Miguel Paludo was the class of the field when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS) headed to the Tricky Triangle for the Pocono Mountains 125 at Pocono Raceway. Paludo topped the practice charts and took the green from the pole position, consistently running the fastest laps of the race and surviving multiple green/white/checkered restarts before finishing in the runner-up position.
Pacing the series’ only practice session with a blazing lap more than two tenths faster than the second-fastest truck, Paludo and the No. 32 AccuDoc Solutions team were determined to earn their first pole award of the season. With rain washing out Saturday morning’s qualifying session, the field was set per the NCWTS rule book, putting the No. 32 in the point position based on the previous day’s practice speeds. Opting to take the outside starting lane by virtue of the Leader’s Choice provision, Paludo took the green flag, but found that his line was not effective for his Chevrolet Silverado.
Paludo dropped to third after the start, but was consistently making the fastest laps on the racetrack. He reeled in the leaders with drafting partner and teammate Todd Bodine, and the two closed the gap on the front of the field just as green-flag pit stops began on lap 23. Paludo took over the lead on lap 25, leading two laps before bringing his own truck to the attention of the Turner Scott Motorsport team. He relayed to crew chief Jeff Hensley that his AccuDoc Solutions Chevrolet was a tiny bit tight, and the crew provided him with four tires, fuel and a track-bar adjustment.
Paludo returned to the track in sixth place, but advanced to the second position by the time pit stops had cycled through on lap 34. With only 16 laps remaining, Paludo didn’t have much time to put himself in position for the win, but having the fastest truck on the track allowed him to chip away at Bodine’s lead. Paludo was close to making the pass when the caution flag waved on lap 43 for debris, tightening up the field for a restart with four laps remaining.
The caution flag waved only two laps later for a spin, and Paludo was scored in the third spot as the field was set up for a green/white/checkered finish. Paludo held his ground for the restart, but once again the trucks were slowed by a caution for a wreck. Paludo got his final chance at a restart on lap 53, and as the green flag waved, the leaders went five wide into the first turn. An aggressive dive to the inside gained Paludo a spot and he began to hunt down leader Ryan Blaney. Paludo was in the No. 29’s mirrors and had a run on him in Turn 1 of the final lap, but the checkered flag waved before he could make the pass.
“This was a really, really good weekend for us,” said Paludo after the conclusion of the 125-mile race. “We were fast right off the truck, fastest in practice and got to start from the pole. If I could do it again, I wouldn’t have picked the outside for the start since it didn’t work quite right for my truck, and I spent most of the day trying to get those one or two positions back. I was starting to catch the No. 30 on lap 43 when the caution came out, and if it had stayed green, there was no doubt that we would have won it. It’s a little frustrating to finish second, we really thought that this was going to be our first win, but things happen. We’re lucky to be running so well that we feel disappointed with second. When you have this kind of weekend, it means a lot; it makes the guys more motivated and it motivates me as well. Michigan is a good track for me and I think we’ll be able to bring the same truck, so look for us to be in victory lane in two weeks.”
Paludo’s runner-up finish surpassed his career-best finish of third (Michigan, 2011) and moved him up to seventh in the NCWTS Driver Point Standings. Paludo is just three points behind sixth and 10 points behind fifth. The NCWTS takes a week off before heading to Michigan International Speedway on Saturday, August 17. The National Guard 200 will air on Fox Sports 1 (currently SPEED) at 12:30 p.m. EDT.
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