NASCAR saw the first two eliminations of the playoffs last night as the Truck Series took on the turns of Kansas Speedway. A fan favorite and a past champion were the first to say goodbye to their championship hopes.
Things looked good early for the 88 of Matt Crafton who came into the weekend on the cut line. The veteran topped the charts in practice with ThorSport teammates Ty Majeski and Christian Eckes right behind him. The 25 of Matt DiBenedetto and 19 of Derek Kraus rounded out the top-five.
ThorSport’s success continued into qualifying with all four drivers starting in the top-eight. However, it was the 4 of KBM driver John Hunter Nemechek who claimed his sixth pole of the season. Behind him was Majeski in the 66, Corey Heim in the 51, Eckes in the 98, and Chandler Smith in the 18.
At 7:30, the field took the green flag and the fight for the Round of 8 was on. The 22 of Brett Moffitt, 33 of Mason Maggio, 43 of Armani Williams, and 46 of Brennan Poole were all sent to the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments.
By lap eight, Majeski took the lead from Nemechek, but would not be able to hold on. 15 laps later, it was Nemechek in front again. Holding off the field for the remainder of the stage, Nemechek earned the stage win and locked himself into the Round of 8. The 38 of Zane Smith was also locked in. The 56 of Timmy Hill was the free pass at the stage break.
Pit stops were riddled with issues at the 12 of Spencer Boyd, 44 of Bayley Currey, and 46 of Poole were penalized for crew members going over the wall too soon. The 42 of championship hopeful Carson Hocevar was forced to back up in his box, and the 18 of Chandler Smith had to make two stops.
At the restart, it was Nemechek on the inside with Eckes on his outside. The majority of the stage remained green with Nemechek leading every lap. On lap 56, however, the 44 of Bayley Currey took a spin which brought out the caution. Nemechek earned the second stage win under caution, and the 24 of Jack Wood was the free pass.
With Nemechek and the 17 of Ryan Preece out front, the field couldn’t even make it one lap before the caution was brought out for a spinning Kaden Honeycutt in the 30 truck. The front row was the same for the restart which lasted just four laps.
On lap 74, the 22 of Brett Moffitt lost an engine and caught on fire. The 56 of Timmy Hill slid into the 22’s oil and brought out another caution. The 20 of Jesse Little was the free pass. Seven drivers pitted at the caution, including the 42 of Hocevar who topped off with fuel.
This time, it was Nemechek and the 38 of Z. Smith out front for the final restart. On lap 103, green flag pit stops began after Nemechek surrendered the lead. After the pit stops cycled through, Hocevar found himself in the lead having last pitted on lap 80. It seemed that his strategy was working and he would finally earn his first career win until he ran out of fuel on the last lap.
Nemechek earned a dominant victory while Hocevar finished a heartbreaking second. Himself and the 88 of Matt Crafton were eliminated from the playoffs. The 17 of Ryan Preece, 38 of Zane Smith, and 23 of Grant Enfinger rounded out the top-five. The Round of 8 includes Z. Smith, C. Smith, Nemechek, Ben Rhodes, Stewart Friesen, Majeski, Enfinger, and Eckes. The trucks will take on Bristol Motor Speedway on Thursday, September 15th at 9 p.m.
Featured image from @NASCAR_Trucks on Twitter.