James Buescher was an unlikely winner of the American Ethanol 225 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Chicagoland Speedway on Saturday evening, after early problems with the car seemed to have wrecked any chance of a good result for the 22-year-old.
"We had issues early on where we kept losing power," explained Buescher, who hasd started the race from 11th position on the grid. "So we decided to pit, changed the carburettor - and the car came to life," he said. But he still faced a huge fightback to even get back on the lead lap, let alone finish in a decent position.
Polesitter Justin Lofton led for the first dozen races which included Miguel Paludo and Ron Hornaday Jr. surviving a coming together which had left Paludo bouncing off the wall, a caution for a spin by Bryan Silas on lap 8, and contact between Johnny Sauter and Nelson Piquet Jr. that hadn't caused a caution but had left Piquet's truck with enough damage to sent him to pit road for repairs that put him well off the lead lap.
After the restart it was Brendan Gaughan who was looking well on track to claim his first race win in the series in nearly ten years. He took to the front and then led through to green flag pit stops on lap 46, a sequence that saw Jason Leffler suffer when he missed his pit box that ended up putting him almost two laps off the lead. Leffler wasn't the only one struggling with his stops, with Todd Bodine and Ron Hornaday Jr. also having issues as the night wore on.
After that, a variety of people briefly popped to the front including Hornaday, Paludo, Parker Kligerman and Paulie Harraka. It was only when Gaughan took back the top spot again on lap 61 that the situation stabilised and he led the next 40 laps which included cautions for debris on lap 72, a solo spin for Jennifer Jo Cobb on lap 83 and an accident on the backstretch for Chris Fontaine just before lap 100.
It was during this period that Buescher's power problems and a tricky carburettor change forced him onto pit road and dropped him down to 22nd place, but he recovered one of his two laps with the lucky dog free pass on lap 110 when Joey Coulter spun. After that, it was a case of fighting as hard as possible to work his way through the traffic.
"We just had to pass 20 other trucks to win," laughed Buescher of the task that faced him and his team over the remaining 40 laps.
They had the help of two further cautions along the way, one for debris on lap 137 and a final one on lap 145 for polesitter Justin Lofton, who slammed into the outside wall at turn 4 with six laps remaining.
Gaughan had dropped out of the lead and down to sixth place during this phase after investing in a four-tyre pit stop, meaning that series rookie Ty Dillon emerged as the frontrunner. A brush with the wall for the youngster was enough to restore Gaughan to the lead just before a debris caution came out on lap 137, but Gaughan then botched the next restart with too much wheel spin, allowing series points leader Timothy Peters to take to the front
"There was no truck out there that was going to beat us, unless we beat ourselves," said Gaughan said. "And I did. I spun my tyres on it, I gave an opening, and that's what you can't do."
Polesitter Justin Lofton had also been in contention, but on lap 145 he slammed into the outside wall at turn 4 with just six laps remaining to bring out the final caution of the night and set up a final two-lap shootout between Peters and the now fully recovered Buescher.
Peters led the first lap after the restart, but it was Buescher who then edged in front on the final lap to claim the chequered flag. Peters put his championship hopes ahead of race glory and backed off, allowing Gaughan to recover from a poor getaway at the previous restart caused by excess wheel spin and claim second spot.
As a result of playing the long game, Peters - who had himself needed to overcome being sent to the back of the starting grid for a pre-race engine change in order to put himself third position by the finish - retains the series lead and is now 23pts ahead of Ty Dillon, with Lofton, Buescher and Kligerman all still firmly in contention for the 2012 title.
Full race results, qualifying and practice times
and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings