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Trucks

“They Said What?” NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Edition

Sometimes when you stick a microphone in front of a driver’s face, you have no clue what they may say and a couple of times you’ll hear something that surprises you or gives you a bit of a perspective.

Throughout the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season, I had the opportunity to speak to a bunch of different competitors. During those interviews, there were some quotes that stood out. So it seems only fitting we take a glance back through the year at what was said.

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

I guess everybody has their opinions, but I would take away a lot of the downforce we have and give us more horsepower. In the Truck Series especially, we’re running wide open at all these mile-and-a-halves that we got to. I feel like it provides for better racing and it’s not about drafting and momentum, but rather mechanical and set-up. That’s one of the big changes that we’d make is maybe take the splitter off, cut the spoiler in half, and give us 150 to 200 more horsepower. – Grant Enfinger

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

I am actually going to be running the full season next year, but unfortunately will not be without Young’s Motorsports as we’re going a slightly different route in 2019. As far as details go, I am not supposed to be saying it for at least another week or so. But once the team I’m committed with and signed with comes out with their press release and talks about it and makes it public, then I’ll be able to talk about it. But as far as right now, they want me to keep it hush-hush. It’s definitely looking really good going full season in the truck season and I’m very excited about it. – Austin Hill

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

It’s definitely a challenge but I think it makes me a better racecar driver because of it. I know that it’s hard to get into a rhythm from trucks to K&N to ARCA and super late models, and hop into each car or truck and be fast right off the truck; it’s a challenge. But I think having to do that, it helps me for situations where I may go to a new race track and pick it up real quick. So I think it definitely helps me, but it’s a challenge for sure. – Harrison Burton

ARCA

I feel like the hardest thing is having the funding to do it. Anybody can go race, but having sponsors and funding is the hard part. So you need to find that, and have a never give up attitude. – Sheldon Creed

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

Canada was obviously really cool for us, and not a lot of people know, but I have a road course background. It’s kind of one of the races that I had circled for a long time and wanted to run well there. We ran well there last year as I qualified second and finished fourth after a bad pit stop. I’ve always just had this monkey on my back at these road courses races that I couldn’t win. I’d go run TransAm, K&N cars, ARCA cars – always finish second, track record, pole, but never win a race. Finally I got the win in Canada on a road course and that meant a lot to my family in putting in a lot and coming from a road course background.

But the last few laps, obviously they were very intense. We were very under-motored all day. The Toyotas had brought their manufacture motors and KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports) had actually gone up and tested both motors to see which was better, because we all had a suspicion. They were just almost a second and a half faster than us a lap, and we were kind of the underdogs all day; me and John Hunter (Nemechek)were the only ones that could keep up with them all day.

The last few laps, we had that restart where I restarted third and I knew I couldn’t run down Todd (Gilliland), or Noah (Gragson), or keep up with them for that matter. So I let Noah go on that restart for the green-white-checkered. I knew my best chance I had was to have Noah go up there and get into Todd, and that happened. I had that in the back of my mind. It was one of those things like you have a lot of faith in something, and there was something in the back of my head saying it would be okay, to let Noah go and it would come to you. It was pretty intense and obviously they got together, and the seas parted for us and it was a cool experience. – Justin Haley

RUSSELL LABOUNTY | NKP

“I think we can go to the final four for sure. Some people doubt us, and that’s fine. That’s more motivation for me. That makes me hungrier as a driver when I see stuff like that. I know I have a good team that can compete on a weekly basis. Now it’s just going out there to prove everyone wrong.” – Noah Gragson

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

I look back on my career, and I think so much of it is keeping your faith, and knowing that God has a plan for us, whether the plan you want or he wants. I always share this with my guys but whatever is going to happen, is going to happen whether you want it to or not. All you can do is keep showing up every day and doing the best job that you can, and I think that’s the biggest thing.

That’s how we run this race team – we do the best that we can with what we have, and we enjoy the ups and downs. It’s kind of like that t-shirt saying that we had with the saying ‘never give up’ and the picture of the mountain top. If you start at the top and stay there, you don’t appreciate the journey as much as when you start at the bottom and have to start and claw from the bottom.

