Carmichael Knocks Down Top Four at Talladega

October 24, 2011 1:15pm

Race/Date:                    Coca-Cola 250 Powered by fred’s – October 22, 2011

Venue:                          Talladega Superspeedway

Start:                            Fourth

Finish:                          Fourth

Points Standing:           14th

TALLADEGA, Ala.Ricky Carmichael and the Monster Energy Team turned in a season-best fourth-place finish in Saturday afternoon’s Coca-Cola 250 Powered by fred’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.

The 15-time AMA National Champion raced with the leaders all afternoon, stayed out of trouble and, when the money was on the line, demonstrated his superspeedway prowess by earning his first top-five finish of the 2011 season.

The spirited effort also afforded Carmichael one more spot in the Camping World Truck Series driver points, propelling the Tallahassee, Fla., driver from 15th to 14th in the standings. Over the last three races, Carmichael has powered from 18th to his current position in the points.

NASCAR scheduled one two-hour practice session for the 40 teams who came to make laps at the mammoth 2.66-mile Alabama speedway. Carmichael spent much of the session atop the leaderboard before ultimately winding up 11th on the speedsheet when the exercise concluded at 11:30 Friday morning. In time trials later that afternoon, the third-year Truck Series racer toured the legendary race course in 54.274 seconds (176.438 mph) and posted the fourth-best time of the session, securing a starting spot on the outside of the second row for Saturday’s 250-mile affair.

The green flag waved on the 22nd race of the 2011 season just before 3:30 p.m. local time and once the 36-truck field was up to full song, Carmichael settled into place along the inside racing line of the ultra-fast, high-banked speedway. Prior to the event, the 31-year-old driver and crew chief Doug George mapped out the day and planned to stay in line, near the front of the field, for the majority of the day and make their collective charge at the leaders with a handful of laps remaining.

Carmichael spent the opening 13 laps racing with the lead group and was third in the running order when the first of six yellow flags waved on Lap 13. George called his driver to pit road a lap later to top off his truck with fuel and when racing resumed on Lap 16, the No. 4 machine was second in the running order.

The Monster Energy Chevy led the charge when the field flashed by the start finish line on Lap 18 but slipped to third a lap later when the Nos. 2 and 33 trucks of Ron Hornaday Jr. and eventual winner Mike Wallace paired up to take over the top two spots.

The second yellow flag of the afternoon fell shortly after the one-third mark and George called Carmichael back to the service lane for fresh right-side tires and a full load of fuel.

Back under green, now in fifth, Carmichael stayed on task and kept his truck glued to the inside line as the laps clicked off. Over the next 47 circuits, Turner Motorsports’ No. 4 entry raced as low as 16th, as high as fifth and was 12th on the scoring pylon when NASCAR displayed the sixth and final caution flag with just six laps remaining in the 94-lap event.

Carmichael latched on the rear bumper of teammate James Buescher when the field came back to green with two to go and the potent Turner Motorsports duo rocketed all the way to third and fourth, respectively before taking the white flag.

Buescher and Carmichael made a final charge at Hornaday and Wallace exiting Turn 4 but couldn’t quite make the pass before the checkered flag flew. Despite coming up a few feet short of a potential victory, Carmichael was all smiles as he exited his truck following the event.

Next weekend, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to its short-track roots for 200 laps of door-to-door action at the famed Martinsville Speedway. Live coverage of the Kroger 200 will take the green flag Saturday, Oct. 29 beginning at 1:30 p.m. EDT. The race will be televised live on SPEED and broadcast on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90.  Qualifying for Round 23 of the 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship will be televised on SPEED the same day at 10:30 a.m. EDT.

“What an incredible race. Restrictor-plate racing can get pretty wild and today’s race wasn’t any exception. We had a plan to ride around on the bottom of the track, right on the yellow line, and make laps. We needed to stay out of trouble so we could be in position to make a move at the end. Fortunately, I was able to hook up with James (Buescher) on that last restart and we were able to make a run at ‘em. I think if we had one more lap we could have gotten a one-two finish out of it for Turner Motorsports. That was an exciting last two laps. I’m pretty excited to come out of Talladega not only with a top five, but our best finish of the season. I’m really proud of the entire Monster Energy team. They knew we were here today.”