ToyotaCare Racing Team's championship chances fade into the smoke
Kyle Busch and his No. 51 ToyotaCare Racing team entered Friday night's WinStar World Casino 350 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Texas Motor Speedway having closed the gap in the Owner's Championship standings to 15 points and were hopeful that with another strong run in the 147-lap event they could continue lassoing in the series leading No. 88 team. When the green flag dropped, optimism rose as Busch catapulted from his 11th starting position to the fourth spot by the second lap. The Las Vegas native ran inside the top two spots over the first 30 laps, while Matt Crafton's No. 88 Toyota ran in the back half of the top 15.
Busch returned to the track one lap down in the 26th spot. He communicated that the temperatures had cooled, but felt that the engine was running at less than full power. Knowing that every point was valuable and trying to keep his team in the championship hunt, the team's owner-driver gave his Tundra everything it had, hoping that somehow it would make it to the finish or possibly the No. 88 team would also experience problems. As the race continued, the issues would persist and after two more trips down pit road, the engine on the No. 51 ToyotaCare Tundra would terminally expire with big puff of smoke on lap 97, leaving the team with a disappointing 28th-place finish. To compound matters, Crafton gained several positions in the closing laps to bring home a 10th-place finish and expand the lead in the championship standings to 32 points with just two races remaining.
"It must have got trash on the grill early and then once it got hot -- these motors can't get hot and recover," Busch said. "Surprised it recovered as good as it did there for a while and it sort of got hot again. I don't think there was trash on the grill, I think it was just build-up of heat in the motor. Ultimately there, we were just trying to suffer on and see if we couldn't make it to the end -- see if it would live. Once they get hot a bunch of things internally start going wrong and eventually it goes real bad. I hate it for all these guys. We were in the hunt for the owner's championship -- this pretty much eliminates it. It sucks. This Toyota Care Tundra has been awesome this year. These guys have done a whale of a job. We've been fast a lot, we've won a lot and had a really fast truck here tonight, but nobody was going to touch the 3 (Ty Dillon)."
Ty Dillon led 130 of 147 laps en route to his third career Truck Series victory. Johnny Sauter came home in the runner-up spot 2.663 seconds behind Dillon. Ron Hornaday Jr. and Brendan Gaughan, finished third and fourth, respectively and Justin Lofton rounded out the top-five finishers.
Darrel Wallace Jr.'s No. 54 Camping World/Good Sam Tundra came home seventh and Joey Coulter's No. 18 Darrell Gwynn Foundation Tundra finished 12th.
There were three caution periods for 15 laps. Five different drivers led a lap, exchanging the lead eight times, including Busch who led once for two laps. Ten drivers failed to finish the 147-lap event.
The No. 51 team remains second in the owner's championship standings after 20 races. The team now sits 32 points behind the series-leading No. 88 team.
The No. 51 team will be back in action next Friday Nov. 8 at Phoenix (Ariz.) International Raceway for the Lucas Oil 150. 17-year-old Erik Jones, who has finished inside the top 10 in each of his four career Truck Series starts, will make final start of 2013 and debut new sponsor Wake Up Narcolepsy "Awake at the Wheel." Live Television coverage on Fox Sports 1 beings at 7:30 p.m. ET with the NCWTS Setup Show.