In the first race of a doubleheader with the Xfinity Series, the NASCAR Camping World Trucks Series took on the steep banks of Talladega Superspeedway. It was sure to be a chaos-ridden day with a spot to the Championship Four on the line.
Much like the rest of the season, no practice or qualifying was held. The starting lineup was determined as 25% driver’s finishing position from the previous race, 25% owner’s finishing position from the previous race, 35% team owner points, and 15% fastest lap from the previous race. With this, the 99 of Ben Rhodes was on the pole with the 38 of Todd Gilliland beside him. Rounding out the rest of the top-five were the 88 of Matt Crafton, the 52 of Stewart Friesen, and the 16 of Austin Hill.
All 40 trucks made it through pre-race tech inspection without issue, sending no one to the rear. However, the 9 of Codie Rohrbaugh was forced to start at the tail for missing driver introductions. His plane was delayed, forcing him to be late to the track.
At 1:14 p.m., the green flag was flown and the drivers were off. At the start, the 28 of Bryan Dauzat was forced to serve a pass through penalty for changing lanes before reaching the start-finish line.
Drivers were aggressive early, and Gilliland fell victim to some damage to his rear bumper after some contact with Friesen. In what would be a common occurrence throughout the day, the 4 of John Hunter Nemecheck got into the 13 of Johnny Sauter on lap 13, barely saving himself from a spin.
Taking the lead just two laps later, he was quickly sent back to second after Rhodes caught him. Rhodes was able to hold off Nemecheck and win the stage, his second of the year. Most lead lap trucks pitted at the stage break, with only Friesen and Hill taking two tires. Gilliland got some work done on his damaged bumper, but was sent to the rear for the restart due to having too many men over the wall. Nemecheck was the winner of the race off pit road.
With Nemecheck on the inside and Crafton on the outside, the second stage began. Just three laps later, however, the caution was brought back out for a wreck involving the 28 of Dauzat. The 20 of Spencer Boyd was the free pass, and only six pitted. Gilliland once again fell victim to pit road penalties, and was sent to the rear for speeding.
It was once again Nemecheck and Crafton on the front row at the restart with Crafton taking the lead this time. A lap later, the 2 of reigning champion Sheldon Creed took the lead. Not far behind him, Nemecheck gave Crafton a huge push, sending him off the track. He fell back to ninth, but was able to save himself from wrecking.
As Nemecheck fell back after getting stuck in the middle lane, it was a battle between Creed and Sauter for the lead. Creed would hold off the 13, however, and earn his seventh stage win of the year. Most trucks pitted at the stage break, with Austin Hill winning the race off pit road.
It was Hill on the outside with the 23 of Chase Purdy – who stayed out at the break – on the inside. Hill took the early lead, but quickly lost it to the 32 of Bret Holmes who also stayed out. Behind him, Gilliland spun Hill – then in second – causing “The Big One”. 17 trucks were involved, including championship contenders Hill and Zane Smith. The race was then red-flagged to clean up damage and make repairs. 14 of those who made it out of the wreck pitted.
At the restart, it was Gilliland in the lead with the 2 of Creed on his outside. Trying to make a block, the 98 of Grant Enfinger spun at lap 76, causing another wreck. This time, three championship contenders were involved including Creed, Friesen, and the 42 of Carson Hocevar. The 3 of Jordan Anderson – who would run both races – was the free pass.
The restart saw Gilliland and Crafton on the front row, and Gilliland quickly pulled away. The 23 of Purdy took the lead at lap 93, but was spun shortly thereafter by Gilliland, bringing out the caution and sending us to overtime. It was once again Gilliland in the lead, this time with Ben Rhodes on his outside.
On the last lap, there was a wreck near the back involving the 88 of Crafton, but no caution was called. Nemecheck was in the lead and looked to earn his first playoff win when he got into the 12 of Tate Fogelman and wrecked. Fogelman would cross the finish line first before wrecking with the 56 of Tyler Hill who came home second. Nemecheck would finish fourth.
Fogelman’s first career win was made official after there were no issues in post-race tech inspections. He was immediately sent to the infield care center, but was released shortly thereafter. No other issues were found with other trucks, meaning no fines or ejections. Since the winner was not a playoff driver, no one was able to clinch a spot into the Championship Four.
Nemecheck leads the playoff drivers at 36 points above the cut line with Rhodes just one point behind. Crafton and Creed have ten and five points leads, respectively, as Stewart Friesen, Chandler Smith, Carson Hocevar, and Zane Smith sit below the cut.
Taking the next three weeks off, the next Truck Series race will take place on October 30th at Martinsville Speedway. This will be the final race before the championship, so the Championship Four will be decided no matter what.
Featured photo from @NASCAR_Trucks on Twitter.