In his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) debut at Chicagoland Speedway, Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Mason Mingus finished a respectable 16th in the postponed Lucas Oil 225.
Mingus, a Win-Tron Racing development driver, entered the 15th race of the season with high hopes, especially since coming off a solid top-15 performance two weeks before across the border in Canada.
When practice began this past Thursday, Mingus, aboard the No. 35 Call 811 Before You Dig Toyota Tundra, immediately produced speed and ended the session 14th quickest. A short time later, Mingus, under the direction of new crew chief Dennis Connor, found even more speed from their truck, giving the entire team confidence heading into race day.
Arriving on Friday morning, teams were greeted by gloomy skies and brisk fall-like temperatures. As the day pressed on, the cloud cover increased and shortly before qualifying, rain began to fall around the 1.5-mile speedway.
While the rain diminished at times, the persistency of precipitation not only forced NASCAR to cancel time trials, but also postpone the event until Saturday afternoon, following the NASCAR Nationwide Series race.
With the starting grid set per the rule book, Mingus would start the event from the 16th position.
From the start of the race, Mingus struggled with the handling of his No. 35 Call 811 Before You Dig Toyota Tundra. Quickly losing positions from his initial starting place because of a loose feeling, Mingus was informed by Connor that changes would be made during the first stop.
That opportunity arose on Lap 30 for the scheduled competition caution to the appreciation of the Brentwood, Tennessee native. Quickly, the team went to work with routine service and adjustments in hopes of sending Mingus forward.
While, Mingus would continue to battle the handling of his No. 35 Call 811 Before You Dig Toyota Tundra through the halfway point, he was climbing back through the pack, solidly inside the top-20.
Connor had just brought his rookie driver down pit road for routine service, when the third and final caution flag of the night waved on Lap 112 for a crash on the frontstretch. The unlucky break caught the Win-Tron Racing team and a host of others off-sequence and trapped a lap or more down to the leaders.
Apologizing to his driver for the situation, Connor encouraged his driver to continue to give it his all in the closing laps of the race, which saw Mingus climb from 18th to 16th, where he took the checkered flag to earn his 10th top-20 finish of 2014.
“I feel like this is one of our best weekends as a team, although our finishing position was poor,” said Mingus, who completed 148 of the scheduled 150 laps. “We made a lot of progress though. This was Dennis Connor’s first week on the (pit) box for us and he only had two days at the shop, before we got to Chicagoland. I think it was noticeable from practice that we were making improvements.
“Even though we faced our challenges, I’m looking forward to working with him. The progress he made with our No. 35 Call 811 Before You Dig Toyota Tundra in just a few days at the race track was huge. Now, that he has time to start setting up and building the trucks the way he wants, I think we are going to make a lot of progress, (and) hopefully in a short time.”
As for the Lucas Oil 225, Mingus said they corrected one of the issues they had in practice, but unfortunately, another challenge presented itself during the race.
“We fought being on the splitter all weekend and once we finally got it off the race track for the start of the race, my truck was extremely loose, so it was without a doubt, a hard fought 16th place run. We also lacked some on pit road too. We have a lot to work on, but I believe with Dennis leading the group of guys we have, we can make up a lot of ground in the last seven races.”
Exiting Chicagoland Speedway, Mingus sits 11th in the championship standings, 85 markers from 10th place held by Jeb Burton. Mingus unofficially sits second in the Sunoco rookie of the year standings, behind current leader Ben Kennedy.
Next up for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is a trip to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the running of the UNOH 175. The series returns to the track for the first time since 2011. The 16th race of the season is set from Loudon, New Hampshire on Saturday, September 20.
Win-Tron Racing PR