Noah Gragson appeared to blow an engine during final practice, causing an extended delay for cleanup. NASCAR extended the session to noon (five minutes) as a result. He was fourth on the speed chart at the time with a speed of 180.977 mph. His speed eventually landed seventh on the chart.
Justin Haley – who was fastest in the first session – was unable to back up his speed and posted the 15th fastest lap (180.000) in final practice.
Justin Haley won his first career Camping World Truck Series in a three-lap shootout at the end of the Eaton 200 at Gateway Motorsports Park.
With seven laps remaining, then-leader Noah Gragson took the bottom line on a restart. That lined Todd Gilliland up behind Haley and proved to be the difference for both drivers on the front row. Gilliland pushed Haley hard into turn one, but contact between Gragson and Gilliland allowed Haley to gain the advantage.
A quick caution for debris forced Haley to survive one more restart – this time with Johnny Sauter lined up beside him. In a three-lap shootout to the end, Haley held onto the top spot.
Gilliland got around Sauter for second. Sauter finished third.
The race was red flagged on lap 119 to clean up fluid from John Hunter Nemechek. He ran over a piece of debris that punctured an oil line. Justin Fontaine spun in the oil with Tate Fogleman sliding in as well.
The incident had lasting ramifications. On lap 132, Brett Moffitt and Ben Rhodes were battling for fifth. Neither driver wanted to go high into turn one because of the speedy dry. Rhodes crowded Moffitt and both made contact with the wall. Rhodes stayed on track. Moffitt pitted, but was able to climb back into contention for a top 10.
HOW JUSTIN HALEY WON: Haley lined up in the outside groove with seven laps to go and got a bump from Todd Gilliland that pushed him to the lead. From there, it was simply a matter of surviving one more restart with the veteran Johnny Sauter lined up to his inside as Haley led the final laps.
WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: In his Truck debut, Riley Herbst scored a top-10 finish in eighth. … Jesse Little finished seventh, which was his fourth top-10 finish in the last five races. … In just his third Truck start and first since 2015, Chad Finley managed to stay out of trouble and finished a career-best sixth.
WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT: Dalton Sargeant cut a left front tire and pounded the wall with two laps remaining in stage one after contact from Todd Gilliland. … Matt Crafton developed an alternator issue at the end of stage two; they changed a battery and resumed racing, four laps off the pace. … On lap 76, Stewart Friesen got loose underneath Christian Eckes and spun him into the wall. … Battling for sixth on lap 98, Friesen and Johnny Sauter made contact on exiting turn two and Friesen spun into the inside wall. … Grant Enfinger started on the pole, led every lap of the first stage, but cut a tire in the closing laps and finished seven laps off the pace in 21st.
NOTABLE: It was a difficult night for Young Guns. In his second career Truck start, 17-year-old Eckes was wrecked during segment two after contact with Friesen. Making his first start in the Tuck series, 18-year-old Fogleman was collected in an accident triggered by Nemechek’s blown engine.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “We had to change the battery. The alternator’s done. I don’t know; they’re still trying to science it out I guess. You know, it’s a big cost for something we spend a lot of money on – and there’s just no excuse for it. Our day is pretty much over. We’ll use it as a test, go to Chicago and try to kick their ass there.” – Matt Crafton’s crew chief Junior Joiner after an electrical problem plagued them at the end of stage two.
WHAT’S NEXT: Overton’s 225 at Chicagoland Speedway at 9 p.m. ET on June 29 on FS1.
Johnny Sauter won his fourth race of 2018 and for the fifth time at Texas Motor Speedway by holding off pole sitter Stewart Friesen in a green-white-checkered finish to end the PPG 400.
Sauter started the race in fifth and managed to stay in contact with the leaders, but did not take the lead until the final stages of the race. Using a combination of fuel and tire conservation, he led 51 laps on the way to victory lane.
Stewart Friesen led the field to green from the pole, but got loose in the outside groove early in stage one. He fought back throughout the night – winning stage one and challenging for the lead late in the race. A determined charge in the final 20 laps put him in position to challenge Sauter. Unfortunately he got hung up behind Justin Haley on the final lap and could not get close enough to make the pass for the lead.
The biggest incident of the night came on lap 109. Battling for a position in the top 10, Dalton Sargent and Myatt Snider got together while trying to use Jennifer Jo Cobb as a pick. Snyder made hard contact with the wall and retired on lap 105 in 23rd. Sargent remained on the lead lap and finished just outside the top 10 in 11th.
HOW SAUTER WON: Sauter stayed out on old tires with 55 laps remaining and stretched his fuel to race to the end.
WHO HAD A GOOD NIGHT: Enfinger inherited the lead when Todd Gilliland pitted near the end of the second segment and scored his first stage win of the season; he continued to battle among the leaders before finishing fourth. Friesen matched his career best finish of second; his previous runner up finish came on the dirt track of Eldora Speedway last July. Justin Haley gave his teammate Sauter a huge push on the final restart before getting overhauled by Friesen on the final lap; Haley finished third to score his sixth career top five.
