Tuesday night’s Truck Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway was eventful for Jesse Iwuji, but for all the wrong reasons.
The 32-year-old driver and U.S. Navy officer was put under a microscope due to a crash he triggered on Lap 81.
Iwuji, who was making his first Truck Series start of the year, was racing toward Turn 1 when his No. 33 truck moved up the track and made contact with the No. 52 of Stewart Friesen. The contact turned Iwuji into the No. 30 of Brennan Poole. The wreck also included the No. 26 of Tyler Ankrum. Poole and Iwuji were eliminated while Friesen finished 30th.
On Wednesday, Iwuji posted a lengthy explanation for the crash and an apology to Poole and Friesen, saying in a tweet, “1st time in over 2 yrs where our mistake collected someone else in a race, can’t let it happen again.”
Iwuji cited a “bad vantage point” for his spotter looking up the frontstretch and bad timing leading to the contact and crash.
While Iwuji said he reached out to Friesen and Poole privately on Instagram, Poole responded on Twitter, saying “Things happen. I know what It feels like to be doing everything you can with limited resources. I admire your perseverance and dedication to this sport. Never quit chasing what you love.”
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.
The virtual Dover NASCAR weekend begins with Saturday Night Thunder.
This is the fourth Saturday Night Thunder event. Logan Seavey won at virtual Bristol. Josh Berry won at virtual Richmond. Landon Huffman won at virtual Talladega.
Tonight’s event will be run with digital Xfinity Series cars. The event is open to Xfinity, Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, ARCA Menards Series, NASCAR Peak Mexico Series, Pinty’s Series and Whelen Euro Series drivers.
Today’s event is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m. ET.
FORMAT: One-lap, single-car qualifying will set heat race grids. There will be four 10-lap heats. The top six finishers from each heat race advance to the feature event. There will be a 15-lap last chance race. If more than 40 cars are entered, there will be a second last chance race. Two drivers will transfer from the last chance qualifier to the main event. All heat races will have no cautions. Drivers are allowed one reset in the heat races.
FEATURE RACE: The feature is scheduled to have 26 cars and be 125 laps. The top five finishers from last weekend’s race at virtual Talladega – Landon Huffman, Josh Berry, Joe Graf Jr., Tommy Joe Martins and Spencer Boyd – will start at the rear provided they make the feature. Cautions will be determined by race officials. Drivers are allowed one reset. There will be up to three attempts at a green/white/checkered finish.
Twice in the final laps the leader was turned, allowing Landon Huffman to win the Saturday Night Thunder iRacing event in overtime at a virtual Talladega Superspeedway.
“It feels like this race win almost means more than a lot of my real-life wins because opportunities in the real world have been tough to come by, so to be able to race against all these guys in an event like this that iRacing puts on is pretty special,” Huffman said on the eNASCAR broadcast after the victory. ”
Huffman, who typically competes in Late Models at Hickory Motor Speedway, has five career Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series starts since making his series debut in 2017.
Tyler Ankrum led in the final laps before a shove by Logan Seavey turned Ankrum, setting up the overtime finish. Ankrum finished 10th.
In overtime, Anthony Alfredo was leading to begin the final lap when a shove from Berry turned Alfredo, who finished 27th in the 40-car field.
“I was able to push Anthony to the lead and he kind kept trying to play back and forth between the two lanes,” Berry said on the eNASCAR broadcast. “Coming out of the tri-oval there he went to the bottom, which kind of was what I was expecting him to try … and then he kind of eased his way back up and I got into his right rear and hooked him. I hate that it happened, but it’s just a product of this kind of racing.”
Berry was the fastest qualifier. Kyle Weatherman and Chase Briscoe won their heat races. Each heat race had a crash that collected several cars. Berry was among those collected in a crash at the start of the second lap in the opening heat race and earned one of the final transfer spots. A crash on the last lap of the second heat stretched the field and Ty Gibbs took the final transfer spot with a smoking car.