Brian Eberly, Contributing Writer
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Score one for the underfunded teams as Brett Moffitt and Hattori Racing Enterprises took the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship on Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Moffitt led a race-high 59 laps in the Ford EcoBoost 200 and beat pole sitter Grant Enfinger to the checkered flag by 2.000 seconds for his sixth victory of the season.
The 2018 season was a constant battle for funding for the team owned by former driver Shigeaki Hattori of Japan, with the low point being the week of Chicagoland Speedway in June, when the team was going to miss the race before a partner stepped up at the last minute.
“It’s unreal. We all know the story by now where we didn’t know if we were going to race the full year. I didn’t know if I was going to have the opportunity to compete for a championship even after we got our first win,” an elated Moffitt said.
“Everyone pulled together hard here. Back at Chicagoland we didn’t know if we were going to make it to the race track and Marcus (Barela) with Fr8Auctions stepped us and got us there. We’ve had many partners like that and iRacing all year long that came in at clutch moments and got us to the race track when we needed to.”
Moffitt put on a fantastic battle with fellow Championship 4 contender Noah Gragson during the final stage of the race. The duo battled hard and were side-by-side for the lead several times from the restart on Lap 68 until Moffitt put his No. 16 AISIN Group Toyota out front at Lap 99. Moffitt lost the lead again, albeit briefly, when the final round of green flag pit stops began at Lap 101. After returning to the lead at Lap 106, Moffitt sailed to the checkered flag.
“That was the longest 20-30 laps of my life. Man, I’m glad we could get to the white flag there without a caution and have clean sailing.”
It was the first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship for not only Moffitt, but also Hattori and crew chief Scott Zipadelli. The team continued to do more with less throughout the season, with a team of just nine or ten employees, far less than their championship contending counterparts. The team worked seven days a week, until midnight the past three weeks, to prepare for the final championship run.
“It just speaks to our people and how badass everybody on this race team is. They do a hell of a job no matter what’s going on. Whether we have troubles or not, they keep working and keep preparing to go to the race track week in and week out whether they know we’re going or not and that just says a lot.”