Enfinger wins the Trucks finale at Richmond Raceway, while Austin Hill clinches the regular-season championship title in the ToyotaCare 250 on Thursday night.
Bookending the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series regular-season with victories, Grant Enfinger answers his season-opening win at Daytona with a win Thursday night in the ToyotaCare 250 regular-season finale at Richmond (Va.) Raceway – leading his ThorSport Racing teammates Matt Crafton and Ben Rhodes across the finish line by a 1.033-seconds.
The Rest of the Best
Brett Moffitt and rookie Tyler Ankrum round out the top-five, while Codie Rohrbaugh, former NASCAR Cup Series regular David Ragan, Austin Hill, Timmy Hill, and Stewart Friesen round out the top-ten. The sixth-place effort for Rohrbaugh was his third career top-ten finish.
Pit strategy and huge focus helped the Alabama-native Enfinger, 35, earn a career-best three-wins this season, including the victories in the Daytona season opener, then again at Atlanta in June.
“Can’t say enough about [crew chief] Jeff Hensley, we’ve both been beating our head against the wall lately, but we go into the playoffs with some momentum now,” said Enfinger, who led 18 laps in the No. 98 ThorSport Racing Ford F-150.
The 2020 Regular-Season Champion
Austin Hill earned the Gander Trucks regular-season championship after third-place finishes in the opening two stages Thursday. The driver of the No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota Tundra will take a 15-point bonus into the Playoffs for his effort. He, and third-place finisher Rhodes, each led a race-best 66 laps of the 250-lap event.
Sheldon Creed, a three-race winner, earned the top-seed for the Playoffs. He’ll start the seven-race Playoff slate next week at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway with a four-point edge over Zane Smith and Hill as the points re-set.
Enfinger is the fourth seed in the Playoffs, followed by Moffitt, Rhodes, Crafton, Christian Eckes, Todd Gilliland, and Tyler Ankrum.
Pit Strategies Net Postive Results
Not only did pit strategy ultimately result in the winning play for Enfinger, but it was also a factor in positive outcomes all night.
Smith, 21, a two-race winner this season, used pit strategy to pick up the Stage 1 victory. While the race leaders stayed out on track during the race’s first caution period on lap 54, Smith and a handful of drivers, including Playoff contender Derek Kraus, went to the pit for fresh tires and were able to move forward in time to earn valuable opening stage points.
Rhodes won Stage 2 – his first stage win of 2020 – finishing ahead of Enfinger.
Making the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Playoff
And the 19-year old Californian Ankrum and the 20-year old North Carolinian Gilliland ended-up securing their debuts in the championship field – successfully holding off Kraus in a tight, months-long three-way battle for those final two Playoff points positions.
“I think if I was telling you I wasn’t nervous before today, I was lying,” said Gilliland, who drives the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford F-150. “I have confidence in my team. It’s crazy I was fourth on that last restart and ended up getting lapped. This place is tough. Trying to put this one behind us and reset and work toward Bristol. Just take it race-by-race.”
“So cool to be part of the Playoffs, my first time in three years [of competition],” he added.
While Gilliland emerged from his truck full of joy, two other drivers also with so much on the line Thursday night, ended up on the wrong end of good fortune.
The Rookie Derek Kraus
Kraus, the impressive 19-year old rookie from Wisconsin, came into the race one position shy of a playoff berth. He used pit strategy to earn Stage 1 bonus points – finishing sixth in the opening stage. But his truck was suffering from a splitter issue and was tough to handle all night, ultimately dropping a lap down. He was running mid-pack by the Stage 2 finish.
Kraus trailed tenth place, Gilliland, by ten points and ninth place, Ankrum, by 14 points at the green flag. But while pit strategy helped Kraus earn those valuable points in the opening stage, nagging mechanical problems dropped the No. 19 Toyota to a mid-pack finish in Stage 2, a lap down. He fought the condition all night and ultimately finished 23rd.
“Nothing to hang your head about, zero, nothing,” Kraus crew chief Kevin Bellicourt encouraged the young driver on the post-race cool-down lap.
The Veteran Johnny Sauter
Another typical title contender, still hoping to rally in the regular-season finale, was veteran Johnny Sauter. The 2016 series champion was ranked 15th coming into the race, and only a victory would launch him into Playoff contention. Unfortunately, a mechanical problem from the opening laps forced extra pit stops and put Sauter out of contention early on. He finished 27th – eight laps down.
It marks the first time in Sauter’s 12-year fulltime Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series career that he will finish a season ranked worse than ninth place.
The opening round of the seven-race NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs begins next Thursday at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway with the UNOH 200 presented by Ohio Logistics (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Race – 1st Annual ToyotaCare 250
Thursday, September 10, 2020
1. (5) Grant Enfinger, Ford, 250.
2. (10) Matt Crafton, Ford, 250.
3. (2) Ben Rhodes, Ford, 250.
4. (4) Brett Moffitt, Chevrolet, 250.
5. (11) Tyler Ankrum, Chevrolet, 250.
6. (28) Codie Rohrbaugh, Chevrolet, 250.
7. (21) David Ragan, Ford, 249.
8. (1) Austin Hill, Toyota, 249.
9. (15) Timmy Hill, Chevrolet, 249.
10. (13) Stewart Friesen, Toyota, 249.
11. (9) Zane Smith #, Chevrolet, 249.
12. (14) Chandler Smith, Toyota, 249.
13. (12) Sheldon Creed, Chevrolet, 249.
14. (17) Austin Wayne Self, Chevrolet, 249.
15. (16) Tate Fogleman #, Chevrolet, 249.
16. (19) Tanner Gray #, Ford, 249.
17. (8) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 249.
18. (3) Christian Eckes #, Toyota, 249.
19. (25) Sam Mayer, Chevrolet, 249.
20. (26) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 247.
21. (22) Clay Greenfield, Toyota, 247.
22. (30) