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Brett Moffitt dominates at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park

Past NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series races on the historical and scenic Canadian Tire Motorsport Park road course have ended in hot tempers and dramatic last lap passes.

By comparison, Brett Moffitt’s 5.160-second victory in Sunday’s Chevrolet Silverado 250 looked like a drive in the Park. The current series championship leader earned his second playoff win in as many 2019 playoff races with the largest Margin of Victory in the race’s seven-year history over one of the very best road course racers in the world – Canadian Alex Tagliani.

Ben Rhodes finished third followed by Sheldon Creed. Austin Hill and Johnny Sauter got around another Canadian, fellow truck series playoff driver Stewart Friesen, on the last lap to round out the top-six. Friesen still had a solid day, an impressive rally from last place on the starting grid to seventh at the checkered flag – forced to conserve fuel down the homestretch.

Four of the first six series races at the track were decided on the final lap. This year for Moffitt’s strong No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet team, it was instead a matter of making a strong statement – earning a convincing win and extending his playoff win streak to two with the final race of this opening playoff round set for Sept. 13 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Going back to the 2018 season – the defending series champion Moffitt has won four consecutive playoff races.

“As far as the team goes, I just feel like everyone at GMS all the way back from the fab shop on up has been doing a better job,’’ Moffitt said. “Our team personally has been communicating a lot better and just knowing what my words mean and what I need to find in the truck, I’d say we’re hitting our stride at the right time.

“It took a while to get here but before it was like we were missing a little bit everywhere and now we’re hitting on all cylinders.’’ Moffitt led 45 of the 64 laps.

Playoff driver Ross Chastain finished eighth and his nine laps led was the most by any driver other than Moffitt. Among the other playoff drivers – Tyler Ankrum finished ninth, Matt Crafton was 11th and regular season champion Grant Enfinger was 13th.

There were only three caution flags on the afternoon – two for stage endings.

As has often been the case in this seven-year old event, again the action intensified in the final laps. This year it was behind the leader.

Harrison Burton lost a motor while running in the top-five with two laps remaining, but was able to get off the track without bringing out a caution flag. The driver racing him hardest at the time, Friesen had to back off himself to conserve fuel on the final lap.

“It was a battle for sure,’’ Friesen said. “I screwed up in practice and wrecked the primary [truck]. But we were able to battle up through there and almost had a top-five but started running out of fuel at the end.

“We gave up a couple positions at the end but still got out of here with some points.’’

Two of the eight drivers will be eliminated from championship contention following the final playoff race of this round at Las Vegas in two weeks. With his two victories, Moffitt has an automatic berth in the next round. Chastain is second in the championship points standings, with a 22-point advantage on third-place Friesen.

Crafton is fourth in the championship standings, followed by Hill and Enfinger. Only four points separate Friesen, Crafton, Hill and Enfinger, however.

Two-time series champion Johnny Sauter sits a mere two-points behind his ThorSport Racing teammate Enfinger just outside the playoff bubble and 18-year old Ankrum is 14 points below the cutoff.

“You go into Vegas with a must-win mentality, that’s what I know I’ll do.’’ Sauter said.

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Brett Moffitt wins at Bristol as tempers flare in action-filled race

BRISTOL, Tenn. – Top-seeded Brett Moffitt held off determined 17-year-old Chandler Smith after a restart with three laps left and took home the trophy in Thursday night’s UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway.

With the victory in the first event of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs, Moffitt, the defending series champion, gained an automatic berth in the Round of 6, as other Playoff contenders either overcame adversity or succumbed to it.

“It was tough,” Moffitt said in Victory Lane. “Our (No. 24) Silverado was strong on long runs, but it was hard to get fired off. So it was really tough just getting the first couple of laps under our belt after a restart.

“There’s no more important win than right now for the season, getting into the Round of 6, so we’ll take this and move on with it. We’re playing with house money now. We still want to go get points and ultimately win races and get Playoff points to set ourselves up with a little safety net for the next round. But now we’ll just go and race to win, and the pressure’s off.”

In his third start in the Truck Series, Smith held his own to the inside of Moffitt for one lap after the final restart, but Moffitt cleared Smith’s No. 51 Toyota on lap 199 and pulled away to win by .743 seconds. Playoff driver Ross Chastain overcame a violation for an uncontrolled tire to run third, muscling his way through the field and drawing ire from competitors along the way.

