Brett Moffitt: Truck Series return at Charlotte ‘will be wild’

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The Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series finally returns tonight at Charlotte Motor Speedway and Brett Moffitt is “nervous” about it.

Moffitt, who fractured both his legs in March and recovered in time to make his NASCAR return in last week’s Xfinity race at Darlington, is concerned about some of drivers who will start in his vicinity.

MORE: A viewer’s guide to Tuesday night’s Truck race

In the series’ first race since Feb. 21, a random draw to sort the starting lineup placed the 2018 champion 22nd in a 40-truck field.

“I am nervous because I felt like going into the Xfinity race after watching two Cup races (at Darlington), I feel like everyone gets excited and gets built up and maybe sometimes the drivers don’t think about, okay, well, that’s a different car and a different package,” Moffitt said Sunday. “So it makes me a little nervous to fire off side-by-side with them. And if you look at the starting grid, obviously, with the random draw, it’s a very mixed up grid compared to what we’re used to. …

“So obviously, I’m excited to go racing, but it is a little nerve-racking kind of looking at the grid and looking at where we’re at. And some of the people in front of us, I don’t have all the faith in the world with so it’ll be interesting. It’ll make for great entertainment, I’m sure, but it’ll be wild.”

No matter what happens, it’ll likely be hard for the events of the 134-lap race to match what Moffitt went through last Thursday at Darlington.

In the Xfinity Series’ first race back since NASCAR’s COVID-19 shutdown, Moffitt returned to the cockpit of the Our Motorsports’ No. 02 car.

Due to the pandemic, Moffitt didn’t miss any Xfinity or Truck Series starts while he recovered from his leg injuries. However, it was Moffitt’s first start at Darlington since the 2015 Cup race there.

All those ingredients contributed to it being one of the “top five emotional” races of Moffitt’s career.

“Most people wouldn’t look at it on paper and think that, but there’s very few races in my life where I actually get that excited and that emotional,” Moffitt said. “I would classify it up there with finishing eighth at Atlanta in the Cup race (2015) and classify it with winning a championship. It doesn’t trump that by any means, the championship is still better, but to get back to the track after everything I’ve been through in the last 10 weeks, and to have a really good day. I kind of surprised myself, and I was just proud of everything that everyone at Our Motorsports did to bring me a fast car.”

Moffitt started 22nd and went on to place 11th, which was Our Motorsports’ best finish before Moffitt placed sixth Monday night at Charlotte.

“I would call it a big win personally for me after everything I went through. Obviously, it’s a weird time, right?” Moffitt said. “I’m just really excited to get back to, I guess, our normal and continue on.”

That return to normal continues tonight with the Truck Series race (8 p.m. ET on FS1) as Moffitt is back behind the wheel of GMS Racing’s No. 23 Chevrolet. In all three of Moffitt’s races since last week, Moffitt has secured the 22nd-place starting spot via a random draw.

“I’m beginning to think it’s not very random,” Moffitt joked.

The field of 40 trucks – 47 entered –  is a number the series hasn’t seen in years, with the maximum field typically set at 32 trucks. It’s a result of a decision by NASCAR to ensure the “long-term health” of the Xfinity and Truck Series amid the COVID-19 pandemic while the sport doesn’t hold qualifying to determine staring lineups.

“We didn’t have that many (entries) in Daytona,” Moffitt observed. “So I think that kind of speaks for the longevity of the series, being that there are 47 trucks out there … So that was really cool and good for the series. But at the same time, there were a lot of good trucks that got sent home and there’s a lot of quality race trucks in the field. So it’s gonna be kind of different relative to our normal in the Truck series, having that many trucks out there and having quality equipment all the way through the field really.

“So I think it’s going to make a better race and with the random draw obviously, we saw at Darlington that’s very exciting. So having good trucks starting all the way through the field will just be a great product of racing.”

 

Xfinity playoff grid after Indianapolis

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Chase Briscoe‘s continued dominance of the Xfinity Series over the weekend on the Indianapolis road course ensured no additional drivers locked themselves into the 12-driver playoff field.

Through 13 races, Briscoe and four other drivers have qualified for the playoffs via race wins. Briscoe, who has five race wins, leads the field with 28 playoff points.

The last two drivers currently in the top 12 are Riley Herbst (+19 points above cutline) and Brandon Brown (+6 points).

The first four drivers outside the top 12 are Myatt Snider (-6), Alex Labbe (-32), Jeremy Clements (-49) and Josh Williams (-57).

Cup Series playoff grid after Brickyard 400

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With Kevin Harvick‘s victory Sunday in the Brickyard 400, no additional drivers locked themselves into the Cup Series playoff field.

But there was some movement at the bottom of the playoff grid as drivers jockey to make the 16-car field.

After he missed the race due to his COVID-19 diagnosis, Jimmie Johnson fell from 12th to 15th on the grid. He’s now 36 points above the cutline.

