ThorSport Racing requests NASCAR reinstate its teams to Truck playoffs

Photo: Dustin Long
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CONCORD, N.C. — ThorSport Racing sent a letter Friday to NASCAR requesting that series officials reinstate its two teams eliminated from the Gander Outdoors Truck Series playoffs because of engine issues that the manufacturer claimed responsibility for.

ThorSports Racing teammates Grant Enfinger, the regular-season champion, and Johnny Sauter were eliminated in the first round Sept. 13 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway after their engine issues. Teammate Matt Crafton’s engine also failed but he advanced to the second round, which begins Oct. 12 at Talladega Superspeedway.

ThorSport Racing made the request for reinstatement in a one-page letter to NASCAR.

“We feel the right thing for us is we were never allowed to race at Vegas for the playoff positions,” David Pepper, general manager of ThorSport Racing, told NBC Sports. “We’re not asking to reset Vegas. We’ll take our last-place finishes. We’re just asking to move the cutoff date to Phoenix, eliminate four of us instead of two (after Vegas) and two (after Phoenix.)

“Allow it to be settled on the race track and not by an outside source that has openly said, ‘Hey, we made a mistake.’ I don’t want to beat on them. They made a mistake, but we shouldn’t be the victims of the mistake.”

NASCAR and Ilmor Engineering, which provides engines to nearly every Truck team, each issued statements Thursday about the multiple engine failures at Las Vegas, the cutoff race in the opening round of the Truck playoffs.

Ilmor Engineering stated that “we deeply regret the impact that the engines issues created for our NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series partners.” Illmor cited “high engine load condition combined with the extreme weather conditions in Las Vegas resulted in some engines suffering severe detonation.”

Asked about ThorSport Racing’s request to have its teams reinstated in the playoffs, NASCAR issued a statement Friday to NBC Sports: “NASCAR’s focus remains on this weekend’s races at Charlotte Motor Speedway.”

Pepper notes that while the rule book doesn’t contain anything about reinstating playoff teams, it would follow under section Section 1.6 of the Truck Series rule book.

Section 1.6.b states that “On occasion, circumstances will be presented that are either unforeseen or are otherwise extraordinary, in which strict application of the NASCAR Rules may not achieve this goal. In such rare circumstances, the NASCAR Officials, as a practical matter, may make a determination regarding the conduct of an Event, the eligibility of a Competitor, or similar matters that are not contemplated by or are inconsistent with the NASCAR Rules, in order to achieve this goal.”

Illmor Engineering’s NT1 engine is used almost by nearly every Truck team. It was introduced before the 2018 season as a cost-savings move for teams.

Pepper said action should be taken for ThorSport even though nearly every team uses the same engine and was at risk of the same issue at Las Vegas.

“People keep bringing up that we choose to run them,” Pepper said of the NT1 engine. “Well, not exactly. That’s not entirely accurate. We are presented the NASCAR Ilmor motor and it is the motor of preference because the rules have been changed several times to impede the built motor.

“You cannot be competitive and win with that built motor (from a source other than Ilmor). They’ve cut RPM. We’ve changed the gear rule. I want to make sure that everybody understands there are reasons why we are forced into running that. It’s not by coincidence that everyone ran the Ilmor but one or two trucks (at Vegas).”

Pepper said if the NT1 and one built by another manufacturer were more even, the team could have the choice of which engine to use.

“If we chose one and it blew up, then that is on us because we’re controlling our own destiny,” Pepper said. “We want to be able to control our own destiny. Our outcome of our season and our races should be a product of what we choose to run, not what we have to run because of just the way things are.”