SPARTA, Ky. -- As the mercury climbed, so did James Buescher's confidence.
Buescher held the lead for most of the way in temperatures approaching 100 degrees, fending off challengers to win the NASCAR Truck Series race Thursday night at Kentucky Speedway.
Asked about the oppressive heat, Buescher tried hard not to smirk.
"I'm from Texas," he said, hesitating for emphasis. "I mowed my grass yesterday and it was 103. I like to say I'm ready for the heat all summer long."
Buescher, who started the night fourth in the season standings, took the lead in his Turner Motorsports Chevrolet for the first time just 27 laps into the 150-circuit race and dominated the rest of the way. He was on top for 119 laps.
It was his second career Truck Series victory, after a win at Daytona to open the season.
"For James to dominate like this, it's awesome," said team owner Steve Turner. "We feel like we've become dominant on a mile-and-a-half track."
The temperature was 98 degrees -- on the track it was 117 -- when the race began. The heat contributed to some of the trucks getting loose in the turns. There were seven caution periods covering 31 laps.
Pole-sitter Matt Crafton led at the outset before Buescher took over and didn't let go.
"This is the third time this year we've raced this particular truck and the second time we've won with it," Buescher said. "The truck was phenomenal. We made some changes in practice this morning and the truck came to life. I knew halfway through the first practice that we had a truck that was capable of running upfront. Then we made some more changes and it got even better."
Sprint Cup driver Brad Keselowski started 17th but steadily climbed back to finish second, 3.805 seconds behind Buescher.
He wasn't surprised to see the No. 31 truck control the race.
"He's a really good driver. You can see how he's matured over the last few years," said Keselowski, who is competing in all three NASCAR races this weekend in Kentucky. "He's got a lot of great opportunities to come. We're all interested to see how he's going to come out. He's not winning races because he's a bad driver, that's for sure."
"It's definitely cool to leave here as the points leader," Peters said with a laugh. "We were way out in left field at the start of qualifying this morning, but the guys got us back in right field. Leading the points race is definitely a morale booster."
Dillon and Kyle Larson, who finished 10th in his first national series start, both had to start from the back of the pack after blowing engines during qualifying.
"Today was all about me learning how the trucks feel," Larson said. "And I'd never been on a 1.5-mile track before."
Dillon started 32nd but was solid all night, steadily picking off trucks in front of him.
"To come from pretty much last to third was something," he said.
Nelson Piquet Jr., coming off a victory last week in the Nationwide Series race at Road America, was running among the leaders until he bumped into the wall. The Brazilian, the son of the three-time Formula One champion, was sidelined on the 70th lap when pushed outside as Todd Bodine and Justin Lofton made contact.
Lofton, the No. 1 driver in the standings coming in, finished 14th. He dropped to second behind Peters in the rankings, with Dillon now third and Buescher fourth.
Despite how well he was running, Buescher said he never felt at ease.
"After a couple of restarts, I got in front of two trucks and I was looking to put a gap on second place," he said. "But anything can happen. You don't go through any race uncontested and feeling nothing can happen to you."
Besides, Texans love that heat.