Stewart Friesen recovered from a spin off the nose of Matt Crafton’s Toyota, as the two Playoff drivers raced in close quarters around the truck of Tyler Dippel. Regular-season champion Grant Enfinger, the only driver other than Moffitt and Chastain to lead laps, ran fifth.

Sheldon Creed, Crafton, Ben Rhodes, Todd Gilliland and Playoff driver Austin Hill completed the top 10, though the latter two lost considerable ground to the Playoff leaders.

After an action-filled race that produced 12 cautions for 73 laps, Chastain was unapologetic for the aggressive style that carried him to a third-place finish.

“We put ourselves in a hole there with that one pit stop,” Chastain said. “Yeah, I hate that, but the fastest truck didn’t win tonight. Congrats to Brett… But it’s one lane—it’s the old Bristol. They took the top (of the concrete track) and ground it without telling us, or they didn’t tell me.

“So it was one lane around the bottom. That’s what built this place. You come through this tunnel, and there’s talk about rattling cages, there’s helmets thrown. If we’re going to fill these places up, the CarShield Chevy’s going to be the one that adds to the excitement.”

After the race, several crew chiefs approached Chastain to express their displeasure.

“I think the crew chiefs come down here and puff their chests out—they’re old washed-up race car drivers,” Chastain said. “I love Marcus (Richmond) and Rudy (Fugle), but, my goodness, let your drivers come handle it. And one at a time, line ‘em up, and let’s race. And let’s handle it after, outside the race car.

“Obviously, I’m no stranger to this.”

Bad luck continued to follow Playoff driver Johnny Sauter who suffered hard contact from John Hunter Nemechek’s truck on Lap 75—after Sauter turned Nemechek. After a litany of subsequent incidents, Sauter drove his battered No. 13 Ford to an 11th-place finish and is clinging to the sixth spot in the standings by three points over Hill.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Tyler Ankrum fared worst of all. His No. 17 Toyota developed electric problems, relegating the 18-year-old to a 20th-place result, six laps down. Ankrum heads to the Aug. 25 race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park last in the Playoff standings and 13 points behind Sauter.

If the race had plenty of contact in the heat of battle, it also had a moment of comic relief. After a wreck on Lap 182 caused the 11th caution, a wrecker attempting to push Natalie Decker’s No. 54 Toyota spun the truck instead. Decker retired from the race in 25th place.

But Moffitt finished where he started—from the pole and in the Playoff lead. He now holds a 16-point lead over Chastain in second and a free pass to the next round of the Playoff

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News

Brett Moffitt continues championship defense with win at Chicagoland

JOLIET, Ill. – Brett Moffitt has long insisted he wanted to earn a checkered flag this season with his performance on track and Friday night at Chicagoland Speedway he did just that – winning the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Camping World 225 by a no-doubt 3.950 seconds over Brandon Jones.

The reigning series champion Moffitt has been vocal in his desire to hoist a trophy this weekend at Chicago – for the second consecutive year. And he earned It in convincing style – smiling widely as the confetti flew in victory lane while the crowd cheered approvingly. It was a welcome and different scene from the win he was awarded two weeks ago at Iowa after Ross Chastain was disqualified. Moffitt did not lead a lap in the race and only got to celebrate with his team in victory circle at an empty Iowa Speedway.

Not this time.

“It’s like the first win,’’ his crew chief Jerry Baxter said with a wide smile after the race. “This feels real good.’’

“We’ll go home and celebrate,’’ Moffitt said. “I felt confident, it was just a matter of a caution coming out or not. I’m sure he (Baxter) was nervous, I was nervous we were just praying for no caution to come out.’’

And celebrating in victory lane this time?

“It was a heck of a lot more fun, and it’s fun not only me but for the whole pit crew,’’

Moffitt’s No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet certainly kept the field honest all race. Stewart Friesen finished third with rookie Harrison Burton and pole-winner Austin Hill rounding out the top-five. Six of the top-10-finishing drivers have never won a race before.

Three Kyle Busch Motorsports drivers earned top-10 finishes – the 22-year-old Jones (runner-up), Burton (fourth) and 18-year old Todd Gilliland (sixth).

“We have just been working really really hard, all the guys at KBM busting their butts,’’ said Burton, who remains in playoff contention,

“I’m lucky to be in this position, we’re fighting our way into the playoffs and it’s a lot of fun. If we get in, they better watch out.”

Jones, who has only two previous truck starts this season was equally as pleased with his runner-up finish.

