Austin Hill roared to the lead late and held on to win for the third time this season in Friday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series playoff race. While Hill celebrated, two ThorSport Racing teams were eliminated from title contention.
ThorSport Racing lost three trucksdue to mechanical failures. As a result, Enfinger, the regular-season champion and Johnny Sauter were eliminated. Teammate Matt Crafton also had mechanical failure but advanced.
Enfinger said to FS1 of his mechanical issue: “It’s just a shame our season hopes come down to quality control on a spec part that we had nothing to do with. I definitely share our owner’s frustration with the parts.”
Sauter’s team tried to repair the issue and got him back on track, but he didn’t complete a full lap before more issues, ending his night.
“Just inferior engines, I guess, I’m not sure,” Sauter told FS1. “It’s just disappointing that our season comes down to that. This is a fresh engine, obviously something’s wrong with it. … It’s just a shame … but if something happens and it’s out of your control, what are you going to do?”
Stage 2 winner: Ross Chastain (has now won five of the last eight stages in the last four races).
Who had a good race: Ross Chastain, who finished second and won both stages. … Third-place finisher Christian Eckes, just 18 years old, had another outstanding run in his sixth start this season for Kyle Busch Motorsports.
Who had a bad race: In addition to Sauter, Crafton and Enfinger, John Hunter Nemechek had the worst showing as he was unable to start the truck and never took the green flag.
Next: The Truck Series is now off for the next month, returning for its fourth of seven playoff races on October 12 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Behind the wheel of the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra, 18-year-old Christian Eckes grabbed the pole for tonight’s third race of the Gander Outdoors Truck Series playoffs at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The Middletown, New York native covered the 1.5-mile oval with a best speed of 178.077 mph. It’s the second pole of the season for Eckes in just six Truck Series races in 2019 (he also was No. 1 at in the season opener at Daytona). Eckes also started from the pole via owner’s points earlier this season at Gateway due to weather cancelling qualifying.
“It’s awesome to be on the pole again,” Eckes told FS1. “The big thing is just to keep our Tundra under control. There have been a couple races this year where I thought we had a shot at winning but just haven’t been able to capitalize on it. I how we do that tonight and bring home a win.”
There was one spectacular wreck during the session: Jesse Iwuji hit the inside wall coming off Turn 4 extremely hard, destroying the front end and left side. The 32-year-old Iwuji climbed out of his truck and walked to the ambulance to be taken to the infield care center to be checked out medically.
“I’m fine, just with the track being super hot and super slick, coming out of Turn 4 it just got away from me,” Iwuji told FS1. “I was trying to see if I could loop it back on the infield, but it wouldn’t come around to the right and we went into the inside pit wall.”
The overhaul of the game is evident from the main menu screen, which is broken up into window-like boxes, and clearly felt in the gameplay itself.
Here’s a breakdown of what you can expect when you fire up your PlayStation 4, Xbox One or PC to play the latest NASCAR game.
THE THRILL IS BACK
The best part about this revamped game is the enhanced racing physics, which the player has even more control over.
In the last edition of NASCAR Heat, overshooting a corner and sideswiping a CPU car would result in … a thud, mostly. It was very hard for any kind of crash – intentional or accidental – to develop.
But now, getting into a car’s left or right-rear quarter panel is more likely to result in a “will they or won’t they” situation, with you having to decide whether to step on the gas or hit the brakes not knowing whether the car will correct itself or go into a slide.
And you can make it easier or harder for that to happen.
704Games has added sliders in a settings menu which allow you to adjust a multitude of aspects to the physics and gameplay:
Player tire wear rate and grip falloff rate
Speed range between fastest and slowest AI drivers (“wide” for more separation and “narrow” for tighter field)
AI stability after making contact with the player
AI driver recovery ability
Closeness of field on restarts
AI mechanical failures
AI tire wear effect and fuel consumption
These adjustments are welcome. With that said, it took a lot of trial and error to find the settings that made racing for eighth entertaining, which is a fun sentence to write. Fun tracks to conduct those trials on are Darlington, Bristol, Dover and Charlotte.
Also, if you’re one of those who have no clue how to make adjustments to tire pressure, track bars or brake bias, 704Games has an easier option available.
