By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
From the bottom performer at ThorSport Racing to once again being the highest finishing entry, Myatt Snider’s late-season charge continued in Saturday’s Texas Roadhouse 200 at Martinsville Speedway, finishing third after leading seven of 250 laps.
The highest rookie driver in points backed up his career-high runner-up finish at Talladega two weeks ago with yet another strong run in the No. 13 Louisiana Hot Sauce Ford F-150, especially when his crew opted for a different pit strategy, which turned out to be beneficial and extended his points gap on fellow rookie Todd Gilliland to 29 points with three races remaining.
“I’m just proud of everybody on this No. 13 team,” Snider said. “We’ve made some huge improvements over the last Martinsville race, so it was an awesome race for us. We gained some points so it was a good day.”
Throughout the opening laps, Snider dealt with handling concerns, and when the first caution came out for a crash by Chad Finley, he brought his ThorSport entry into the pits for fresh tires and fuel, ultimately finishing in 21st. He would slowly climb the leaderboard in Stage 2 after his crew made air adjustments and removed tape from his truck, finishing 13th when it was all said and done.
From there, pit strategy became the name of the game and for him to be right up there with his playoff contending teammates Matt Crafton and Grant Enfinger, as right side tires only was their plan heading into the final stage.
Meanwhile, Crafton and Enfinger went with four tires, spicing up the competition once the race restarted.
The No. 13 team’s strategy proved to be the best call as Snider held onto the third when Dawson Cram brought out the penultimate caution of the race. Then on the Lap 160 restart, Snider made his move.
Johnny Sauter, who was the class of the field, took the green flag with the lead, but it wouldn’t last a corner as Snider poked a hole on the bottom, and tossed his truck into Sauter, beating and banging with the championship leader to take the race lead for only just the fourth time this season.
As Snider was trying to straighten out his truck, Enfinger and Camping World Truck Series debutant Chase Purdy were taken out separately in Turn 1, bringing out the sixth and final caution of the 200-lap contest. The scoreboard showed Snider as the race leader, giving him a strong opportunity to steal a victory from the Round of 6 contenders.
“You can’t not take those opportunities here at Martinsville Speedway,” Snider on passing Sauter. “Somebody leaves the door open, and you just got to take it. I’m sure he would’ve done the same move if it was me. You don’t forget those moves but of course you don’t want to rough anybody, especially with a guy like that.”
Prior to the restart, Sauter’s spotter Tab Boyd told his driver over the radio that to show no mercy on Snider after he felt displeased with the way he got by him for the lead.
Once the field restarted with 33 laps to go, cooler heads prevailed as Sauter had the better restart and cleared Snider heading into Turn 1 for the event’s fifth and final lead change.
Snider had to set his eyes on Brett Moffitt, who went with a four-tire strategy, catching him in the closing laps. Showing some concern instead of putting himself in a bad spot where he may end up with a wrecked truck, Snider played it safe and lost second to Moffitt with 14 laps to go.
The 23-year-old would end up crossing the line in third, with a mangled back bumper and his right front fender caved in. A true example of racing action at the 0.526-mile circuit.
Snider will look to keep his top-five streak going heading into Texas Motor Speedway for the JAG Metals 350 Nov. 2. In three previous starts, he has yet to finish in the top-ten with a 12th place finish last November being his best effort, and crashed out in his last trip at Texas June 8.