By: Ashley McCubbin
There was a reason why the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series gained a reputation of putting on the best intermediate events of the national tours last season. Their first attempt continued the display.
The Buckled Up 200 was a balance between great battling and ultra craziness in seeing the battles around the track. The restarts would see plenty of battles through the field with drivers trying to secure positions, with that only continuing through a run. If you had a good handling package, you could certainly make passes to move forwards. It seemed no matter where you looked, a battle caught your attention.
Unfortunately, the flip side was inexperience showing it’s hand as the number of cautions were plentiful. So despite the great display of battles at times, the race ultimately had it’s fair share of controversy. Rather than beat around the bush a second time, Cole Cusumano discussed it perfectly.
While everybody has been chasing the next new star, Kyle Busch wanted to bring in an experienced driver for his Truck Series to continually produce victories, build the program, alongside the developing buds. Considering his trucks only visited victory lane on four occasions (three for Busch, one for Raphael Lessard) in 2020, it’s easy to understand why.
Enter John Hunter Nemechek. He’s still one of the young stars of the sport at the age of 23, but has been racing at the national level for seven years, including victories in the Truck Series and experience in the NASCAR Cup Series. He was also driven to get back to winning and prove himself, after spending the last couple years missing in the feeling. Hence the hashtag, #here4wins.
The speed from KBM, combined with his own experience and tips from the boss paid off with his first of probably many this season on Friday night. Truth be told, the dominance in pacing 94 of 134 laps easily makes him the early championship favorite, too.
Oh, and he also out-ran the boss by driving away from him on a couple different restarts throughout the event, including in the late stages. While Busch was fast on the long runs, Nemechek was the king at the beginning and that allowed him to build a gap to cruise to victory lane.
That said, do not take away anything from Busch’s performance as he drove through the field twice – once due to starting back there, and the second as a result of a flat tire. As for the spin after the issue, well, that can be debated both ways in whether he did it on purpose for the yellow.
Busch wasn’t the only driver to challenge Nemechek, as Sheldon Creed showed speed through the opening stage and was able to hang with the No. 4 for several laps. However. a loose plug wire slowed him down and despite making repairs, an incident while stuck in traffic afterwards was the nail in the coffin.
While Nemechek laid down his claim, Creed is here to remind why he is the defending series champion after a pair of top-six finishes coming into Las Vegas, too. Combined with other stars rising their stocks with continued strong performances, this is another season where you will not see a clear favorite all the way through.