Variety Rules The Roost In 2012’s First Five RacesWhat a season. And it’s only just begun.
Five races into the 2012 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series campaign there have been five different winners, five different pole winners and three first-time winners.
Justin Lofton’s May 18 victory at Charlotte Motor Speedway was the Californian’s first in the series, joining John King, Kevin Harvick, Kasey Kahne and James Buescher. The last time a season began with five different winners in the first five races was 2005.
King and Buescher, winners at Daytona and Kansas, respectively, also grabbed their first victories.
Ty Dillon, 20, became the year’s youngest pole winner following the Brazilian pair of Nelson Piquet Jr. and Miguel Paludo, Harvick and Tim George Jr. His older brother, 2011 champion Austin Dillon, won seven poles in his rookie season.
Will the streak continue June 1 at Dover International Speedway? Possibly. Two former Dover winners are expected to be in the field: Jason Leffler (2003) and four-time champion Ron Hornaday Jr. (2007). Hornaday’s fifth-place finish at Charlotte – his first top five since joining Joe Denette Motorsports – boosted him to sixth in the standings, a point behind Parker Kligerman.
Lofton, Sharp Making Magic Second Time AroundFor Justin Lofton, it’s been an elevator ride from the basement to the penthouse. The off-road veteran and ARCA champion couldn’t buy a top-five finish in his sophomore season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and – voila – he’s now a race winner and the points leader.
Granted, his advantage over previous leader Timothy Peters – a single point – is tenuous at best. It’s the closest since Austin Dillon held a similar lead over Johnny Sauter on Aug. 6, 2011, following the event at Pocono Raceway.
Lofton is the season’s third different leader joining Peters and King. He’s one of three drivers to have finished among the top 10 in all five races.
His short NASCAR national series career has come full-circle after reuniting with ARCA owner Eddie Sharp midway through 2011. Sharp took a big step over the offseason, purchasing most of the assets of Kevin Harvick Inc. and adding Cale Gale to the team. Lofton’s Charlotte victory also was the first for Eddie Sharp Racing as well as crew chief Daniel Bormann.
"This is amazing. This day has been coming for so long," said Lofton, speaking both of the victory and his ascent to a No. 1 ranking. "These guys right here work their butts off week in and week out. I want to thank them."
For Dillon, A Milestone Fifth Consecutive Top-10 FinishOnly once, in 2001, had a Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender posted top-10 finishes in his first five starts of the season. The late Ricky Hendrick, who lost a tight freshman battle to Travis Kvapil, was the runner-up finisher to Joe Ruttman at Daytona and carried the streak through races at Homestead, Mesa Marin, Martinsville and Gateway before rear-end failure resulted in a DNF at Darlington.
More than a decade later, Ty Dillon has matched Hendrick’s feat. His 10th-place performance at Charlotte added to top 10s at Daytona, Martinsville – where he was second – Rockingham and Kansas.
It’s difficult to say whether consistency leads to future success although it certainly can’t hurt.
For the moment, however, Dillon can boast that he’s done something that some very successful NCWTS graduates did not accomplish. The list includes 2000 champion and current NASCAR Sprint Cup points leader Greg Biffle, 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch, 2003 NCWTS top rookie Carl Edwards and Kvapil. Dillon goes for his sixth consecutive top 10 on June 1 at Dover International Speedway.