Brett Moffitt held onto the lead when teammate Zane Smith spun trying to pass him with three laps to go, then won the two-lap shootout to the checkered flag to capture the Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway on Saturday and clinch a spot in the final round at Phoenix.
Moffitt got a big push from another teammate, Sheldon Creed, on the final restart and then beat the winner of the first two stages to the finish line. It was Moffitt’s first win of the season after a maddening four runner-up finishes.
It couldn’t have come at a better time, too. It was the first of three Truck races that will trim the playoff field from eight to four for the finale, and the victory means that Moffitt won’t have to worry about qualifying the next two events.
“It’s pretty incredible, such a way to turn the season around for our 23-team,” said Moffitt, who raced in the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Kansas following his victory. “It’s been a long time since I got in victory lane in Iowa, pretty incredible there on the backstretch.
“Thanks to everyone at GMS and the Gallagher family. I’ve got to apologize to the 21 [Zane Smith] there for trying to block him. But we were racing hard for a championship spot and that’s what you got to do.
Also, it’s the third straight year that Moffitt has qualified for the Championship 4 as he’s looking for his second title in that span.
Austin Hill finished third with Grant Enfinger fourth and Chandler Smith fifth.
Zane Smith had a shot to surprise his way into the Championship 4. He passed his GMS Racing teammate Brett Moffitt for the lead on Lap 124. But, Moffitt came storming back and the duo had an intense battle for the win.
Smith, came up a bit on the backstretch on Lap 131. Moffitt, came down to block and the contact sent Smith’s No. 21 Chevrolet spinning.
He’d bring out the final caution and drop from a win to 11th.
Smith, wasn’t too thrilled with Moffitt. He wasn’t pleased with Moffitt’s block. Even Moffitt admitted he blocked a bit.
“A bad block by me, it’s my fault … we’re racing for everything right now, I apologize to Zane,” Moffitt said.
The team had drama last time out at Kansas when three team trucks crashed together too.
This is true playoff racing though.
Smith scored 16 beneficial stage points to sit seven points ahead of the cut line.
The problem is, he’s only had two top five finishes in his last 16 starts on the season – both wins.
Grant Enfinger is chasing him and has seven top eight finishes in his last nine starts including a top six in three of the four playoff races. Matt Crafton is the defending champion and 15 points back but has a top 10 in all four postseason races too.
Creed sweeps stages, doesn’t win again
Sheldon Creed had this race won. He dominated both stages in leading 61 of the first 84 laps too. But, he was passed for the lead on the 81st lap when the handling went away on his No. 2 Chevrolet.
They made no adjustments all day until the final stop when they had to make wholesale changes to keep up with the changing track conditions that went from sunny to cloudy. His truck going away from his cost him a win.
He’d finish second for just his fourth top five in his last 13 starts on the season. All of those are either wins or runner ups at that.
He swept both stages in the first round in Vegas too but didn’t win either race in the playoffs. He was second that night too.
Contact with Eckes cost Hill, late Race caution helps him still finish 3rd
Austin Hill finished third in Stage 1. He was battling for fifth at the end of Stage 2. But, with a lapped truck from Jennifer Jo Cobb running low and Christian Eckes not wanting to run into her, he and Hill made contact coming to the finish.
Hill, had to have a lengthy stop for repairs but thanks to a late race caution, rebounded to finish third. That has his +19 with two races to go in the second round.
The Georgia native was ninth heading to the closing laps but was aided for Smith’s spin with three laps left in regulation. He pit for tires under that final caution and gained six spots in three laps as a result of that sequence.
It was his fourth straight top six at Kansas and 10th top 10 in 11 starts on 1.5 mile tracks thus season. He‘s finished in the top seven in seven of his last eight starts on 1.5 mile tracks as we head to another one next weekend.
Enfinger quietly finishes 4th
Grant Enfinger lined up second on the final restart in overtime for Saturday’s Truck Series race at Kansas. Unfortunately, his No. 98 Ford didn’t get a good launch. He’d fall to fourth by virtue of that.
But, Enfinger is there for his first Championship 4 appearance. He’s only seven points out with tons of confidence right now.
Enfinger has seven top eight finishes in his last nine starts of the season including three top sixes in four playoff races run.
Also, we head to Texas next week to where Enfinger has five straight top eight finishes on 1.5 mile tracks this season too.
Ankrum needs to win now
Playoff contender Tyler Ankrum was knocked out of the Truck Series race at Kansas Speedway early after Raphael Lessard’s truck snapped around midway through Turns 3 and 4, putting the GMS Racing driver into the outside wall in a wreck that also collected David Gravel and Parker Kligerman.
Ankrum restarted 12th after the first stage, putting him right in the middle of a mess of trucks navigating a tricky turn on cold tires.
Ankrum was eighth of eight drivers in the penultimate round of the playoffs, which means he probably needs to win one of the next two to advance to the final round at Phoenix. He’s 56 points below the cut line now.
He also had trouble in the July doubleheader at Kansas, first with tire and brake issues in the opener and then getting into a wreck with his teammate Brett Moffitt in the second race.
Rough race for Rhodes
Ben Rhodes had a race to forget. He started second on Saturday but quickly fell back after his No. 99 Ford developed a loose handling race truck. He’d finish 22nd in Stage 1 as a result of that.
They’d then fix his truck on pit road but he was collected in the Lap 33 crash in Turn 4. Rhodes, had minimal damage but had too many men over the wall repairing it though. That cost him two laps.
They’d do the wave around at the end of the second stage to get one of those laps back but they’d struggle and finish 20th.
It ends a three race streak of top seven finishes at Kansas for Rhodes but his fourth finish in seven tries of 18th or worse there too. He’s also finished 13th or worse in three of his four playoff starts this season as well. That has him -33 leaving Kansas.
KBM Trucks quietly strong
KBM only put one of their two full time drivers into the playoffs. It was short lived for Christian Eckes. He was eliminated in Round 1. But, his teammate Raphael Lessard did win the last race at Talladega though.
On Saturday in Kansas, Lessard crashed early in Turn 4. Eckes finished sixth and fourth respectively in the two stages while Chandler Smith started on the pole and came home second and third in the two stages himself.
Eckes ran the final stint long but had a slow stop because the right front tire wouldn’t go on right. It slowed them down dramatically as he fell to finish fifth. He may have challenged for a win because they pit on Lap 112 and took two tires. But the stop was so long, it was like he took four tires instead anyways. He’d bring his No. 18 Toyota home in sixth.
Smith came home fifth.
The only cautions on Fridays ARCA race was for the competition breaks. We saw only four yellows in the Truck race, two for stage breaks, one for a 10 truck pileup in Turn 4 on Lap 33 and the other for Zane Smith’s spin on Lap 131.
4 races, 4 different winners
Sam Mayer started it in Bristol. Brett Moffitt continued it on Saturday in Kansas. Austin Hill and Raphael Lessard are the meat in the sandwich with four playoff races and four winners so far. Will it continue next weekend in Texas?