By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Correspondent
Luck was on Tyler Ankrum’s side as his engine survived long enough to put the DGR – Crosley driver into the Round of Six for the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series playoffs.
In the final run to the checkered flag, Ankrum’s No. 17 B/X Custom Designs Toyota Tundra endured electrical gremlins. At Bristol Motor Speedway, those issues forced the 2019 Sunoco Rookie of the Year into a ‘must win’ position at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
When the checkered flag waved in the World of Westgate 200 however, Ankrum just squeaked into the second round of the playoffs. Back and forth battles with teammates Anthony Alfredo and Dylan Lupton had the 18-year-old 11th when he crossed the line, just two points in.
Ankrum admitted he didn’t know just how close he was to the cutoff.
“I didn’t know all night, ‘Bono’ (Manion) just told me I had to finish, so I figured I had to be somewhere inside the top-10. On the last restart, the motor just fell on its’ face. I thought I messed up on the restart. Five laps later going down the backstretch, it sounded like a ’69 Malibu.
“My heart sank, I thought we were blowing up. I was going to be mad, that would have been the first thing that was going to happen. It cut back on; I think it was just electrical. We got lucky.”
‘Lady luck’ worked in more ways than one for Ankrum at Las Vegas. If he didn’t win, he was going to need help to move on to the second round. Six laps into the 200-mile race fellow playoff grid driver Grant Enfinger suffered an engine failure. Shortly thereafter, Stewart Friesen lost a cylinder.
At the start of the second stage, both Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter suffered engine failures. In total, 14 trucks suffered an engine or fuel pump related issue. An eighth-place finish in stage two helped Ankrum, moving his target from a 10th-place finish or better to 12th or better.
After reseeding for the Round of Six, Ankrum sits sixth on the playoff grid, nine points behind the cutoff held by Friesen. He is 29-points behind points leader Brett Moffitt.