Matt Crafton

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Stewart Friesen wins at Phoenix to advance to Truck championship race

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Stewart Friesen held off a late challenge by Brandon Jones to not only win Friday night’s NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series race at ISM Raceway, but also to lock himself into next week’s championship race at Miami.

Friesen will be joined in the championship race by defending Truck Series champion Brett Moffitt, Ross Chastain and Matt Crafton.

Austin Hill, who started tonight’s Lucas Oil 150 from the pole, and Tyler Ankrum both failed to advance to Miami.

For Friesen, the win was a vindication of sorts. He was penalized by NASCAR for jumping the start at the beginning of the race, being sent to the back of the field as a result.

But the Canadian driver was a man on a mission and was not to be denied, earning his second career Truck Series win (the other win was earlier this year at Eldora).

“What a race car,” Friesen told FS1. “We were able to pass them all clean. … It’s awesome (to be in the championship round). It’s what we’ve been geared up for all year long. We just didn’t get a lot of breaks. We lost races about every which way you could lose them and thought it was another one tonight.

“This one’s for everybody. We can all celebrate this one together tomorrow and then it’s game on (at Miami). We’ve got a bad-ass piece for next week, too.”

Chandler Smith finished third in Friday’s race, followed by Ben Rhodes, Grant Enfinger, Crafton, Harrison Burton, Johnny Sauter, Chastain and Moffitt.

“We had a bad day, we’ll move on, we’ll go to Homestead where I’ll feel a hell of a lot better,” Moffitt told FS1.

Click here for race results.

Click here for updated standings.

Stage 1 winner: Ben Rhodes (third stage win of season)

Stage 2 winner: Brandon Jones (fourth stage win of season)

Who else had a good race: Crafton began the race below the playoff cutline, but stuck to the gameplan and now he’s Miami-bound. “We did exactly what we had to do,” Crafton told FS1. “We had nothing to lose and a lot to gain. We fought really hard each and every stage. We didn’t want to stage race, but we had to and at the end of the day, that’s what got us in (to the championship race).”

Who had a bad race: After starting from the pole, Austin Hill finished an unlucky 13th, low enough to knock him below the playoff cutline and to see Crafton move past him for the final championship race spot. “We just didn’t perform tonight and didn’t execute like we were supposed to,” Hill told FS1. “We just weren’t good enough when it mattered.”

Notable: After mechanical issues forced him to miss qualifying and to start the race at the back of the field, Harrison Burton came back strongly to finish seventh. … Chastain is a Florida native and is looking forward to going to his home track to race for the championship, telling FS1: “I am excited. This is incredible. … We’re going to Homestead. It’s an absolute dream come true.

What’s next: The 2019 Truck Series season all comes down to one race next Friday: the season finale and the championship-deciding race at Miami.

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Austin Hill takes pole for tonight’s Truck race at ISM Raceway

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Austin Hill bumped Stewart Friesen late in qualifying to take the pole for tonight’s Lucas Oil 150 Gander Outdoors Truck Series race at ISM Raceway in suburban Phoenix.

Hill took the pole with a speed of 133.230 mph. Friesen will start alongside Hill on the front row with a qualifying run of 133.126 mph.

“I tried to hit my marks as best as I could,” Hill told FS1. “I didn’t think it was a great lap. … That’s the best it finished all day. Now we’re starting on the pole. Now we just have to go and finish this thing off.”

Hill and Friesen were the only drivers to exceed 133 mph in the session.

Qualifying third through 10th in the 34-truck field were Sheldon Creed (132.989 mph), Ben Rhodes (132.949), Ty Majeski (132.876), Chandler Smith (132.836), Brandon Jones (132.738), Grant Enfinger (132.704), Todd Gilliland (132.694) and Matt Crafton (132.528).

One incident of note occurred to the No 18 Toyota Tundra of Harrison Burton. He was unable to get his truck started to make a qualifying attempt and, as a result, will start tonight’s race from the back of the field.

Tonight’s race will take the green flag shortly after 8:30 p.m. ET and will be televised on FS1.

Click here for the full qualifying results.

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Matt Tifft will miss rest of season after suffering seizure at Martinsville

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Matt Tifft will not race the rest of the season after suffering a seizure Saturday at Martinsville Speedway, he stated in a Twitter video Tuesday. 

Tifft will continue to consult with his doctors and work with the NASCAR medical team to return to racing as soon as possible, Front Row Motorsports stated.

John Hunter Nemechek will drive the No. 36 Ford in place of Tifft the remaining three Cup races of the season.

Tifft was taken to the infield care center shortly before Cup practice Saturday at Martinsville Speedway and transported to a local hospital. He was later released and went home. Matt Crafton drove for him Sunday at Martinsville.

Tifft said in a Twitter video posted Tuesday that he was feeling fine Saturday at Martinsville and then “felt my tongue cramp up. Next thing I knew I blacked out and my crew members helped me down. Next thing I knew I woke up in the ambulance getting transported to a local hospital. I was actually out of the race because I suffered a seizure this weekend.

“Luckily, my test results with the CT scan and my MRI today on Monday showed that there’s nothing there as far as my brain tumor. Trying to find out some answers of what exactly is going on.”

He had surgery to remove a tumor in his brain on July 21, 2016. He returned to NASCAR in September 2016, competing in a Truck race at Chicagoland Speedway. Tifft has had no issues since the surgery.

He announced Jan. 9 that his recovery had gone so well that he would not have to undergo a routine followup brain scan for at least a year.

Tifft also added in his Twitter video posted Tuesday: “Appreciate your guys’ support and certainly will let you guys know as I learn more too. Unfortunately, because of this I will be missing the rest of the 2019 season. So I want to wish Front Row Motorsports and the whole 36 team the best of luck the rest of this year. Hate that I have to miss out the rest of my rookie season. The most important thing right now is my health and figuring out what is going on.”

