Kevin Harvick and James Buescher jointly dominated the "Annual Winstar World Casino 350K" NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway, leading for 61 and 56 laps respectively of the 148-lap race on the 1.5-mile quad oval.
But when it came to the finish, Harvick was essentially gifted the win when Buescher ran out of fuel under a caution for fluid on the track with three laps to go, and duly slumped to 19th place in the final results. Instead, Harvick controlled a two-lap shootout with Austin Dillon at the restart to win by a comfortable 0.294s at the chequered flag.
The win is Harvick's 13th in 116 Truck Series starts - and his fourth this year alone despite making only nine starts in 2011 - but the first time that he has won at Texas. It means that the #2 Truck clinched the third Truck Series owners' championship for the Kevin Harvick Inc. team ahead of its shutdown at the end of the current season; it also means that Chevrolet win the manufacturer's championship, its seventh Truck title and its first since 2005.
But all of this proved to overshadowed by a dramatic on-track clash earlier in the race between KHI's Ron Hornaday in the #33, and the #18 of Kyle Busch.
The two had been racing for the lead on lap 14 when they came up on the slow #7 of Johnny Chapman running as low down as possible. On the high line, Busch appeared to squeeze Hornaday down into Chapman as fiercely as he could. The #33 got loose and ended up running up the track and into the wall, also collecting Busch and sending the #18 into the wall as well and bringing out the first caution of the evening. Both trucks were damaged but looked set to be able to carry on.
"This is just stupid," an angry Hornaday said of the initial incident. "He knew I was there. He had to lift, too. If I'd have lifted, I would have hit the back of that slower truck and it would have caused a big wreck."
Busch retorted that "Ron could have played it a little bit smarter", saying that it was Hornaday's choice to try going three-wide that had sparked the problem. "If you make it a three-wide situation, I can't go up in the dirt," he said. "I'm already on the outside lane. There's not three lanes out there right now."
Busch may also have leapt to the assumption that Hornaday had deliberately taken him out and that this was yet another example of KHI's ongoing vendetta against him. In any case, under the ensuing caution Busch put his nose on Hornaday's rear bumper, floored the accelerator and moved down until the #33 did a hard head-on spin into the wall. Ironically, the #18 was then caught by Hornaday ricocheting off the wall and was itself badly wrecked. Both cars headed to the garage area.
"He just drove me in the fence and ruined a pretty good race car," said Hornaday.
Busch admitted that he'd been angry at the original collision: "When he races up on my inside, gets loose and takes me up to the fence, I ended up losing my cool," he said. "I've been wrecked four weeks in a row, and finally I just had enough of it."