Matt DiBenedetto earned stage points in each stage before finishing 19th. He moved from 14th to 12th in the standings.

After earning stage points in both stages Sunday, Austin Dillon has cracked the top 16, moving up one spot. He has a six-point advantage over Erik Jones, who crashed out of Sunday’s race and had a 14-point advantage over Dillon entering the weekend.

With his ninth-place finish Sunday, Bubba Wallace is now within reach of the top 16. He sits at 19th, 42 points back from 16th.

Here’s the full playoff grid.

Oval or road course? Cup drivers address future of Brickyard 400

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For 27 years, the Cup Series has competed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with its annual Brickyard 400. All 27 of those races have been run exclusively on the track’s traditional 2.5-mile oval.

But following Saturday’s Xfinity Series race on the track’s 2.4-mile, 14-turn road course, an obvious question has been raised:

Should the Brickyard 400 remain on the oval, where passing is made difficult due to a combination of the rules package and the design of the track, or should moving it to the road course be considered?

“I would never vote for that,” Kevin Harvick declared last week before he won his third Brickyard 400 on Sunday. “I love everything about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. For me it is all about the oval … racing on the traditional track because for me I am kind of old school and I think that the Cup cars belong and really started the Brickyard 400.

“That was kind of what it was always meant to be, that iconic one-off, just the Cup cars event. I think with the Xfinity cars and the trucks and (ARCA Menards) cars and all the things that used to race at IRP (Indianapolis Raceway Park), it was a great event. Hopefully the road course can kind of take that role that IRP used to have and be able to bring the Indy cars and NASCAR together to add to that event at the Speedway. For me personally, I would never vote for the Cup cars to not run on the oval.”

Harvick is joined in that camp by his Stewart-Haas Racing teammate, Aric Almirola, who finished third in Sunday’s race for his first top five and top-10 finish at Indy.

“I hope that we never stop running the oval,” Almirola said. “I just think it’s one of these places that regardless if it puts on the greatest race or not, it’s historic. It’s just a special place. It’s hard to explain when you don’t grow up a racer and you don’t aspire to come to race at Indy.

“But for me, I grew up watching stock car racing and dirt sprint car racing. I grew up watching Thursday Night Thunder, seeing so many guys go from USAC racing and sprint car racing to racing at Indy. It’s something I’ve always kept up with, always dreamed about getting the opportunity to race here. I get that opportunity now.”

Matt Kenseth, who finished second Sunday in his 20th Brickyard 400, said the Cup Series “should be” on the oval. But the Chip Ganassi Racing driver is open to the idea of Cup using the road course in some manner.

 “I think it’s one of those racetracks that we need to race at as long as we can,” Kenseth said of the oval. “It’s arguably the most famous speedway in the world, or one of them.

“To be able to race on the ovals with the Cup cars, which is the highest form of stock car racing here, we should be on the big track as well. I don’t think it would be bad to maybe test the road course and look into it, maybe do a second race on a road course, kind of like the IndyCars did this week.

“I really do think the Brickyard 400 has a lot of prestige. It’s not a southern race, but similar to the Southern 500, races like that. I think there’s a few of those races you sure would hate to see disappear.”

Crew chief describes ‘frightening’ scene on pit road at Indy

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Crew chief Todd Gordon said it was “frightening” to see rear tire changer Zach Price hit on pit road and then try to scoot away from cars during Sunday’s Cup race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Price, who changes tires for Ryan Blaney’s team, was injured when he was struck by Brennan Poole’s car during a melee near the entrance of pit road early in the race.

Gordon, speaking Monday on “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, said indications are that Price’s injury was a “fracture someplace in the knee area.”

Price was treated and released from an Indianapolis hospital on Sunday night and traveled home with the team. Gordon said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that Price was scheduled to see a doctor Monday.

“Just hope to get him back and get him back going again and healthy,” Gordon said.

Gordon described what he saw as cars made contact.

“A really frightening moment for me,” he said on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. “I was really terrorized when I saw (Price) drag himself back across the pit box arms only for a while there. As the situation kind of progressed and the medical staff was working with him, I could see in his face he was better off than I thought he was to start with.

“Fortunate that the guys got up and got at least in the air. The jackman (Graham Stoddard) got on top of the car. Just one of those terrible situations. I felt like those accidents happened mid-pit road. That’s why I picked way back there to be behind it.”

Said Justin Allgaier, who was involved in the accident on pit road that led to six cars eventually being eliminated:  “The No. 15 (Poole) actually got in the back of me. I didn’t know if I got the gentleman on (Blaney’s pit crew) or not. Once the wreck started happening in front of us and we all got bottled-up there, one car after another were getting run into.”

Indianapolis’ pit road is the most narrow of all the tracks the Cup Series races. The two travel lanes are 24 feet wide. The pit stall for each team is 15 feet wide.