TALLADEGA, Ala — Credit the start/finish line at the Talladega Superspeedway being in the position that it’s in as to why we saw another wilding ending to Saturday’s Chevrolet Silverado 250. See, at most tracks, the finish line is setup in the middle of the tri-oval. At Talladega, it’s in the straightaway between the tri-oval and the first corner. Because of that extra feet of real estate to settle the score, it’s allowed some wild moments coming to the stripe.
It happened again in the penultimate race of the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs.
John Hunter Nemechek was inches away from a spot into the Championship 4. Instead, Tate Fogleman hooked Nemechek’s No. 4 Toyota and escaped by to narrowly earn his first career NASCAR victory in a dramatic fashion in his No. 12 Chevrolet. He nipped Tyler Hill by only .052-seconds which saw both crash into the inside wall after finishing the race 1-2.
For Fogleman, he becomes the fourth straight driver to lead only the final lap of the Truck race at Talladega. The last three were their first career wins.
Spencer Boyd, Raphael Lessard and now Fogleman.
In fact, Fogleman had one career lap led prior to Saturday’s race and with only one led today, he has one win and two laps led for his Truck Series career.
This was his second top 10 of his career too as his other was earlier this season in Knoxville on dirt.
Hill, scores his first top 10 of his career in 23 Truck Series starts and four in the Xfinity Series. Combined, that’s two laps led and three top 10’s between the top two finishers on Saturday.
Todd Gilliland was third in his No. 38 Ford as he finished .384-seconds behind. Gilliland, led the most laps of the day with 39 of 99 including 35 of the final 36 laps but lost the lead in the final pursuit of the win.
He took over the lead on Lap 63 and almost never looked back. The only time he was even passed was by Chase Purdy when he had drafting help on Lap 92, but Purdy came back up on Gilliland too in the tri-oval on the same lap and spun. Due to the caution, we went to overtime and as a result of the scoring going back to the last timing line, Gilliland was handed the lead back.
He had damage to his right front which that and the loss of drafting help was the reason as to why he didn’t win. Still, it was Gilliland’s fourth straight top 10 finish and 11th in the last 12. 8 of those 11 were in the top five. The one outlier?
Gateway. He finished 29th and is the reason he was bounced in the opening round of the playoffs.
Nemechek, was scored with a fourth place result for his third top four in the last four races while Ryan Truex rounded out the top five in his No. 40 Chevrolet.
Here are my main takeaways.
2-for-2 In Round of 8 Without A Playoff Winner, How The Standings Sit Now
We’re down to the final race of the second round. With three races in the Round of 8, most thought we’d get a playoff driver taking at least two of them. Instead, we’re 0-for-2 so far with all four spots for the taking still heading to Martinsville (VA) Speedway at the end of the month. In fact, both winners this round are first timers.
Christian Eckes won in Las Vegas last week and now with Tate Fogleman’s rare triumph in Talladega, it’s left the field almost wide open for the .526-mile paperclip on Oct. 30. But, with the bottom three drivers entering the day all collected in crashes, it’s really down to five drivers for four spots with the other three needing a win to carry onto keeping their championship hopes alive.
It all started with the “Big One” with 37 to go when Chase Purdy was shoving Todd Gilliland too hard on the backstretch. Gilliland, had no where to go but into the back of Austin Hill which that contact sent Hill’s No. 16 Toyota up into Zane Smith and collected 21 Trucks in the process. Not only was Smith in it, so was Chandler Smith too.
Then, a few laps later, Sheldon Creed made a move towards the high line in Turn 4 but leader Grant Enfinger moved up to block. It sparked more chaos with Stewart Friesen and Carson Hocevar also involved.
That effectively made it win or go home at Martinsville for both Smith’s and Hocevar.
Chandler Smith has been 19th or worse in four of his last six starts. Zane Smith has one top five all year and 29th or worse in 3 of his last 5.
Hocevar has been 10th or worse in 8 of his last 11. To compound matters worse for Hocevar, he failed to score any stage points too as he was just trying to play it safe all day and it still caught him out. Chandler Smith scored five points with Zane Smith tied with Nemechek for the third least amount of stage points at eight.
Half of the playoff drivers finished outside the top 20 in Vegas and now four of the 10 were 19th or worse on Saturday.
Nemechek vs. Crafton
We have drama brewing between two playoff drivers heading to a short track to settle the Championship 4 field. Talk about sparks flying. Back in Bristol, John Hunter Nemechek wasn’t happy with how Matt Crafton raced him on the dirt. Now in Talladega, it was Nemechek’s turn to piss Crafton off.
A couple of times he got Crafton squirly and Crafton wasn’t too thrilled by that. He slapped Nemechek’s rear end in his post race interview with Nemechek calling Crafton old and not sure why he was mad.
Crafton is saying what goes around comes around.
They make up half of the four spots in the top four spots of the standings with two races remaining.
Nemechek is +34, Ben Rhodes +34, Crafton +27 and Sheldon Creed +4. Friesen (-4), Chandler Smith (-33), Hocevar (-36) and Zane Smith (-39).
Silly Season Heating Up
Grant Enfinger was announced that he will drive full time again in 2022. Now, Austin Hill unveiled that he will leave Hattori Racing Enterprises at seasons end. That leaves the No. 16 Toyota open.
Brett Moffitt won the championship in this ride in 2018. He won six times and had 13 top fives in 23 starts that year. For 2019 through this season, Hill came in and scored 8 wins and 25 top fives in 65 starts.
30 of the 36 Trucks were collected in a crash at Daytona while 38 of 40 suffered some crash damage on Saturday. The only two Trucks without damage today?
Ryan Truex and Spencer Boyd.