For the second time in as many races, a caution with three laps to go sent the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series into overtime. Corey Heim took the bottom and got a perfect restart, holding his teammate Chandler Smith against the inside wall and running away from the field. After a hard crash for Carson Hocevar brought out the yellow, Heim took his Kyle Busch Motorsports to victory lane in the Toyota 200 at Gateway.
Heim started on pole, but it was Chandler Smith who won the first stage, taking the lead from his teammate on lap 18 and holding the point through lap 25.
The first caution for cause came on lap 45 when Ty Majeski sent Taylor Gray into the turn three wall, eliminating the No. 17. Rajah Caruth, making his Truck Series debut for Spire Motorsports, lived up to his reputation as the drift king of ARCA, sliding his truck to avoid him but keeping the No. 7 clean. Caruth recovered to finish tenth.
On lap 55, Grant Enfinger on two fresh tires was holding second from the three fast Toyotas of Heim, Stewart Friesen, and John Hunter Nemechek. When Friesen put a move on Heim in turn four, John Hunter Nemechek tried to shoot the gap on the bottom, but got turned around in front of the field, catching up Colby Howard, Jesse Little and Majeski. A quick ratchet-strat job on the tail of Majeski’s No. 66, and the Wisconsin native was back on the track. . . briefly. NASCAR vetoed the unusual repair job and parked the No. 66.
The adventures of Enfinger continued after the restart, as the yellow No. 23 was able to challenge the dominant No. 18 for the lead. But once again, turn three was the trouble spot. Enfinger got loose on the bottom and collected Smith, putting a big dent in the rear panel of the 19-year-old’s Tundra.
Once the strategies split, it was Ben Rhodes claiming his series-leading seventh stage win of the season.
Carson Hocevar and Zane Smith battled for the lead to start the final stage, with the No. 38 coming out on top. But the craziness that haunted stage two didn’t stay away for long. A lap 93 spin for Kris Wright, once again in turn three, brought out the caution and stacked up the field.
60 to go, Zane became the latest championship front-runner to hit issues, losing a right-front tire and missing pit road. On lap 107, Hocevar spun battling Matt Crafton on the outer edge of the top 10, throwing the strategy game wide open.
A caution for debris on lap 131 left Rhodes leading Derek Kraus and the rest of the field inside of 30 laps to go. Kraus reeled in Rhodes and got the lead just inside of 20 to go. But Eckes closed in on him as the laps ticked away. With 6 laps to go, Eckes made the move into turn one, and got clear of the No. 19. For a driver who lost the lead on the last lap in both of the previous two races, it looked like Eckes was finally turning his fortunes around. But of course, the race isn’t over until it’s over.
Eckes had to settle for second, followed by Chandler Smith, Friesen, and Johnny Sauter making it an all-Toyota top five. Matt DiBenedetto came home sixth, and Kraus, Rhodes, Zane Smith, and Rajah Caruth rounded out the top ten. Friend of the site Mason Maggio, in his series debut, kept the truck clean and finished 27th, the first truck one lap down.
Carson Hocevar gave the crowd a thumbs-up as he was taken to the infield care center on a stretcher. This article will be updated when more information is available on the 19-year-old’s condition.
Featured image from Corey Heim on Twitter.