Brandon Jones passed Sheldon Creed in the Tunnel Turn on the final lap to win Sunday’s Gander RV & Outdoors Truck race at Pocono Raceway.
Creed took the lead on the next-to-last lap off a restart, going between Jones and Austin Hill. Jones and Creed battled side by side on the final lap through Turn 1 and entering the Tunnel Turn before Jones pulled ahead and went on to score his first series win in his 46th career start.
The 60-lap race was slowed by a track record-tying nine cautions.
Christian Eckes, seeking his first series win, was among the victims in the race. He crashed while leading with 12 laps to go when a tire went down. He finished 33rd.
The race saw three cautions and two red flags in the first 13 laps. Reigning series champion Matt Crafton was collected in a crash on the first corner of the first lap. He finished last. Crafton entered the race one point out of what would be the final playoff spot.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Sheldon Creed
STAGE 2 WINNER: Sheldon Creed
WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Austin Hill, who finished second, scored his seventh consecutive top-10 result but remains winless this season. … Sheldon Creed, who finished a season-best third, won both stages and scored his first top-10 finish in the past three races. … Todd Gilliland placed fourth for his best result of the year. … Ben Rhodes finished fifth for his best run of the season.
WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Matt Crafton finished last after he was collected in Codie Rohrbaugh‘s crash on the first corner of the first lap. Rohrbaugh finished 39th. … Raphael Lessard hit the grass in Turn 3 and shot up into the wall and in Austin Wayne Self‘s path on the sixth lap. Lessard finished 37th. Self finished 38th. … Ty Majeski, running third, blocked Grant Enfinger and wrecked on the 12th lap. Majeski placed 36th.
NOTABLE: Kyle Busch Motorsports scored its 78th career Truck win. Thirteen drivers have accounted for those victories.
NEXT: The series races at 6 p.m. ET July 11 at Kentucky Speedway on FS1.
Grant Enfinger wins Atlanta Truck race with last-lap pass of Austin Hill
Grant Enfinger passed Austin Hill with one lap to go to win Saturday’s Vet Tix Camping World 200 Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
The green-white-checker finish gave Enfinger his fourth career win and second this season (he also won the 2020 opener at Daytona). It also was Ford’s first-ever Truck Series win at the 1.54-mile track in Hampton, Georgia.
Kyle Busch won the first two stages and appeared to have the truck to win. But midway through the final segment, he was forced to pit after he skimmed the outside wall trying to avoid the slow-moving ride of Jordan Anderson.
To add insult to injury, Busch was penalized twice for speeding on pit road, ultimately dropping him three laps behind the leaders and ending his hopes of rebounding for the win. Busch came into the race having won nine times, plus three runner-ups and a third-place showing in his last 14 Truck Series starts dating back to Michigan in mid-2017.
Enfinger’s win was set up when Chase Elliott spun with three laps left in regulation time, bringing out the caution. Hill, who hails from Winston, Georgia, about 55 miles from Atlanta Motor Speedway, had a 4.5 second lead at the time.
STAGE 1 WINNER: Kyle Busch
STAGE 2 WINNER: Kyle Busch
Who had a good race: Even though he failed to win, Hill still had a strong run nonetheless. Also kudos to Eckes for rallying to finish third, followed by a late surge by Gilliland.
Who had a bad race: Rookie Bryan Dauzat had two incidents in the first four laps of Stage 1. He parked his Truck after the second incident and finished last in the 40-truck field. … Matt Crafton got caught up in an accordion-type wreck on pit road after Stage 1 that caused significant damage to his front end. Still, Crafton managed to rally back to finish 12th.
Notable: A pair of teenagers started the race on the front row: series rookie Christian Eckes and Tyler Ankrum, both 19 years old. Eckes finished third, while Ankrum was 15th.
What’s next: The next Truck Series race is Saturday, June 13, at Homestead-Miami Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1).
Also: A fox hopped across pit wall and ran across the track before exiting on the other side. No caution was called.
Glad to know the NASCAR fox made it from Darlington to Atlanta.
It’s another example of the new normal – at least for now: elimination of practice and qualifying for most NASCAR Cup, Xfinity and Truck races due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
While most crew chiefs might like to keep practice and qualifying to optimally set up cars for race day, some drivers seem to be of the opposite mindset.
“From a driver standpoint, I personally like it like a lot of (drivers) because I feel it puts a little more in the driver’s hands because everybody starts off on an even playing field, nobody’s car is going to drive perfectly, you have to figure it out and adapt,” Xfinity Series driver Chase Briscoe said during a Thursday media conference call. “It’s super important for the crew chief and team to unload somewhat close because you have to still be close, you can’t be way off in left field and still make something happen.
“But yeah, I think we could definitely limit practice. Looking back on it, if I was a rookie and at a place like Darlington, it would be tough to just start the race and figure it out. I think 15-20 minutes, maybe, of practice, just enough to make sure your travels are set, and you’re not going to bottom out or anything crazy. And then the drivers get at least a look at the track and just shake everything down.
“Maybe that’s a potential thing we can do down the road to shorten practice. … It takes me back to my dirt racing days where you show up, you get two laps (of practice) and you’re racing. I’ve enjoyed it, I feel like it’s been good for our team because we’re typically pretty close in practice as it is, so it’s been good for us.”
