Synonymous with unexpected twists and wild outcomes, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series racing at Talladega Superspeedway provided a wildcard for all teams involved in Saturday's Coca-Cola 250 presented by Fred's. Former winner in the ARCA Racing Series at the 2.66-mile asphalt tri-oval, Dakoda Armstrong eagerly anticipated his first start at the track with his No. 98 ThorSport Racing entry. Thanks to patience and a strong effort, he left with a 17th place finish and a truck devoid of damage.
A somewhat tame afternoon at Talladega served some misfortune in the early stages, first for a multi-car incident in turn three on lap 14. This gave the Ferrellgas/Agrisure/Drive For Savings pit crew their first opportunity to service the No. 98 Silverado. With four fresh tires and a chassis adjustment, Armstrong left pit road in 21st and went back to riding cautiously, just behind the lead pack for the next portion of the race.
Trouble would soon find Armstrong's ThorSport Racing teammates Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter as the two were tangled in an incident with the No. 16 on lap 37. Under the caution period that ensued, crew chief Dan Stillman called Armstrong to pit road for four tires, one can of fuel and no adjustments. After restarting in the 16th position, the 20-year-old rookie dodged another bullet less than ten laps later and relayed to his crew that the trucks weren't lining up well in the draft and it was getting "pretty wild out here".
Just past the halfway point, Armstrong decided to test the waters in the middle of the front pack and pushed his way towards the front for several laps until the fourth caution of the afternoon on lap 60. Pitting for the final time for fuel only, Stillman informed his driver they were good to go through the finish on fuel, and provided words of encouragement for the final portion of the race.
"A lot of crazy things are still bound to happen out there, just keep doing what you're doing and run your race," Stillman instructed.
Armstrong rode quietly near the rear of the front pack for the remaining laps while continuing to search for a dancing partner and found himself in the top 15 on the final restart with two laps remaining. He quickly maneuvered his way towards the front of the outside lane and moved inside the top ten on the final lap until the pack completely spread out and broke the draft coming out of turn four, pushing Armstrong back to 17th.
"I looked ahead and thought we had a top ten finish on the last lap coming out of turn four, but some trucks in front of me broke apart in the draft and I lost all of the momentum I had. I watched several trucks go by right in the last few seconds on the tri-oval once the pack fanned out," Armstrong recapped after climbing out of his Ferrellgas/Agrisure/Drive For Savings machine.
"I know we were capable of a better finish, but I learned a lot about the draft with the trucks and had some fun running up to the front the couple of times we were able to find a drafting partner. But we finished and we're not torn up. Anytime you can leave a restrictor plate race without any damage is a good day."
ThorSport Racing PR