Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: Brett Moffitt Scores 5th 2018 Win at ISM Raceway

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In a Nutshell: Brett Moffitt took the checkered flag less than a half-second ahead of Noah Gragson to win Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150 at ISM Raceway. The driver of the No. 16 Toyota utilized a dramatic three-wide pass for the lead on the final restart with three laps remaining to score his fifth win of the season.

“We just had a badass KOBE Toyopet Tundra,” Moffitt said. “I kind of screwed us by getting a speeding penalty there, but more importantly, it’s Veteran’s Day weekend and I have to give a shout out to all those who have served and are currently serving.

“Also, very special to us, we have a steering wheel here and it’s got Torie Costa Foundation on it, which is (crew chief) Scott Zipadelli’s daughter who passed away from pancreatic cancer. It was her birthday [Thursday] so I’m glad she was in the car with me, and I know this is going to mean a lot to our race team.”

Part-time driver Harrison Burton finished third, followed by Grant Enfinger. Stewart Friesen rounded out the top five after being hit with a speeding penalty under the caution that flew at the end of stage two.

Tyler Ankrum, who made his second series start with DGR-Crosley ended up sixth, followed by Johnny Sauter. Debuting driver Derek Kraus finished eighth, followed by Christian Eckes. Sheldon Creed rounded out the top 10.

In a race that featured just five cautions, two of which were for stage breaks, only five trucks failed to finish.

Who Should Have Won: Moffitt and Gragson were the class of the field Friday night, and they showed it, combining to lead every lap in stage one. In fact, even when both ended up deep in the field for separate issues to start stage two, they made quick work getting back to the top 10. A pair of late-race cautions set Moffitt up for the dramatic late pass that gave him the win and both drivers a berth in the Championship 4.

Race Rundown

Championship 4 Set

The checkered flag over ISM Raceway Friday night set the Championship 4 that will battle for the 2018 title next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. GMS Racing teammates Sauter and Justin Haley came into the race already locked in, thanks to wins at Martinsville Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway, respectively.

That left Moffitt, Gragson, Enfinger and Matt Crafton to fight for the final two spots in the title race, and when the checkered flag flew, it was race winner Moffitt and runner-up Gragson who walked away with a smile on their face and their championship hopes still alive.

The pair didn’t make it easy on themselves, though. After combining to lead every lap in stage one, both drivers had problems on pit road under the caution that followed. Moffitt was nailed for speeding and had to go to the back of the field.

“I kind of screwed us there with the pit road speeding penalty, which I wasn’t even trying to push it so I was a little bit caught off-guard,” he said. “Once we got the track position back, I didn’t know whether I wanted a caution at the end or not because we were in and then the caution kind of mixed that up. Luckily we were able to take advantage of it, got a badass restart and got to the front.”

Meanwhile, Gragson slid into his pit box and made slight contact with the wall. The poor angle his truck stopped at forced him to back up twice to give his team room to change all four tires.

“Obviously I wanted this win,” Gragson, who ended up second, said after the race. “Led a lot of laps early in the race and slid through my pit box and had to restart in the back just a mistake on my part.”

Both Gragson and Moffitt restarted in stage two deep in the field but made it back inside the top 10 by the end of that stage and ultimately went on to a one-two finish.

On the other end of the spectrum, ThorSport Racing teammates Enfinger and Crafton were both eliminated from championship contention after finishing fourth and 11th, respectively. The duo found themselves in a deep enough points hole coming into ISM Raceway that their best shot at advancing to the final round was a victory.

Crafton and Enfinger both showed decent speed Friday night but only combined to lead 11 laps. The latter was at the front of the field on the final restart but fell to fourth as a part of the three-wide pass Moffitt made for the lead and the win.

“We had the speed to get it done tonight. We had a really good Protect The Harvest Ford F-150,” Enfinger said. “That’s all we had. It just wasn’t meant to be. I’m really proud of this year. We’re not running for a championship next week but it wasn’t for lack of effort. These guys have come a long way, and I’m proud of everyone.”

For Crafton, his chance at winning came with a pit road issues. Under the caution at the end of stage two, the pit crew struggled to get the right front off of the No. 88 Toyota, dropping the two-time champion back six positions after a second-place finish in the stage.

“When we came down pit road later to put four tires on, we just couldn’t get the right front off,” Crafton explained. “It buried us and then none of the lanes would go our way to end the night. We’ve got one more – we’re going to go get a trophy at Homestead.”

