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Austin Hill wins Truck race at Vegas; Johnny Sauter, Grant Enfinger exit playoffs

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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.

The second round begins next month at Talladega. Joining Hill in the second round will be: Brett Moffitt, Ross Chastain, Stewart Friesen, Crafton and Tyler Ankrum.

MORE: Race results

MORE: Reseeded standings for second playoff round

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?”

Finishing second through fifth were Ross Chastain, pole sitter Christian Eckes, Sheldon Creed and Todd Gilliland.

Sixth through 10th were Brennan Poole, Brett Moffitt, Ben Rhodes, Harrison Burton and Dylan Lupton.

Stage 1 winner: Ross Chastain.

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.

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Christian Eckes earns Truck pole at Las Vegas

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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.”

Click here for the Truck Series qualifying results.

Ross Chastain (178.012 mph) qualified second, followed by Todd Gilliland (177.907 mph), Brett Moffitt (177.585 mph) and Matt Crafton (177.375 mph).

Sixth through 10th were Sheldon Creed (177.305 mph), Austin Hill (177.165 mph), Grant Enfinger (177.125), Harrison Burton (176.939) and Johnny Sauter (176.916).

Tonight’s race (9 p.m. ET, FS1) will see the lowest-scoring two of the eight playoff contenders eliminated.

Three drivers failed to qualify: Cory Roper, Justin Johnson and Tyler Hill, who wrecked during his qualifying attempt, his truck suffering front end damage when it bottomed out in the infield grass.

Click here for the row-by-row starting lineup for tonight’s race.

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.”

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Truck practice report at Las Vegas

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LAS VEGAS – Stewart Friesen posted the fastest lap in Friday’s final practice session for the Gander Outdoors Truck Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Friesen, who was penalized 30 minutes of practice for inspection issues, posted a lap of 179.634 mph. He was followed by Brett Moffitt (179.569 mph), Grant Enfinger (179.086), Sheldon Creed (178.997) and Matt Crafton (178.766).

Click here for practice results

Ben Rhodes ran the most laps in the session with 68. Moffitt had the best average over 10 consecutive laps at 176.238 mph. He was followed by John Hunter Nemechek (176.042 mph) and Todd Gilliland (175.893).

Qualifying will take place at 5:35 p.m. ET. The Truck race is at 9 p.m. ET today.

 

 

NBC Sports Power Rankings: Best playoff hopefuls in Xfinity, Trucks

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With the Cup Series having this past weekend off, it was yet another opportunity for drivers in the NASCAR Xfinity and Gander Outdoors Truck Series to show their skills.

It also was an opportunity for NASCAR Talk to gauge the best drivers in the two series, particularly with this season’s playoffs either already underway or soon to be. The Truck Series is already two races into its seven-race playoffs, while the Xfinity Series begins its seven-race playoff Sept. 20 at Richmond Raceway.

With that said, here’s how we envision how they’ll perform heading into the season-ending Ford Championship Weekend in Miami in mid-November:

1. Christopher Bell (40 points): A unanimous selection from the NBC Sports’ NASCAR writers, Bell is the odds-on favorite to win the Xfinity Series championship.

2. Tyler Reddick (36 points): Has failed to finish in the top five in just five of 23 Xfinity races. He’s really good and likely Bell’s toughest challenger in the upcoming playoffs.

3. Cole Custer (31 points): A legitimate contender to overtake Bell and Reddick for the Xfinity championship if he gets hot in the playoffs. Even though he’s been in a slump of late, there’s still plenty of time to turn things back in the right direction.

4. Brett Moffitt (28 points): Mr. Playoffs in the Truck Series. The reigning series champ has won the past four Truck playoff races, dating back to last year. Has a great shot at making it two titles in a row, especially having started this year’s playoffs strong with two straight wins and has 34 playoff points. He’s a safe bet.

5. Austin Cindric (23 points): Has had an August to remember with two wins and four top fives. But what happens when the Xfinity Series gets back on speedways?

6. Ross Chastain (20 points): Nearly 60 starts over three series in 2019 and no signs of slowing down. Will race any car (or Truck) anywhere and any time. He’s second in the Truck points standings heading into the final playoff race in the opening round. Bona-fide champion material.

7. Chase Briscoe (18 points): Has finished seventh or better in the last seven Xfinity races, performing well on road courses, short tracks and big tracks. With everyone focused on Bell, Reddick and Custer, Briscoe could be a dark horse for the championship.

8. Justin Allgaier (11 points): His photo should be next to the word “resilient” in the dictionary. Not much has gone in Allgaier’s favor this year, yet he’s still fourth in the Xfinity standings. If he gets hot in the playoffs, look out.

(tie) 9. Justin Haley (4 points): A sleeper pick for the Xfinity championship round because of consistency.

(tie) 9. Austin Hill (4 points): Proving worthy of defending Hattori Racing Enterprise’s truck championship last year.

Others receiving votes: Stewart Friesen (3 points), Matt Crafton (1 point), Michael Annett (1 point).

Brett Moffitt wins second consecutive Truck race

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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.

Alex Tagliani was second and followed by Ben Rhodes, Sheldon Creed and Austin Hill.

MORE: Click here for race results

MORE: Click here for driver points report

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.

Stage 1 winner: Brett Moffitt

Stage 2 winner: Ross Chastain

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.