Ryan Blaney proved early on that the Brad Keselowski #29 was the fastest entry in Wednesday night's UNOH 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race under the floodlights of Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday night, but then seemed to have thrown away a golden opportunity for victory when he was penalised and put a lap down for jumping an early restart.
From there it was head down and a lot of hard work to put him back into second position by the closing laps, but even so by this stage the margin to race leader Matt Crafton was simply too great to overhaul. That is, until Ty Dillon went for a spin with just four laps remaining which set up one last shot at reclaiming the lead he had last held over 160 laps earlier, and with just two laps to go before the chequered flag.
CLICK: Full race results from the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race on Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.
"It feels really good," said Blaney in victory lane. "I've had a chance to drive this truck four times this year and we've come really, really close every single time and to finally get it to Victory Lane, my last start of the year for this truck.
"To do that in that fashion coming from a lap down and being able to drive through the field like that says a lot about our race team and a lot about what as an organisation we can do."
Blaney started the race from the outside of the front row, with Kyle Busch having earlier pipped him to the top spot in qualifying by 0.015s with a lap of 15.267s (125.683mph) on the half-mile short track to earn his first pole position in the series. When the race got underway - on time despite some earlier disruption to the schedule due to showers in the area - Blaney immediately took advantage of a slow start by Busch and leapt to the front, staying there though to the first caution (for a spin by Kyle Busch Motorsports' Daniel Suarez on lap 31.) However, a pass-through penalty for jumping the restart promptly put him a lap down and handed the lead instead to JR Motorsports' Cole Custer for the next 41 laps.
Busch had just managed to depose Custer from the front on lap 81 when the second caution of the night came out for debris. That allowed the field to stage a round of green flag pit stops and also enabled Blaney to take the free pass back on to the lead lap and back into possible contention with over half the race remaining. ThorSport Racing's Johnny Sauter led the field to the restart but was suffering from issues with his power steering, and in any case Custer had the best start and took back control of the race while Busch found his hands full battling with Sauter's team mate Crafton for third. Blaney, meanwhile, was still down in 20th place and stuck in the packed traffic unable to make much in the way of forward progress at this stage.
A turn 4 spin for Ray Black Jr. which also caught up Caleb Holman in the aftermath on lap 112 brought out the caution flags again, and while Custer and Crafton stayed out there was a move down pit road for Busch which put him back into 15th, although it wasn't long before he was working his way back into the top ten courtesy of his fresher tyres.
Mason Mingus hit the wall without bringing out the yellows on lap 159, but the fourth caution of the night came out two laps later when Spencer Gallagher spun in front of the race leader, collecting Custer and leaving him with damage to the right front of the #00. "I really don't know what happened," Custer said. "I was committed to the top and was going as hard as I could. The truck is all messed up. It's a shame. We had the thing won."
As the JR Motorsports crew attempted to repair what had looked up to that point the race-winning truck, the rain showers that had been swirling around the Bristol area made an unwelcome appearance and forced a 46 minute red flag before the track was dry enough to allow the race to resume.
GMS Racing's Brandon Jones had second chair for the restart when it came, but Crafton was able to see off his challenge as the field got back up to speed and Jones was soon demoted to third by John Hunter Nemechek (SWM-NEMCO Motorsports). Next in line to pass Jones was Blaney who soon dispatched Nemechek for second, but with less than ten laps to go it seemed that no one had enough time to catch Crafton for the win. That is, not until Ty Dillon got together with Ben Kennedy in turn 3 to bring out the fifth caution and send the race into a green-white-chequered finish, with the field closed up sufficiently to allow Blaney one last crack at Crafton. When the green flag came out, the #88 struggled to get back up to speed, gifting the lead to Blaney who seized it with both hands to claim his fourth victory in 57 Truck starts and his first win of 2015 and his first visit to victory lane at Bristol.
"We had a chance, and that's all you can ask for is a chance," Blaney said. "Obviously the inside isn't the preferred line on the restart but we got a good jump and were able to pull away."
Busch, Nemechek, Daniel Hemric (NTS Motorsports) and both Brandon and Erik Jones also managed to take advantage of Crafton's troubled situation, leaving the reigning champion crossing the line in seventh just ahead of points leader Tyler Reddick (Brad Keselowski Racing), Johnny Sauter and newcomer Dalton Sargeant (Wauters Motorsports) who was successful in clinching tenth place in his début race.
"It was a really good restart for us," said Busch of his 30 second charge to third place at the end. "I was able to get on the outside of the #33 and the #88. I think it surprised him and he had to get out of the gas. Our truck was fast tonight. There weren't enough laps to catch the #29, and we were just in the wrong position."
In the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings, just seven points covers the top three with Reddick narrowly ahead of Crafton and Erik Jones in third. Johnny Sauter is a further 46 points back, with a similar gap back to Daniel Henric who has a narrow lead over Cameron Haley. Timothy Peters, John Wes Townley, Spencer Gallagher and Ben Kennedy round out the top ten. In the owner standings, the Brad Keselowski Racing #19, ThorSport Racing #88 and Kyle Busch Motorsport #4 mirror their regular drivers' standings, with the KBM #51 in fourth.
All three national-level series are in action at Bristol this week, with the Xfinity Series holdings all its practice, qualifying and race sessions on Friday and the Sprint Cup Series holding its annual night race on Saturday evening.
The next Truck Series race will be the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in Ontario on August 30.
See full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and full Camping World Truck Series championship standings.
Get the latest NASCAR news straight to your Twitter feed! CLICK HERE to follow Crash.net's new dedicated NASCAR Twitter feed