The trucks were racing under the lights in the evening NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Drivers were interviewed during the day, and it seemed to be a general consensus that Cup Series driver Kyle Busch would be the yard stick that these truck drivers would use to compare themselves to. As the only Cup Series driver running in the race, Busch was the man to try and beat. Another guy to keep our eyes on was Matt Crafton. He’s known for his excellent skill at 1.5 mile tracks and he seemed confident that he’d do well. Between Busch and Crafton, they had 30 wins. Between the drivers in the rest of the field, they only had 11 wins. The track had character, the surface was feisty, the sun was going down, and these drivers were all raring to go.
Starting from the pole was Bell. He was followed by Briscoe, Sauter, Busch and Rhodes in the top five. Would the trend of pole starters winning the race, continue today with 3rd time pole sitter this season – Bell? Would Busch get his 7th victory here? Would Crafton end his dry spell? Once the green flag was waving, all those questions would soon be answered.
The outside line got a good run on the start and Bell galloped ahead thanks to team mate Kyle Busch, who took 2nd behind. On lap 4 though, Bell blew his left-read tyre and did an amazing job of hanging onto the truck as it fishtailed across the track. He limped to pit road and went a lap down whilst Busch went to the point, followed by series regular, Sauter, and Crafton.
Hale brought out the first caution of the evening after spinning out and avoiding the outside wall. No damage was sustained and other drivers headed down pit road. It was back to green on lap 14 and Busch was on the outside and it paid off for him as he jumped way ahead of Briscoe and Sauter after the restart. Busch held onto the top spot as the Stage began to draw to a close, and Briscoe and Sauter were still behind by about 2 seconds. With 8 laps remaining, Cindric brought out another yellow flag after he span around and narrowly missed being hit by the other trucks on the track. Lots of strategies came into play when some drivers came down pit road with 6 laps to go, so they could stay out during the end of Stage caution. The field was about to be shaken up once this Stage ended.
The race restarted with 4 laps to go and drivers dashed to gain precious spots for points and a chance to win the Stage. Busch held onto the lead ahead of Crafton and Briscoe. Behind them, the pack was running three and four wide as urgency stepped up a notch and drivers scuffled with one another for places. Kyle Busch ended up winning the Stage, ahead of Sauter, JH Nemechek, Crafton, Briscoe, Rhodes, Chastain, Truex, Gragson and Peters in the top 10 after a nail biting final lap.
Stage 2 started on lap 47 and it was Chastain who was out front for the restart, followed by the other drivers who had pitted during the caution for Cindric. Brandon Jone got ahead of Kligerman and Chastain, but everyone was all over each other like rashes as they aggressively fought for spots. A couple of laps later, it was Kligerman who was out in front ahead of Chastain and Sauter. Busch was back up into the top five on lap 13 of this Stage. His truck was incredibly lively, and even kissed the wall at one point. Fortunately, he held onto it and no incident occurred.
With 26 laps left in the Stage, Sauter moved around Kligerman for the top spot with the hope of scoring his first win of the season. 6 laps later however, the caution was out for Grala and Jones. Jones got loose and took them both into the barrier. Grala was left with some rear damage, and Jones sustained damage too. Both headed to pit road, along with a couple of other drivers.
It was back to green with 16 laps left in Stage 2 and Sauter took the lead ahead of Chastain and Kligerman, who was quickly swapped out for Crafton in 3rd. It was three-wide mid field, and Bell was up to the 15th spot after having to start from the rear, one lap down in Stage 1. With 12 laps to go, another caution was out for Grala once again. He’d got loose and into the outside wall. The damage was very significant on his right rear corner, and would likely be out of the race.
It was another shootout for the end of Stage 2 when the race began again with only 6 laps to go. Kligerman was sent to the rear due to an uncontrolled tyre on pit road – so it would be Sauter, Crafton and Truex who’d be the frontrunners of the restart. Truex shoved Sauter out front before going three-wide with Crafton too. It was a tense race at the front as Sauter barely hung onto 1st. Crafton was doing a great job of keeping up with Sauter as the two of them even ran side-by-side.
With 3 laps to go, Busch made an incredibly bold and aggressive move as he showed the truck drivers exactly what they’re all aiming for. Moffitt and Nemechek made contact as pit road closed. A caution was not brought out, but Nemechek was badly damaged. Busch ended up winning Stage 2, ahead of Sauter, Crafton, Rhodes, Bell, Truex, Briscoe, Peters, Gragson and Hill in the top 10.
Stage 3 started on lap 88 of 134 and Crafton was sent to the rear after speeding on pit road. Cindric, Kligerman and Busch would lead the way for the green flag. Cindric jumped out front, and the guys behind him went three-wide as Rhodes assumed 2nd ahead of Busch. Rhodes and Busch were doing a lot of side-by-side racing until Busch came out top dog and claimed 2nd place just before snatching 1st with 44 laps to go. Bell had done an amazing job of working his way up the field after his mishap at the start the race, because with 43 laps to go – he was 3rd and hoping to catch up to team mate Busch.
With 42 laps to go, the caution was out for Benning after his front tyres went down. He dragged himself down pit road and a handful of other drivers followed suit. It was back to green with 37 laps to go and Bell was directly behind Busch for the restart. Busch zoomed ahead and Bell held onto 2nd by the skin of his teeth, ahead of Rhodes. That wasn’t the end of the battle though, as the pair continued to battle for 2nd. Sauter then had a look in as he ran side-by-side with Rhodes, right before another caution came out with 33 to go for Smith.
The race was back on 5 laps later, and Rhodes was heard complimenting Busch once again as he commented on Busch’s handling of his truck and compared it to his own. Busch dominated the restart, ahead of team mate Bell and Sauter. A couple of laps later, it was Crafton who was in the 3rd spot, whilst Sauter dropped down to 4th and Rhodes in 5th. With 20 to go, Busch had run up a lead of 1.7 seconds in front of Bell and Crafton.
With 10 laps to go, Busch had stretched it out with a lead of over 2 seconds ahead of protégé, Bell and Crafton in 3rd. The caution then came out for Mills with 7 laps to go when he span out. The other cars and their spotters did a fantastic job of avoiding Mills. The leaders stayed out of pit road, as other drivers took their final chance for fresh tyres for the handful of laps left. There were 17 trucks on the lead lap when the race restarted with 3 laps to go. Kyle Busch resumed his lead out front ahead of Bell and Sauter who were battling aggressively for 2nd. At the end, Kyle Busch took his 7th checkered flag at Charlotte Motor Speedway for Kyle Busch Motorsports, ahead of Sauter, Bell, Truex, peters, Crafton, Enfinger, Rhodes, Gragson and Kligerman in the top 10.
Following his signature bow – Kyle Busch was interviewed after the race on Victory Lane:
“It was fun. We had a really fast Cessna Tundra tonight. It was a challenge there in the middle part of the race. It was confusing for a while there, but we got through it. There near the end of that stage, we shot through the middle there. I thought the middle was going to close up and I was going to have to push Sauter, but Crafton left me a lane and I was able to blow through there.”