Majeski scores 1st career Truck Series victory at Bristol, will advance to Championship 4, my recap and takeaways from the UNOH 200

BRISTOL, Tenn — “Do you want to win the battle or want to win the war?” said Ty Majeski’s crew chief Joe Shear Jr. to his driver when he was questioning their pit strategy. Well, he ended up right. Majeski passed Zane Smith on the Lap 155 restart and never looked back in leading the final 45 laps en route to his 1st career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory on Thursday night at the Bristol (Tenn) Motor Speedway.

He crossed the finish line 1.152-seconds ahead in becoming the night straight different winner here. However, on his next time by the victory stripe, under a somewhat surprise chorus of boos when climbing out of his No. 66 Toyota, the Tennessee race fans weren’t aware that Majeski didn’t want to hurt his baby. That’s because this is the Truck that they’ll expect to take with them to the season finale at Phoenix as the Wisconsin native will compete for a championship this November as the member of the Final Four.

Instead of doing celebratory burnouts, Majeski babied his truck around the .533-mile concrete oval on his victory lap before climbing out and slapping the roof of the truck in celebratory fashion after earning his 5th straight top 8 result of the season and 8th in the last 9 races.

Zane Smith went from the 2nd to last starting spot (35th) to 2nd in his No. 38 Ford for his 3rd runner-up result in the last 7 races on the season. In fact, this was also his 4th second place finish in 2022 as the regular season champion sits 3rd (+21) in points heading to Talladega next month.

Smith got to the front because he went the final 155 laps without pitting. He hit pit road for his only time of the night on Lap 45 and didn’t come back down again. That and a couple of late race cautions helped him save enough fuel to make it to the end on fuel.

While he lined on with the lead on the Lap 155 restart, he didn’t have the tires or speed to hold Majeski off.

Parker Kligerman finished third in his No. 75 Chevrolet while Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton rounded out the top five.

For Kligerman, he notes that he’s finished in the top 5 in every position minus first here. He was 2nd in 2012, 4th in 2018 and 2020 and now 3rd on Thursday night. He says the Truck just didn’t have the speed in it for qualifying as he started 28th, but it came alive in the race to drive up to a top 5 in the end.


Wrong Strategy For Chandler Smith

Chandler Smith was on the wrong end of strategy on Thursday night. The Kyle Busch Motorsports driver swept both stages and led 89 of the first 110 laps. While it seemed nice to get a pair of playoff points via those stage wins, it really doesn’t matter much anymore since we go to the Championship 4 next. You can’t take those playoff points with you.

What you can take with you is a win however. A win would have advanced him to the final four. Instead, the Georgia native had to settle for 9th.

That’s because they were on the wrong end of strategy. With this race being a 1 stop strategy event, they waited too long. By not pitting until the end of the second stage break, it cost him a win and a berth to the Championship 4.

He still sits 2nd in points (+24) heading to Talladega.


Ben Rhodes Struggling

The defending NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion hasn’t had the best of playoff races. Ben Rhodes was 2nd, 18th and 13th in the opening round. That 2nd place finish and his playoff points accumulated in the regular season was enough to advance him to the Round of 8. However, nights like he had in Bristol will force an early end to his season and not having a chance to defend his title in Phoenix this November.

Rhodes brought his No. 99 Toyota home in 18th. He has just 1 top 5 in his last 14 starts including being 12th or worse in 7 of the last 9 races on the season.


Enfinger Gets Another Top 5 But Goes Backwards

Due to Ty Majeski’s win and and punting on stage points for the 2nd segment, Grant Enfinger actually lost points despite a top 5 finish on Thursday night. He falls to -15 heading to Talladega next month. What’s wild about that is, he’s not finished outside the top 5 at all during this year’s playoffs.

He won the postseason opener at the end of July at IRO. He was then 4th in Richmond and 5th in Kansas. That gives him high hopes heading home to Alabama as Talladega is his home track and he’s a former winner there.


BRISTOL, TENNESSEE – SEPTEMBER 15: Ty Majeski, driver of the #66 Road Ranger Toyota, crosses the finish line to win the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 15, 2022 in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Strategy Race

The Truck Series race at Bristol has become a strategy race. You pit just once. With going over 150 laps on a tank of gas and having 3 sets of fresh tires for a 200 lap race, it’s clear the path to victory.

If you get limited caution, it does you no good to win the second stage. Chandler Smith was the 4th driver in 6 years to sweep both stages here but just one of them actually won.

That’s because they likely have to pit still and will go behind the ones once they do that have already hit pit lane. Also, those that already pit, more than likely won’t have to do so the rest of the way.

That’s exactly how Thursday night went.

Ty Majeski pit under the caution for Connor Mosack on Lap 86 and didn’t have to pit again. It didn’t give him any stage points for that stage but that doesn’t matter when he wins.

For Zane Smith, he pit under the first caution of the race and didn’t do so again either.

That’s how they cycled to 1-2 in the end and Smith despite dominating came home 9th.

Top Stat

Trends

  • 22 of the 25 races were won via a top 10 starter (Majeski started 6th)
  • Ford hasn’t won since Ryan Blaney in 2015
  • Chevrolet has won 4 of the last 7
  • Just once in the stage era (6 races) did the driver to lead the most laps win the race
    • Kyle Busch led over 100 laps in his win in 2017 (swept stages)
      • Nemechek led 104 laps in 2018 but finished 3rd (swept stages)
      • Chastain led 78 laps in 2019 and finished 3rd
      • Moffitt led 117 laps in 2020 and finished 2nd
      • Creed led 189 laps in 2021 but finished 19th (swept stages)
  • 3 of the 6 years in the stage era did the eventual race winner finish 1st or 2nd in Stage 1
  • This was the 1st year that the eventual winner didn’t finish in the top 5 of Stage 2 (1st, 2nd, 1st, 5th, 5th, 13th)

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