As the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2014 season continued with it's last west coast stop at Phoenix International Raceway, former series champion, Austin Dillon, prepared for his 8th series start of the year piloting the No.14 RUUD Chevrolet Silverado with NTS Motorsports. Throughout the weekend, Dillon and his Kernersville, NC crew showed strength and speed racing inside of the top 10 and fighting for the top spot. The track was lit by the glow of a full moon in the Arizona desert but, as the racing world would discover, the lunar light was not sufficient in illuminating the track for competition, as several power outages in the Phoenix area affected the lighting at the track as well. The Lucas Oil 150 would not reach its scheduled distance and Dillon's race to the lead would be cut short earlier than expected.
The next-to-last weekend for the NCWTS in 2014, began on Thursday with dual practice sessions to find the perfect combination and setup for the 1-mile circuit. The track would be available to the NCWTS teams for a total of 145 minutes, with the Avondale sun blaring down and creating a slick surface for drivers. Looking to tighten up his truck so that he could get back into the gas earlier to make a better run off of the corner, Dillon and his team worked in race trim for most of both sessions and were confident in what they had learned going into Friday's qualifying. After more than 50 total laps, Dillon would place his No.14 Chevrolet inside the top 10 in final practice with his fastest lap of the day, 27.304 seconds and a top speed of 131.85 MPH.
Knockout qualifying for the 150 lap main event would consist of 2 rounds, following the procedures for tracks less than a mile and a half in length. The first session, 30 minutes to post a time inside the top 12 to advance to the final segment, began just before 3p.m. on Friday afternoon. Making a single trip at top speed, Dillon crossed the start/finish line after a lap of 26.96 seconds and would progress to round 2 to race for the pole position. When time expired, Dillon reported to his crew chief that he was too free coming off of the corner and had lost his momentum coming to the line. The 2011 NCWTS champion knew he had a fast truck for the race and once the temperatures cooled the competition surface the No.14 could make its way to the front. Dillon would line up 12th for the initial start after a lap of 27.013 seconds in the final round.
The beginning of pre-race ceremonies progressed as usual, with driver introductions, invocation, and national anthem. As drivers prepared to strap in for the initial start of the Lucas Oil 150, an unexpected turn of events altered the schedule. A city-wide power outage robbed Phoenix International Raceway of proper lighting for safe competition and the event was delayed for over an hour. Once the lights were restored, the green was displayed, and was immediately followed by the first of many cautions throughout the night. The first consecutive green flag laps of the night would come well after the race hit 30 total laps and once drivers were able to start making their way through the event, Austin Dillon began his surge forward.
By lap 41, Dillon had made his way inside the top 10 and was using every inch of the racing surface, including the apron below the groove, to continue a march to the front. After a lengthy red-flag condition when a competitor dropped oil onto the slightly banked asphalt oval, Dillon moved into the top-5 as the event reached the halfway point. Hitting pit road on with 65 laps to go, Dillon asked for minor changes to his No.14 Silverado and maintained his top 10 spot in the running order. Working tire strategy and sitting himself up for a dash to the lead in the closing laps, the venue would fall under a blanket of darkness once again.
With a mere 24 laps until the scheduled distance, 150 miles, Dillon and his crew were forced to file onto pit road with the rest of the field as track personnel scrambled to return the PIR lighting. When the event was deemed official due to power outage issues, Austin Dillon had held onto a position well inside the top 10 and was listed 8th on lap 126. After a night of unexpected challenges for all involved in the Lucas Oil 150, Dillon proved that no obstacle would deny him and his NTS Motorsports team a respectable finish. The 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series final is next on the schedule and will conclude the year's competition in South Florida, at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the Ford Eco Boost 200.
From the Driver's Seat with Austin Dillon: "It's been a long time since I've run a short track in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series so this weekend was fun for sure. I had a blast in the Ruud Chevrolet so I want to thank everyone at Ruud and NTS Motorsports for this opportunity. The NTS crew gave me a great truck, as always, we just didn't have quite enough to get a win this weekend."
NTS Motorsports PR