WHO HAD A BAD NIGHT:Ben Rhodes developed an engine problem toward the end of stage one and lost multiple laps while trying to diagnose the issue; he finished three laps off the pace in 16th. Justin Fontaine hit the wall hard on lap six and pancaked the right side of his truck – finishing 30th in the 32-car field. Driftwood Texas driver Bayley Currey got loose in the outside lane on lap 11 while running 18th and hit the turn four wall; he finished 29th. With 10 laps remaining in stage one, Brett Moffitt got loose under Austin Wayne Self and spun into the turn one wall. Moffitt brought out a second yellow when he almost spun 19 laps from the end before finishing 18th. Fighting to stay on the lead lap, Bo LeMastus made contact with Norm Benning, cut a tire, and hit the wall with six to go in stage two. LeMastus finished 26th; Benning finished 21st.
NOTABLE: Gilliland received his high school diploma in a pre-race ceremony before climbing into the lead at the start of the Rattlesnake 400.
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT: “I’m speechless at this point; I don’t even know what to say anymore,” Sauter said from victory lane on FoxSports 1. “This is a lot of fun. Five wins at Texas – I feel very, very lucky … It’s all about getting that clean start. I knew that (Friesen) was going to be aggressive – obviously he’s hungry for his first win and so I just timed it right.”
WHAT’S NEXT: M&Ms 200 at Iowa Speedway at 7:00 p.m. ET on June 16 on FS1.
Niece Motorsports enters tech alliance with GMS Racing, Justin Fontaine to race full-time
Niece Motorsports, a Camping World Truck Series team, has announced it is entering into a technical alliance with GMS Racing and it has signed Justin Fontaine to compete full-time for the team next season.
The technical alliance will include chassis, body, suspension and engineering support. Niece Motorsports will move its shop location to Statesville, North Carolina, to be closer to GMS Racing. In 2017, GMS Racing fielded the trucks of Kaz Grala, Johnny Sauter and Justin Haley.
“I’m really proud of how far this team has come in the last year,” team owner Al Niece said in a press release. “I’m proud of this team’s growth and everything we’ve accomplished this year. I’m thrilled to begin working with GMS this offseason and into next year. This really gives us the chance to improve our program, by aligning with a team that has a proven track record. It’s going to be our job next year to go out there and perform at a high level.”
Fontaine, 20, will drive the No. 45 Chevrolet for Niece Motorsports. He will compete for rookie of the years honors and enters the 2018 season with three Truck starts since 2016. He joins Austin Wayne Self in running full-time for the team.
Fontaine made one start for Niece Motorsports in 2017 at Chicagoland Speedway, where he finished 17th.
“This is an exciting time in my career and I believe I’m ready for this next challenge with Niece Motorsports,” Fontaine said in a press release.
“I know I have a lot to learn, but with the leadership of Niece Motorsports and the support of my management team at AM Racing, I believe I can transition well and produce some good results in my rookie season.”
Fontaine ran a partial ARCA Racing Series season in 2017 for AM Racing’s development partner, Win-Tron Racing.
Fontaine was injured in the opening race of the ARCA season and missed five races before returning in June at Elko (Minn.) Speedway, where he finished 11th. He picked up a career-best finish of ninth at Winchester (Ind.) Speedway and ended the year with a top 10 at Kentucky Speedway.
The 2018 Truck Series season begins on Feb. 16 at Daytona International Speedway.
Updated: Scary wreck ends ARCA race five laps early; Theriault wins
Justin Fontaine, who was involved in a late multi-car crash during Saturday’s ARCA race at Daytona International Speedway, suffered a mild compression fracture of his L1 vertebrae, his team announced late Saturday night. Fontaine would be kept overnight at a local Daytona Beach, Fla. hospital for observation.
“Justin is awake and alert following a hard crash at Daytona International Speedway,” said Win-Tron Racing owner Kevin Cywinski said in a media release. “Justin is in good spirits and we hope to be able to provide a further update on his recovery time when it’s appropriate.”
Fontaine added, “I just want to let everyone know that I’m okay and I’m thankful for the outreach of support. I also want to thank Win-Tron Racing for building me a safe race car. … It looks like I’ll be out of the car for a while.”
ORIGINAL STORY FOLLOWS:
A scary accident with five laps remaining brought an early end to Saturday’s ARCA Racing Series season-opening Lucas Oil Complete Engine Treatment 200 at Daytona International Speedway.
The three drivers were fighting for 12th place when the crash occurred in the restart zone and brought out a lengthy red-flag race stoppage.
Fontaine’s Win-Tron Racing No. 33 ProMATIC Automation Toyota Camry was collected in the wreck, was turned on its side and then slid down the frontstretch for several hundred feet before it flipped on its roof and came to rest.
Gerhart and Rohrbaugh were both able to climb from their own cars, were taken to the infield care center, were checked and released.
Because of the heavy damage and delicate nature of the rescue — including being forced to cut off the roof of the car — safety personnel needed several minutes to right Fontaine’s Win-Tron Racing car to allow him to be extricated.
After hanging upside down, the 19-year-old Fontaine took off his helmet, was placed on a stretcher and put in a waiting ambulance, which transported him to a local Daytona Beach hospital for treatment and evaluation
Because the stoppage was so long, plus there was damage to a SAFER barrier, officials ruled the race official.
In addition to Saturday being his first career start in the ARCA Racing Series, Fontaine is also slated to return to run a limited series of races for AM Racing in NASCAR’s Camping World Truck Series this season. Follow @JerryBonkowski