Austin Hill, the regular season Truck Series champion, rebounded from a poor opening race of the playoffs with a victory Friday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
He held just an eight points lead over ninth-place before Las Vegas and two drivers will be cut from the 10-driver field next week.
Hill also won Las Vegas last September and now has six career victories, half of which coming in the playoffs. He said the finish at Bristol made him determined to bounce back with a strong showing at Las Vegas.
Hill is the only driver locked into the second round of the playoffs.
Shelden Creed had the best truck and won the first two stages, but Hill passed him in the third stage and wasn’t challenged as he drove to his second win of the season.
Creed finished second and was followed by Tanner Gray, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith.
“Just frustrated, the best track I’ve ever had,” Creed said. ”We’re all racing hard, this is the playoffs. I think I showed my hand too early.”
Minutes before the start, NASCAR said Natalie Decker was not medically cleared to compete. NASCAR gave no details on what caused Decker to be pulled from the race, but because her truck had already been through inspection and moved to the starting grid, Decker was credited with a last-place finish.
Decker has made 11 starts this year and missed the June race at Pocono after she was hospitalized due to bile duct complications related to her gallbladder removal in December.
Daly finished 18th and Pastrana finished 21st.
Here are my main takeaways.
Creed dominates, not good on final restart, showed his hand too early
Sheldon Creed knew he had a great long run car. That’s why he was so dominant early on in Friday nights race. He swept both stages on his way to leading a race high 89 of 134 laps. But, restarts cost him a win.
We only had three cautions through the first 84 laps. Two were for stage breaks and the other a competition yellow.
On the final restart he dropped. He went from the lead to ninth then back up to seventh by the end of the lap. A couple of laps later, he was back up to third. Then to second. He couldn’t get back by Austin Hill and had to settle for a runner-up.
Creed, only has three top 10 finishes in his last nine starts of the season, so that’s why he was so dejected. He said this was the best truck that he’s ever had in Vegas and he failed to win.
He felt like he showed his hand too early to Hill in that he was strongest on the high line but Hill saw that and moved up to block his line and he could never recover his position back.
Still, he’s +52 in the standings and sitting good heading to Talladega.
Rhodes FrustratedBen Rhodes had an interesting night. He pit under the first caution because his truck was smoking. The team thought that they’d have to change his transmission. They elected to send him back out though and ride it out as long as they could.
He said he was down on power but he climbed up to sixth by the end of Stage 1. He was fifth in Stage 2 to score 11 much needed stage points.
See, they felt like their motor would blow at any point. So, get as many points as you could before.
Unfortunately, it wasn’t the motor that cost them. He spun on Lap 85 and backed into the inside wall in Turn 2. He’d finish -2 in 23rd as a result.
He’s now six points below the cutoff line heading to Talladega next weekend.
“The day they build a reliable motor is the day we’ll advance in the playoffs,” Rhodes said.
Moffitt frustrated tooBrett Moffitt has been the most consistent driver of the season. He’s just been shut out of victory lane though. That’s growing on him. His teammates have won seven times. He’s won none.
When he saw his teammates so strong on Friday night and he wasn’t, he was mad. He sounds like he has no faith this will turn around despite a +44 margin in the playoff standings. His seven race top 10 streak comes to an end with a 15th place result.
Gray/Friesen/Smith Heating UpStewart Friesen finished fourth on Friday night. It was his sixth top 10 finish in his last seven races of the season. He had four in the first 11.
Rookie Tanner Gray came home third in his No. 15 Ford for his second straight third place finish and third time he’s finished in that spot all year.
Chandler Smith is starting to find his groove too. He was fifth in the two playoff races thus far.
They’re all three trending in the right direction.
Daly impressive in 1st Truck startConor Daly had never been in a NASCAR Truck prior to Friday. He had no practice at his disposal either. His first laps in his No. 42 Chevrolet was the pace laps.
Still, he comes away with a top 20. Daly, finished 18th.
What’s more impressive was that he completed every lap and improved at each break.
He started 27th. He was 24th at Stage 1 and 23rd and Stage 2. He moved up to 18th in the end.
Daly, is a talented race car driver and Friday night further proved that.
PointsTwo drivers will get eliminated from Championship contention next weekend. Right now, Austin Hill (clinched), Sheldon Creed (+52), Brett Moffitt (+44), Zane Smith (+39) and Grant Enfinger (+31) are sitting comfortably.
Matt Crafton (+15), Tyler Ankrum (+15), Christian Eckes (+6), Ben Rhodes (-6) and Todd Gilliland (-19) are not.
Gilliland scored no stage points on Friday and finished 13th. He’s only had three top 10 finishes in his last nine starts on the season.
Eckes, finished eighth and also scored eight stage points for just his second top 10 in the last seven races. These are the two most worried right now.
Talladega is next and a cut off race again. It wasn’t last year was though in the three years prior.