Like most of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series events this season, the 37 Kind Days 250 at Kansas Speedway left fans satisfied when it was over in having witnessed a great event.
Noah Gragson was able to score the victory in the form of perfect redemption after crashing late last week at Dover International Speedway while battling for the lead with Johnny Sauter. It happened via three factors – speed, survival, and strategy.
For starters, he had plenty of speed in the No. 18 Toyota Tundra as witnessed by winning the pole, and leading 128 of 167 laps to win all three stages en route to victory lane. Part of the credit for that has to go to spotter Tony Hirschman, who was great in his advice to the second-year driver in how to break the draft down the backstretch and guidance in where drivers were getting the runs on Gragson in the corner. But that should be expected, as Hirschman works with Kyle Busch in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series.
Despite the dominance, there were times it appeared as though he could be beaten, as evidenced by Ben Rhodes‘ performance. Rhodes work his way to the front and was set to challenge Gragson for the lead in the second stage, when he had to make an unscheduled pit stop due to a mechanical issue. It marks the second straight year that the ThorSport Racing driver has been plagued at Kansas Speedway as he had a quick truck last year and was destined to win until a puncture in the radiator in the late stages. Cue the other key – survival.
Brett Moffitt was also fast enough to challenge for Gragson, but he was hit by mechanical problems as well with an alternator issue, causing him an unscheduled pit stop for a battery change.
Stewart Friesen had managed to pass Gragson and take the lead just before a caution at Lap 107. Under the yellow flag, the transmission shifter knob came off, and while trying to fix that, Frisen went slower than caution speed, which dropped him back to ninth. He didn’t let that deny him, though, driving his way back to the top-three shortly after the restart, and rebounding for a third-place finish.
Once the dust settled with the issues, strategy was the name of the game in the late stages of the event. Justin Hayley began to open the door of opportunity for that when he got two tires at the end of the second stage, while the rest of the field took four. It didn’t pan out well for Hayley, as he went from first to 10th on the first lap back green. He ended up finishing 10th when it was said and done, too.
The bigger calls came in the final stage of the race in when to make your final pit stop under green. Rudy Fugle elected to bring Gragson down before anybody else, putting four tires on the No. 18. His closest competitors, Frisen and Busch, elected for two tires. The speed difference in the fresh rubber proved to be everything as Gragson ran both drivers down, passing them for position. That didn’t put him right in the lead as other drivers, namely Myatt Snider and Austin Hill, tried to stretch their gas to the end from the final caution at Lap 107. Unfortunately, that didn’t work as all of them slowed, giving Gragson the lead, and the win.
If you’re looking for one more S on the night – let’s talk about a surprise as points leader Johnny Sauter was a non-factor in the battle for the win, struggling with the handling of his truck all night. It marks the first time that has happened this season. Though like a true champion, his team bounced back and used some fuel strategy late to finish fifth. That’s why he currently leads the standings by 35 points over Gragson heading to Charlotte Motor Speedway.
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