Every day, you have to keep yourself in check. I used to keep journals back when I was racing Late Models and I look back at the goals and things I wanted to accomplish and to see where we are now, it’s definitely been a blessing.

The biggest thing I would say to drivers is don’t let anybody discourage you from your dreams, what makes you stay up at night, and the things you want to accomplish because with a little bit of time, a lot of faith, persistence, and keep showing up striving after the goal, it’s amazing what you can accomplish. – Jordan Anderson

Logan Whitton | NKP

It means a lot. They know what makes me happy and they know I can be successful at it, so they stand behind me, which makes me very thankful for everything they’ve done for me and believe in me. – Korbin Forrister on his parents’ ownership of his team

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

It makes things a little difficult with our set-up stuff as we don’t get the long runs in practice to know what the truck will do after 25, 30 laps. That’s the only thing. Those guys can afford to go out and wreck a truck in practice, pushing it to the max for everything that it’s got. We can’t do that because it’ll put us behind for the next weekend that we’re going to race. It’s a lot of work for our guys. – Wendell Chavous on what it’s like with a smaller budget

Barry Cantrell | NKP

It’s definitely really helpful. I’d say Johnny Sauter is probably been the biggest help, but he is one of the main veterans in the series. He has so much knowledge and experience. It’s something special to be able to work with him. At the same time, I feel he’s very open and willing to help younger guys like myself run well in the Truck Series. – Dalton Sargeant

ROBBY LYONS RACING

It’s absolutely huge. The last time I ran a full season in 2014 when we were competing for the Legend Car National Championship. The end of that season, we think we ended up going through two motors in three days, and ended up finishing fourth in National points. One of the things that I strive on is consistency, which has been one of the tougher things in the last bit in not knowing when my next race would be, and then when I did get that chance, just having the pressure to make the most of it to get to another race. I always like having dates on the calendar to look forward to, and there’ll be a lot of that this year.

Jay Robinson – I can’t say enough about him. He’s one of the most stand-up guys that I’ve ever met in racing – not just in racing, but life in general. He’s given me a lot of good advice, and I thank him for giving me a great opportunity this year. – Robby Lyons

John K Harrelson NKP

I think we’re a bit of ways from that right now.  It would take partners, the age old requirement of money. But I think if we keep doing what we’re doing, I don’t see a reason that we can’t eventually build to that level. You can never say never, and it would take more green to do that, but right now we’re just focused as we’ve been on just doing quality races over quantity. If ever that opportunity comes along, we’ll be completely prepared to make it happen.

But I think there’s an element of fun in what we’re doing, and that’s just showing up and trying to win races and get to victory lane. As I said before, it’s very unique. So unless we’re fully prepared and in a top level situation to run for a championship, I don’t think we’re going to sacrifice a chance to win races just to be able to run all the races. – Parker Kligerman

ASHLEY MCCUBBIN PS

Definitely the weight of them, the amount that they roll over compared to the Pinty’s cars that I’ve run and am used to, and horsepower, a little bit; you kind of get where you’re going a lot quicker. But definitely the weight; the weight transfer is a lot different. They don’t slide; like the Pinty’s NASCAR car you slide – almost like a winter day on ice. But in the truck, you can’t do that. Once you slide the tires in the truck, you’ve lost all momentum and it’s hard to drive. That was the big thing for me.

Phoenix, it took me awhile to get used to the truck. I would say probably say after practice before qualifying, I was pretty comfortable. But we were respectable in the race and at the end, we ended up P11. 

Kubota (Tractors) jumped on board and helped us out. That’s really what inspired our team to get more involved. We probably weren’t going to run as many races if Kubota didn’t get involved, but their involvement inspired us. They’d say let’s go do that and have some fun. Our schedule was kind of based off having fun, and picking races we wanted to race, and trying to get the best results at the end of the day. I’m a fortunate racecar driver. – Jason Hathaway

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

ASHLEY ASKS…… Grant Enfinger

With one win and seven top-five’s, Grant Enfinger put together a consistent campaign to finish fifth in the year-end NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings. The driver of the No. 98 Champion Power Equipment, Curb Records, and Protect the Harvest Ford F-150 for ThorSport Racing recently talked about his season and more with POPULAR SPEED.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts on the season?