“We put ourselves in position to learn a bit and that’s the most fun I’ve ever had in a truck race,’’ Jones said, “We’ve got two more with these guys.”

With playoff positions at stake with four races left to set the championship field and plenty of pride on the line, a handful of the top-ranked drivers showed up at Chicagoland Speedway determined to settle for nothing less than a trophy. And it showed in a thrilling race featuring 12 lead changes and slowed by only five cautions (two for stage breaks).

The intensity was especially evident in the third and final stage. The trucks ran four-wide in the opening laps ultimately leading to the downfall of early race leader Grant Enfinger. The lapped car of Spencer Davis was running alongside Enfinger just after the final stage restart. Contact between the two forced Enfinger’s No. 98 Ford hard into the outside wall and sent Davis’ Chevy into the infield.

It was especially tough luck for Enfinger, who had led a race-best 49 of the opening 79 laps up to that point and had scored the Stage 2 victory only minutes earlier. He ended up 16th, two laps down but maintained his championship points lead by 52 points over Friesen.

Enfinger’s fate was part of a rough night for his ThorSport Racing team. Two of his teammates – Ben Rhodes and Johnny Sauter had engine issues. Only former two-time series champion Matt Crafton scored a top-10 (eighth).

Chastain, who started 16th and had to pit early in the opening stage rallied back to a seventh-place finish. The hard work is especially important for Chastain, who won the race at Gateway last week but needs to break into the top 20 in the rankings to be playoff eligible. He is now 10 points behind Jennifer Jo Cobb at the 20th place cutoff.

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News

Moffitt declared Iowa winner after No. 44 truck fails post-race inspection

The No. 44 Niece Motorsports race-winning truck of Ross Chastain failed post-race inspection at Iowa Speedway and was officially disqualified from Sunday’s Gander Outdoors Truck Series race.

NASCAR officials discovered the No. 44 truck was too low in the front during post-race technical inspection, according to a NASCAR spokesperson. Chastain will not receive credit for the victory and will be scored as earning last-place points for the race. He will lose the points earned from the victory and the seven playoff bonus points as a result.

The second-place finishers in both stages received 10 race points associated with respective stage wins. Matt Crafton has been awarded 10 points and the playoff bonus point for Stage 1, while Ben Rhodes collected the same amount of points for Stage 2.

The team can appeal the penalty in an expedited process up until noon ET on Monday, according to NASCAR.

Brett Moffitt was officially declared the winner of Sunday’s M&M’s 200 at Iowa, earning his first victory of the 2019 season with GMS Racing in his first season with the organization. Moffitt will also collect the $50,000 bonus for the Triple Truck Challenge program. He won this race last season as well.

The post-race process is part of a new, more timely approach to inspection for all three NASCAR national series. Competition officials announced in February that thorough post-race inspections would take place shortly after the checkered flag at the track instead of midweek at the NASCAR Research & Development Center in Concord, North Carolina.

Those inspections come with a stiffer deterrence structure that includes disqualification for significant rules infractions — “a total culture change,” according to Steve O’Donnell, NASCAR Executive Vice President and Chief Racing Development Officer. In the past, race-winning teams found in violation of the rules were penalized with post-race fines, points deductions and/or suspensions, but victories were allowed to stand.

Competition officials introduced the quicker post-race inspection timetable in an effort to make the results official on race day, aiming for a 90-minute target time frame to complete their scrutineering. The new post-race inspection process was also designed to deal with potential violations more promptly, avoiding any midweek news that might cloud the previous week’s results or the build-up to the following week’s event.

NASCAR will still inspect cars and parts at the R&D Center as needed, but the more comprehensive at-track inspection will take priority.

According to NASCAR statistical archives, the last time a premier series driver was disqualified occurred in 1973, when early retiree Buddy Baker was demoted to last place in the National 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The last time an apparent race winner in NASCAR’s top division was disqualified came on April 17, 1960, when Emanuel Zervakis’ victory at Wilson (N.C.) Speedway was thrown out because of an oversized fuel tank on his No. 85 Chevrolet.

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Trucks

OBSERVATIONS: Vankor 350 at Texas Motor Speedway

When Kyle Busch takes to his No. 51 Toyota Tundra at Charlotte Motor Speedway in a couple months, there’s one thing that you should know – he is probably going to reach victory lane.

