Matt Crafton

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17-year-old Sam Mayer wins first NASCAR Truck race

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Sam Mayer passed GMS Racing teammate Brett Moffitt with 30 laps to go and went on to score his first career NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series win Thursday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The victory came in the seventh career Truck start for the 17-year-old Mayer. The win also came a few days after JR Motorsports announced that Mayer would drive for the team in the second half of the 2021 Xfinity Series, once he turns 18.

“I love this place,” Mayer told FS1 after the 200-lap race. “I don’t know what to say.”

Mayer was helped by having tires that were 52 laps fresher than Moffitt’s tires.

MORE: Race results 

Mayer is not competing in the playoffs and does not advance to the second round. He said he has two more Truck races left to run this season.

Mayer followed his Truck win by taking the checkered flag in the ARCA Menards Series race that followed Thursday night.

Moffitt, who is competing in the playoffs, finished second. He was followed by Tanner Gray and Parker Kligerman.

Trevor Bayne finished fifth but his Truck was disqualified after the race for failing inspection. His truck failed post-race heights. Chandler Smith finished fifth after Bayne’s disqualification.

Moffitt was one of only four playoff drivers to finish in the top 10. Grant Enfinger was sixth. Tyler Ankrum placed seventh. Matt Crafton was 10th.

Mayer is the second youngest winner in series history. Cole Custer is the youngest winner in series history. Custer was 16 years, 7 months, 28 days when he won in Sept. 2014 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.

Mayer becomes the youngest Truck winner at Bristol at 17 years, 2 months, 22 days. Ryan Blaney had held that record, winning a 2015 race there at age 21 years, 4 months, 19 days.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Brett Moffitt

STAGE 2 WINNER: Tyler Ankrum

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Tanner Gray’s third-place finish tied his career best. He finished third at Michigan earlier this season. … Parker Kligerman’s fourth-place finish is his best of the season while running a limited schedule.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Austin Hill finished 25th, worst among the playoff drivers. He had contact on Lap 2 with Stewart Friesen.

NOTABLE: Trevor Bayne said that four weeks ago he didn’t know if he would be racing again at Bristol. He crossed the finish line fifth but his truck failed inspection after the race and was disqualified.

NEXT: The second race of the opening round of the playoffs is at 9 p.m. ET Sept. 25 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Bristol Truck starting lineup

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Grant Enfinger will lead the Bristol Truck starting lineup to the green flag Thursday night. The race is the playoff opener for the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.

Enfinger is coming off a victory last weekend at Richmond.

He’ll be joined on the front row by Brett Moffitt. Ben Rhodes will start third and be followed by reigning series champion Matt Crafton and Austin Hill.

The No. 49 of Ray Ciccarelli and the No. 83 of Tim Viens have been withdrawn from the event.

Click here for the starting lineup.

The Bristol Truck starting lineup is set by using a formula based on four statistical categories: owner points position, owner final race position, the finish and fastest lap from the most recently completed race.

Performance Metrics Qualifying is a total number based on the previous race. The formula is 15% of a fastest lap time position, 25% of the driver’s final race finish position, 25% of the owner’s final race position and 35% of the owner points position. Any ties will be broken by the rule book.

NASCAR Truck Series at Bristol 

Race Time: 7:30 p.m. ET Thursday

Track: Bristol Motor Speedway; Bristol, Tennessee (.533-mile speedway)

Length: 200 laps (106.6 miles)

Stages: Stage 1 ends Lap 55. Stage 2 ends Lap 110.

TV coverage: FS1

Radio: Motor Racing Network (also SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Streaming: Fox Sports app (subscription required); mrn.com and SiriusXM for audio (subscription required)

Lineup: Click here for starting lineup

Next Xfinity race: Friday at Bristol (300 laps, 159.9 miles), 7 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Next Cup race: Saturday at Bristol (500 laps, 266.5 miles), 7:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Todd Gilliland appreciates first Truck Series playoff appearance

Todd Gilliland
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Two years ago, Todd Gilliland entered the Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series season – his second racing with Kyle Busch Motorsports – facing high exceptions.

Son of former Cup driver David Gilliland, the then 17-year-old had two ARCA Menards Series West titles along with 20 wins across the main ARCA series and the East and West Series.

“I really think that when I came to the Truck Series I was just ready to win,” Gilliland said. “I thought that it was going to be kind of easy.”

By the end of 2019 Truck Series season, Gilliland had failed to make the playoffs in consecutive seasons and had just one win.

Gilliland said the experience “beat me down.” Now 20, Gilliland is in better spirits as one of 10 drivers who will compete for the Truck Series title starting Thursday at Bristol Motor Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1).

He’ll do so in the No. 38 Ford, which is fielded through a partnership between David Gilliland’s DGR-Crosley and Front Row Motorsports.

Todd Gilliland
Todd Gilliland at Darlington Raceway earlier this month. (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

“It’s made me appreciate it a lot more,” Gilliland said Monday about making the playoffs after his KBM struggles. “The last two years, I personally expected to make the playoffs and I was expected to make the playoffs and finally being able to do it and seeing the excitement of my team … we’re a part of something that only 10 drivers are this year and it just makes me appreciate a lot more.”