GRANT ENFINGER: I definitely feel like we made a lot of gains from a team standpoint as a whole, along with myself with my crew chief Jeff Hensley. I felt like everybody made good gains. Overall, it was a solid season. Not going to say we’re satisfied until we’re a dominant truck week-in-week-out, but we had a handful races that we could’ve won, should’ve won, but only got it done one time, so that’s not good enough but a huge improvement from where we were in 2017.

We had a lot more speed, could still use a little more at some places, but we gained a lot of speed. I felt like we had a pretty strong mile-and-a-half program by the end of the year. So overall, just our group as a whole and the move to Ford Performance has really elevated our entire team. Not satisfied with the results, but satisfied with the results.

PS: What do you feel your team could’ve done to be even stronger?

GRANT: I think there’s no one thing big issue or no one big thing that we need to get better at. I think it’s more about little details everywhere. Overall, we had a pretty solid consistent year leading into the playoffs. Then in the playoffs, we had good speed, but were less consistent as we didn’t get the results that we needed to at a few of the races – some of that due to circumstances out of our control, but some of that we could’ve done better on the track. So I think we just need to clean up a little bit in a lot of the areas and I think that’s all we’re lacking.

We started out at Canada (Canadian Tire Motorsports Park) and had a little mechanical issue, and then I ran off the track; you know, little setbacks here and there can cost you a good bit of points. So really we just need to clean up what we got and then start taking that and building from there.

PS: How are plans looking for 2019 for you?

GRANT: Everything is looking good. I feel like for the most part everybody is happy. I feel like Duke and Rhonda Thorson at ThorSport are happy. I feel like everybody is pushing forward to do this again next year, but nothing is finalized or set in stone, but that’s the direction it’s looking towards.

PS: That’s good to hear. Now say you’re able to return next year and the same goes as you would hope, what would it mean to you to win the championship?

GRANT: I mean, that’s obviously the goal and one that we won’t be happy until that happens. On top of that, we want to have a dominant year. Obviously, everybody’s goal is to win the championship, but we’d like to end up with four or five wins at the end of the season with a championship, and just be a threat at every race track. Right now, I feel when we unload, we’re going to be a top-five or six truck at any given track we go to.

There were handful of times that we’ve hit it and been a truck capable of winning. I think if we look back this time next year, we’ll be happy if we can show up every time and be in contention and actually bring home four or five wins. That’s what it will take for us to be happy, and that’s what everybody is working towards. Like I said, all those little things – that we’re working right now; we’re polishing and buffering on what we got and not doing wholesale changes in one department.

LOGAN WHITTON | NKP

PS: If you were in charge of NASCAR for one day, what is one change you would make to improve the sport?

GRANT: I guess everybody has their opinions, but I would take away a lot of the downforce we have and give us more horsepower. In the Truck Series especially, we’re running wide open at all these mile-and-a-halves that we got to. I feel like it provides for better racing and it’s not about drafting and momentum, but rather mechanical and set-up. That’s one of the big changes that we’d make is maybe take the splitter off, cut the spoiler in half, and give us 150 to 200 more horsepower.

PS: What is one track you wish was on the schedule that isn’t?

GRANT: Honestly, I feel like I’d like to go to Du Quoin or the Springfield mile that ARCA goes to. We’re already running Eldora in the truck series, and we already have to dedicate a truck to that and pretty much destroy it when you go to Eldora which is unfortunate because the racing is great and I love racing there. But maybe if we had Du Quoin or Springfield before then, you could take the truck there and not have a high of likelihood of doing damage and then take the truck to Eldora. I think as far as a race, it would be a little more cost effective than the racing we do because like I said, all these teams have to dedicate a truck to the dirt race anyway. I think it’d be smart to just add another one in there.

