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Grant Enfinger earns first career Truck Series win at Talladega

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TALLADEGA, Ala. – Grant Enfinger had a happy homecoming Saturday afternoon.

The Fairhope, Alabama, native earned his first career Camping World Truck Series win at Talladega Superspeedway in the fred’s 250. Enfinger held off his GMS Racing teammate, Spencer Gallagher, on the final restart with two laps to go.

In addition to driving the No. 24 on a limited basis for GMS, Enfinger also works in the shop during the week. In seven starts this year, Enfinger has earned five top-10 finishes. In his first start with the team, Enfinger won the pole for the season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway.

Saturday was also the first time GMS Racing earned a 1-2 finish.

“It’s unbelievable,” Enfinger said in victory lane. “This is a brand new truck, it was on the tubing rack a few weeks ago and (crew chief) Jeff Stankiewicz, Trevor Pollard, all these guys behind us built it, and it was a rocket ship. Best truck out there. Made my job easier.”

MORE: Results and statistics from the fred’s 250

MORE: William Byron remains point leader

Enfinger qualified second and quickly took the lead at the start of the 250-mile event. He led five times for a race-high 45 laps. Enfinger held off Gallagher, Timothy Peters, as well as his other GMS Racing teammates – Ben Kennedy and Johnny Sauter – on three restarts inside the final 10 laps.

“I struggle to think of a racer with a reputation more sterling than Grant’s,” Gallagher said of Enfinger. “To use a baseball analogy, he is the true five-tool player. He is a great team player, he’s in the shop every day working on his own stuff, he is extraordinarily talented with a wrench in his hand and even more so with a wheel in his hand.

“At GMS, something we try to do is provide opportunities to people who deserve it, and there isn’t anybody I can think of more deserving of the opportunity and this win, than Grant Enfinger.”

Talladega was the first elimination race in the inaugural Chase and cut the field from eight drivers to six.

William Byron, Christopher Bell, Timothy Peters, Matt Crafton, Ben Kennedy, and Johnny Sauter advanced. John Hunter Nemechek and Daniel Hemric were eliminated.

Nemechek saw his day, and championship chances, come to an end when the engine in his No. 8 blew on Lap 15. Hemric was involved in multiple incidents during the race and finished 11th with a wounded truck.

HOW ENFINGER WON: He led 23 of the final 24 laps.

WHO ELSE HAD A GOOD RACE: Spencer Gallagher earned his seventh top-10 finish of the season with a second-place effort, which is also his best finish in three starts at Talladega … Timothy Peters finished third in his quest for three consecutive wins at Talladega … Rico Abreu earned his second top-five finish of the season with a fourth-place result.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Matt Crafton blew an engine and finished 22nd … Ben Rhodes was involved in a wreck on Lap 61 and suffered his fourth DNF of the season with a 24th-place finish … Cole Custer finished 29th after starting on the pole … John Hunter Nemechek finished last, 32nd, and was eliminated from the Chase.

NOTABLE: GMS Racing earned their fourth win of the season at Talladega Superspeedway. The organization also advanced two trucks, Ben Kennedy and Johnny Sauter, into the second round of the Chase.

QUOTE OF THE DAY: “The effort was second-to-none. I can’t thank all of these Brad Keselowski Racing guys for doing everything they could to salvage the best day we could with what we had. We were just part of a lot of very unfortunate situations there that we couldn’t avoid or couldn’t miss. One you can probably rebound. Two you can rebound from, but the third one definitely put us in a bad situation.” — Daniel Hemric after being eliminated from the Chase.

WHAT’S NEXT: The first race in the second round of the Truck Chase begins at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 29 in the Alpha Energy Solutions 200.

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Martin Truex Jr.: VHT ‘a huge factor’ in Coca-Cola 600 — but wouldn’t work as well elsewhere

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CONCORD, N.C. — Though the rain paid a visit to the Coca-Cola 600, the traction agent applied high in the corners of Charlotte Motor Speedway was a “huge factor” in NASCAR’s longest race, according to Martin Truex Jr.

Truex, who led a race high 233 laps, lauded the VHT chemical used to improve racing at the 1.5-mile track after a dud of an All-Star Race.

“I think last weekend the middle groove, middle to high middle, was nonexistent,” Truex said after finishing third early Monday morning. “It was the slickest part of the racetrack.”

But that changed Sunday. Following Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, NASCAR and the track reapplied refresh coats of VHT to the upper grooves in the turns after consulting drivers and crew chiefs. Even after a downpour swept over the track on Lap 143, Truex said the traction compound was a factor for 375 of the race’s 400 laps.

“It was the main groove,” Truex said of the higher grooves. “Where typically there is the least grip (there) on this racetrack, it was the most tonight. It definitely played a factor. It changed the race quite a bit. I think the downforce rules this year changed it quite a bit as well. The bottom of the racetrack is so bumpy and so slick, I’m telling you after 10 laps it’s all you can do to make laps without crashing down there.

