Inches given; more inches taken.
That’s often how it plays out in the NASCAR Truck Series playoffs when there is a championship race spot on the line in the final multi-race round of the elimination showdown.
Zane Smith was leading with five laps to go but Brett Moffitt had closed the gap and made the pass on the bottom in Turns 3 and 4. Smith crossed over on the backstretch, threw a block, and sent him GMS Racing teammate around.
It was a remarkable save by Smith, but it didn’t change the reality that he had been painfully denied the first guaranteed entry into the championship race, finishing 11th and falling to fourth in the standings.
“Hang on to it buddy!” [email protected]
😱Around goes @zanesmith77 after battling teammate @Brett_Moffitt for the lead! pic.twitter.com/toPuM8sn0I
“A bad block by me,” Moffitt said. “He got around me in lapped traffic, then I just put it on the line to run him back down. We got there and I tried to throw a block and we’re racing for everything right now. I apologize for that. I know that doesn’t change anything. I just hope they go out and win their way in next weekend.”
And Moffitt was right that it didn’t change anything immediately, even if there’s a great deal of respect between them.
“I’m really not going to say much about it because I’ll probably get into trouble, but that felt like it was ours,” Smith said. “I mean, it just seemed like he darted down and I don’t know if it was — damn, I don’t know if you’d qualify that as a save, but it was a big moment from my seat.”
SETTING THE STAGE
Two Truck Series championship longshots fell into must-win scenarios over the next two races at Texas Motor Speedway and Martinsville Speedway.
Tyler Ankrum was running 12th after the first stage when Raphael Lessard’s Kyle Busch Motorsports Truck snapped loose in Turns 3 and 4 and put the other GMS Racing contender into the outside retaining wall.
Ankrum’s truck caught fire and he was immediately eliminated from the race.
“It was a hard lick,” Ankrum said. “Just bad luck. Raphael was out of control almost the entire race.”
Trouble in the middle of the pack! @TylerAnkrum, @DavidGravel and @pkligerman are among those involved. pic.twitter.com/xgNIhyDNaX
And then there was the overall performance from outside pole winner Ben Rhodes who suffered from an extremely loose truck, and then sustained damage that forced him into making multiple trips down pit road. The situation was made worse when his team was penalized for too many crew members over the wall making repairs.
That meant Rhodes lost two laps before he could continue. He finished 20th.
Here is the playoff grid with two races left before the championship race at Phoenix Raceway. Any championship eligible driver who wins one of the remaining two races will advance to the finale alongside Moffitt. The rest of the grid is decided based on the highest finishing drivers in points without a win in this round.
1. Brett Moffitt ADV
2. Sheldon Creed +26
3. Austin Hill +19
4. Zane Smith +7
5. Grant Enfinger -7
6. Matt Crafton -15
7. Ben Rhodes -33
8. Tyler Ankrum -56
Hailie Deegan made her much anticipated NASCAR Truck Series debut on Saturday afternoon and finished 16th in largely uneventful fashion.
She logged laps and avoided trouble, finishing one lap off the pace in the DGR-Crosley No. 17 Ford F-150.
The only mistake made was nearly running off the pavement while completing his first ever green flag pit stop — something she hasn’t practiced before in the ARCA Racing Series this season.
“The biggest surprise was just how intense this kind of racing is,” Deegan said after the race. “You’re trying to block one person behind you while trying to make the pass on the person in front of you. The next thing you know is you have two trucks pass you if you lose momentum and didn’t complete the pass.
“It’s a lot tougher racing. I tought it was a successful race. We stayed out of trouble and got a little nervous on that pit stop, nearly ran out of gas, but at the end of the day, it was high intensity racing and I’m looking forward to doing more of it.”
And more of it she will do next season, as Ford Performance confirmed that she would drive full-time next season in the Truck Series with DGR-Crosley.
Deegan, 18, has some work cut out for her as the 2020 ARCA season has challenged her to the tune of a 7.3 average finish in a series that generally had eight competitive cars each week. But Deegan remains one of the five most marketable and popular NASCAR drivers even before making a single national touring appearance, meaning Ford will give her every opportunity to succeed.
1. Brett Moffitt
2. Sheldon Creed
3. Austin Hill
4. Grant Enfinger
5. Chandler Smith
6. Christian Eckes
7. Timothy Peters
8. Matt Crafton
9. Derek Kraus
10. Trevor Bayne
11. Zane Smith
12. Ryan Truex
13. Todd Gilliland
14. Tyler Hill
15. Parker Kligerman
16. Hailie Deegan
17. Tate Fogleman
18. Johnny Sauter
19. Austin Wayne Self
20. Ben Rhodes
21. Danny Bohn
22. Spencer Boyd
23. Dawson Cram
24. Colin Garrett
25. Clay Greenfield
26. Ray Ciccarelli
27. Josh Reaume
28. Josh Bilicki
29. Jennifer Jo Cobb
30. Jordan Anderson
31. Norm Benning
32. Tim Viens
33. Raphael Lessard
34. Tyler Ankrum
35. David Gravel
36. Tanner Gray
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