In a wild set of final restarts, Brett Moffitt sneaks around Noah Gragson and Harrison Burton to grab the win at ISM Raceway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150.
On the final restart, Noah Gragson chose the outside, but collisions with Enfinger prevented him from getting a strong exit as Moffitt squeezed by to lead the final laps and secure the victory.
“We just had a badass Toyota Tundra,” said Moffitt. “We were focused (on Homestead) already and knew we just had to have a smooth night (tonight) but when the No. 98 (Enfinger) got up there we started worrying and knew we had to win.
“I can’t say enough about this group and all of our partners and HRE team.”
Gragson had to settle for second but dodged a bullet as the right driver won the race to allow him to secure the final Playoff spot for Homestead.
“Down there on that restart I spun the tires just a little bit in the restart zone and then in one and two I just got run up the race track,” said Gragson. “I guess I was top of three wide. We were beating and banging. I don’t know, that’s what you’ve got to do. I dish it, so I sure as hell have got to take it.
“I respect the 98 for what he did. He’s going for the win, I’m going for the win, but most importantly we’re going to be racing for a championship next weekend at Homestead.”
Harrison Burton, who won Stage 2 earlier in the night, finished third to match his best finish of the season. Grant Enfinger was in a must-win situation, but despite his valiant effort finished fourth. Stewart Friesen completed the top-five.
The other Playoff drivers were scattered across the field. Johnny Sauter finished seventh but had already secured a spot in the Championship 4 with his win at Martinsville. Matt Crafton finished 11th, but fell short on points and will not advance. Justin Haley had engine troubles late in the race and retired from the event. He finished 28th but with his win last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway will also participate for the 2018 Championship at Homestead.
Stage 1 Battles Between Gragson and Moffitt
As the green flag flew, Gragson wasted no time securing the lead and took off, gaining an extra few seconds on second place. Slightly past halfway through the first stage, yellow came out when Todd Gilliland was hit by Tyler Ankrum, who misjudged his middle line as the two were passing the lapped truck of Jason White. The two went spinning and made slight contact with the outside wall, but both trucks were able to continue in the race.
On the restart, Brett Moffitt was able to get around Gragson on the outside and lead the final laps of the stage. Gragson stayed within a few tenths of Moffitt all of these laps but wasn’t able to get a pass on Moffitt as he took the Stage 1 win.
However, pit stops would get the best of the front two. Gragson slid into his pit box and actually clipped the inside pit wall. The team would have to push the truck back to get started on the right side, and then have to move the truck again to get to the left side for a full-service pit stop. Moffitt was caught speeding, so both ended up toward the back of the field. While they had a somewhat comfortable gap with points, this put them at risk of losing the points they would gain if they couldn’t get into the top-10 for those stage points.
Penalties & Mistakes Shake Up Front for Stage 2
At the restart, many drivers got much more comfortable with the layout, giving them the confidence to run more aggressively. The middle of the pack went 3 and 4-wide with some trucks using the apron of the new Turns 1 and 2. However, most of the laps after were uneventful until the end, as the No. 13 Tenda Ford driven by Myatt Snider started to stall. As the stage ended with Harrison Burton winning over a hard-charging Matt Crafton, some gambling happened with pit road.
John Hunter Nemechek decided to take two tires on the stage ending pit stop. Matt Crafton lost about six positions on pit road. And the Playoff picture continued to shuffle as Gragson and Moffitt both cracked into the top-10 in the final laps of the second stage.
Final Stage Desperation Among Playoff Contenders
Most of the final stage was a strong battle between John Hunter Nemechek and Grant Enfinger. Nemechek was fighting hard to prove his two-tire stop would pay off, and Grant Enfinger, over 20 points below the cutoff line for the Playoffs, was in a must-win position. As both drivers were starting to feel the pressure, Nemechek’s tires eventually gave way with about 20 laps to go in the race. He spun coming out of Turn 4, right in front of Nemechek and Gragson, who had inched his way up into the third position.
During the yellow flag, Justin Haley suddenly started to drop fluid around the track. His lucky win last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway after Todd Gilliland ran out of fuel on the last lap already secures his position at Homestead-Miami Speedway for the championship race. His truck came down pit road, and as crew members surrounded the truck, many gave the nods that appeared to be terminal.
The red flag came out while the ISM Raceway safety crew cleaned up fluid from Haley’s truck all around the raceway. The red flag was out for just over 10 minutes.
On the restart, it was a tricky decision for Enfinger. The inside line was shorter, especially with the dogleg right after the start-finish line, but it was now filled with speedy dry from the red flag incident, so he would run the risk of low grip going into the first turn. If he chose the outside, he would be clear of the speedy dry but would run the risk of Gragson slipping in the speedy dry and hitting him. The final verdict was choosing the bottom lane, forcing Gragson to restart on the outside. However, it was no contest on the restart. Gragson got a strong start and was able to clear Enfinger going into Turn 1, who was battling three-wide with trucks from the second row.
Gragson pulled out to a good lead and was on cruise control for the win, as the battle for second also calmed down. However, with a few laps to go, Riley Herbst lost control of his truck and spun to bring out the final yellow, setting up for one last restart. Gragson chose the outside once again, but as he and Enfinger were battling for the lead, Moffitt was able to make a three-wide move to get around both drivers and claim the top spot. He would hold onto that lead and take the win over Gragson.
The Camping World Trucks hold their championship race at Homestead Miami Speedway next Friday on November 16, as Johnny Sauter, Justin Haley, Brett Moffitt and Noah Gragson will battle in the Ford EcoBoost 200 to see who will claim the 2018 Championship.