Photo: Sean Gardner/Getty Images via NASCAR

Nick Sanchez Scores First Truck Series Win in Crash-Filled Race at Daytona

By David Morgan, Associate Editor

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – As has become tradition in the NASCAR Truck Series season opener at Daytona, yellow was the primary color of the evening, with a record 12 cautions and an overtime finish that ended with a melee on the backstretch and an airborne truck.

In the end, it was Nick Sanchez, the 22-year-old from Miami that was out front when it mattered the most, capturing his first career win in NASCAR’s third-tier series.

“It was definitely a pretty wild race, obviously, what happened to us earlier kind of set the tone for us,” said Sanchez. “But right there was just classical Daytona, overtime, restarts, the odds of us finishing under green weren’t really well, so I knew I was pretty much going to have to take the lead on the white flag and hope they wrecked.

“That happened, and it was kind of odd because our restart played out the same in consecutive restarts with the 7 and 71 getting connected and kind of getting too big of a lead, and literally the same thing happened, me and the 17 passed them.

“It was kind of odd. I wasn’t really expecting that to happen. Honestly, I kind of thought I lost the race during that last restart, but it worked out.”

Leading three times for 26 laps, the driver of the No. 2 Chevrolet for REV Racing, took over the lead for the final time with 10 laps to go and held onto the point when the race was pushed into overtime.

Lining up with Tanner Gray on his rear decklid and the Spire Motorsports duo of Rajah Caruth and Corey Lajoie on his outside, it was anyone’s guess on who would come out on top or how long the race might run in overtime.

Caruth and Lajoie took the early advantage, but heading down the backstretch on the first lap of overtime, Sanchez and Gray finally got their act together and bolted by the Spire duo with a head of steam to retake the lead as the field stormed by the flag stand to take the white flag.

With Sanchez firmly in the lead, it was a hornet’s nest behind him as the remainder of the field jockeyed for position in their attempt to mount a comeback against Sanchez over the course of the final lap.

Coming off Turn 2 and heading down the backstretch, it all came to a head.

A move up the track from Caruth caused contact to the right-rear of Jack Wood’s No. 91 Chevrolet, turning him sideways into the No. 17 Toyota of Taylor Gray, which sent Gray head-on into the outside wall and eventually up and over when the trucks in the field behind were unable to avoid him.

In the end, 12 trucks were swept up in the melee, which brought out the caution flag and ushered in the conclusion of the race.

Sanchez was well in front, handing him the race win, with Caruth escaping the last lap crash that he helped set off to finish second, along with Corey Heim in third, Bret Holmes in fourth, and Spencer Boyd in fifth.

“What an S-h-i-t show. That was crazy,” Heim joked afterwards. “I never avoided so many wrecks in my life. I can’t believe I have a clean truck. I’m not going to complain about it. It’s truck racing; it happens. Super proud of TRICON Garage and Toyota Racing.

“Got a little bit of work to do for Talladega with the speed of this thing, but I thought the best strategy for me was to lay low and hopefully be there at the end, and we were, and looks like we came up one short.”

All of the drivers involved in the last lap crash were evaluated and released from the Infield Care Center, with the driver who got the worst of it, Taylor Gray, laying the blame for the crash firmly at the feet of Caruth.

“I watched the replay. I like Rajah (Caruth) a lot. I don’t know what he was doing,” said Gray. “If you look at the replay, there is no hole to get in. The 91 (Jack Wood) is still at his right front. I don’t know if he is trying to stall a lane and just misjudged it. He just got the 91 in the left rear, and you saw it from there. I don’t know who hit me to flip me over like that.

We had a really good JBL Toyota Tundra TRD Pro. It sucks really bad. We were in a really good position to win, and it got taken away from us.”

Caruth explained his side of the incident afterwards on pit road following a conversation with Bubba Wallace after he climbed from his truck.

“I feel pretty bad about the backstretch there. Corey was doing a great job pushing, and you hate to see trucks get torn up like that. Sucks to be that close, but definitely happy for Nick. He’s been deserving for a long time, and great for the company.”

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David Morgan is the Associate Editor for Motorsports Tribune. A 2008 graduate from the University of Mississippi, David has followed NASCAR since the early 90’s and became hooked at an early age after attending his first race at Talladega Superspeedway in 1993. He has traveled across the country since 2012 to cover some of the most prestigious events both IndyCar and NASCAR have to offer, with an aim to only expand on that in the near future.