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

ASHLEY ASKS…… Austin Hill

With six top-10’s throughout 2018 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Austin Hill ended his first full campaign ranked 11th in the year-end standings. As the 24-year-old prepares for his second season, he reflected back on this past year for POPULAR SPEED.

POPULAR SPEED: How would you rate your season?

AUSTIN HILL: It was good for Young’s Motorsports as a whole. There were definitely times we felt we could’ve ran top-five a lot more times than we did. That’s one thing that we look back on and a few races we picked out we should’ve ran top-five but just circumstances, whether a bad stop on pit road or are on the race track, caused us not to come away with those better finishes. Young’s Motorsports as a whole, I felt, showed speed throughout the whole year.

When they changed the splitter rules after the second or third mile-and-a-half, it threw us for a loop a little bit. We were kind of behind. The bigger teams can react quicker than the smaller teams can. We made the change and started struggling for four or five races. We kind of got it back going and finished the year real strong. I was excited how it ended. I just wish Homestead could’ve ended a bit better. We just had stuff happen that there again shouldn’t happen and if that didn’t, we could’ve finished top-10. All in all, a good season for us.

Nigel Kinrade | NKP

PS: Going back to Texas, what did it mean for you and your team to get the top-five finish?

AUSTIN: It meant everything and it felt like a win for us because like I said, there were so many races we should’ve finished fifth to eighth place range and we just kept on stepping on our foot, whether errors on pit road or tire issue, that we should’ve been able to clean up over the year. I felt like pit road hurt us more than anything. Not trying to knock our guys, but pit road was a place we struggled. Anytime we came down pit road and had a good stop, you could really tell; that’s where our finishes would be top-10. Anytime we had one bad pit stop, and it always seemed like it was the last stop, it’s just so hard to come back from that. I feel if we didn’t struggle with all that, you would’ve seen Young’s Motorsports have more than one top-five.

But yes, getting that top-five at Texas was definitely a relief. We had a race where the truck was handling good, no issues on pit road, no issues on the track – just one of those clean races nothing bad or crazy happened. Our performance showed, and we had speed all day; it wasn’t like we gambled and got there. We ran top-five all day long and were able to capitalize with a top-five finish.

PS: What is one thing that you feel you and your team could have done even better to run stronger?

AUSTIN: I feel like I’d say the number one thing is getting our pit road pit stops down pat. It just seemed like we had whether slow stop or loose wheel, we had something that would happen. I don’t know how many times I heard uncontrolled tire. Those types of things happening – we could’ve definitely cleaned those up. That would’ve showed our team was capable of coming away with possibly – we were on the verge of making the Elite 8 in the playoffs. We would’ve been right there on the bubble. With all the issues we had, we were still 10th-place for the longest time in points. So I feel like that’s the number one thing.

Other than that, sponsorship money to do the wind tunnel time and seven-post time, all the things the big teams do that make your program that much better. You don’t understand how much going to the wind tunnel for three or four hours helps. We were able to do that a little bit, and honestly the last truck body we ran at Texas and Homestead, it didn’t even see the wind tunnel and it was good; it was one of our better trucks throughout the year. So yeah I mean there’s always places you can be better, but as far as the pit crew, we needed to tidy that up and our finishes would’ve definitely came.

PS: How are things looking for 2019 for you?

AUSTIN: I am actually going to be running the full season next year, but unfortunately will not be without Young’s Motorsports as we’re going a slightly different route in 2019. As far as details go, I am not supposed to be saying it for at least another week or so. But once the team I’m committed with and signed with comes out with their press release and talks about it and makes it public, then I’ll be able to talk about it. But as far as right now, they want me to keep it hush-hush. It’s definitely looking really good going full season in the truck season and I’m very excited about it.

PS: Look forward to hearing the news once released. How did you get started in racing?

