A conservative approach paid off, barely, for James Buescher on Friday night as he captured the season championship of the Camping World Truck Series by finishing 13th in the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Meanwhile, Cale Gale took a much riskier approach to win the race. Also, just barely.
Gale and Kyle Busch finished the race with some side-by-side metal grinding as they crossed the finish line. The time difference: 14 one-thousandths of a second.
Both Buescher and Gale walked away winners by surviving several caution flags and one championship-deciding wreck toward the end.
Of the duel with Busch, Gale said, “I can tell you right now … that is not my driving style. I don’t get opportunities like this very often. I had to take it while I could. It’s a dream come true for all of us.”
A disappointed and decidedly unhappy Busch said of the finish, “We had a caution, a red flag, another caution and that bunched things up. It just doesn’t matter. I got driven into the fence. That’s all.”
One of the most dejected drivers in the race had to be Ty Dillon, who was in position to take the season series title away from Buescher. He had raced into second place to reduce the season’s point lead from 12 to one during the race’s final moments. But Kyle Larson, trying to take second from Dillon, skidded sideways into him and sent Dillon into the wall and out of the championship battle.
“Kyle is a great driver, I know he didn’t do that on purpose,” Dillon said. “I guess we almost hit a home run in the bottom of the ninth, but it bounced off the wall.”
Buescher was ecstatic over his victory for the season.
“It wasn’t pretty,” Buescher said. “Actually, it was real messy. It was close. Ty was giving us a run for it, and we were maxed out on speed. Our car was loose and sliding around. I almost went into the fence myself.”
Then Buescher smiled and summed up his evening: “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever done in racing.”
Buescher entered the race No. 1 in the truck point standings with 777. Timothy Peters was second, 11 points back, and Dillon was one more back at minus-12. Qualifying didn’t go smoothly for Buescher, who started in the 17th position. Meanwhile, Dillon put himself in a favorable position, qualifying in the third spot.
For most of the race, Buescher did not force the action, running most of the race anywhere from 12th place to sixth place.
Peters didn’t win the title, finishing a respectable eighth in the race and second in the season standings, six points behind Buescher. But Peters might have been a bit distracted, and for good reason. His wife, Sara, was watching from the stands — eight months pregnant.