Kyle Busch Motorsports Enjoys a Strong Outing at Martinsville Ickler's KBM Debut Nets Third-Place Finish from 32nd Starting Spot; Malsam 14th Just three races into its first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, the two-truck team of Kyle...
Kyle Busch Motorsports Enjoys a Strong Outing at Martinsville
Ickler's KBM Debut Nets Third-Place Finish from 32nd Starting Spot; Malsam 14th
Just three races into its first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, the two-truck team of Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) already appears quite strong after Brian Ickler and Tayler Malsam brought home finishes of third and 14th in Saturday's Kroger 250 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Ickler, the 24-year-old from Southern California, didn't find out until Thursday that he would be making his debut in the No. 18 KBM Toyota Tundra as a last-minute replacement for team owner Kyle Busch, who will instead drive next Friday at Nashville Superspeedway in Lebanon, Tenn., where Ickler was originally scheduled to make his debut.
On Saturday, Ickler found himself with the daunting task of starting 32nd on a grid set by owner points after Friday qualifying was rained out, but enjoyed a near-flawless performance on the grueling .526-mile Martinsville oval en route to the No. 18 Toyota's second top-three finish in a row. Busch drove it to a runner-up finish three weeks ago in the Truck Series event at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The 21-year-old Malsam, meanwhile, started eighth and maintained his position in or near the top-10 all race long. He was cruising to an eighth-place finish when, with just two laps to go, he cut a left-front tire and had to coast across the finish line in 14th.
Ickler's drive from 32nd to third was impressive, given it was his first race of any kind at the tight confines of Martinsville.
"We started in the back -- 32nd by points," said Ickler, who had 11 previous starts in the Truck Series in 2009 with Billy Ballew Motorsports before moving to KBM. "We had a good truck today and got up in the top-five or top-10. We came in for a pit stop and I messed up by pitting outside the box and had to go to the back again. Then I got back up there, recovered and finished third. It was a pretty good truck. I have to thank Toyota and all the guys at Kyle Busch Motorsports. I'm pleased with the results."
With the No. 18 Toyota to his liking, Ickler made relatively quick work of moving from 32nd on the starting grid to a spot in the top-10. He broke into the top-20 just 13 laps into the 250-lap event, and restarted in 14th after the first caution period on lap 31. By lap 38, he found himself in the top-10 and continued his forward momentum, picking off competitor after competitor before arriving in the sixth position when the second caution period occurred on lap 73, prompting the day's first round of pit stops. Ickler broke into the top-five by lap 90, and climbed to fourth just one lap later.
Ickler's only misstep during an otherwise stellar afternoon came during the team's second pit stop under caution on lap 135, when he came to a stop in the No. 18 Toyota team's pit box with his right-front tire just outside the boundary line. The team opted to change just the right-side tires and send him back around to stay on the lead lap before changing the left-side tires. The misstep dropped Ickler to the back of the lead-lap trucks, in 21st position, when the race restarted on lap 139.
But again, Ickler patiently made his way back toward the front, finding himself in sixth on lap 213 when three trucks in front of him tangled and allowed him to slide up to his final finishing position of third.
"It's definitely difficult," Ickler said about being a last-minute replacement at such a difficult racetrack. "I haven't driven the truck since the end of last year and actually hadn't planned on racing this race until Thursday afternoon. I had been trying to race as many things as I could in the offseason -- even if it's Late Models. Seat time is seat time. That's my biggest thing. Once we get going, here, it will pick up and, once I'm racing at least once a month, then I think I'll be alright."
Malsam, starting eighth on the grid, found himself struggling with a tight-handling racetruck and brake issues that caused him to frequently lock up his tires around the tight, paperclip-shaped oval and ultimately led to his cut left-front tire on lap 248. Still, he was able to hold his position throughout the event and never fell far out of the top-10 before the final mishap.
"Tight-to-loose was our problem the whole weekend," Malsam said. "It kind of caught me off-guard a little bit. We just could never get it free enough. And we had brake issues all weekend, too, which makes it all the more difficult here at Martinsville. Don't get me wrong, it was a good truck, but just not quite good enough to win. We ended up flat-spotting too much, and once that happens, you keep locking them up and the tires end up taking a pretty good beating. We were good on the long runs, if we ever got a long run. I don't know, it turned out to not be that kind of a day down the stretch with all the yellows. Overall, after three races, we're looking pretty good in the points, and it's on to Nashville from here."
Kevin Harvick won the Kroger 250 by 1.552 seconds over his Kevin Harvick Inc., teammate Ron Hornaday. It was Harvick's eighth career Camping World Truck Series victory, his second of the season and his second at Martinsville. With the victory, Harvick has now won his last four Truck Series starts and six times in his last 10.
Ickler, Timothy Peters and Johnny Benson took spots three through five. The rest of the top-10 consisted of Aric Almirola, Matt Crafton, Max Papis, Mario Gosselin and Ricky Carmichael.
The race featured 11 caution periods for 66 laps, with 10 drivers failing to finish the 250 lap event.
While Ickler and team owner Busch are sharing the No. 18 Toyota over the 25-race Truck Series season, the team is competing for the owner title and today gained two spots to take the fourth position in the owner championship, 64 markers behind the series-leading No. 17 Red Horse Racing Toyota.
Malsam, competing in all 25 races in the No. 56 Toyota, moved up one spot to eighth in the driver championship standings, 144 points behind Peters, the new series leader.