While many teams used pit strategy to gain track position early in the Smith's 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, crew chief Eric Phillips stuck to his plan of getting the balance stable on the Dollar General Tundra with four-tire stops. When a caution slowed the field with just over 40 laps remaining, Phillips decided it was time to roll the dice and called for a fuel-only stop in an effort to put David Mayhew at the front of the field for the closing laps.
The move appeared to pay off, until Mayhew ran swerved to avoid Todd Bodine and made contact with Ty Dillon, who was on the outside of the three-wide situation, shortly after leaving his pit stall. The incident caused significant damage to the right front fender of the No. 18 Toyota, which increased the severity of an already tight-handling truck over the final laps.
The contact resulted in a cut left front tire for Dillon, who had won the battle off pit road, leaving Mayhew at the front of the field for the lap-106 restart. The California native was able to remain inside the top five until the final caution of the race occurred on lap 127, but his hopes of winning the race diminished as the handling off his truck became increasingly tighter. Shortly after the ensuing restart, he surrendered three more positions and brought a wounded Dollar General Tundra across the stripe in the ninth position.
"Once we got into Ty (Dillon) coming off pit road on that gas-only stop, the Dollar General Tundra was just way too tight and instead of competing for the win, we just had to salvage what we could," said Mayhew, who posted his fourth top 10 over 11 career Truck Series starts. "Our game plan going in was to keep putting on four tires early in the race and it all worked out well until the contact on pit road. I hate it for all the guys -- everybody worked hard all weekend, we had a really fast truck and it should've been a lot better result. I have to thank Kyle (Busch) for the opportunity as well as all the sponsors who support this team - Dollar General, Toyota, Flexco, M&M's and Advanced Payment Services."
From the time that the team unloaded the Dollar General Toyota for practice on Friday, it appeared that Kyle Busch Motorsports' flagship Tundra would be one of the trucks to beat in Saturday's race. Mayhew was fifth fastest in Friday's lone practice session and followed it up with a third-place qualifying effort that evening.
Shortly after the green flag dropped on Saturday night, the 30-year-old driver communicated the his Toyota was "a little snug," but he remained inside the top five until coming down pit road for his first scheduled pit stop under caution on lap 33. While many teams elected for fuel-only or two-tire stops, the No. 18 group took four tires and made a small wedge adjustment, leaving their driver scored in the 13th position for the lap-35 restart.
When the race resumed, Mayhew communicated that the adjustment had increased the severity of his tight-handling Toyota and he was unable to advance back into the top 10. After a debris caution occurred on lap 77, Phillips brought his driver back down pit road for four tires, fuel and made a wedge adjustment in an effort to free up the truck for the next run.
Mayhew was scored in the 11th spot when the race resumed on lap 80, but once gain was unable to break into the top 10 as he reported a "sideways loose" condition in traffic during the ensuing green-flag fun. He remained in the 11th spot when a one-car accident slowed the field for the sixth time. Phillips call for a fuel-only stop - with a wedge adjustment - which gained the team nine spots on pit road, but the damage to the fender incurred leaving the pits hampered the chance for its first win of 2012.
Nelson Piquet Jr. made his way around Matt Crafton on the final lap to score the second Truck Series win of his career, both this season. Crafton finished 0.223 seconds behind him in the runner-up spot. James Buescher and Cale Gale finished third and fourth, respectively, and John Wes Townley rounded out the top-five finishers.
There were eight caution periods for 33 laps. A race-record 18 lead changes occurred during the race, including Mayhew who led one lap. Sixteen of the 34 drivers who took the green flag failed to finish the race.
Despite picking up its 12th top-10 finish of the season, No. 18 Tundra team slid one position in the Truck Series Owner's point standings. The team ranks ninth, 76 points behind the series leading No. 3 truck, with 17 of 22 races complete. With one circuit led, the team has now led at least one lap in four straight and five of the last six races after leading just once over the first 11 races of the season
To celebrate Mayhew's top-10 finish, Dollar General is giving anyone who places an online order Monday, Oct. 1, a 10 percent discount off their entire purchase.
Kurt Busch makes his second Truck Series start for KBM next Saturday, Oct. 6, driving the Dollar General Tundra in the Coca-Cola 250 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. The race begins at 3 p.m. ET, with SPEED's live coverage commencing with the NCWTS Setup Show at 2:30 p.m. ET.