HAMPTON, Ga. – NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rookie Nick Sanchez simply hung his head next to his No. 2 Chevrolet Silverado on Saturday (March 18) after the series’ race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The 21-year-old Miami native was less than half a lap away from earning his first career Truck Series win before he was overtaken in the final corner for the lead.
It resulted in a runner-up finish for the young racer, which is impressive by most standards, but he still couldn’t help but wonder what could’ve been.
“I mean, it feels good, but it hurts with how close you were,” Sanchez said on the Atlanta frontstretch. “But, you know, it is what it is.
It all happened so quickly, too.
With a huge push coming to the white flag, Sanchez launched around series veteran Christian Eckes and was out front unchallenged heading onto the backstretch.
But Eckes, still on his bumper, darted low, faked out the young 21-year-old rookie and went high with a full head of steam right to the door panel of Sanchez’s No. 2. Sanchez slid sideways for a moment as the two ran for the line but saved it. However, his momentary slide cost him enough momentum for Eckes to get a nose ahead as a caution flag waved for a crash behind them.
NASCAR fans held their breath as they awaited the official decision for who won, but it was only seconds until it was announced that Eckes had been awarded the win.
Sanchez, who won the ARCA Menards Series Championship in 2022, could only reflect on what he could have done differently.
“I was a little slow to react in my spot,” Sanchez said. “[I’m] just learning where these trucks are. I could have done a better job reacting to the [No.] 19. I probably should have blocked the top.
“I would have went back and done that.”
While it was only a nose between Sanchez and victory, he also came up just short of the first Truck win for his team Rev Racing, which has embarked on its first full season in the series.
And despite coming up just short of its first win, team president Max Siegel had nothing but good things to say about his driver.
“He’s doing all the right things to be successful,” Siegel said. “He’s the first one in the shop, the last one to leave. He just loves this sport.
“This was a foreshadow of what’s to come.”
Sanchez and Rev Racing’s second-place result didn’t come without its setbacks, either. At one point during the 211-mile race, Sanchez had a windshield view full of a mixture of pit wall and grass.
“I knew the truck didn’t have damage, and I was fine,” Sanchez said. “I was just hoping the incident, you know, whatever happened was fixed. The No. 9 hit us so hard into [turn] 1 one time, it just knocked the battery — not out of it — but it kind of loosened the connections, I guess.
“But once they got that fixed up, it was fine.”
Despite the incident that occurred with only 52 laps to go, Sanchez climbed back into the top five and even led 11 laps, the most he’s led in a single Truck Series race so far.
For once, Sanchez thought, at least he was able to finish strong, even if it didn’t really start that way.
“We’ve had a really good start to the season in the first two races that ended in not the best finishes,” Sanchez said.
It’s not an immediate playoff berth, but with 13 races left before the Truck Series’ playoffs, at least the young team now has momentum. Even more importantly, Sanchez also now has more knowledge.
“It’s good to finally get a good finish and go to these next stretch of races with a decent points haul,” he said. “We were pretty far out of it.
“To go to [Circuit of the Americas] and Texas [Motor Speedway] and all these tracks where handling matters a little, I could learn more as a driver and just keep pushing for wins.”
After only three races, it’s certainly a good start.
About the author
Dalton Hopkins began writing for Frontstretch in April 2021. Currently, he is the lead writer for the weekly Thinkin' Out Loud column and one of our lead reporters. Beforehand, he wrote for IMSA shortly after graduating from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in 2019. Simultaneously, he also serves as a First Lieutenant in the US Army.
Follow Dalton on Twitter @PitLaneLT
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