Throughout the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series season, a driver earning points in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series is allowed to run a total of five truck events. Busch has currently ran four of those, and won each of them in convincing fashion. His latest came on Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway as  he paced 97 of the 147 laps en route to victory lane. 

Despite his fourth consecutive series victory, the speed from the guys in Kyle Busch Motorsports shop was lacking according to their boss.

“I don’t know, we just lacked a little bit of overall speed tonight,” Busch said. “We just didn’t quite have exactly what we wanted. Kind of worked on it all in practice. I thought we were pretty good, but just not enough. Those guys were just able to keep up with us way too much throughout the night, I thought. It’s a better race that way when they’re able to keep up, so that means we’ve got to go to work and work harder in order to get ourselves a little faster.”

Unlike previous events where it seemed the veteran would cruise to victory lane, he was actually passed for the lead with Brett Moffitt going around the outside on Lap 99. Unfortunately, contact in the late stages with Grant Enfinger after getting loose resulted in a flat tire, ending his chances of victory.

Stewart Friesen also showed promise towards scoring the victory, as he was able to close the gap between himself and Busch as the laps began to wound down with 25 to go. While he got to the No. 51’s tailgate, he was unable to complete the pass, fading back with a tight truck to a second-place finish. It was stated last year, and the same goes once again in 2019 – it’s only a matter of time before the No. 52 Chevrolet is in victory lane.

Overall, the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series proved once again why they are the most exciting to watch on the intermediate tracks. Drivers battled side-by-side throughout the event, using the big hole punched in the air by the trucks to work the draft around each other. Although the first stage was a little rough with a couple back-to-back incidents, things ran smoothly from there on with a couple thrilling three-wide moments and saves from various drivers as they slid up the track.

The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series package was supposed to resemble that of the drafting nature with the reduced horsepower and high spoiler. That was evident once again in qualifying with drivers not wanting to be the first to go out on-track and be in line behind others. While it hasn’t played as big of a role through the first three intermediate events this year, perhaps Texas Motor Speedway’s layout with fresh pavement and the traction compound in the second groove is the right method for some excitement.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Trucks

OBSERVATIONS: NextEra Energy Resources 250 at Daytona International Speedway

A brand new era began in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series as it marked the first race with the new brand, hence the hashtag #ReadySetGo that has been trending across social media leading up to the event. While you always want things to start off well, you could say it was a “bang-up” opening event.

The trucks always put on some of the craziest restrictor plate racing, and the NextEra Energy Resources 250 was no exception. Throughout the event, from the drop of the initial green flag to the end, there was side-by-side racing as drivers jockeyed for positions, sometimes even three-wide.

Over the course of Daytona Speedweeks, fans have practically begged for the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers to stop running single file up against the wall as we saw in both the Advance Auto Parts Clash and the Gander RV Duels.

However, patience was the name of the game as drivers solely wanted to go to the event of the with a car, and  on the case Thursday, save their equipment for Sunday’s DAYTONA 500. There’s no time for that in the trucks as stage points are given out on two different occasions, and the race is only 100 laps total in length. Combined with a lot of youthful drivers eager to prove themselves, riding along doesn’t happen. 

There is a price to pay with what we saw happen on Friday, though, as the truck series only had nine drivers complete the race out of the 32 who took the green flag. The constant battling for position resulted in several wrecks, with 11 cautions taking happening. Oddly enough, more than half of the event was run under the yellow flag (55 laps).

Between the Clash, the ARCA race and now the trucks, there have been 55 cars wrecked. Now do you understand why the Cup Series drivers have been riding along?

The Daytona 500 will probably feature more of the riding that we’ve seen in the past Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series events, just like we saw at Talladega Superspeedway last fall. However, as we close in on the end of stage and the race as a whole, expect the pressure to rise with battles for position happening. When that occurs, though, don’t say we didn’t warn you of what could happen.

While the truck series event was mired with wrecks, you can’t deny being happy for the winner as Austin Hill scored his first career series victory. After working hard to prove himself in lesser equipment the past couple of years, he made the jump to Hattori Racing Enterprises for 2019; this is the team that won the championship in 2018 with Brett Moffitt.

After being excited and welcoming to the opportunity, he’s already proved that he was worthy of the chance with a championship-worthy team. Now locked into the playoffs virtue of the victory, he and Scott Zippidelli can focus on improving their chemistry and keeping the level of performance the same as what Moffitt did last year, hopefully increasing their chances at a run for the title.

