the middle of the groove. I am going to guess it was around lap 20 that the caution came out since Speed TV was at commercial. Lofton has taken the truck behind the wall for repairs.

Speed TV now misses the restart, but the trucks are back up to speed on lap 23. Sauter continues to lead with Busch in second and Harvick in third. Toward the middle of the pack and back there is good side by side racing with trucks trying to force their way to the bottom of the groove. There is a lot of beating and banging going on in those places on the track.

Again, Speed is at commercial and the field is now under caution. Matt Lofton spun in turn three and four. Harvick chooses to pit on this caution due to an extremely loose condition with the truck. Three or four other trucks pitted during the caution as well. Lofton spun the truck after hitting the curb at the bottom side of the track.

Lap 48 and the green is back out and Sauter continues to pace the field. Coming out of turn two Busch rockets off the corner and gets the lead from the Sauter. Sauter left the door open and Busch comes through. Sauter now reports that his truck is loose. Lap 51 and Sauter now goes back by Busch coming out of four. Sauter just radioed that he thinks his tires were not clean when the green flag came out.

Lap 55 and Busch is in a pickle. Busch was being freight trained by five or six trucks as he got stuck on the outside. Lap 56 and the caution is out for Timothy Peters as he spins. Looked like an accordion situation causing the wreck. A truck ahead was about to spin but saved it, then everyone behind started running into each other and then the spin occurred. Peters had front and rear damage that is going to require time in the garage. Field is in for pit stops now. Sauter and Whitt still stay out on this caution.

Lap 62 and Speed misses another restart. Sauter continues to lead and Busch is now second. Speed never really showed the trucks coming off of pit road. Coverage is a little out of sync today. Joey Coulter passes Busch to take the second position. So far, the regulars are showing the Cup boys how it is done.

Lap 72 and the caution is out for Todd Bodine spinning at the hands of Harvick. Harvick was passed out of two by Bodine, Harvick bumped Bodine in three, and then Harvick was bumped by Max Papis which caused him to hit Bodine again causing the spin. Leaders are in for pit stops. Harvick has the hood of the truck up on pit road. Speed is now reporting that they are adjusting camber on Harvick’s truck. Wholesale changes were made on Busch’s truck as well for a loose race truck.

Lap 78 and the green is out. Ricky Carmichael jumps to the lead on the restart. Harvick lost two laps on pit road for the changes; his chances of winning the clock today are over. Busch currently runs in the 13th position.

Lapp 88 and Chase Mattioli spins to bring out the fifth caution. Mattioli appeared to have bumped the curb causing him to lose control of the truck.

Lap 94 and we are back up to speed. Matt Crafton drives it hard into one and two and takes the lead from Carmichael. Back into one and Hornaday now goes to the point. Hornaday now begins to check out to a ten truck length lead. Once again, racing is occurring throughout the second half of the pack as the trucks try to get to the bottom.

Lap 109 and Mattioli bring out the caution with a spin in the same place he spun before. Mattioli got bumped by a truck on the high side and pushed up on the curb. Well, it may have been too early to call Harvick out of the race. There were no cars one lap down, so Harvick got the lucky dog and is now one lap down. He will be the only truck one lap down. If the caution comes out quick, Harvick is going to be back on the lead lap.

Lap 114 and Hornaday continues to hold the lead. Carmichael jumps up to second now. Busch makes a power move and goes on the outside around Crafton to move into the fourth position. Who said you cannot pass on the outside at Martinsville?

Around lap 130 and put Carmichael back in the top spot. Sauter also moves past Hornaday to take over second.

James Buescher and Jeffery Earnhardt have wrecked as Speed comes back from the commercial break. Let’s just say there were wrecks all over the place. This was another situation where a wreck caused a wreck. The red flag is now displayed to clean up a lot of fluid and debris on the track.

Red flag has been withdrawn and some trucks have made stops. Carmichael continues to lead as the green flag is back out on lap 143. Carmichael goes too high in turn one and Busch leaps from the third position into the lead. A note on Busch, he has not won a race in any of the top three series at Martinsville.

Around lap 160 and the caution is out. Sauter had passed Carmichael and Cole Whitt tried to go as well and bumped Carmichael causing him to spin. Some trucks again come in for stops. Harvick is the big recipient and is now back on the lead lap. It will be interesting to see if Harvick can work his way back to the front.

Lap 165 and Busch is back out front as the green has flown. Another missed restart by Speed. Busch and Sauter jump out to about a ten truck lead over the rest of the pack. Harvick is currently 20th and moving past slower traffic.

Lap 174 and Mattioli is in a familiar spot looking the wrong direction in turn four. Some leaders are making their final stop, and some are staying out. There are a lot of different strategies going on as the laps wind down. Busch is the first truck off of pit road that chose to pit.

Lap 180 and back under green. Brendon Gaughan leads the field with Austin Dillon on his tail. Field was shuffled around with the pit stops during the last stop. Dillon now grabs the lead and Papis muscles his way into second.

Lap 188 and Carmichael is getting back in the mix. Carmichael has moved back up to third position.

Lap 202 and the caution comes out for Dusty Davis spinning. Davis got bumped by Bodine and has some damage to the rear end of the truck. Davis and Bodine were battling for the 10th position.

Lap 106 and we get another restart with Dillon leading the field into turn one. Back to the start finish line with Dillon leading, but Carmichael has moved into second place with Busch now in third.

Lap 212 and Busch is up to second. Sauter now gets past Carmichael to go into third. The racing has picked up. Lap 213 and we get the 11th caution of the day when Bodine has a right rear tire problem and spins the truck. Looked like it may have been situation where he got high in the marbles and dirty tires caused the spin.

Lap 219 and Busch is going to grab the lead off of two with an outside pass. Sauter gets past Dillon to move into second. Harvick now gets past Dillon and goes to third. Dillon is now stuck on the high side and gets past by Carmichael. There is action all over track now.

Lap 222 and the caution is out for debris on the track. Speed does a good job by showing a big chunk of sheet metal just out of the groove in one of the turns.

Lap 227 and we get back under way with Busch leading at the line. Busch gets away cleanly in the lead while Harvick battles Sauter for the second position.

There are fourteen laps to go and Sauter has caught Busch. Sauter is stalking Busch’s rear end, but has not made the move yet to bump and run.

Lap 241 and the 13th caution of day comes out for a spinner in turn one. A bunch of trucks were battling for position and a truck in the second groove was odd man out that got hit and spun.

There will be four laps to go when the green flag comes back out. Busch is in first, Sauter in second, and Harvick in third. Green flag and Busch gets into turn one clear and gets a truck length lead. Two laps to go and rain is also falling. Sauter bumps Busch. Side by side they battle through four. Sauter leads. Sauter gets away from Busch and gets back to the stripe to win the race.

Another great finish to a Camping World Truck Series race after beating and banging all day. It was a caution fest with a lot of laps logged under the yellow, but there were also a lot of battles under green all over the track. Tires were never a huge deal in the race with the exception of putting the marbles above the groove.

Looking forward to 500 laps of action in the Sprint Cup Series tomorrow, please stop by after Sunday’s race for a recap.

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