Russell Labounty | NKP

AUSTIN: It was actually a funny story. Nobody in my family ever raced. I’m the first one that really started racing and got the family racing. When I was really young, three or four years old, I had only sat on the couch and watched the NASCAR races. My dad was into it and he watched it; he didn’t every single Sunday but he watched it. So when I was very young and watched it with my dad, I thought it was the coolest thing, so it was actually a tradition every Sunday to sit down and watch the NASCAR race. From the time I was three to six, I didn’t miss a race unless we weren’t home for some reason. I was always sitting on the couch simply amazed by the racecars.

So when I was five years old, I started telling my parents over and over I wanted to race. So for my sixth birthday, they got me a quarter midget. So we started practicing down in Georgia and it went from there. My dad thought it was going to be a hobby together; he thought it’d be cool to do and it turned out to be something we both loved and enjoyed. We worked our way through the ranks and have gotten to the truck series. We definitely want to go past the truck series, but the way sponsorship has worked out, we haven’t been able to yet. We’re hoping after the 2019 season we’re able to get on the map a little more and get sponsors interested to move up even more.

PS: What would it mean to get up to Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series one day?

AUSTIN: That’s always been the dream since I was three years old and saw racecars for the first time. I always wanted to be like Jeff Gordon and those guys. To reach the Cup level is a dream of mine and something I’d like to fulfill one day as long as we can get everything in line and be with a pretty good team. I’m just one of those drivers that wants to be in pretty good equipment that can run top-15, top-10, and eventually equipment that can run top-five and win races.

If the opportunity presented itself just to get experience, man, I’d love to run some Cup stuff, even if just five to eight races in 2019 or 2020. I’d love to just get my feet wet and see what it’s like to run a whole 500 mile race; I think that’s something I’d cherish. It’s definitely my goal to go Cup racing someday; we just have to make it happen.

PS: Who is your racing hero?

AUSTIN: Jeff Gordon. He’s always been my idol since I was three years old. My dad always liked him so I guess that was trend – he liked him so I liked him. Growing up, I thought he was amazing and one of the best to this day. It was also cool when I got to the K&N Series and at the track, I was able to speak to him numerous times and he has so much knowledge about racing that’ll help down the road. He is down to earth and he will answer any question you have and he’s definitely one to look up to.

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 XFINITY

Elliott Sadler, Noah Gragson Win Most Popular Driver Awards

The NASCAR XFINITY Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Most Popular Drivers have been named.

Elliott Sadler won the award in the XFINITY Series for the third consecutive time, which was also his retirement season. He announced he’d be stepping away from full-time NASCAR National Series competition following 23 years with 853 races across the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series, XFINITY Series and Camping World Truck Series. It marks the fifth straight year that a JR Motorsports driver has took home the honor.

“I’m blown away by the support of my fans throughout my career and in the last few months after announcing my decision to step away. To be voted the NXS Most Popular Driver for a third straight year is incredible. Not only that, but to be the winningest with four awards is unreal,” Sadler said. “I’m grateful for each and every fan, for all of their support and daily votes. I’m humbled by this experience and can’t thank my family, friends, fans and NASCAR enough. I love you guys.”

Noah Gragson won the award in the Camping World Truck Series for the first time in his second full-season of competition. The 20-year-old finished second in the year-end standings, and will move up to the XFINITY Series in 2019 with JR Motorsports. It marks the first time a driver from Kyle Busch Motorsports has took home the honor. 

Both Sadler and Gragson will be honored at the NASCAR XFINITY Series / Camping World Truck Series banquet on December 8 in Charlotte, North Carolina.

The 2018 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Most Popular Driver will be announced as part of their banquet on Thursday, November 29 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has won the award the past 15 years in a row.

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.

Categories
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

ASHLEY ASKS…… Harrison Burton

Earlier this week, Harrison Burton announced that he will run the full 2019 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Prior to the news being dropped, POPULAR SPEED caught up with the 18-year-old to get his thoughts entering this weekend’s Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and more.

POPULAR SPEED: What are your thoughts going into Homestead?

HARRISON BURTON: I’m really excited to go to Homestead. I know that it’s a crazy race track, everyone runs right around the top which will be really fun. I’m excited to try that out, and just ready to give it a shot. The biggest word I can think of would be excitement. You got a chance to go out there and win, and make something happen on Championship weekend – not much more you can ask for.