There were also other drivers who will leave Daytona with smiles on their faces, like Josh Reaume who scored his first career top-five, and Angela Ruch as she proved that she’s not just another pretty face. Daytona offers a chance for the small fries to shine in a special way. So hopefully the happiness that those two drivers have to offer makes seeing the disappointment on others easier to handle.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Nigel Kinrade Photography Trucks

Through the Eyes of NKP: 2018 NCWTS Champion Brett Moffitt

With six victories and 13 top-five’s, Brett Moffitt put together a stellar season en route to being crowned the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion.

With the help of Nigel Kinrade Photography (NKP), led by veteran photographer, Nigel Kinrade, lets take a look back at the season that was for the Hattori Racing Enterprises driver.

Matthew T. Thacker | Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway
Barry Cantrell | Lucas Oil 150 at ISM Raceway
Nigel Kinrade | Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway
Rusty Jarrett | Corrigan Oil 200 at Michigan International Speedway
Nigel Kinrade | JAG Metals 350 at Texas Motor Speedway
Nigel Kinrade | Overton’s 225 at Chicagoland Speedway
Nigel Kinrade | Fr8Auctions.com 250 at Talladega Superspeedway
Russell Labounty | M&M’s 200 at Iowa Speedway
Nigel Kinrade | World of Westgate 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway
John Harrelson | Texas Roadhouse 200 at Martinsville Speedway 

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Trucks

OBSERVATIONS: Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway

When your back is against a wall, it can cause you to push even harder to accomplish the goal that you have at hand. That could easily explain Brett Moffitt and Hattori Racing Enterprises.

Throughout the 2018 campaign, they did not know if they were going to make every race this season due to lack of funding. They also had a smaller work force than most teams, consisting of 10 full-time employees, building trucks for each week. There was also heavy criticism from other teams about Hattori having an advantage due to using the OEM engine built by Mark Cronquist versus the MT1 spec motors, which resulted in NASCAR making two rule changes throughout the playoffs. 

The little team kept their heads down, and the hard work paid off in being crowned the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champions. They also did it in convincing style, with Moffitt driving away from the field at the end of the Ford EcoBoost 200 en route to victory while Noah Gragson faded to third with a tight truck, and GMS Racing teammates Justin Haley and Johnny Sauter fought handling issues.

A feel good story is always good for publicity, and certainly NASCAR could use some with the rough storylines we’ve endured this year. Moffitt could also use the boost as he has yet to finalize any racing plans for the 2019 season.

Even though Moffitt ran away with the victory in the closing stages, the Ford EcoBoost 200 was still one of the better events to watch this year. The aged surface with two distinct lines – rim-riding versus trying to stick the bottom, allowed for side-by-side racing from the drop of the green to the checkered. The battle for the lead between Moffitt and Gragson lasting at least 20 laps will certainly stick in fan’s minds, though watching Sheldon Creed climb through the field should also linger. 

Some of the great side-by-side racing was obviously missed on the broadcast, as Fox Sports 1 chose to focus on the Championship 4. It’s reasonable given it’s the final race and a title is on the line, but everybody also deserves their dues. The bigger question is how can you end the broadcast without talking to first-time series champion owner Shigeaki Hattori?

Side note – Canadians continue to complain each year, and reasonably so. How does a country who gets to host a race once a season end up being forced to miss most of the races on television due to Fox Sports 1 or Fox Sports Racing being included in their channel line-up? It’s time the rest of the providers get on-board with it, or TSN steps up and is a true partner in NASCAR coverage by including all four – the big three tours and Pinty’s Series – as part of their line-up. Thanks to those who help us keep in the loop with their streams; it is certainly appreciated.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

 

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News

Brett Moffitt cruises to first Truck Series title at Homestead

HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Brett Moffitt, a kid with a moustache reminiscent of Leo DiCaprio-yet already a journeyman driver at age 26-is the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion after a decisive victory in Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

In a race that featured a minimum two cautions, both for planned stage breaks, Moffitt drove away from the rest of the field after taking the lead from fellow Championship 4 contender Noah Gragson on Lap 99 of 134.

Moffitt finished 2.000 seconds ahead of pole winner Grant Enfinger, who passed Gragson for the runner-up spot during a cycle of green-flag pit stops at the 103-lap mark. Gragson ran third, 5.006 seconds back.

