Photo: Stephen A. Arce/ASP, Inc.

Corey Heim Charges to Victory Lane at the Circuit of The Americas

By Holly Cain, NASCAR Wire Service

An afternoon of impressive restarts ultimately handed Corey Heim the winning finish in the XPEL 225 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race at the famed Circuit of The Americas (COTA) road course in Austin, Texas Saturday afternoon.

Heim dominated the race – his No. 11 TRICON Garage Toyota leading a race best 31 of the 46 laps and prevailing in an overtime finish to convincingly win his first race of 2024 and sixth of his career – by 1.625-seconds over his teammate Taylor Gray.

ThorSport Racing’s Ty Majeski, Spire Motorsports’ Connor Zilisch and NASCAR Cup Series regular Ross Chastain in a Niece Motorsports Chevy rounded out the top five. 

“Just prepared so hard for this race,’’ Heim said, adding, “I came into this race last year and struggled really. Finished sixth with a penalty and just all over the place. To put together a solid race like this is just so special and really just shows you how good our trucks are back at the shop”.

Heim has finished sixth or better in all five races this season.

“Just great consistency and that was the name of the game last year to make it as far as we did,’’ he said smiling. “Didn’t have the result at the end [of 2023] but I think this year we can make it back and prove we’re champions. Super excited for the rest of the year, we’re really just getting started and I think our best tracks are in front of us, so really can’t wait.

Certainly Heim’s performance Saturday on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course was the afternoon standard, but there was plenty of good racing behind him. There were 14 lead changes among eight drivers, but no one other than Heim led double-digit laps.

Jack Hawksworth, a sportscar and IndyCar driver making his first NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series start certainly proved himself a talent to be reckoned with. He ran top five most of the day and led a lap. He finished sixth.

Reigning series champ Ben Rhodes, Christian Eckes, Dean Thompson and Tanner Gray rounded out the top 10. 

The 17-year-old phenom Zilisch started from pole position in his first ever start in one of NASCAR’s premier divisions. Leading the field, he went into the first corner hard, however, relinquishing the lead to Heim immediately. After a pit stop for tires and a motivational reminder from his veteran crew chief Brian Pattie, he returned with vengeance. He and his Spire Motorsports team never gave up, getting him back on the lead lap and then in contention late in the race.

Zilisch was running in fourth place with less than five laps in regulation to go but was given a pass-through penalty for cutting the course. Fortunately, it came just as a caution flew and it only cost the teenager two positions. He opted to pit for gas during the ensuing yellow flag and was able to climb back to that impressive top five finish in his first race.  

Nick Sanchez won Stage 1 and Heim claimed Stage 2 – both drivers’ first stage victories of the year.

The NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series returns to competition April 5 with the Long John Silver’s 200 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Heim is the defending winner.

NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Race – XPEL 225

Circuit of The Americas

Austin, Texas

Saturday, March 23, 2024

                1. (2)  Corey Heim, Toyota, 46.

                2. (3)  Taylor Gray, Toyota, 46.

                3. (9)  Ty Majeski, Ford, 46.

                4. (1)  Connor Zilisch, Chevrolet, 46.

                5. (5)  Ross Chastain(i), Chevrolet, 46.

                6. (6)  Jack Hawksworth, Toyota, 46.

                7. (34)  Ben Rhodes, Ford, 46.

                8. (10)  Christian Eckes, Chevrolet, 46.

                9. (17)  Dean Thompson, Toyota, 46.

                10. (7)  Tanner Gray, Toyota, 46.

                11. (18)  Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 46.

                12. (14)  Grant Enfinger, Chevrolet, 46.

                13. (22)  Jack Wood, Chevrolet, 46.

                14. (25)  Jake Garcia, Ford, 46.

                15. (11)  Rajah Caruth, Chevrolet, 46.

                16. (15)  Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, 46.

                17. (27)  Timmy Hill, Toyota, 46.

                18. (4)  Nick Sanchez, Chevrolet, 46.

                19. (19)  Stefan Parsons, Chevrolet, 46.

                20. (13)  Stewart Friesen, Toyota, 46.

                21. (29)  Carter Fartuch, Ford, 46.

                22. (16)  Chase Purdy, Chevrolet, 46.

                23. (21)  Matt Crafton, Ford, 46.

                24. (24)  Matt Mills, Chevrolet, 46.

                25. (12)  Tyler Ankrum, Chevrolet, 46.

                26. (33)  Dale Quarterley, Toyota, 45.

                27. (8)  Layne Riggs #, Ford, 43.

                28. (23)  Daniel Dye, Chevrolet, 42.

                29. (26)  Bret Holmes, Chevrolet, 42.

                30. (30)  Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 42.

                31. (28)  Marco Andretti, Chevrolet, Suspension, 40.

                32. (35)  Thad Moffitt #, Chevrolet, 39.

                33. (20)  Lawless Alan, Ford, Rear Gear, 34.

                34. (31)  Vicente Salas, Chevrolet, Transmission, 33.

                35. (32)  Mason Massey, Chevrolet, Brakes, 32.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  69.492 mph.

Time of Race:  2 Hrs, 15 Mins, 26 Secs. Margin of Victory:  1.625 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  6 for 10 laps.

Lead Changes:  14 among 8 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   C. Zilisch 0;T. Gray 1-4;L. Riggs # 5;C. Heim 6-8;N. Sanchez 9-12;C. Eckes 13;C. Heim 14;J. Hawksworth 15;C. Heim 16-22;S. Friesen 23-24;C. Heim 25-27;T. Majeski 28;C. Heim 29-38;T. Majeski 39;C. Heim 40-46.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  Corey Heim 6 times for 31 laps; Tanner Gray 1 time for 4 laps; Nick Sanchez 1 time for 4 laps; Stewart Friesen 1 time for 2 laps; Ty Majeski 2 times for 2 laps; Jack Hawksworth 1 time for 1 lap; Layne Riggs # 1 time for 1 lap; Christian Eckes 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 2,98,15,18,19,99,77,88,91,25

Stage #2 Top Ten: 11,98,1,99,17,7,71,18,5,88

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