Derek Kraus Finishes Top 10 in Series Debut

Kraus made his Truck Series debut Friday night and what a debut it was. Piloting the No. 19 Bill McAnally Racing Toyota, the 17-year-old NASCAR Next driver ran inside the top 10 in both practice sessions before qualifying eighth.

When the green flag flew, he moved inside the top five by the end of stage one but dropped back to 15th during the cycle of pit stops at the end of stage one. That didn’t stop the debuting driver, who battled back inside the top 10 and remained there for much of the rest of the race. In fact, he was in the top five with just a handful of laps left to run before ultimately dropping to an eighth-place finish.

“It was a great run for our first time out,” Kraus said. “The BMR crew brought me a really good No. 19 NAPA AUTO PARTS Toyota Tundra. It was a bonus for the end of the year that we had a really good run.

“I needed to be a little more aggressive on the restarts. That would help a lot, to get spots early while tires are really fresh and cold. We will learn and adjust from this.”

Team owner Bill McAnally echoed Kraus’ optimism.

“Derek did an outstanding job in making his first Truck Series start such a success, especially considering it was his first time to race at ISM Raceway,” he said. “He didn’t hesitate to challenge the veterans of the series and race door-to-door with them.

“The NAPA team provided him with a fast Toyota Tundra. I’m proud of the hard work by everybody involved in this effort.”

There is no word at this time about whether Kraus, who just finished his second full-time run in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, has any future series starts planned.

Quick Hits:

  • Harrison Burton matched his career-best finish of third, set earlier this season at Iowa Speedway, Friday night in Phoenix. After leading both practice sessions, the driver of the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota qualified third, led a career-high 46 laps (led 30 in Iowa after starting on the pole) and scored his fourth career top five. In seven starts this season, Burton has three top fives, six top 10s and an impressive average finish of 6.6. The only result outside the top 10 came as a 13th at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. He has one more start scheduled for next weekend in the season finale.
  • Justin Haley ended the night at ISM Raceway even more grateful for his Texas Motor Speedway win last weekend. Inside 20 laps to go, his motor blew, leaving a trail of oil all around the track and a large puddle on pit road. The cleanup resulted in a 10 minute, 47 second red flag period, and Haley ended the night in 28th.
  • Before the Truck Series took the green flag in Phoenix, GMS Racing announced 2018 ARCA Racing Series champion Sheldon Creed will join the organization full-time next season. He’s running the final four races with the organization behind the wheel of the No. 2 Chevrolet vacated by Cody Coughlin earlier in the year. The team has not yet announced what number he’ll drive or any sponsorship information as of press time.

“I am extremely pumped about the opportunity to continue my asphalt career and transition into being full-time in the Truck Series,” Creed said in a team release. “My goal in whatever I race is to be able to go out and compete for wins every week and hopefully be in a position to contend for a championship at the end. I really think I have that opportunity with GMS Racing. We were able to get a jump start on next season by running these final four races this year, and I think that will really be to my benefit when we kick off the 2019 season.”

Truck Rookie Report

2018 Rookie of the Year Candidates
No. 4 Todd Gilliland
No. 13 Myatt Snider
No. 25 Dalton Sargeant
No. 45 Justin Fontaine
No. 54 Bo LeMastus

No. of rookies in the race: 3

No. of rookies to finish in the top 10: 0

Rookie of the Race: Todd Gilliland, finished 17th

Gilliland was on the wrong end of a dramatic move by Tyler Ankrum early in stage one and suffered right rear damage to the No. 4 Toyota. After spending much of the race a lap down, he received the free pass under the fifth and final caution and gained two positions before the checkered flag flew.

Points Update: Sauter, Haley, Moffitt and Gragson all have a single race at Homestead-Miami Speedway next Friday night to win the 2018 Truck Series championship. Sauter is the most experienced at the mile-and-a-half oval with 11 starts, one win four top fives and eight top 10s. Meanwhile, teammate Haley finished ninth in his only race there last season. Gragson has two starts and an average finish of 16.5, while Moffitt has not yet run a Truck Series race at Homestead.

The remainder of the eight championship contenders find themselves separated by a slim 13 points. Crafton leads the way in fifth, followed by teammates Enfinger and Rhodes, who find themselves five and 11 markers back. Friesen sits eight in the stages, 13 points behind Crafton.

Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend to determine the 2018 champion. Coverage for the Ford EcoBoost 200 begins at 8 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.

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