By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
Outside pole sitter Dalton Sargeant was poised for a turnaround, running inside the top-five for much of the night to keep his playoff hopes alive. That all changed on the 60th lap when a battle for third went awry, as Sargeant’s No. 25 Performance Plus Motor Oil Chevrolet Silverado ended up with the short straw in Friday’s Overton’s 225 at Chicagoland Speedway in Jolliet, Illinois.
Exiting Turn 1, Sargeant was in a tight three-wide battle for third, battling against John Hunter Nemechek and Stewart Friesen. Sargeant’s truck twitched, making slight contact to Friesen’s left rear fender, only to lose control and slid for hundreds of yards, puncturing his tires along the way.
The 20-year-old trying to avoid the inside retaining wall, and was successful. Despite the brilliant save, it dashed any hopes of catching a break this season, maybe a win at the 1.5-mile circuit.
Sargeant limped his truck back to pit road with minor fender damage, and repaired the tire clearance to keep him running at the finish. Once repaired, he was back in the field, three laps down in 24th.
It wasn’t all gloomy beforehand for the rookie, qualifying a career-high second, his first top-five start since Daytona in February. Not only he was starting on the outside front row, he honored one his family members.
Sargeant’s grandfather, Lt. Cmdr. Harry Sargeant, had his name on the GMS Racing truck, honoring Harry’s 26-year service with the U.S. Navy. With positive vibes on his side, Sargeant was a man on a mission to get his first top-ten since Las Vegas dating back to March.
The moment the green flag waved, he indeed made quick business with pole sitter Noah Gragson, and was on top of the leaderboard after two laps.
Sargeant slightly pulled away from the field before Bo LeMastus brought out the first caution on Lap 22. He lost the lead during pit stops and had to settle for fourth once the opening stage wrapped up, but was the highest-finishing GMS Racing driver.
Battling a tight truck, his pit crew was able to retain fourth for him to start the second stage. Sargeant remained mostly quiet on the radio as he was running in fifth for the majority of the stage until his mid-race spin.
At the end of Sargeant’s enduring second stage, he got the free pass, putting him just down to two entering the final stage.
For the remainder of the night, his Silverado became too free and running stellar laps, Sargeant lost a lap, but ended up gaining four more spots to end a disappointing 20th after leading 24 of 150 laps.
After the race, Sargeant apologized to Friesen for the incident between the two.
Well, I was definitely going for it. I need to apologize to @StewartFriesen, he’s a great driver, teammate and friend. I didn’t mean to change his race.
This was atleast in the right direction, our @PerformancePOil @GMSRacingLLC Chevy was fast and we’ll bring the same to Kentucky
— Dalton Sargeant (@DaltonSargeant) June 30, 2018
The disappointing finish marked the seventh straight race he has finished outside the top-10, and stays in 11th in points. However, he’s now 79 markers behind the playoff cutoff instead of 64.
From Chi-Town to Kentucky the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers will go in two weeks, as Sargeant seeks to start his comeback trail in the Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway June 12.
In two ARCA Racing Series starts at the Bluegrass State, Sargeant finished second in 2016, followed by a fourth-place effort last season.