By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Drivers in the Round of 6 endured an accurate depiction of a “Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” in Saturday’s NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 at Martinsville Speedway.
Just about everyone who are competing for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship either dealt with truck issues or involved in a series of cautions that ended their race. Only two out of the six finished inside the top-10 while the other four were outside the top-20.
Earlier in the race, it was all calm for the playoff drivers as Brett Moffitt took the Stage 1 victory and appeared to be the truck to beat.
Moffitt led 80 laps, but his day ended prematurely after being involved in a multi-truck crash on Lap 116. Moffitt sustained right rear damage among other issues that were irreversible, finishing 29th.
“That’s Martinsville. It’s been really good to me in the past and it bit me here,” Moffitt on his second DNF of 2019. “It’s just a bummer because we had a really good CMR Roofing Chevrolet. We had what I would call a dominating truck when we got out up front. We could just ride and still be two, two-and-a-half tenths faster than the field. We’ll go to Phoenix and try to win that one and go to Homestead and win there.”
Matt Crafton endured electrical issues and went on a tirade over the radio as a shot of making the Championship 4 with a win has become more apparent. His No. 88 ThorSport Racing team were able to fix the issue but lost eight laps and finished a crushing 23rd.
The two-time series champion is nine points behind Austin Hill, who holds the fourth and final spot heading into the penultimate round at ISM Raceway.
Perhaps the biggest twist in the 201-lap race was the big wreck on the backstretch on Lap 124, where a fun battle gone wrong between Crafton’s teammate Grant Enfinger and pole sitter Christian Eckes.
They made contact which caused an accordion effect as Sam Mayer ran into Enfinger, which sent the latter’s truck into Hill.
It was sheer chaos as several trucks were collected such as Ben Rhodes, Tyler Dippel and Danny Bohn. Nowhere to go in that mess was Tyler Ankrum, who took tremendous back end damage when a backwards Hill ran into him. As a result of oil and debris on the track from the wreck, the race was red flagged on Lap 125.
Neither playoff drivers involved in the carnage would finish the race but were aware of the other drivers misfortunes.
Hill said a belt bump fell off when he attempted to log more laps, resulting in his sixth DNF. He added that everyone were trying to go for the same real estate and just got hit from behind.
“It’s good that a few other playoff guys are having issues as well, so we’ll go on to Phoenix and see what happens,” Hill said. “We were going to try to at least run a few laps and we knew the 17 was having issues. We were trying to stay out longer than he did but going down the backstretch, it just let go and had to shut it off.”
Ankrum is currently last among the Round of 6 drivers and trailing Hill by 15 points, certainly eyeing on capturing his second career win in order to make the Championship 4.
“That’s been my luck in the playoffs,” Ankrum on his fourth DNF. “It’s unlucky what happened there, but it’s Martinsville. It happens. Heading to Phoenix, who knows? Maybe we’ll have to win or not. I saw Austin had trouble and I know Matt’s having trouble. Those are the two guys we’re really racing against.”
Meanwhile, Stewart Friesen had a quite yet aggressive race. Consistently running inside the top-six despite having right side damage. He stayed there until the 149th lap when Johnny Sauter ran into the back of him in Turn 3.
Fortunately, Friesen was able to recover and work his way back to finishing sixth-place. He sits second in points with a 35-point cushion over fifth-place Crafton.
Ross Chastain on the other hand, struggled with handling in Stage 1 but eventually became the only driver who had a relatively trouble free. The Floridian led 68 laps but in the closing laps, Todd Gilliland went low to pass him in Turn 3 and went on to score that elusive maiden Truck Series victory.
As a result of Chastain not winning, Moffitt remains as the championship leader and 45 points above the cutoff with Phoenix coming up. Moffitt is the defending winner and ultimately went on to win the series title.
Chastain, who sits third in points and 20 above the cutoff line, commented that he’ll press the attack as always to make the Championship 4.
“We have an awesome truck for Phoenix and Homestead,” Chastain said. “We got to clean out some stuff because I think I let us down the wrong path. We thought the track was going to rubber up. This Goodyear tire did not do what we thought but we survived it though.
“Really tough to look over that big screen and seeing Todd taking that big clock home but we’re going to Phoenix and race for that championship.”
These six guys will give it all they got as the running of the Lucas Oil 150 will air live Friday, November 8 at 8:30 pm EST on FS1.