King wrecks leader to win Daytona Truck race
King, in only his eighth-career NCWTS start, held off teammate Timothy Peters on the third and final attempt at a green-white-checkered finish to notch his best finish since a 15th-place showing in his series debut at Bristol in August, 2010.
It was King’s first career Daytona start – his first start on any superspeedway – and his first start for Red Horse Racing.
“Man, I’m a rookie, I’m not supposed to be here,” said King. “This is unreal. I don’t know what to say. I have never driven anything so smooth in my life as that race truck. It’s just a dream come true.”
Peters was credited with the runner-up spot, followed by Justin Lofton, Travis Kvapil and Jason White.
King didn’t so much win the race as survive it, emerging as the leader after taking out race leader Johnny Sauter - who himself was just a mere 100 feet from a first Daytona victory of his own - when Sauter got turned into the outside wall off the bumper of King, touching off an 11-truck crash that brought out the red flag.
King was flagged as the leader, trailed by teammates Todd Bodine and Peters.
After a nearly 12 minute red flag, King brought the field back under green with Bodine on his outside and Peters on his back bumper, getting a push past Bodine, who fell back to sixth place.
Just after taking the white flag, Joey Coulter and Buescher got together just past the start-finish line, triggering another crash that sent Coulter’s truck flying backwards into the catch fencing and somersaulting down the frontstretch, bringing out the ninth and final caution flag which effectively ended the race, sending King to victory lane.
No one was more surprised that he was.
“The expectations were just to finish. That's what I told (his team) at the start of the race,” said King. “I said, ‘Let's get a finish, keep me out of trouble’. We dropped to the back with hopes of missing the big one. It wasn't until we made it into the top five on restarts that I thought, ‘Man, this could happen, this could get going’. There were a couple uncertainties with a couple green-white-checkereds we had to encounter, but we made it happen.”
The truck series events at Daytona have carried a reputation of being a meat-grinder of a race, and Friday’s race was no exception, with six multi-truck melees involving no less than 28 of the 36 trucks entered in the race, with 18 trucks failing to finish the race.
Paludo emerged uninjured, but there were more wrecks to come.
As the race came down to seven laps to go, a five-truck wreck in the short chute brought out the sixth caution of the night and sent the race into overtime for a green-white-checkered finish.
On the restart, Sauter shot to the lead past White on the outside with a push from Ron Hornaday, Jr., but before the field could complete a lap, another crash – this one taking out seven trucks including Brad Keselowski and former Daytona winner Rick Crawford – brought out the yellow flag and another three-lap shootout.
Now with King running second, Sauter restarted as the leader and held the top spot through the first lap-and-a-half before getting turned by King.
Sauter’s truck was unable to continue. He was credited with a 24th-place finish.
“I closed up on him real fast - I was in the tri-oval and I couldn’t get off of him,” said King. “I closed up on him too fast and just wrecked him. Just inexperience, rookie mistake. I apologize to him from the bottom of my heart. It wasn't my intention at all.”
King’s apology did little to placate Sauter, who has now crashed out of the season opening race three times in the last four years.
“Am I surprised that I’m standing here with a 24th place finish? No,” said Sauter. “It just looks like (King) crossed over and he’s obviously getting help from the guy behind him - it’s probably (Todd) Bodine. He’s known for driving a little bit over his head at places like this.
“You could see that I tried to do everything right and I was getting pushed the opposite way. Daytona’s been an Achilles heel for me -- for whatever reason it’s impossible for me to get to a finish so I had no expectations going into the race today.”
Bodine rallied in the closing laps to grab a sixth-place finish, followed by Chris Fontaine.
2002 Daytona 500 winner Ward Burton - making his first NASCAR start since 2007 – came home eighth, while rookie Ty Dillon, younger brother of 2011 truck series champion Austin Dillon, was ninth. Clay Greenfield rounded out the top ten.
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