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For the first two stages of Saturday’s (Oct. 21) NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Homestead-Miami Speedway, it was “Heim Time” as Corey Heim dominated the whole way.
Hocevar had to track down Rhodes from over 20-seconds back, after Rhodes’ crew chief Rich Lushes made a daring pit call to bring Rhodes in under the final caution on lap 80. Rhodes then cycled to the lead while everyone else pitted under green.
In the end, Lushes’ call paid off big time, as Rhodes finished third and was the last driver to transfer into the championship race.
“We were so fast,” an excited Hocevar told FOX Sports 1 after the race. “This thing was so good….we got behind on pit stops and just lost track position, which really was unfortunate…. ah, I love winning! Now we just got to win Phoenix [Raceway].
“I was mad. I thought we could win today with our truck even with all the setbacks, from the debris (on the front of the truck) and everything, we had a shot to win and we did just that.”
Defending champion Zane Smith was out front and running away with it right up until the cycle of pit stops. As the run went on, and Smith tried to track down Rhodes, his No. 38 Ford F-150 started to get tight, allowing Hocevar to slip by him. Smith wasn’t able to catch up after finally getting by Rhodes and brought home a runner-up finish for his troubles.
It wasn’t enough though, and Smith will not race for the championship for the first time in his Truck Series career.
“Was pretty good that run beforehand, and then out of nowhere it was just wicked, wicked tight,” a dejected Smith told FOX Sports 1. “The Round of 8 was not good to us. All it takes is one bad race. Unfortunately, we had two and then we were just one spot short today.”
Unfortunately for Smith, the win wouldn’t have mattered, as his No. 38 was disqualified from second after the race for violating section 14.4.7.I of the NASCAR rulebook. His truck was found to have an issue within the windshield support, causing the truck’s windshield to flex in under green flag conditions.
His disqualification holds no impact on the outcome of who made the Championship 4.
Behind Rhodes in third was Heim in fourth and Grant Enfinger in fifth. Enfinger’s finish put him into the Championship 4 as well. Heim’s early dominance subsided toward the middle of the final stage, as he felt he had a tire going down at one point, and pitted early to start the final green flag cycle.
Bayley Currey completed another good run by finishing sixth, followed by Stewart Friesen in seventh. Matt Crafton, Rajah Caruth, and Ty Majeski rounded out the top ten. Despite that good finish from the No. 98 team, Majeski’s bid for a second straight Championship 4 bid came up short after a slow final pit stop due to an issue with the front tire changer’s air gun.
Pole-sitter Nick Sanchez was the first driver out of the Championship 4. As the day progressed, Sanchez’s truck appeared to be falling away progressively, and on the final green flag stop, he made contact with Tanner Gray trying to make it to pit road. Sanchez finished 18th and missed the Championship 4 by one point.
Christian Eckes ran well, but picked up a restart violation and a pit road speeding penalty in the late stages of the race. Those penalties ultimately cost him a chance at a championship, as he finished 21st.
After a clean opening stage, a scary situation occurred on pit road. For the second race in a row, a crew member was hit by a truck. This time, it was a member of Memphis Villarreal‘s pit crew. Villareal made contact with Mason Maggio as they were entering their respective pit stalls and carried too much speed, making contact with crew member Cory Selig.
Selig was seen in visible discomfort and was taken to the infield care center (and later to a local hospital) for further evaluation.
Aside from stage cautions, there were three additional cautions for incident, including a stalled Spencer Boyd on lap 54, a crash between Jack Wood, Hailie Deegan, and Colby Howard on lap 74, and a spin from Maggio on lap 80.
The final race of the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series season at Phoenix Raceway will begin at 10:00 p.m. ET on Friday, Nov. 3. Coverage will be aired on FS1, MRN, and Sirius XM NASCAR Radio.
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