Grant Enfinger found a novel way to knock off some of the rust accumulated since the opening race of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park.
Enfinger was out in the Mojave Desert, near Nellis Air Force Base and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, kicking up dust and sand in a dune buggy, negotiating the maze of trails that crisscross the barren landscape.
That was just a diversion, a taste of speed on a Wednesday evening before the serious business of championship competition was set to resume on Friday. And Enfinger was ready for redemption after a 17th-place finish Aug. 26 on the road course in Bowmanville, Ontario, left him last among the eight drivers eligible for the series title.
Chafing to get back into the seat of his No. 98 ThorSport Racing Ford, Enfinger was looking forward with relish to Friday’s World of Westgate 200 (9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
“I’m definitely happy to get back on an oval,” Enfinger said. “I was actually happy with our performance and the speed we had in Canada. The race just didn’t play out the way we needed it to. We had some mistakes on our side and then got caught up in that big mess at the end (an accident with five laps left).
“Overall, I was happy with the effort everyone put in, but for our standards, it wasn’t a clean race. So I’m happy to get to Vegas. We had a strong run here earlier this year. We finished fourth. I’ve always liked this place when we’ve come here. We’re bringing our favorite mile-and-a-half truck. So I feel we’ll be in shape to get a checkered flag on Friday night. I think we’re overdue at this point.”
A victory, of course, would give Enfinger a ticket into the second round of the Playoffs. After Friday’s race at Vegas and the Oct. 13 event at Talladega Superspeedway, the NCWTS Playoff field will be cut to from eight to six drivers. Enfinger is eighth in the standings, 11 behind Ben Rhodes in seventh but only 12 behind teammate Matt Crafton and Stewart Friesen, who are tied for fifth.
Consequently, the next two races could produce a major shuffle. Though he’s an Alabama native, Enfinger doesn’t want his fortunes to ride on the outcome at his home track at Talladega.
“Me and Talladega have a rocky relationship, but we’ve had some good times there, too,” Enfinger said. “Really, the only way to secure ourselves before we get to Talladega is to win (at Las Vegas). That would alleviate a lot of stress if we can go ahead and take care of that on Friday night and just have fun at Talladega.
“If that doesn’t happen, we’ll just race like heck and let the chips fall where they will. We’re going all out—all out every time we’re on the race track. We can’t afford to be conservative with anything.”
The NCWTS Playoffs are punctuated with breaks in the schedule during the first round. Though the drivers might get antsy during the time off, it gives the teams time to adjust and prepare their trucks for upcoming races. That has been particularly useful for ThorSport, which switched manufacturers from Toyota to Ford this season.
“The time off has helped us, but it’s a testament to the guys downstairs at ThorSport that do the heavy fab and all of the body stuff. They’ve worked a ton—night and day, seven days a week the first few months of the year to get us ahead of where we could start fluffin’ and buffin’ on our trucks, which is what we need to do to go out and contend for wins.
“They really did a good job at the beginning of the year, even though we got a late start, to get us in a good position now. It’s definitely worked in our favor to have some of these breaks along the way to have everybody caught up and for a few of those guys to get a little bit of sleep.”
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!