It proved to be a dramatic and nail-biting finish to the 2012 NASCAR
Camping World Truck Series under the floodlights at Homestead-Miami on Friday evening, when it looked as though the title might be slipping out of James Buescher's fingers in the final laps as his rival Ty Dillon surged toward the front with two laps to go.
Buescher came into the race with an 11 point lead over Timothy Peters in the championship battle, and an even dozen over Ty Dillon - but it was clear from early on that it was the young rookie that Buescher had to worry about, while Peters' only hope was to be in the right place to pick up the pieces if anything went wrong with both of his rivals.
Buescher wasn't exactly looking at the top of his game at Homestead either, qualifying for the race in 17th place while Peters and Dillon were firmly in the top ten in sixth and seventh positions respectively. Pole had gone to Parker Kligerman, but only thanks to a car owner points tie-break with Kyle Larson who set exactly the same laptime (31.986s, 168.824mph) in the speed trials earlier in the day.
In the end, Kligerman only led for the first laps before being usurped by Nelson Piquet Jr. who stayed out in front for the remainder of a relatively uneventful opening stint that lasted until a debris caution on lap 37 brought everyone onto pit road. Kyle Busch emerged as the leader after the pit stops, but a second debris caution on lap 45 after Bryan Silas hit the wall in turn 4 saw Kyle Larson make a move at the ensuing restart on both Busch and Kligerman to take over at the front.
With the exception of some laps during which a sequence of green flag pit stops cycled through, Larson continued to control the race through to the next caution - again for debris - on lap 105. That was a blessing for Buescher, who after climbing as high as eighth at one point had now begun to fall back and was running in 12th place, the last car on the lead lap when the yellow flags came out.
Johnny Sauter took over the lead in the ensuing final round of pit stops under caution, but at the restart it was clearly Kyle Busch with the car to beat as he leapt away at the front from Larson, Matt Crafton, Sauter - and Ty Dillon. Buescher continued to circulated around in 12th place, which was enough to cover the threat from the youngster for the time being: from that position, Dillon would have to win the race outright to overhaul Buescher's points lead.
Buescher had strengthened his hand a little by climbing to 11th place with ten laps to go when the fourth caution of the day came out for a spin in turn 3 for Max Gresham. That closed up the field at the front and gave Ty Dillon the opportunity that he had been hoping for to surge to the front, and when the track went green that's exactly what he attempted by leaping up into second place. But Kyle Busch was still too fast and in control of the race, and that left Dillon one point shy of Buescher in the standings. He needed more.
And what Dillon emphatically didn't need was a challenge from Kyle Larson that could cost him his hard fought second spot. With two laps remaining, Larson made a spirited dive-bomb move for the position. Believing that he was clear of Larson's truck, Dillon made the decision to move down the track to thwart the counterattack, but it proved a costly call: the two made contact and wrecked, and in the process took out the innocent bystander of Ryan Blaney whose #29 erupted in a scary ball of fire from the violence of the ensuing impact with the outside wall.
“I'm all right,” said Blaney afterwards. "Just knocked the wind out of me there. It's one of the worst hits when you clipped like that."