Miguel Paludo and the No. 32 Turner Scott Motorsports team continued their strong start to the 2013 season, exhibiting clever strategy and skillful driving in the fifth race on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) schedule at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Earning their third top-10 start of the year, Paludo went on to lead 33 laps and dominate on late restarts before bringing home a seventh-place finish in the Levine Children's Hospital Chevrolet.
After laying down the fifth-fastest lap in the afternoon's qualifying session, Paludo took the green flag with the intent of bringing home the first win of his NCWTS career. Paludo dropped to the 11th position after finding that his Silverado was pushing tight back to the throttle, so when the yellow flag waved on lap 17, the No. 32 team took the opportunity to adjust the Levine Children's Hospital machine, taking two tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment.
Restarting in the 10th spot, tightness continued to affect the handling of the No. 32, and despite maintaining their position, the team decided to make a bold move when the second caution of the day came on lap 27. "I want to make some big changes and get this thing right early," said crew chief Jeff Hensley. "We're going to gamble and give up some track position, but let's see if we can get ourselves one of these wins." Performing a thorough four-tire pit stop, the TSM team gave Paludo a track-bar adjustment, air-pressure adjustment and fuel while pulling a spring rubber. Although he emerged from the pits in the 26th position, Paludo now had a truck that was adjusted for the track conditions and more fuel than his competitors that opted to remain on track.
When racing resumed, Paludo began a march to the front that put him into the 14th spot by the time green-flag pit stops began on lap 66. With plenty of fuel to continue, Paludo remained on track as other trucks peeled off the track to pit road. The Brazilian was scored 10th when the third yellow flag of the day waved on lap 73, allowing Paludo to come to pit road for a final tweak of the Levine Children's Hospital Chevrolet. Hensley called for four tires, fuel and a track-bar adjustment, putting Paludo ninth for the green flag. "Save me some fuel," said Hensley. "We're about five laps short but we're getting exceptional fuel mileage tonight. We're not going to pit again if we can help it."
When green-flag racing resumed on lap 77, Paludo did an excellent job of moving around the racetrack, finding the best possible lines to improve his lap times. When the caution came out again eight laps later, Paludo was scored seventh. With several competitors opting to pit for tires and fuel, Paludo was on the front row for the lap-88 restart in the second position.
Paludo quickly overtook the first-place truck after the green, leading at Charlotte Motor Speedway for the first time in his career. Once in clean air, Paludo promptly pulled away from the pack, holding a steady lead as the yellow was shown on lap 95. Making his lane choice as the leader for the restart, Paludo battled NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski on the front row, pulling away effortlessly in the first turn. "This running up front thing is fun," relayed Paludo over the radio.
The field was tightened by caution flags two more times, and each time Paludo dominated the restart and defended his position as the fastest truck on the track. Paludo continued to battle hard, finally being forced to relinquish his lead on lap 120 to a truck with fresher tires. Restarting with eight laps remaining, Paludo fell victim to other competitors who opted for fresh tires in the closing laps, and as a result of aero tightness as his clean air was lost, Paludo crossed the finish line seventh.
"I like being up front," said Paludo with a smile. "We were really good tonight, we were great in clean air, we just lost to fresher tires at the end. My guys did a great job tonight. We made the calls we needed to make to win a race, and I'm very proud of everybody. We keep showing them we're here; we haven't had a race this season that we weren't good enough to win. I'm hoping Dover will be the one where we finally make it to victory lane. I have to thank Levine Children's Hospital for coming on board, they've taken good care of my son Oliver in the past and I'm looking forward to visiting with some of the kids there next week."
Paludo gained two spots in the NCWTS Driver Point Standings, now ninth in the standings and three points out of eighth. The Truck Series has a one-week break before going 'off to the races' at Dover International Speedway on Friday, May 31st.