Miguel Paludo appeared to be on his way to a solid finish in the season's last major wild card race at Talladega Superspeedway when 'the big one' hit just seconds before the checkered flag waved. Pushing teammate Jeb Burton to the front of the pack in the final stretch of the last lap, a chain reaction ignited a massive 12-truck wreck which resulted in Paludo's truck landing on its roof and enduring multiple impacts. After a few scary moments, Paludo exited the No. 32 Duroline Brakes and Components Chevrolet unharmed and was ultimately scored 19th in the Fred's 250.
Heading into the second restrictor-plate race of 2013, the No. 32 team unloaded the same chassis which earned them a seventh-place finish at Daytona International Speedway. Paludo went to the top of the speed charts early in the weekend's only practice, and after retiring early from the session, the Turner Scott Motorsports (TSM) machine was ultimately scored 17th. Laying down the 11th-fastest lap in qualifying on Friday afternoon, Paludo went into Saturday's event hoping to leave with his truck in one piece and make up ground in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) Driver Point Standings.
Paludo committed to the bottom line early, which was consistently stronger than the more disjointed high and middle lanes. Having worked his way up as high as seventh place, Paludo was back in 15th when the yellow flag waved for debris on lap 21. Crew chief Jeff Hensley called his driver into the pits for a fuel-only stop, and the No. 32 returned to the track in 14th when racing resumed.
Over the next 30 laps, competitors were frequently swapping positions and exchanging drafting partners, and Paludo worked his way back to seventh by lap 53. Green-flag pit stops began and competitors started to peel off the racetrack, with Hensley calling for Paludo to enter the pits on lap 56. Timing was on the No. 32 team's side when a two-truck incident brought out the yellow flag before Paludo could get onto pit road, allowing him to have his truck serviced under caution. Paludo entered pit road in the third position, taking four tires and fuel before returning to the track in 11th for the lap 61 restart.
After a relatively harmless first 61 laps, the next 30 circuits saw four cautions with 13 different competitors involved, the final of which set up the field with only three laps to go on the final restart. In the 15th position for the green flag, Paludo advanced to eighth with the help of multiple drafting partners, finally joining forces with TSM teammate Burton for the final lap. Entering the tri-oval with a big run, the pair was headed to the front when multiple trucks lost control at once. As Burton turned across Paludo's nose, he was able to clear the initial incident, but as more trucks were collected and rebounded off the outside wall, a competitor slammed into the rear of the No. 32, sending him spinning with enough momentum to lift the rear of the truck off the ground. The Duroline machine was turned onto its roof and Paludo made contact with multiple trucks and the outside wall. Paludo continued to slide on his roof until a final impact righted the Chevy Silverado and brought it to a halt yards before the start/finish line. Despite very serious damage to the truck, Paludo emerged from the truck and was released from infield care without injury. He was ultimately scored with a 19th-place finish.
"That was a wild ride," said Paludo after being released from infield care. "We had a run going at the end and we were going to the front, and then everything happened. I'm very glad that everyone involved in that crash was okay. I have to thank my team for building me such a safe truck. I also have to thank Clay [Greenfield] for getting to my truck so quickly. He was involved in that wreck too and could have just worried about himself, but he got to me right away and that meant a lot. This obviously isn't the way we wanted to finish but it didn't hurt us in the points too much and we have a lot to be grateful for. We ran really well at Martinsville in the spring so I can't wait to get back to short-track racing and keeping all four wheels on the ground."
Paludo remains fifth in the NCWTS Driver Point Standings. The NCWTS heads from the circuit's largest track to the smallest as the trucks tackle Martinsville Speedway. The Kroger 200 will air on FOX Sports 1 at 1:30 p.m. EDT on Saturday, October 26.