GMS Racing teammates Justin Haley and Johnny Sauter didn’t factor into the title battle. Haley ran eighth, and Sauter, trying for a second series championship, battled a loose handling condition all race long and finished 12th, the last driver on the lead lap.

Driving for underfunded Hattori Racing Enterprises, owned by former driver Shigeaki Hattori of Japan, Moffitt picked up his sixth victory of the season (and second straight) and the seventh of his career. More than 20 years ago, Hattori won the first of his two Indy Lights races at Homestead after leading 64 of 67 laps in a Lola/Buick.

“That was the longest 20-30 laps of my life,” Moffitt said of the final run to the checkered flag. “Man, I was just glad we could get to the white flag without a caution and clean sailing. We had a great truck all day.

“It’s unreal. We all know the story by now. We didn’t know if we were going to race this whole year. I didn’t if I would have the opportunity to run for a championship, even after we got our first win. Everyone pulled together hard here.

“We’ve had so many partners who came in at clutch moments and got us to the race track.”

Hattori fought sponsorship issues throughout the season, and Moffitt has yet to announce a deal for next season, but that didn’t deter the driver of the No. 16 Toyota from battling Gragson from a restart on Lap 68 until he finally prevailed on Lap 99-after two concerted runs at his rival for the title.

“I just got my tires a little too hot the first time I got next to him, and I probably didn’t commit enough to the move,” said Moffitt, who competed in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series before landing the ride with HRE. “I kind of let them cool down and ran the top trying to get some momentum.

“He was kind of backing up, and we could still run the bottom really well, which is kind of unusual for Homestead.”

Moffitt lost the lead briefly but gained three seconds on Gragson in the championship battle when the drivers came to pit road for their final stops, Gragson on Lap 101 and Moffitt one circuit later. After returning to the point on Lap 106, Moffitt wasn’t challenged the rest of the way.

Sauter’s performance was surprising, too, in that his team never hit a workable setup.

“It was awful,” admitted Sauter, who couldn’t find the form that carried him to Victory Lane six times this year. “Just no grip. We laid an egg tonight. When you suck that bad, you just go home and ask yourself, ‘What the hell happened?'”

Stewart Friesen finished fourth and Sheldon Creed fifth. Matt Crafton, John Hunter Nemechek, Haley, Jesse Little and Ben Rhodes completed the top 10.

Myatt Snider, who finished 14th, claimed Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors for the series.

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Trucks

Moffitt Hopes to Make History with Hattori Racing Enterprises

Miami Beach, FL – It has been a historic year for Hattori Racing Enterprises. The team announced before the season that Brett Moffitt would take over the No. 16 Toyota Tundra, replacing Ryan Truex. After missing the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs in 2017, they were seeking to bring someone on board that would lead them to consistency, wins, and a playoff run.

Brett Moffitt began the season not knowing if he would run the entire year as sponsorship for some races were a question. However, his performance on the track, highlighted by five victories, allowed him to secure funding for every event on the schedule.

On Friday night, Moffitt will race for his first ever Truck Series championship. Shigeaki Hattori’s decision to bring back a familiar face to the team has paid off.

Moffitt raced for HRE back in 2012 in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East where he was victorious two times. His success led him to becoming a test driver for Michael Waltrip Racing where he eventually made a few Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series starts.

With the nature of his success this season, it seems like he has made himself at home back with HRE. Before the season, Moffitt had never run a full-time season in the Truck Series.

“Shigeaki has pretty much built a whole new team from then,” Moffitt said. “I feel like he’s got a lot better people in place and I would say my experience in the past has helped because I have worked with Scott Zipadeli in the past. I’ve worked with my truck chief in the past and I’ve worked with a lot of guys in the team in the past throughout different race organizations, so I would say that helped us bond quicker but as to the K&N with Shigeaki I wouldn’t really say it helped with anything.”

Moffitt had proved well before he belonged in the Truck Series full-time. Back in 2016, he won his first ever Truck Series race at Michigan International Speedway for Red Horse Racing.

Unfortunately, finding the right team with funding has always been a struggle for Moffitt. Now being stabilized with HRE this season, he has showcased his talent.

The Iowa native won’t have it easy on Friday night. He’ll be competing against two youngsters that are hungry for a championship and a driver with years of experience under his belt. Nonetheless, Moffitt is just as poised as them and is hoping he’ll be the one standing tall on the podium after the race holding the trophy they’ve all been working hard to gain.

EMAIL BRANDON AT: brandon.rivero@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MrBrandonRivero

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.