Miguel Paludo was on his way to a strong finish in the Kroger 250 at Martinsville Speedway, running in the top 10 for nearly the entire event and occupying the top five for much of the second half of the race, but a wild final restart marred the Brazilian's stellar run, resulting in a 17th-place finish for the No. 32 SEM Products, Inc. Chevrolet.
After qualifying 12th for the 250-lap event, Paludo jumped to the 10th position in the opening laps at the famed 'paperclip.' Navigating into ninth by the time the first yellow flag of the caution-riddled race waved on lap 59, Paludo relayed to crew chief Jeff Hensley that his truck was handling very well but was slightly free getting in and needed more grip off the corners. The Turner Scott Motorsports crew provided the SEM Products, Inc. Silverado with an impressive four-tire stop, making air-pressure and track-bar adjustments before sending the No. 32 back onto the track in the eighth position.
It took only 10 short laps around the 0.526-mile track for Paludo to praise his team on the handling of his Chevy Silverado, and by lap 82, the Brazilian had broken into the top five. Paludo raced assertively but patiently, taking over the third position on lap 105. While other competitors fell victim to a rash of cautions, Paludo maintained his top-three position until the seventh yellow flag of the day waved on lap 145. Calling their driver onto pit road for their final stop of the day, the No. 32 crew once again provided quick service to the SEM Products, Inc. Chevrolet, sending Paludo back onto the track with four tires, fuel and a chassis adjustment. With several competitors opting not to pit, Paludo lined up 11th for the lap 151 restart.
With fresher tires than the trucks ahead of him, Paludo once again piloted the No. 32 into the top five, reclaiming the third position on lap 202. Paludo remained in the top five and avoided mishap as four more cautions unfolded, but the final restart of the day on lap 234 took its toll on the Turner Scott Motorsports team. With varying tire strategies at the front of the field, melee ensued after the wave of the green flag, costing Paludo momentum as the field got up to speed. Elbowed out of the preferred groove, a pack of trucks took advantage of fresher tires, forcing past Paludo and relegating the No. 32 to the 17th spot by the time the checkered flag flew.
"We were so good up until the end," said Paludo. "On that final restart we were on older tires, I got up into the marbles, and at that point I just got freight trained. We came to Martinsville to win, and the important thing is we could have. The SEM Products Chevy was in the top five almost all day, and we were handling so well the entire race. I think we showed that we can definitely win this race when we come back in the fall. We didn't get the grandfather clock this time, but they knew we were here."
The Truck Series returns to action at Rockingham Speedway next Sunday, April 14 in the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at The Rock.