Gilliland doesn’t yet have a win in 2020. Through 16 races he has four top fives and nine top 10s. He enters Bristol ninth on the reseeded playoff standings with 2,003 points.

“Obviously, personally as a team, we wish we would have won more races from here, but we still have a chance and that’s the ultimate goal, which is very important to us,” Gilliland said.

If Gilliland does get that chance, the guy who won the last Truck Series title, Matt Crafton, thinks he’s an underdog to look out for at the season finale.

“Kid’s got a lot of talent and he just needs, honestly, to get his head right,” Crafton said. “He’s got to get the confidence rolling. He was really, really fast at St. Louis (Gateway) and St. Louis reminds me a lot of Phoenix. If Todd can make it to Phoenix, he can definitely be one of the ones to race for a championship.”

Gilliland showed off what his team is capable of in the Aug. 30 race at Gateway. He led 75 laps and won the first two stages. But in the final stage contact with Sheldon Creed forced him into the wall and resulted in a 24th-place finish.

Gilliland’s aware “people have noticed the speed” he’s shown recently.

“Obviously, we still aren’t where we want to be week in and week out,” Gilliland. “We’ve kind of been hit and miss. There’s some weeks that you know, say Gateway, we were the dominant truck and it’s hard to be that dominant in one of these races nowadays. … We’ve had glimmers of that every once in a while, so we just need to do that more consistently and I think that’s in the details of the truck setup that the notes that we’re building and I feel like we’re getting better and better every week still.”

Compared to his experience with KBM last year, where he didn’t win until after the playoffs, Gilliland feels “in my heart” he’s been “more in contention” this season.

“Last year, we had some some weeks we’d be in contention,” Gilliland said. “I still showed up to the racetrack thinking we could win every Truck race (I) showed up to, but this year I just feel like our pit crew’s on it. Every time I come down pit road we’re gonna gain spots. I just really feel like we have all the pieces to be a championship contending team.”

While Gilliland enters the playoffs winless, he’s not alone. Four drivers, including former champion Brett Moffitt, have yet to visit victory lane.

Another one of them is Christian Eckes, who drives Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 18 Toyota.

After his own trying time at KBM, Gilliland was asked how much sympathy he has for the 19-year-old’s situation.

“Racing is hard,” Gilliland said. “I think when you walk in the doors at anywhere, you’re there for a reason. You have to believe that in your heart that you can do it and also, you have to kind of be the leader. And most of us being, you know, pretty young, not having much experience at these ranks, people don’t respect you right away and I think … there’s different ways to go about it.

“But you pretty much just have to be the leader right off the bat. I feel bad, but also it’s part of learning. I think every single person in NASCAR has gone through it, you know, where you grow up a lot and then I think you’re just ready and stuff clicks easier. So I think everyone will get there in their time.”

Richmond Truck race results, driver points report

Richmond Truck race results
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Grant Enfinger scored his third win of the season Thursday. He passed ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton in the laps to win the first Truck race at Richmond Raceway since 2005. The race was the regular-season finale for the series.

Crafton placed second. Ben Rhodes finished third, giving ThorSport Racing a 1-2-3 finish. Brett Moffitt was fourth. Tyler Ankrum finished fifth.

Click here for Truck race results

POINTS

Austin Hill won the regular-season championship. The playoffs begin Sept. 17 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Click here for points report

PLAYOFF FIELD: Austin Hill, Sheldon Creed, Zane Smith, Grant Enfinger, Brett Moffitt, Ben Rhodes, Matt Crafton, Christian Eckes, Todd Gilliland and Tyler Ankrum.

Click here for driver points report with reset for playoffs

Grant Enfinger wins Richmond Truck race

Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images
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Grant Enfinger passed ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton with seven laps left to win the Richmond Truck race Thursday night. The race was the first for the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series at Richmond Raceway since 2005.

Enfinger overcame fender damage after contact with teammate Ben Rhodes to earn his third win of the season.

“Definitely a special night for us,” Enfinger said on FS1. ”

MORE: Race results 

Crafton finished second and was followed Rhodes, Brett Moffitt and Tyler Ankrum.

Thursday night’s race was the regular-season finale for the series and set the playoff field. Todd Gilliland and Ankrum secured the final two playoff spots.

STAGE 1 WINNER: Zane Smith

STAGE 2 WINNER: Ben Rhodes

WHO HAD A GOOD RACE: Codie Rohrbaugh finished sixth. It is his first top 10 season he placed third in the season opener at Daytona. … David Ragan finished seventh.

WHO HAD A BAD RACE: Johnny Sauter finished 27th, the third consecutive race he finished 27th or worse. He failed to make the playoffs. Stewart Friesen finished 10th but it was not good enough to make the playoffs.

PLAYOFF FIELD: Austin Hill, Sheldon Creed, Zane Smith, Grant Enfinger, Brett Moffitt, Ben Rhodes, Matt Crafton, Christian Eckes, Todd Gilliland and Tyler Ankrum.

NOTABLE: Austin Hill wins the regular-season championship and the 15 playoff points that go with it.

NEXT: The Truck playoffs begin at 7:30 p.m. ET Sept. 17 at Bristol Motor Speedway on FS1.