James Buescher won NASCAR’s Truck Series championship by avoiding trouble in the season finale Friday night.
Cale Gale won the 200-mile race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, edging Kyle Busch at the line as both trucks sparked after hard contact.
The more significant celebration in Victory Lane, though, was saved for Buescher. It was his first championship in four full-time seasons.
“It wasn’t pretty,” said Buescher, who finished 13th in the race. “It was a little messy, but we did it. ... This is definitely the coolest thing I’ve ever done in racing.”
Ty Dillon was in position to pull off an upset with three laps remaining — he was running second and just a point behind — but made contact with Kyle Larson. Both trucks hit the wall in the fourth turn and were mangled in the mess.
Afterward, Dillon questioned whether Larson should have been racing so hard because he wasn’t in the title hunt.
“I’m all right with the way things finished,” Dillon said. “We were trying to hit the home run in the bottom of the ninth, but it bounced off the wall.”
Buescher was far enough behind Dillon and Larson that he was able to drive around the wreckage that also collected Ryan Blaney. Buescher had a comfortable points lead over Timothy Peters when racing resumed with two laps remaining.
After the green-white-checkered finish, Buescher crossed the line five spots behind of Peters.
Peters finished second in the final standings, six points behind Buescher.
Ryan Blaney, the 18-year-old son of Hartford native and Sprint Cup driver Dave Blaney, finished 28th after an accident.
It was Gale’s first win in 32 career starts. Busch, a Sprint Cup regular, looked as if he was the one to beat in the closing laps. But Gale left pit road with new tires; Busch had used all five sets of new ones.
And it showed.
Gale caught Busch on the final lap and passed him on the inside as they entered the third turn. The trucks made contact as they headed for the finish line, sparks lighting up the track, as Gale pinned Busch against the outside wall.
“I got drove into the fence,” said Busch, clearly upset with the outcome.
Gale had no regrets.
“It’s not my style, but I knew if I could pinch him a little bit I could get the advantage,” said Gale, who won for the first time in 32 career starts.