James Buescher made it 2-for-2 for 2012 at Kentucky Speedway, stretching his fuel window for 53 laps to capture Friday night's Kentucky 201 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.
Buescher, who first won at the 1.5-mile track back on June 28, captured his fourth overall win of the season, taking a bigger gamble than most gamblers might do at some of the nearby casinos along the Ohio River.
Buescher's crew chief, Michael Shelton, made sure his driver saved enough fuel in their Chevrolet Silverado at the right time -- particularly on subsequent caution periods -- to motor all the way to the checkered flag.
Buescher came in on Lap 81 for just two right-side tires and fuel to gain an advantage coming out of the pits. The strategy added to the drama when the seventh caution came out on Lap 107 when Jason White wrecked.
With 27 laps to go, Buescher elected to stay on the track to maintain position, as did his four closest challengers -- pole sitter Joey Coulter, rookie Ty Dillon, Parker Kligerman and Matt Crafton -- setting up the fuel mileage outcome. Ironically, none of the leaders ran out of fuel in the final laps.
Dillon made a surge toward the front in the final 15 laps, but Buescher's truck was nothing short of flawless, building a nearly two-second lead before finishing with a 1.292-second winning margin over runner-up Parker Kligerman, who rallied back from an earlier spin.
Dillon finished third, followed by Coulter and Brian Scott in fifth.
The threat of heavy rain prior to the start of the race dissipated as the storm front stayed north by about 50 miles, and by the time the green flag fell for the 36 trucks that qualified to race, the skies were relatively clear, promising an exciting night of racing.
Coulter led the first 17 laps, including when former NCWTS champ Todd Bodine spun out on Lap 16 between Turns 3 and 4, but he did not hit anything and was able to continue on after getting service on pit road, including new tires. Bodine quickly returned to pit road on the following lap for further service so as to not lose any further positions on the grid.
Just six laps later, Johnny Sauter wrecked, collecting both Bodine and Tim George Jr., and bringing out the second caution.
"I don't know what happened up front.," Bodine told SPEED TV after his night came to an early ending. "They all jammed up and I ran into the back of the 2 (George). . . . It's a shame, our Toyota Tundra was fast and good."
As for his earlier spin, Bodine noted, "I don't know what happened when I spun out. I don't know if I hit some oil or what. The 22 (Coulter) also got sidewise. . . . I don't know, it's getting frustrating."
Indeed, it has been a very frustrating season for Bodine, who came into the race 14th in the standings, a distant 159 points behind points leader Dillon.
Buescher and Scott took up the point after Bodine's spin and engaged in a strong battle for the lead before Bryan Silas brought out the third caution on Lap 34 when he backed into the fence after losing control on a slide.
Buescher got a great jump on the restart and made his presence known, taking the lead and building a more than one-second edge before the fourth caution of the race when Brennan Newberry spun out and into the outside wall in Turn 3.
Last week's first-time winner at Iowa Speedway, 18-year-old Ryan Blaney, had his own share of excitement even before the race began. During the first of two practice sessions earlier in the day, Blaney lost the handle on his Dodge truck, crashing into the Turn 1 wall. The damage was irreparable, prompting the team to go to a backup truck for the second practice and qualifying, which Blaney placed 16th.
However, with rain approaching, Blaney stayed out on the race track following the fourth caution and took the lead on Lap 50. That lead lasted only a few laps before a multiple-truck wreck -- the fifth caution of the night -- on Lap 55 involving Tim George, John King, Timothy Peters and Max Gresham.
Coulter regained the lead on Lap 59 and began to make it a runaway, although there was some outstanding action for the second and third spots in a battle that involved a number of other drivers including Scott, Kligerman, Dillon and Blaney.
On Lap 80, Kligerman lost control and went on a single-truck spin down the frontstretch, but with little damage and he was able to continue on. In fact, his spin actually wound up on pit road, but his team told him to keep going as he would have been penalized for an illegal stop -- the pits were closed at that time -- had he stopped for service.
When pit road finally opened, almost all teams -- including the leaders -- came in for service, unsure if they'd be able to go the rest of the way or whether rain may shorten the event.
Buescher regained the lead after the caution and went toe-to-toe with serious challenges from Miguel Paludo and Coulter.
As it turned out, however, the rain that everyone appeared to be watching faded away and the race was able to go the entire scheduled length without even a hint of precipitation.
Making his first start for Turner Motorsports, Dakoda Armstrong had problems that began on the pace laps, when smoke began emitting from his Chevrolet Silverado. While he took the green flag, it was pretty clear he was suffering from an engine problem that quickly dropped him from his 20th qualifying spot to 28th in just the first 10 laps.
He eventually came onto pit road and called it a night as the engine suffered irreparable damage.
"I think the motor just took a crap," Armstrong said afterward. "Unfortunately right from the get-go, it was blowing smoke out of the headers. As soon as we took the green, there was no power. It was gone. . . . It's really disappointing. Everyone worked real hard to get this thing going."