Veteran drivers like reigning Truck Series champ Matt Crafton also likes the run-what-you-brung aspect.
“It’s interesting how we’ve done this, like with Charlotte, we went with what we’ve known and what we’ve ran with the last couple years, and the baseline setup and what we ended up with and started from there,” Crafton said in the teleconference. “I think it’s a lot harder for some of the rookies that don’t have a whole lot of notebook to lean on.
“It’s a good thing for the veterans to have more of a notebook, but I love it (no practice or qualifying), to be honest. It’s kind of a cool thing that we’re doing with no practice. The last time we did that was at Kentucky (2015) and I actually won the race because it was rained out practice and qualifying. Under the circumstances we’re going through right now, I’m glad at least we’re racing.”
Fellow Truck Series driver Zane Smith, who earned a career-best third-place finish last week at Charlotte, said not having practice is “100% absolutely” a disadvantage for rookie drivers not to have practice or qualifying – but he’s also quickly learned to adapt.
“This deal kind of sucks for me, but I’ve always kind of liked where you line ‘em up and race,” Smith said. “It’s kind of like you’ve got what you’ve got and figure out as soon as you can.
“That’s what I did in Charlotte. … I tested at Atlanta not too long ago and that was my first time on a mile-and-a-half in a truck. But racing a truck and driving a truck are two entirely different things.”
Still, Smith found a bit of humor about racing Saturday at Atlanta without practice and qualifying.
“I can’t wait to see my heart rate right after Stage 1,” Smith, who turns 21 next Tuesday, said with a chuckle. “I have this Apple Watch and it tracks all that and it’s kind of cool to see after the race.
“I could tell I was out of breath after Stage 1 (last week at Charlotte) from starting near the back and coming to the front. But at least this time, I think I’ll start top 10 because they changed the points deal, so that’ll make my job a lot easier – I hope.”
Chase Elliott may have earned a new nickname Tuesday night: the Bounty Hunter.
By winning the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Elliott won a $100,000 “bounty” put up by Kevin Harvick and Gander RV & Outdoors CEO Marcus Lemonis to be a full-time Cup driver to beat Kyle Busch to the finish line, snapping Busch’s streak of seven consecutive Truck Series wins.
The money goes to a charity of Elliott’s choosing, benefitting COVID-19 relief.
“It was a lot of fun,” Elliott told FS1. “It’d been a long time. It doesn’t make up for Sunday (finished second in the Coca-Cola 600) but it was still a really good night. I’m glad to win and do some good for the relief efforts for this virus.”
Busch gave Elliott all he could handle in the last 15 laps, drawing closer seemingly on every lap, but ultimately couldn’t catch Elliott before the finish line.
“He was a little better than I was there at the end; I had gotten a little tight and I don’t think we adjusted enough on the last pit stop,” Elliott said of Busch. “Luckily, the right front stayed on it long enough to get to the end.
“To be able to come out and out-run him and him finish second, I’d rather have him finish second than wreck or something, so I feel like I did something right.”
It was Elliott’s third win in 13 career Truck Series races.
Busch was frustrated with his truck all night.
“(The truck) just never was right, so we were out in left field the whole night, never had a real great feel for the truck, a great driving truck, so I just salvaged what I could,” Busch said in a post-race Zoom media conference call. “It was self-inflicted, threw it away. We had six months to prepare and screwed it all up.”
Busch chuckled when told that Elliott imitated Busch’s usual bow after each win he amasses.
“No, this is the first I’m hearing of it,” Busch said. “Imitation is the strongest form of flattery or I don’t know what it is. But that’s cute.”
“It was just a spur of the moment thing,” Elliott said with a smile. “I thought we’ve had so much fun with it with Kevin (Harvick) and putting up the money, Kyle was a good sport about it.
“It was not a dig at anybody, just having fun with it. It was about beating him, so why not have some fun with it.”
Tuesday’s race was the first for the Truck Series since Busch won Feb. 21 at Las Vegas, just a couple of weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down NASCAR racing for more than two months.
It was Elliott’s first Truck race since 2017.
“It was about beating Kyle and we did that, so I guess I can quit now,” Elliott laughed.
Busch, meanwhile, saw his streak of winning the last seven Truck races he entered fall short of an eighth consecutive start and win.
Busch finished fourth in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, won Monday’s Xfinity race and was runner-up in Tuesday’s race. He goes for another win in Wednesday’s Alsco Uniforms 500, which wraps up four races in as many days at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Who had a good race: Zane Smith was the highest finishing rookie driver, earning a career-best third-place finish. Smith has made just four starts in a Truck in his career but gave the front runners a formidable challenge, particularly in the final 15 laps. “I was so determined to get third,” the 20-year-old Smith said. “It was an awesome night.”
Who had a bad race:Brennan Poole was involved in two last segment incidents that prevented him from making his bid to collect the Harvick/Lemonis bounty. Poole finished 38th. … Matt Crafton suffered a broken track bar late in the race, ending his night prematurely. Crafton finished 35th.
Notable: Brett Moffitt continues to impress in his ongoing recovery from suffering two broken legs in mid-March. In the last five days, Moffitt has earned strong 11th (Darlington) and 6th (Charlotte) place finishes with a fourth-place finish in the Truck race.
What’s next: Vet Tix Camping World 200, Saturday June 6 at 1 p.m. ET, Texas Motor Speedway.