With Tifft out, Nemechek will make his Cup debut this weekend at Texas (3 p.m. ET Sunday on NBCSN).

“This isn’t the way any driver wants to make their Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series debut,” said Nemechek in a statement from the team. “I am hoping that Matt feels better and can get back in his car as soon as possible. That is what is important. Hopefully I can learn a lot and make Matt, the Front Row Motorsports team and its partners proud.”

The 22-year-old Nemechek is completing his first full season in the Xfinity Series, driving for GMS Racing.

 

Winners and losers at Martinsville

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WINNERS

Martin Truex Jr.He had not won a Cup race on a short track until this season. Now he’s won three of the six races on short tracks this year. And won Sunday in dominating fashion, leading 464 of 500 laps.

William Byron He had not finished better than 13th this season in any of the races on a short track but Martin Truex Jr. said seeing the No. 24 behind him late in the race made him think about Jeff Gordon driving that car.

Matt Crafton He finished 25th filling in for Matt Tifft, who suffered a medical issue Saturday and was home Sunday. Tifft’s car has finished 25th in four of the last five races.

David RaganFinished a season-high 11th at Martinsville.

 

LOSERS

Chase ElliottWas put in nearly a must-win situation in the previous round because of an engine failure at Dover. He barely advanced and opened this round by having an engine failure in practice Saturday and a broken axle in Sunday’s race, finishing 36th. Asked about his concern with the mechanical issues the past few weeks: “I’m concerned.”

Jimmie JohnsonWrong place at the wrong time and couldn’t avoid Aric Almirola’s car. The result is that he finished last.

Clint BowyerRan well until various issues left him with a 35th-place finish.

Team members jumping into fights Joey Logano was upset with Denny Hamlin for contact between the two late in Sunday’s race and went to talk to Hamlin about it. Not satisfied with Hamlin’s reaction, Logano shoved Hamlin, starting a scuffle on pit road that involved both crews. It’s one thing for team members to protect their driver, it’s another thing to go after the other driver.

Todd Gilliland wins Martinsville Truck race; playoff contenders struggle

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For many of the six remaining NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series playoff contenders, Saturday’s race at Martinsville Speedway wound up being more like Mayhemville Speedway.

Todd Gilliland won his first career Truck race in the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200.

But the big story of the day was how playoff contenders Brett Moffitt, Austin Hill and Tyler Ankrum were knocked out due to wrecks, and Matt Crafton suffered a mechanical issue, leaving all of them with disappointing finishes heading into the final championship-qualifying race in two weeks at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.

Crafton finished 23rd, while Ankrum was 25th, Austin Hill 26th and Moffitt was the lowest-finishing playoff contender (29th).

Moffitt still was able to hold on to his lead in the standings, having a 10-point edge over Stewart Friesen, who finished sixth Saturday. Ranked third is Ross Chastain, who trails Moffitt by 25 points after finishing second Saturday and is 20 points above the cutoff line.

In the fourth and final transfer spot is Hill, who is 36 points behind Moffitt and nine points ahead of Crafton in fifth.

Ankrum is 15 points behind Hill as the last playoff-eligible driver in the points standings, which can viewed by clicking here.

MORE: Click here for results

MORE: Click here for points standings

It was Gilliland’s first win in 46 career Truck Series starts.

“It feels amazing,” Gilliland said after the race. “This place is really hard to win at. … Luckily we were out front. Just wish we could’ve been a little bit faster all weekend, but as a driver that’s what you always hope for and this thing was fast enough today. … What a race.”

As for the rest of the top five finishers in the race, Johnny Sauter was third followed by Grant Enfinger and Timmy Hill.

Moffitt dominated the first stage, leading all but the first lap of the 50-lap segment. But he was knocked out of the race early in the final stage on Lap 116 when he hit the retaining wall while trying to avoid a wreck between Jeb Burton and Natalie Decker.

That’s Martinsville,” Moffitt told FS1. “We had a dominating truck. When we got out front, we could just ride and be two tenths faster than the field. It’s a bummer, but we’ll go to Phoenix and try to win that one and then go to Homestead and win that one.”

Rookie Sam Mayer, making only his second career Truck race start, won Stage 2. However, 23 laps later, the 16-year-old Mayer was involved in a nine-truck wreck that also knocked him out of the race.

Just disappointed in myself, trying to get in a hole that wasn’t there,” Mayer told FS1. “I just misjudged it. … We did well while it really mattered, but when it really did matter, we kind of messed up at the end. Hopefully we can go to Phoenix (in two weeks) and do better.”

Stage 1 winner: Brett Moffitt (fifth stage win of the season).

Stage 2 winner: Sam Mayer (first career stage win).

Who had a good race: Gilliland, obviously, but kudos also have to be given to Chastain as well as Harrison Burton. Though Burton was involved in a last-lap spin and finished 18th, he was closing in on the lead and the potential win in the final laps until that incident.

Who had a bad race: With less than 20 laps to go in Stage 2, Matt Crafton was closing in on the lead, only to be forced to pit to replace the battery and cockpit computer on his Toyota Tundra, dropping him eight laps behind the leaders. Crafton, who finished 23rd (eight laps down), is facing a nine-point deficit heading into ISM Raceway in Phoenix in two weeks for the fourth and final spot in the championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

What’s next: Lucas Oil 150 at ISM Raceway, Nov. 8, 8:30 p.m. ET. The four highest-ranked playoff drivers after that race will battle for the Truck Series championship on Friday, Nov. 15, at Homestead-Miami Speedway. 

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