Former NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Series champion Tyler Ankrum earned his first career Gander Outdoors Truck Series win at Kentucky Speedway after passing Brett Moffitt with two laps to go.
“I can’t even describe it,” Ankrum explained to MRN Radio in his post-race interview about the last laps. “I don’t know if anything was going through my head honestly, I was just trying to drive as hard as I could. This DGR-Crosley Railblaza/Academy Toyota, it was on fire. I just can’t believe that we did this!
Coming into the Buckle Up in Your Truck 225, Grant Enfinger won the pole earlier in the day, his second of the season. Stages were broken up into 35/35/80 laps to make up the 150-lap race.
It was clean and green without any major incidents in the first stage. As a matter of fact, the stage would remain caution free. There were some notable incidents, however, as Austin Hill came down pit road on Lap 28 with possible engine issues. Just a few laps later on Lap 33, he went behind the wall for the rest of the night and wound up with a disappointing 31st place finish.
Sheldon Creed and the No.2 GMS Racing team took home the first stage after leading all 35 laps.
The action picked up, especially on pit road when Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton were each caught with a commitment line violation and had to serve a penalty.
Stage 2 began on Lap 41 and saw a lot of incidents ramp up. The first incident took place right after the restart when Spencer Boyd and Natalie Decker made contact with each other and were sent viciously into the wall, destroying both trucks. The incident also collected Jordan Anderson and a little bit of Sauter’s truck as well.
On Lap 56, the third caution was brought out for the No. 42 of Chad Finley, when his truck just snapped loose and wound up hitting the wall off Turn 4. Finley would wind up 26th after starting 12th.
More action occurred under caution when the No. 4 of Todd Gilliland come down pit road with the hood up. It appeared there were engine issues, possibly a plug wire or it was down a cylinder. But there was no confirmation from the team on the issues for the No. 4 truck.
The next caution flew on Lap 60 when Harrison Burton got loose in Turns 1 and 2, eventually going sideways. Burton brought two other trucks with him in the incident, Gus Dean and Josh Bilicki. Sauter once again barely escaped the wreck without any major damage.
Five laps later, the No. 98 of Grant Enfinger hit a bump in Turn 4 with Brandon Jones to his outside. The two would make hard contact with each other, slamming Jones in the wall with his truck eventually catching on fire. Both Jones and Enfinger would be done for the night.
With the wreck taking place so close to the end of Stage 2, the second stage ended under caution and with the No. 88 of Matt Crafton taking the stage win and earning 10 Playoff points.
The third and final stage began on Lap 76 and saw a long green flag run toward the finish line.
A few notable incidents occurred in the stage as well. Stage 1 winner, Sheldon Creed, wound up having a flat right front tire shortly after the stage restarted.
Later on, as the stage began to wind down, Tyler Ankrum took the lead on Lap 73. Despite a hard-charge from Ben Rhodes, he could not take the lead from Ankrum and Chicago winner Brett Moffitt took second place.
Pit stops began to take place shortly after lap 100. Even with the pit stops, it appeared most drivers did not have enough to make it on fuel to the end, which saw the race become a fuel mileage game.
Moffitt tried outsmarting Ankrum on his pit stop, while Ankrum had a somewhat longer stop. Moffitt would still be the leader after his final round of pit stops.
With about 20 to go, Rhodes and Brennan Poole made contact with each other. This left Rhodes with a left rear tire to go down, while Pool had a right front tire go down late in the going.
Just 10 laps later with 10 to go, the race leaders, including Moffitt, were told to start saving a little bit of fuel in case of caution. During that run, other drivers like Matt Crafton and Todd Gilliland fell short and ran out of gas. Moffitt continued running thinking he had enough to make it on fuel. Unfortunately, he ran out of gas just half a lap away from taking the white flag. Ankrum, who just turned 18-years-old, went on by to take the lead and eventually his first ever career win.
“I accidentally put a ice bag down my chest, ripped my right side ear mold out,” Ankrum told MRN Radio. “So half the time, all I could understand was inside or outside. I honestly did not hear a whole lot, so I’m so proud. Man, that’s all I got, I don’t know. This goes to show that youngsters and underdogs can still win. You know, I don’t think DGR has been viewed as a GMS, KBM, or ThorSport team but they will be now. I’m honestly so proud of that, that’s what I’ve been wanting to do. I’m all about improvement, improving every single week trying to get better and that’s what we did, we finished it!”
It was Ankrum’s first Truck Series win in just 12 starts. His previous best finish was third at Texas in June. Ankrum led three times for 40 laps and has currently earned a spot in the Playoffs.
There were five cautions for 33 laps, with 10 lead changes among seven drivers.
1. Brett Moffitt, Two wins
2. Ross Chastain, One win, Clinched playoff spot
3. Johnny Sauter, One win
4. Austin Hill, One win
5. Tyler Ankrum, One win
6. Grant Enfinger, +73
7. Stewart Friesen, +61
8. Matt Crafton, +40
Below the cut line
9. Harrison Burton, -40
10. Ben Rhodes, -60
11. Todd Gilliland, -110
Up Next: The Truck Series will take another week off before heading to “The Tricky Triangle” of Pocono Raceway on Saturday, July 27.