PS: What are your thoughts looking back on ISM Raceway

HARRISON: Well, it went good. I was happy with how we ran. We showed a lot of good speed. We won a stage; I think that’s the first stage that I’ve won. So we’re taking steps towards the first win. We had a chance; we were three-wide and I was on the bottom for the lead at the end there. I just didn’t make it work, but that’s part of it sometimes and I’m proud of our effort, but we always want more than that. I’ll go out there and try to get a win next time.

PS: How would you rate your season to date?

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

HARRISON: It’s gone pretty well, as far as the truck season goes. I’m fairly happy with it. I’m happy with my team’s progression and growth together. I feel almost more comfortable in the trucks than I do in the some of the lower series that I run. I’m really happy with where we are, and hopefully we can keep that group together going into next year if everything works out like I want it too. But you never know so you have to put in a last good job application and see what we got.

PS: What is one thing that you feel you and your team could do even better to run stronger?

HARRISON: I think the one thing that we’ve done well so far is prepare, so I think the biggest thing is just stick to our preparation. I think we get to the race track and maybe change our plans a little too much – or just stuff like that. It’s not a huge thing that we can do at this point. I spend more time preparing than I have ever before, and I have a great team around me to do that. I obviously have a great boss, Kyle Busch, who can help us with that. At the end of the day, it just comes down to execution when we get to the track, sticking to our plan, and doing our thing and being happy with how we did because we’ve done everything we could.

PS: You’ve kept a busy schedule racing a bit of everything. Is it tough going from one to the other?

HARRISON: It’s definitely a challenge but I think it makes me a better racecar driver because of it. I know that it’s hard to get into a rhythm from trucks to K&N to ARCA and super late models, and hop into each car or truck and be fast right off the truck; it’s a challenge. But I think having to do that, it helps me for situations where I may go to a new race track and pick it up real quick, for example this weekend at Homestead. So I think it definitely helps me, but it’s a challenge for sure.

PS: Speaking of late models, what are your thoughts going into the Snowball Derby in December?

HARRISON: I’m really excited for the Derby. It’s a race that’s on most every racer’s bucket list, I’d think, and if it’s not, it should be. It’s an awesome race track and a place that has a lot of history. You see guys like Erik Jones go there and win, and that made his whole career when you think back on it. If he hadn’t won that race, would he had made it is a question that you can ask. So definitely an important race for every racer in it, and a prestigious race. I’m just excited to go out and give it my all.

PS: There’s been lots of career highlights for you already, but what’s been the most memorable?

HARRISON: I think the biggest thing hasn’t necessarily been the wins. I think the biggest things are steps that I take as a driver to get better. That’s what this year has been about, really, trying to run all these different series and learn as a racecar driver how to do that. This year has been about me getting better and having fun while doing it. I think the little moments where you see yourself improving. You go out for your first time on a mile and a half, and improve and get faster – just stuff like that which has added up to good finishes and feeling more confident when you get to the track.

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

GALLERY: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship 4

22 races in the books, and the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series now comes down to the Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. With dramatics filling the season, there’s certainly more to be expected on Friday night when the best vow for the title. 

RUSTY JARRETT | NKP

1. Johnny Sauter

Season Statistics: Six race wins, four stage wins, 14 top-five’s, 17 top-10’s.

Last season, Johnny Sauter won at Texas Motor Speedway and ISM Raceway ahead of the championship finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, placing third to win the championship. This year, it was a victory at Martinsville to get him locked in; he has finished 11th and seventh in the two races since.

Along with last year’s third, the GMS Racing driver has scored a top-10 in his four starts at Homestead-Miami to go with a victory in 2011.

