Todd Gilliland was well on his way to a win in Sunday’s CarShield 200 at the World Wide Technology Raceway. He passed Zane Smith on Lap 45 and would go on to sweep both stages and lead the next 76 laps after that maneuver for the top spot. Unfortunately, Sheldon Creed made a bad move inside of Gilliland for the lead with 38 laps left and forced Gilliland into the outside SAFER barrier in Turn 1.
As a result, Gilliland had to pit for repairs as his dominant day was over. He finished runner up in each of the last two years in Gateway but the No. 38 Ford wouldn’t visit victory lane in the end. He came home 22nd, -2.
He and Christian Eckes were 1-2 at the end of the second stage too, but a lap prior, Eckes’ drive shaft broke changing the entire complexity of the race.
That bad luck in turn gave the win to GMS Racing. Sam Mayer took over the lead and was well on his way to his first career Truck Series win. But, Creed had a better restart with 13 to go and would cruise to his third career win as a result — all coming this year.
He just won on the Daytona road course as he’s won two of the last three races overall.
His teammate Brett Moffitt finished second in his No. 23 Chevrolet for his best career Gateway finish. Moffitt now has six top six finishes in his last seven starts on the season and three straight top threes overall.
Austin Hill was third in his No. 16 Toyota for his first career Gateway top 10 result in four tries. Hill, has 12 top 10s in 14 starts on the season though.
Mayer fell to fourth while Stewart Friesen rounded out the top five in his No. 52 Toyota. That’s his fourth top 10 in his last eight starts
Here are the main takeaways.
Creed won two of the triple truck challenge races and gets $150k as a result. GMS also won all three races and four straight now as they went 1-2 on Sunday.
Stage points key for Gilliland/Eckes
Gateway was the third to last race of the Truck Series’ regular season. So, the playoff watch is on. Heading into Sunday’s race, we had five wildcard spots available. Brett Moffitt (+94), Christian Eckes (+76) and Ben Rhodes (+76) were sitting pretty. But, nine points separated Tyler Ankrum in ninth and Derek Kraus in 11th.
That’s why stage points were so key. Todd Gilliland entered the day only four points above the cut line. He swept both stages for a big 20 points. Kraus meanwhile, scored zero.
Gilliland and Eckes looked like two of the Trucks to beat as they were 1-2 at the end of the second stage. Eckes was fourth in Stage 1 to get 16 stage points on the day himself.
But, at the start of the final stage, Eckes broke a drive shaft and Gilliland was doored by Sheldon Creed with 38 to go while leading in Turn 1. Gilliland got into the Turn 1 wall and had to pit for damage. He led 76 straight laps prior and was on his way to a win before the incident.
Luckily for them, the stage points kept them above the cut line. They both are +15 over Kraus who finished 13th without a stage point.
Only Darlington and Richmond are left in the regular season.
Sauter’s bad season continues
Johnny Sauter had five straight top four finishes in the final points standings until last year. He came home sixth. Still, since 2010, he’s finished – 3rd, 2nd, 9th, 4th, 4th, 4th, 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th respectively. But, 2020 looks like he may not even get into the top 10.
Sauter entered this weekend 71 points out of a playoff spot. He leaves over 100 out.
Sauter had a drive shaft break early in the race as he finished last in 33rd. That meant no stage points. On a day where Todd Gilliland scored 20 stage points after sweeping both stages, Sauter is likely going to have to win either at Darlington or Richmond to get into the playoffs this season.
The problem is, he hasn’t won in his last 33 starts. He had seven straight top four finishes at Gateway and that is now ended. He’s had no top fives on the season in his last seven tries and only one in the last nine.
That doesn’t bode well for Sauters championship hopes this year.
Sauter went out early. Matt Crafton has top four finishes in his last seven starts on the season but finished 14th. Ben Rhodes has six top 10 finishes in his last eight starts but came home 11th. Grant Enfinger was a quiet 8th.
It was a tough day for the organization and saw their big season momentum end quickly.
We’ve had 11 INDYCAR races at Gateway and a new winner in all. We’ve now had 12 Truck races and a new winner each race as well. 23 combined races and 23 different winners.