By Michael Guzman, Contributing Writer
TALLADEGA, AL — Grant Enfinger captured his first victory in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at his home track Saturday afternoon, ending his seventh and final start of the 2016 season in victory lane.
The Fairhope, Alabama does not have a set schedule for next season, but once again proved he can compete week in and week out alongside NASCAR’s name brand teams.
After a four year hiatus from the tour due to a lack of funding, Enfinger capped off his 2016 campaign with 45 laps led as part of a 1-2 finish for GMS Racing. He completed 869 of 871 laps run this season, finishing worse than 12th just once this year. Enfinger isn’t just back – he’s better than ever.
“It’s probably more of a testament of stubbornness,” an even-keel Enfinger admitted after the race. “It’s definitely been a long, hard road to get here for me. There have probably been times when I probably should have given up, but I just can’t bring myself to do it.”
The 31-year-old Enfinger joined GMS to chase an ARCA Championship halfway through the 2014 season, finishing second in the championship standings before dominating the series in 2015. Enfinger’s employment with GMS came with a caveat early on, as he originally operated on now teammate Spencer Gallagher’s truck during the week before taking the time to work on his own ARCA car.
Behind the scenes Enfinger has earned the respect of his peers, everywhere from the asphalt short tracks of the Southeastern United States up toward the top of the NASCAR ladder.
“I’ve seen how hard Grant has worked at the lower level of short track racing, racing super late models with him a good bit,” Daniel Hemric said following a tough day at Talladega.
“I promise there isn’t anybody more deserving in any garage throughout the country or throughout the world even that works any harder that deserves the opportunity.”
When the race started, Enfinger led early and often; starting second after pulling in front of pole sitter Cole Custer. Staying ahead of numerous accidents that involved playoff contenders near the middle of the race, the no. 24 truck took the lead again on lap no. 58, pacing the field for 20 laps from lap 71-91. After Matt Crafton forced the final caution on lap 90, Enfinger regained the lead from his teammate with two laps to go and never turned back.
It was fitting that after all the hours spent together at the shop, in the pits, and now on track together, that Gallagher would be the one to push his teammate toward victory. By every metric – from the eye test to a race-high 131.7 driver rating – Enfinger was the man to beat today. And at a track known for its unpredictability, it wasn’t a surprise for those that know him best.
“I struggle to think of a racer with a reputation more sterling than Grant’s,” Gallagher said. “To use a baseball analogy, he is a true five tool player. He’s a great team player, he’s in the shop every day working on his own stuff… He is extraordinarily talented with a wrench in his hand and even more so with a wheel in his hand.”