NKP

2. Justin Haley

Season Statistics: Three race wins, one stage win, nine top-five’s, 17 top-10’s

Justin Haley used the contact between Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates to make the Round of 6 with a win at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, and now used KBM driver Todd Gilliland‘s misfortune at Texas to score a victory and make the Championship 4. Combined with a sixth at Martinsville to start this round, he wasn’t kidding when he told POPULAR SPEED he was confident about his team’s chances. Unfortunately, he enters Homestead following a 28th-place finish at ISM due to an oil leak.

He finished ninth last season in his first trip to Homestead-Miami Speedway.

BARRY CANTRELL | NKP

3. Brett Moffitt +22

Season Statistics: Five race wins, two stage wins, 12 top-five’s, 12 top-10’s

Brett Moffit knew he had a good chance to make the Championship 4 after finishing second and fourth to start the round, but took control of his situation by scoring the victory at ISM Raceway after a late-race pass on Noah Gragson and Grant Enfinger.

He has yet to run a truck race at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

NIGEL KINRADE | NKP

4. Noah Gragson +18

Season Statistics: One race win, 10 stage wins, seven top-five’s, 16 top-10’s

Noah Gragson is the only driver to not score a win during the Round of 6 that is in the Championship 4, but it isn’t for lacking of trying. He has shown speed to win, but either an incident or slow pit stop has hurt his chances. Despite that, a runner-up at ISM after a rough pit stop following stage two was enough to secure his chances and lock him in. 

He has failed to score a top-10 in his two previous starts at Homestead-Miami Speedway, placing 15th and 18th. 

All Photos Courtesy of Nigel Kinrade Photography

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 clinches Championship 4 berth with dramatic win at Phoenix

AVONDALE, Ariz. – Charging from third to first with a strong inside move after a restart with three laps left, Brett Moffitt clinched his spot in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship 4 with a dramatic victory in Friday night’s Lucas Oil 150 at ISM Raceway.

While Noah Gragson and Grant Enfinger battled for the lead and swapped side-to-side shots on Lap 148 of 150, Moffitt powered his No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota down to the frontstretch apron and cleared Gragson and Enfinger off the second corner.

Moffitt pulled away to win his fifth race of the season by .456 seconds over Gragson, who qualified for the Championship 4 on points, as Enfinger faded to fourth and out of the Playoff picture. He took the checkered flag in his first start at ISM Raceway and claimed the sixth victory of his career.

Gragson was leading with seven laps left when Riley Herbst’s spin brought out the fourth and final caution of the evening. The subsequent restart gave Moffitt the opportunity he needed to win the race. Adding to the urgency, Enfinger could have qualified for the Championship by winning, leaving Moffitt and Gragson to fight a close battle for the final spot on points.

“I wasn’t sure if I wanted a caution to come out or not, but in hindsight I did,” Moffitt said. “Where we were sitting we were locked into Homestead mathematically. When that caution came out, I was kind of nervous. I didn’t know what was going to happen. Then when the 18 (Gragson) took the top (lane for the restart), I really didn’t know what the hell was going to happen.

“I was just hoping the 98 (Enfinger) got rolling to where he didn’t stack up the inside, and fortunately he got a good restart, and I dove down to the apron. Our truck was really good running the actual apron through (turns) 1 and 2 all night long. I made a lot of passes there. I stuck it down there and went for it and was able to clear off (Turn) 2 and drive away.”

After running the spec Ilmor NT-1 engine at Texas last Friday, Moffitt returned to the Mark Cronquist-built Toyota engine at Phoenix, despite a NASCAR gear rule change designed to even out the performance of the two types of power plants.

“It’s Joe Gibbs 299th engine win with Mark Cronquist,” Moffitt said. “They put our backs against the wall (with the rule change), but the s.o.b. won again.”

Toyota drivers Moffitt and Gragson joined GMS Racing teammates Johnny Sauter and Justin Haley in the Championship 4. Sauter had qualified with a win at Martinsville, and Haley earned his spot with a victory at Texas.

Two-time series champion Matt Crafton was eliminated from the Playoffs after an 11th-place finish. Crafton lost his chance for victory when his crew had trouble with the right front tire on the No. 88 Ford’s final pit stop.

Harrison Burton matched his career-best finish with a third-place run.