At the menu you see in-between practice, qualifying and a race, the upper right-hand corner has a slider where you can simply adjust from “tight” to “loose.”
Further, AI cars are no longer glued to the inside line. You’ll see cars traverse the track all the way up to the wall. This makes coming up through the field a more challenging experience.
Though wrecks are more frequent now, as a player you still can’t DNF yourself in the middle of the race after a bad enough wreck to warrant it. You can go to the pits and be repaired like nothing happened. Sometimes you’ve had enough and you just want the race to end and move onto the next.
On the plus side, in career mode you can simulate races you don’t want to take part in.
EASY ON THE EYES
NASCAR Heat 4 pops.
More care has been put into the visuals for this installment. The atmosphere at tracks, especially night races, is really striking. It’s even more apparent now that day will transition into night if you go with stage races.
At some tracks, like Darlington, the far end of the track always has a haze over it.
But in general, almost every aspect of what you see on the screen stands out more.
Two other things that caught my eye: Ryan Blaney’s stellar PPG paint scheme and Johnny Sauter’s “tenda” scheme in the Truck Series.
On Blaney’s car, the dripping paint aspect of it really sticks out.
As for Sauter’s, did you know there’s the outline of a horse on the side of Sauter’s truck (tenda is an Equine and Pet Care Products company)? I never noticed it through the first seven months of the season. But it’s there, clear as day in the game. I looked at pictures of the real car and was surprised to see it.
Speaking of paint schemes, there’s new ways to have more in your possession, including existing cars and your own creations.
Added to the usual “challenge” mode (watch out for the Sonoma Raceway “carousel” challenge) is being rewarded with the car from that challenge.
Oddly, this sometimes includes a “Victory Lane” version of the car, so you’ll be driving around the track with a confetti-covered vehicle.
The game creators have also heard cries for enhancements to the custom car builder.
While you unfortunately can’t paint a car at will any way you want, the game gives you significantly more tools to work with.
An addition to the game is the ability to use any number on your custom cars, on top of a wider variety of paint scheme templates and a handful of number fonts.
While I’m not a fan of the number font designs, it’s nice to have more choices, which is the overarching theme of most of new tweaks with NH4.
A little thing I appreciate is a change to Bristol Motor Speedway. The track has been using a traction compound on the inside lane of its corners for the last few years, but that had been missing from NASCAR Heat’s version of the track. Now, there is a layer of grip present there that makes getting through each turn more manageable.
In single season mode you can now create custom seasons via track order.
The track map on the HUD display is one of those additions that took way too long to be introduced.
When qualifying, a timer is present on the screen now to help give an indication of how you’re doing.
You’re still unable to watch a replay until after the race. So you’ll have no idea what caused a caution until then if you weren’t involved directly.
The only options you can change during a race are driving aids.
Drafting works! Especially at superspeedways. You can even hear the wind change as you drift in and out of the wake of cars in front of you.
If your tire wear gets to a certain point, you’ll be in danger of outright spinning on a restart if you’re not careful. Took me by surprise.
Just as he did at Bristol, Brett Moffitt won the pole and then won another playoff race. Moffitt, the reigning series champion, won Sunday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park for his second consecutive playoff victory this season.
This is Moffitt’s fourth playoff victory in a row, dating back to last season. He won the final two playoff races last year, including the title race at Miami, and has opened this year’s playoffs with wins at Bristol and Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. Sunday’s victory also is Moffitt’s 11th career triumph in the series.
With one race remaining before the eight-driver playoff field is cut to six, Johnny Sauter and Tyler Ankrum are outside a playoff spot. Sauter is seventh in the standings, two points behind ThorSport Racing teammate Grant Enfinger. Ankrum is 14 points behind Enfinger.
Who had a good race: Alex Tagliani finished second in his first series start of the season. … After failing to make the playoffs, Ben Rhodes has finished eighth (Bristol) and third (Canadian Tire Motorsport Park) in the opening two playoff races. Stewart Friesen finished seventh in a backup truck after wrecking his primary truck on Saturday.
Who had a bad race: Harrison Burton was set for a top-10 finish before the engine blew on his truck. He finished 21st. … Todd Gilliland had damage and then a mechanical issue in what was a long day for him.
Next: The series is off until Sept. 13 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Truck Series practice report from Canadian Tire Motorsport Park