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This Saturday (Oct. 21) at noon ET, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The race is the final one in the Round of 8 and by the time the checkered flag flies, the Championship 4 will be decided.
It’s been a while since the Truck Series was last on-track. The most recent race took place three weeks ago at Talladega Superspeedway on Sept. 30.
Need a refresher on what happened?
Well, Brett Moffitt won in his one-off start with Front Row Motorsports, which could very well have been an audition to replace Zane Smith in 2024. Two drivers were sent to the hospital, Stewart Friesen and Greg Van Alst, with the latter suffering a fractured vertebra. Nick Leitz will drive Young’s Motorsports’ No. 20 in place of Van Alst for the final two races at Homestead and Phoenix Raceway.
Speaking of Smith, he slammed into his tire changer, Charles Plank, on pit road during a pit stop under caution, causing heavy damage to the rear of the truck. A mechanical issue later forced Smith behind the wall, putting him effectively in a must-win situation at Homestead to make the Championship 4.
There was one other thing, but I can’t quite remember off the top of my head what it is. Can you?
Tempers flared heavily after the race, when Matt Crafton and Nick Sanchez got in a physical confrontation in the garage area. Video footage showed an angry Sanchez bloodied all over his face while being restrained by Cory Roper.
Upon release from the infield care center, Sanchez said that he was effectively sucker-punched by Crafton and might have fractured his nose – something that Sanchez nor Rev Racing have confirmed since that interview.
Meanwhile, Crafton took to social media the next day, giving his side of the story.
That week, NASCAR fined both drivers. Crafton was fined $25,000, Sanchez was fined $5,000. In addition, Sanchez’s father, Rene, was suspended for the rest of the season. There were no appeals toward the penalties.
This was an ugly scene in the moment. The blood on Sanchez’s face was the most I’ve seen in a post-race fight. It gets even crazier when you realize that Crafton was in street clothes at the time – he had crashed out earlier in the race after colliding with Sanchez and igniting the big one.
This was the most talked about story exiting Talladega. And that was after a wild Cup race which saw Ryan Blaney win by a nose over Kevin Harvick, who would later be disqualified for improper windshield fasteners.
But now, three weeks later, these drivers will strap in and go at it for the first time since that happened. And it begs the question of whether or not tempers will flare again.
In the video of the fight, Sanchez is heard repeatedly saying, “I’m gonna f***ing kill you!” And surprisingly a lot of people were of the opinion that Sanchez was going to be a danger on the track, apparently not realizing that drivers say stuff like that all the time in the heat of the moment – especially when allegedly blindsided with a sucker punch.
So will Sanchez race Crafton aggressively at worst? In a statement he posted on X after the penalties were handed out, Sanchez seemed to imply that the incident isn’t of concern to him anymore.
Sanchez is currently fourth in the Truck Series playoffs, the last driver currently sitting with a ticket to the Championship 4 at Phoenix. He needs a good race at Homestead to solidify that and officially punch his ticket. So it’s a good move for him to say that he isn’t concerned with Crafton anymore after his comments at Talladega. He’s having a great season as is and he doesn’t need to put an incident upon himself that will keep him from fighting for a championship.
Not to mention, Sanchez has a reputation in the garage area as being one of the nicest drivers and never gets aggressive even when he’s frustrated. The incident at Talladega was not indicative of how he acts off the track. He didn’t have to do an interview after his release from the infield care center but he was gracious enough to do so.
On the other side though, Crafton has nothing to lose or gain if he were to get aggressive with Sanchez on the track. Crafton faults Sanchez for the accident that led to the fight, and even parked his wrecked No. 88 in the No. 2 team’s pit stall before getting out and leaving it there.
Crafton made the 2023 playoffs but was eliminated after the round of 10 along with Matt DiBenedetto. The 47-year-old has nothing left to do this season except try to steal a win. But it feels like he’d rather make his point known to Sanchez, even three weeks later.
It would be hard to believe, after an incident like that, that NASCAR wouldn’t summon the two drivers to a meeting to set the record straight and discourage any further aggression toward each other. But if that somehow hasn’t happened, Crafton, who again has nothing to lose, might be the one thing standing in the way of Sanchez’s chance to compete for a championship.
So will there be fireworks again at Homestead? Honestly, it’s hard to tell. I would be surprised if it happened, but not shocked.
- Corey Heim is staying put at TRICON Garage for the 2024 season. It’s a surprising move, as many thought he was the heir apparent to take John Hunter Nemechek‘s No. 20 seat at Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series.
- Jake Garcia announced he will not return to McAnally-Hilgemann Racing after this season, as the current rookie will pursue opportunities elsewhere in 2024.
- Additionally, MHR announced that Christian Eckes will return to the team’s flagship No. 19 truck for 2024. Another driver who was a fringe candidate for promotion to the Xfinity Series, Eckes will have at least one teammate in Daniel Dye, who is moving over from the soon-to-be-defunct GMS Racing at season’s end.
- Bret Holmes and his self-owned team are done for the year and will begin preparing for another full-time effort in 2024.
- Along with Leitz replacing Van Alst at Young’s, Trevor Bayne will drive Rackley-WAR’s vacant No. 25 at Homestead after the team released DiBenedetto. Chandler Smith drove the truck at Talladega.
The Baptist Health Cancer Center 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway will have coverage by FOX Sports 1 beginning at noon ET on Saturday, Oct. 21.
About the author
Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. He is an editor and co-authors Only Yesterday (Wednesdays) and Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer and dabbles in SRX coverage too. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is currently pursuing a master's degree. He is a theatre actor and fight choreographer-in-training in his free time. He's a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.
You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.
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