Paludo Earns Third-Place Finish with Heroic Comeback at Las Vegas

Miguel Paludo had the comeback of the year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where the Brazilian earned a top-three finish in the Smith's 350. After taking the green flag from the seventh position, the Brazilian experienced a strong start, but a spin on lap 15 sent Paludo back to the 25th position, one lap down. The No. 32 AccuDoc Solutions team had a remarkable recovery, and Paludo quickly regained his lap and became a contender for the win, crossing the finish line in the third position.

The No. 32 team entered Sin City with confidence in their potential for the Smith's 350, and after leading the opening practice session and qualifying seventh, Paludo and his crew believed they had everything they needed to capture the checkered flag. When the green flag waved in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd, Paludo immediately advanced one position, and as the front of the field engaged in hard, three-wide racing, Paludo held his spot for the next dozen laps. Paludo continued to fight for a spot in the top five, but the AccuDoc Solutions Silverado was extremely free. Paludo was racing in tight quarters when he felt the loose rear end of his Chevy slide up the racetrack. The No. 32 began to spin, but the 30-year-old driver managed to avoid both the wall and the competitors around him before skidding through the grass and coming to a stop in the tri-oval. Paludo avoided any body damage, but with two flat right-side tires, Paludo had to make a very slow circuit around the 1.5-mile track, going one lap down in the process. Paludo required two pit stops in order to change right-side tires, receive fuel and pull out the right-front fender to ensure the truck would not have a tire rub, then was sent back onto the track in 25th.

While many drivers and teams may have given up with such early adversity, Paludo and the No. 32 team were even more determined to get to victory lane. As the only truck one lap down, Paludo could not gain any positions under green, but he could still race side-by-side through the field. By lap 26, Paludo was still scored 25th, but was positioned on the track in what would have been the 18th spot. Maintaining his position in the lucky dog spot, a spin directly in front of the No. 32 on lap 29 would bring out the caution and award Paludo his lap back, and he made the lap-33 restart from the tail end of the lead lap after a pit stop for fuel and chassis adjustments.

Paludo began a strong run, and by by the next caution on lap 48, he was scored in the 17th position. Crew chief Jeff Hensley made the strategic call to not take tires under the caution, and Paludo returned to the track in the third position after receiving fuel and a wedge adjustment. The No. 32 was fast, but with nearly everyone behind him taking four tires, he dropped back to the eighth position by lap 59. On lap 61, another wreck unfolded directly in front of Paludo, but he skillfully avoided it. The caution played into Hensley's earlier decision to stay out on the track, and now Paludo had the opportunity to take four tires, fuel and an air-pressure adjustment. "We're giving up track position here, but it will work out better later. This will pay dividends," said Hensley.

Hensley was right, and although Paludo was now scored in the 18th position, he had a strong truck and a strategy. When the caution waved on lap 75 for a spin, that strategy became clear, and as a majority of the field visited pit road under yellow, Paludo stayed on the track, restarting in third on lap 79. Paludo battled for the lead for several laps before settling into the top five through three more cautions, and was still scored in third after 25 laps. A two-truck incident brought out the yellow on lap 110, and Hensley instructed his driver to save fuel while remaining on the track. In the longest green-flag run of the night, Paludo continued to fight in the third spot, but was 0.2-seconds faster than the leader. Paludo was creeping up on the leaders when a caution on lap 140 closed up the field for the final time. With two laps remaining when the green flag waved, Paludo held his position, crossing the finish line in third.

"We had a wild day," said Paludo as he emerged from his truck, still covered in grass from his lap-15 spin. "When we spun at the beginning of the race, we had to work hard to fight our way back. We kept getting better and better on long runs, and we had a great truck on restarts. My team gave me a really fast truck, and we made the right calls to recover and run strong all night. I'm just glad the spin happened at the beginning and not the end. We had a good points night; you can't count us out just yet. We've got Talladega next, and anything can happen there."

Paludo's top-three finish moved him up to fifth in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) Driver Point Standings, just four points behind fourth place. The NCWTS enjoys two full weeks off before heading to the season's biggest wildcard race at Talladega Superspeedway. The Fred's 250 powered by Coca-Cola will air on FOX Sports 1 at 4:00 p.m. EDT on Saturday, October 19.

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Steven B. Wilson

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