In the race that decided the lineup for the Round of 6 in the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase, Alabama native Grant Enfinger stole the thunder from the playoff drivers in Saturday’s Fred’s 250 at Talladega Superspeedway.
With a strong push from GMS Racing teammate and Chase driver Ben Kennedy after a restart on Lap 93 of 94, Enfinger surged to the front and stayed there in the face of a last-lap challenger from another teammate, Spencer Gallagher, who came home second, .108 seconds behind the winner.
The victory was Enfinger’s first in 13 career starts in the series.
“It’s unbelievable,” said Enfinger, who led the first-ever 1-2 finish for GMS. “It’s my home track. It’s just so special.”
The race reduced the NCWTS Chase field from eight drivers to six. Third-place finisher Timothy Peters was the highest finisher among those who advanced, followed by Kennedy in fifth place, as GMS drivers claimed four of the top seven positions.
“I got behind Grant Enfinger and tried to push him as much as I could,” said Kennedy, who shoved his teammate’s No. 24 Chevrolet to the front in the outside lane. “I knew the outside line had a little bit of something. I pushed him as much as I could, and once he got out to the lead, that truck was so fast out there.
“I thought about trying to make it three-wide, but I didn’t really have the momentum to carry it around him.”
Also moving on to the Round of 6 were sixth-place finisher Christopher Bell, GMS driver Johnny Sauter (seventh on Saturday), 10th-place finisher William Byron (who already had clinched a spot with a victory in the opening Chase race at New Hampshire) and Matt Crafton (who came home 22nd after his blown engine caused the seventh and final caution on Lap 89).
John Hunter Nemechek was eliminated from the Chase early in the race. The engine in his No. 8 Chevrolet expired on Lap 13, and Nemechek retired in 32nd place. Daniel Hemric, who entered the race below the Chase cut line, remained there thanks to three separate incidents on Saturday, the most costly a 14-car wreck on Lap 59 that severely damaged his No. 19 Ford.
Hemric finished 11th, but fell 13 points short of Crafton, whose engine problems occurred too late to be of help to Hemric, given that 10 other trucks already were in the garage when Crafton’s motor blew.
“Today was completely full of trials and trying to overcome things,” Hemric said. “All we can do now is try to win races. It wasn’t for lack of effort. We got involved in three or four different situations there and never had the opportunity to get back to the front.”
Sunoco Rookie Rico Abreu finished fourth, his second top-five of the season and his best result in the series on pavement.
Byron is the top seed in the Round of 6, followed by Bell, Peters, Crafton, Kennedy and Sauter. All six drivers start the Round of 6 with points reset to 3,000.
Check out the unofficial results of the Fred’s 250 powered by Coca Cola.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!