Photo: Chris Graythen/Getty Images via NASCAR

TORRES: Instant Reaction on the 2020 Lucas Oil 150

By Luis Torres, Staff Writer

The first leg of the Quadruple Championship Weekend at Phoenix Raceway wrapped up on cloudy Friday night with the NASCAR Gander RV & Truck Series taking center stage.

It was a no remorse, take no prisoner’s race as it went down to the very final lap of the campaign. GMS Racing won the war with Sheldon Creed hoisting his first Truck Series title following a late-race pit call to go for four tires which helped him to win the Lucas Oil 150.

Brett Moffitt had it won until a late-race caution by Dawson Cram changed everything. He stayed out which ultimately bit him hard and went from possibly having a second title at the palm of his hands to pure anger and agony.

It was such frustration that he put down his No. 24 race team for some poor calls that came to define his season.

That ending is what NASCAR loves to see, chaotic drama. With that being said, here’s my takeaways on the final race of 2020.

Smith’s Superb Start Isn’t A Surprise

Zane Smith launched out of the gate on top of the leaderboard, thanks in most part of starting on the bottom groove compared to pole sitter Grant Enfinger starting on the outside. Naturally, Enfinger lost three spots due to his lane choice as Smith just owned the competition in Stage 1.

Despite dealing with lapped trucks that impeded the leaders from time-to-time, and for a brief moment having to worry about Creed catching him, the series Rookie of the Year led wire-to-wire to kick off the title fight in Phoenix.

For a guy that came into this race with confidence, it was an encouraging run because Phoenix just suits his style of driving. Last year’s fifth-place performance in the Xfinity Series race should’ve been people’s indicator that he’s far from a dark horse.

A slow stop dropped Smith to third and restarted on the top like Enfinger and like him, lost ground to the leaders in Stage 2 and later Stage 3. This doesn’t take away the strong start Smith had and he wasn’t quite done yet.

Championship 4 Stage 1 Results: Smith (1st), Creed (2nd), Moffitt (3rd) and Enfinger (4th)

GMS Showcase

When 3/4 of the title contenders come from the same team and actually are the class of the field, I can’t deny it’s a fun yet nervous battle between Creed, Moffitt and Smith. We saw a good bit of it in Stage 2 when Moffitt was trying to catch Creed, hoping to have some of that Jimmie Johnson (Moffitt’s scheme was a tribute to JJ’s first of seven titles back in 2006) magic.

Once Moffitt caught Creed, he showed no remorse on his teammate because it’s every man for themselves. When the 2018 champion finally got by Creed with 16 laps left in the stage, it was sayonara to his competition.

Smith would take second from Creed two laps later, showing me that his No. 21 Chevrolet Silverado is a definite long run truck because it was his turn to hunt the leader down. However, Smith had to settle for second as Moffitt took the stage victory.

I’m baffled Moffitt doesn’t have any plans for 2021 set into stone. Like how many times we’re going to be hearing the same song regarding Moffitt finding a ride?

We’ve seen how much of absolute wheel man he is, but money talks is probably what’s keeping him from going far in NASCAR. It’s an absolute shame and sadly that’s the name of the game in racing. What else is new?

Championship 4 Stage 2 Results: Moffitt (1st), Smith (2nd), Creed (3rd) and Enfinger (5th)

Enfinger’s Valliant Rally

Up to this point, Enfinger just couldn’t respond to GMS Racing’s trio. Even after Stage 2, Enfinger couldn’t avoid trouble from teammate Ben Rhodes, resulting rear bumper damage but it didn’t really impacted his night from going down the tubes.

I say this because following the only accident of the night which sent Carson Hocevar packing, Enfinger pitted for four new tires and his crew adjusted his No. 98 Ford F-15o on Lap 107.

That’s when his night changed for the better as he worked his way up to fifth before the final 25 laps of the season.

Back in the front, Moffitt was at a different zip code with two-plus second lead over Creed. Enfinger still wasn’t going to give up without a fight as he had his eyes on Creed for second with 15 laps remaining.

Enfinger had the advantage for a brief moment, but Creed held in there strong as he went from trying to catch his teammate Moffitt to probably helping Moffitt to get a second title. That wouldn’t last as Enfinger cleared Creed and the lapped trucks of Cram and Tyler Hill, but time was running out.

Cram would change the championship outcome with three laps of regulation after Tanner Gray turned him around, forcing the race into overtime.

Moffitt’s response sums up that incident because the whole race changed: “Are you fucking kidding me?”

This caution also sealed Enfinger’s fate of winning a title for ThorSport as he wound up 13th, the lowest among the Championship 4 contenders. Therefore, it’s another year where the Duke and Rhonda Thorson co-owned entity couldn’t get an owner’s title.

Championship 4 Standings After Cram’s Accident: Moffitt (1st), Enfinger (2nd), Creed (4th) and Smith (6th)

One Last Strategy to Steal the Championship

Following Cram’s questionable driving, Smith and Creed pitted for four fresh tires, leaving Moffitt and Enfinger in a vulnerable spot as restarts in Phoenix have and always will be chaotic because of the “Dog Leg.”

Once the field was sorted out for the final restart of 2020, it was Moffitt and Enfinger the top-two with Creed and Smith restarting eighth and ninth respectively.

Moffitt got chromed horned by Rhodes, giving Enfinger the advantage going into Turn 2, but it was Chandler Smith who was P1 until Enfinger bumped him as well.

That sequence saw Creed snookering everyone from out of nowhere and was in the race lead coming to the white flag, but Smith was still hot on his tales. In the end, it was Creed who pulled off the “Game 7” moment to win his first Truck Series championship.

What a way to start Championship Weekend at Phoenix with that final restart. Creed now has his NASCAR moment and set the tone on what I can hope be an unforgettable end to a long 2020.

Championship 4 Results: Creed (1st), Smith (2nd), Moffitt (10th) and Enfinger (13th)

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From the Pacific Northwest, Luis is a University of Idaho graduate with a Bachelor's degree in Broadcasting and Digital Media and a four-time National Motorsports Press Association award winner in photography. Ever since watching the 2003 Daytona 500, being involved in auto racing is all he's ever dreamed of doing. Over the years, Luis has focused on writing, video and photography with ambitions of having his work recognized.