Grant Enfinger’s call to not take tires on the Lap 82 caution paid off in a big way on Friday night. Enfinger, the leader at the time, stayed out on old tires which hurt his short run speed on the ensuing restart. He’d fall back but luck out for some late race caution. He’d come down later than everyone else to get new Goodyear Tires and due to more cautions and a red flag period, he’d have fresher rubber to pass everyone back to win his second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race.
The win in Friday night’s World of Westgate 200 was the Alabama natives first in 44 races (41 attempts) as he’s now automatically advanced to the second round of the Truck Series playoffs in his No. 98 Ford.
Enfinger’s last win came at the Talladega Superspeedway, the site of the next race on Oct. 22, 2016.
The ThorSport Racing driver took over the lead for the first time on Lap 50 and would lead a race high 40 laps en route to the big win.
He benefitted from a fuel pick up issue for Brett Moffitt on the final restart as Moffitt would finish a disappointing 10th as a result. Moffitt, passed Johnny Sauter on Lap 124 and was car lengths away from the win. Unfortunately, a caution flag flew for a nine Truck crash on the front stretch on Lap 137.
Moffitt, was getting ready to take the white flag, but due to the caution flying just before he crossed the finish line, the third overtime period would have to be run. That’s when he had that fuel pick up problem which allowed Enfinger to score his first top five finish since his runner-up at Eldora.
Johnny Sauter finished runner up in his No. 21 Chevrolet for his fifth straight top 10 finish and his 15th of the season. It was also his eighth top two of the year.
The winner of the last race Justin Haley came home third in his No. 24 Chevrolet for his ninth straight top 10 result.
Enfinger’s teammates Ben Rhodes and Matt Crafton rounded out the top five.
Here are the main takeaways.
Thorsport Racing Strong
Grant Enfinger should have won Friday night’s race earlier than he did. He took over the lead on Lap 50 and would lead a race-high 40 laps overall. He won Stage 2 and had the truck to beat. But, when the Lap 82 caution flag fell, Enfinger elected to stay out on older tires. That proved at the time to hurt him.
He fell back a bit and would end up coming down pit lane on a later caution flag to put on new ones. While he had fresher tires, he made up so much ground that he had enough to win in the end.
Speaking of coming through the field, that’s exactly what Matt Crafton and Ben Rhodes did. They had to start in the back but that didn’t stop them from quickly moving up. Crafton improved 17 spots in the opening four laps of the race. By time we ran 7 green flag laps, Crafton was in the top five.
He’d finish fifth for his seventh straight top 10 of the year.
Rhodes, was equally as strong as all three drivers were in the hunt to win in the end. Now, all three have great chances of moving onto the second round as they all three had a top five.
Gragson, Friesen Struggle Late
At one point late in Friday night’s race, six of the eight playoff drivers were running 1-6. But, that’s when all hell broke loose. Noah Gragson and Stewart Friesen really had some struggles in the final few laps.
It all started on Lap 99 when Friesen spun on his own in Turn 2. He’s actually bring out three cautions between the 99th lap and Lap 129. He spun twice on the front stretch after on Lap 112 and 129. He’d go from a top five Truck to finishing 17th. He’s last in the playoff standings, 10 points out.
Gragson, well his troubles started with 26 to go in regulation. Tonight’s pole sitter developed a tire rub which cause his tire to go down. He’d hit pit road one lap later. Unfortunately, he missed the commitment box and was penalized a drive thru penalty. Then, not long after, he had another tire go down and would have to pit again.
In a span of 10 laps, he’d pit three times. Counter that with what he did on the final lap in Canada and you get a driver that could be on the brink of elimination. Gragson, should have finished second in CTMP but came home ninth instead. On Friday night, he was a top five Truck before those problems. He’d finish 18th.
This was the first time since early May at Dover that Gragson didn’t finish in the top 10. He’s now fourth in the standings with one race left in the opening round. That race?
Speaking of Talladega, that’s the cutoff race in Round 1. Justin Haley won at CTMP and Grant Enfinger winning tonight means both are automatically into the second round now. That leaves four spots among six drivers.
Johnny Sauter is virtually in as he’s 40 points up. Noah Gragson is +23 while Brett Moffitt (+16) and Matt Crafton (+7) are the drivers in. Ben Rhodes (-7) and Stewart Friesen (-10) are still very much in the hunt.
Who had Justin Haley and Grant Enfinger as the first two winners of the first two races of the 2018 playoffs? Johnny Sauter and Brett Moffitt combined for nine wins in the first 16 races of the season but neither have won in the postseason thus far.
Due to the late race carnage, some surprise names were found up front in the end. Myatt Snider, Ross Chastain, Austin Theriault, Austin Way Self and Chris Eggleston finished sixth through 10th respectively.
The racing all night long in Vegas was strong. These Trucks didn’t have restrictor plates but they race at Vegas like they do. They can get big drafts which causes some tight racing. On most of the restarts, we’d see 3, 4 and even 5 wide.
The racing was very intense, something that the fans seemed to love.
This is what the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is trying to emulate with the drafting package. If Friday night is any indication on what kind of racing we could see in the Cup Series at some tracks in 2019, then buckle up.
World Of Westgate 200 Results
- 98 Enfinger
- 21 Sauter
- 24 Haley
- 41 Rhodes
- 88 Crafton
- 13 Snider R
- 15 Chastian
- 30 Theriault
- 22 Self
- 54 Eggleston
- 16 Moffitt
- 10 Cobb
- 7 Forrister
- 45 Fontaine R
- 97 Little
- 83 Currey
- 52 Friesen
- 18 Gragson -1
- 25 Peters -1
- 3 Anderson -1
- 38 Bell -6
- 8 Nemechek OUT
- 02 Hill OUT
- 2 Coughlin OUT
- 04 Roper R OUT
- 51 Jones OUT
- 4 Gilliland OUT
- 49 Chavous R OUT
- 46 Herbst OUT
- 17 LeMastus OUT
- 87 Nemechek OUT
- 20 Thorson OUT