Drew Herring had an impressive NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut, leading 19 laps and bringing the No. 18 Toyota/Dollar General Tundra home seventh in the American Ethanol 200 at Iowa Speedway in Newton. The 25-year-old driver, making his first start in any series in 2012, started from the 17th spot and slowly worked his way forward, as he became more and more comfortable with the feel of his Toyota in the opening stages of the race. With several teams on different fuel strategies, Herring found himself just outside the top 10 in the closing stages of the race, but maneuvered his way as high as fifth before being relegated a top-10 finish after communicating to the crew that his Toyota was too tight in traffic on the final two restarts.
"Pretty solid run tonight," said Herring who had made his first laps in a truck when practice began Friday night. "Man, I can't thank all of these guys -- Eric Phillips (crew chief) and everybody on this No. 18 Dollar General Toyota tonight, especially all of the other affiliates of KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports), M&M's and Flexco. Man, it was an up and down night. I put us behind the 8-ball tonight in qualifying and it was just all about track position and we just couldn't fight it and make it back up. We had a really fast truck on long runs and we just couldn't get anything tonight - it was all short runs Gotta' thank everybody at KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) - Kyle (Busch, team owner), Rick Ren (general manager) and Eric Phillips and everybody for giving me this opportunity. I really enjoyed it and hopefully I'll get to go back and do it again."
The North Carolina native finished both practice sessions inside the top 10 and displayed increased confidence with every lap he turned at the .875-mile oval. In Saturday evening's qualifying session, the young driver failed to turn in the lap he was looking for and was relegated to a 17th starting spot for the 200-lap race.
Early in the race, Herring settled in near the top 15 relaying to his crew that he was setting a cautious pace as he continued to familiarize himself with the feel of his Toyota and intricacies of racing in the Truck Series compared to the Nationwide Series, where his eight prior NASCAR starts were made. The No. 18 Toyota/Dollar General Tundra was scored in the 14th position when the first caution of the race occurred on lap 23 and had improved to the 12th position when the field was slowed again on lap 35.
While the top-13 trucks came down pit road when it opened, executing various pit strategies, crew chief Eric Phillips elected to keep his young driver on the track in and effort to stick to his pre-race strategy of breaking the race into thirds. Herring elected to take the inside lane for the lap-41 restart and by the time exited Turn 2 had opened up a two-truck length lead on the field. By lap 50, he had stretched his lead to nearly a second and remained on point until John Wes Townley spun on lap 54 bringing out the race's third caution.
Herring communicated to Phillips that his Tundra was just a "touch" tight from the center of the corner off before bringing it down pit road. The KBM crew completed a four-tire and fuel stop, making an air pressure adjustment in an attempt to tighten the truck for their young driver. Many teams had already taken tires on a previous pit stop and needed just fuel this time around, leaving the No. 18 scored in the 13th position for the restart on lap 60.
By the time the next caution slowed the field on lap 68, the Toyota/Dollar General Tundra had maneuvered its way back inside the top 10. Herring communicated that the adjustments had improved the handling of his truck, but was still trying to get accustomed to it being "really aero-sensitive in traffic."
When the field went back green, Herring got caught on the outside lane and slipped just outside the top 10. As the race reached the halfway mark, he had returned to the top 10 and communicated to his crew that his Toyota's handling improved as the green-flag run continued.
Herring had worked his way up to the seventh spot when leader Parker Kligerman came down pit road for his final scheduled pit stop on lap 140. Over the next 10 laps, other front-running teams also visited pit road, including the No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports entry - which surrendered the third position to make final adjustments.
With two trucks still waiting to make their final stop, the Toyota/Dollar General Tundra returned to the track scored one lap down in the 17th position on lap 155 despite taking just right-side tires and one can of fuel. A debris caution occurred on lap 164, leaving just two trucks on the lead lap. Those trucks came down pit road for their final stop when pit road opened, enabling several drivers - including Herring - to take advantage of the wave-around rule and return to the lead lap.
The No. 18 Toyota was scored in the 11th position when the race restarted on lap 173 and four laps later returned to the top 10. The field was slowed for the seventh time when leader Parker Kligerman spun in oil that was laid down on the track from another competitors expired engine. Herring communicated to Phillips that his Tundra was a "little free on entry."
On the lap-188 restart, Herring took advantage of three trucks getting bottled up in front of him, improving from ninth to sixth by the time that the field made its way back to the start-finish line. To the dismay of KBM's pilot, who was stronger on long green-flag runs, two more cautions slowed the field over the final 10 laps. The Toyota/Dollar General Tundra took the final restart from the sixth position, but surrendered a spot before the field took the checkered flag.
Eighteen-year-old Ryan Blaney picked up his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win, becoming the youngest driver in series history to register a victory - a record previously held by KBM owner Kyle Busch. Rookie Ty Dillon finished 0.168-seconds behind Blaney in the runner-up spot. Todd Bodine and Johnny Sauter finished third and fourth, respectively. Cale Gale rounded out the top-five finishers.
There were 9 caution periods for 54 laps and 7 lead changes among 6 drivers, including Herring who led once for 19 laps. Ten drivers failed to finish the race.
With 16 of 22 races complete, the No. 18 Tundra team remains ninth in Truck Series Owner's point standings, 76 points behind the series-leading No. 3 team.
Brian Scott returns to the seat of the Dollar General Tundra next Friday, Sept. 22, when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series travels to Kentucky Speedway in Sparta for the Kentucky 201. The race begins at 7:30 p.m. ET, with SPEED's live coverage commencing with the NCWTS Setup Show at 7 p.m. ET.