Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: Brett Moffitt Scores First Career Victory at Michigan

In a Nutshell: Just 10 days removed from finishing runner-up to Ben Kennedy at Bristol Motor Speedway, Brett Moffitt emerged victorious Saturday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway. Moffitt waited out a two-hour rain delay and made a last lap pass to score his first career win by just 0.098 seconds ahead of teammate Timothy Peters, who led a race-high 42 laps. Daniel Hemric, William Byron and Cameron Hayley rounded out the top 5.

Who Should Have Won: There were a handful of trucks that excelled on the two-mile oval at Michigan, swapping the lead a total of 17 times at the line. And as they fell off one by one, Moffitt used a thrilling three-wide pass outside Peters and Byron on the final circuit.

Christopher Bell’s Roller Coaster Season Continues

Rookie Christopher Bell can really only describe his season as a roller coaster, and that became even clearer again Saturday afternoon. Moving inside Cole Custer for the lead, Bell got loose and spun, something that would have been relatively easy to recover from if he hadn’t ended up in the path of an oncoming Spencer Gallagher. The hard impact damaged both trucks enough to end their days immediately. Bell and Gallagher finished 24th and 25th, respectively.

The crash, which left Gallagher so concerned for Bell’s safety that he jogged over the ambulance Bell had gotten into, was just the latest in a long line of struggles interspersed with finishes you would expect from a driiver in the Kyle Busch Motorsports stable. After his struggles at Daytona (last lap airborne crash, finished 16th), Atlanta (two flats, hard crash, finished 26th) and Martinsville (transmission, spin, finished 19th), Bell managed to string together a stretch of three straight top 10s. That includes when he brought home an eighth-place result at Charlotte after a spin on lap 72.

But after that recovery to eighth, the driver of the No. 4 Toyota suffered an engine failure on lap 1 at Texas Motor Speedway that saw him credited with a last place finish. Since then, Bell had finished in the top 10 in each race despite electrical problems at Pocono and spinning while leading at Bristol. His 24th on Saturday would be reason for the team to worry if not for the victory at Gateway Motorsports Park that has him locked into the inaugural Chase for the championship.

While Bell’s problems this year have not all been of his own making, it’s become very clear that he’s going through some rookie growing pains, and his equipment has suffered a little. There’s no doubt that he wants to excel, but until Bell can take a step back and really look at his actions on track and how some of them are contributing to his troubles, he won’t find the success that he’s more than capable of.

Tommy Joe Martins Scores Career-Best Finish

Tommy Joe Martins scored a career-best 15th-place finish Saturday afternoon at Michigan International Speedway. After posting about his excitement at the speed he and the team had found in practice, Martins backed it up by putting himself in position for a potential top-10 finish in the final laps. But a missed shift ahead of him on track saw the truck sandwiched, slightly damaged and left him with 15th.

Despite being disappointed, the finish should be a decent shot in the arm for a team that’s getting by this year with a lot of hard work and dedication and very little funding.

Now, one might read those tweets as bitter and complaining about what could have been, but can you really blame Martins in this case? This race is only the third in which the team has finished inside the top 20, which also matches the lead-lap results for the organization. Can you really blame a driver for not being satisfied with his finish when he knows he could have done more?

Quick Hits:

  • It may come as a surprise to many, but Matt Crafton, who has two race wins this season, led his first laps since pacing the field for 133 circuits at Texas Motor Speedway, just a day before fire ravaged the ThorSport Racing shop. Working piecemeal out of various locations close to the shop for the last several weeks, the team has moved back into the building, though they still need to hang air fresheners throughout the place due to the lingering smell after the fire. Perhaps moving back into the shop was the shot in the arm the team needed just ahead of the inaugural Chase.
  • Jordan Anderson matched his 14th-place result from Pocono Saturday afternoon at Michigan, but perhaps more importantly is that the finish is the sixth top 20 for his Bolen Motorsports team in the last seven races. Not too shabby for a team that just came together this season, has two DNQs and doubted whether they would be able to continue after a hard crash at Kansas in May.

  • John Wes Townley, who notched his first career victory last season, scored just his second career pole and led the field to green on Saturday afternoon. He struggled with handling, dropping back to 15th by the time the caution clock expired on lap 32. Then, just past the halfway point in the race, Townley had a tire failure that saw chunks of rubber strewn across the track. However, his crew was able to make repairs and keep him on the lead lap. Townley finished 12th.

“Winning the pole was a real shot in the arm. The entire season has been a struggle for us, but winning a pole is a real confidence booster that we have the ability to run a couple of really fast laps. We’ve just got to continue working to translate that into speed on race runs. It was definitely a thrill to win the pole and start up front, but I hate that we struggled with the setup. And then we blew that tire halfway through the race. But our guys never gave up. They repaired the fender, changed shocks and made wholesale changes to the truck and really got me going there at the end to finish P12. Unfortunately, we just ran out of time to make a charge.”

  • Cole Custer, who came into Michigan needing a couple competitors ahead of him to struggle if he was going to point his way into the Chase, now needs to win if he hopes to make the postseason field. After leading 18 laps, a tire failure sent Custer into the crash he called the hardest he had ever had. He was credited with a 22nd-place finish and now sits 58 markers behind the Chase cutoff line.

Truck Rookie Report
2016 Rookie of the Year Candidates
No. 00 Cole Custer
No. 4 Christopher Bell
No. 9 William Byron
No. 18 Cody Coughlin
No. 22 Austin Wayne Self
No. 33 Grant Enfinger
No. 41 Ben Rhodes
No. 98 Rico Abreu

No. of Rookies in the Race: 13 (add Enrique Contreras, III, Tommy Joe Martins, Brett Moffitt, Reed Sorenson and Ryan Truex)

No. of Rookies to Finish in the Top 10: 4; Brett Moffitt, finished first; William Byron, finished fourth; Ben Rhodes, finished sixth; Grant Enfinger, finished eighth

Rookie of the Race: William Byron, finished fourth

2016 Chase Qualifiers:

Johnny Sauter (Daytona)
John Hunter Nemechek (Atlanta)
William Byron (Kansas, Texas, Iowa, Kentucky, Pocono)
Matt Crafton (Dover & Charlotte)
Christopher Bell (Gateway)
Ben Kennedy (Bristol)


Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads north of the border next Sunday for the third annual road course visit to Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. Prior winners Chase Elliott, Ryan Blaney and Erik Jones have all moved on to competition in the XFINITY or Cup series, so we’ll see a different victor once again. Coverage for the Chevrolet Silverado 250 begins at 2:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate and SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

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