“It definitely changed the race tonight. It made it a lot of fun. I thought it was a good addition.”

Winner Austin Dillon thought the VHT – also known as PJ1 TrackBite – benefited the race. But the Richard Childress Racing drive would like to see a change in where the agent is applied to the track surface.

“The middle groove had a lot of speed, took away from the bottom,” Dillon said. That’s usually dominant here. The bottom got good again. After the rain, the bottom was pretty dominant. As the race went on, I could actually see the VHT leaving the track. It was getting clean higher and higher.

“We’ve got something there as far as trying it. It’s not a bad thing. I really think we should try it more often. I think the next thing you look into is the placement of it. I feel like we needed more on the very top because the middle was really dominant, but you couldn’t really get into the top of it like you needed to. That would be my next shot at it. It’s not a bad thing at all. I like it.”

What’s next?

The chemical has been used on the concrete high banks of Bristol Motor Speedway and the asphalt of Charlotte and been mostly praised.

Should it be tried at any other tracks on the NASCAR circuit?

“I don’t think so,” Truex said. “I think this track is so unique, the pavement here, the geometry of the racetrack, the bumps that are in it. It’s almost got a concrete feel the way the bumps are. They’re really, really small, high‑frequency bumps, almost like a washboard, kind of the feeling you get at Dover (International Speedway). Most asphalt tracks are not bumpy that way. They’re more of a swell. The car kind of goes through swells, a place like (Chicagoland Speedway) or Atlanta (Motor Speedway).

“It’s very, very different here. The pavement is different than anywhere we go. The bumps in the racetrack are way different than anywhere we go. I think both of those things kind of contribute to us needing to do some different things here to change-up the racing.”

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Dale Earnhardt Jr. defends Kyle Busch’s surly mood after the Coca-Cola 600

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CONCORD, N.C. – A second-place finish in the Coca-Cola 600 left Kyle Busch in an irate mood, which is perfectly fine, according to Dale Earnhardt Jr.

A seemingly agitated Busch, cupping his face in his hands after sitting down, entered the media center at Charlotte Motor Speedway Center shortly after 12:30 a.m. Sunday. It was roughly 10 minutes after Austin Dillon scored the first victory of his career in NASCAR’s premier series by stretching his final tank of fuel for 70 laps.

Was Busch surprised that Dillon made the checkered flag? What did it mean for a driver to get his first win?

“I’m not surprised about anything,” Busch snapped. “Congratulations.”

He dropped the mic on the dais. There were no further questions. (The video is available above).

Shortly afterward on Twitter, Earnhardt took up for his peer (whom he replaced at Hendrick Motorsports in 2008).

Busch, who hasn’t won since last July at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (a span of 28 races) gave more elaborate answers shortly after exiting his No. 18 Toyota, which finished 0.835 seconds behind Dillon’s No. 3 Chevrolet.

He apparently didn’t realize until late in the race that his pass of Martin Truex Jr. (who led a race-high 233 laps) with a lap remaining was for second instead of the victory.

“This M&M’s Camry was awesome tonight,” Busch said. “It was just super fast. I mean we had one of the fastest cars all night long and then (Truex) was probably the fastest. There at the end, somehow we ran him down. You know he got a straightaway out on us, but there that last 100 laps we were able to get back to him and pass him so you know that was promising for us there at the end in order to get a second-place finish, but man just so, so disappointed.

“I don’t know. We ran our own race. We did what we needed to do and it wasn’t – it wasn’t the right game. We come up short and finish second.

“It’s a frustrating night, man. There’s nothing we could’ve done different.”

Others took a different view of Busch’s tirade.

But some agreed with Earnhardt’s stance.

After defending Busch, Earnhardt also poked some fun at him later Monday, too.

 

Martin Truex Jr. takes Cup points lead after Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte

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CONCORD, N.C. — Martin Truex Jr. took over the Cup points lead with a third-place finish in Saturday’s Coca-Cola 600.

The Furniture Row Racing driver, who led a race-high 233 laps, also extended his lead in the playoff standings by winning the second stage and bringing his total to 16 points.

Kyle Larson, who had led the standings for eight consecutive races since Phoenix International Raceway, fell to second in the rankings after crashing and finishing a season-worst 33rd. Larson trails Truex by five points in the race for the regular-season championship (and 15 playoff points).

Click here for the points standings after Charlotte.

Results, stats for the 58th annual Coca-Cola 600

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With a fuel gamble, Austin Dillon won the Coca-Cola 600 for his first NASCAR Cup win.

It comes in his 133rd start and is the second win for Richard Childress Racing this year.

Following him was Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr., Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin.

Click here for the full results.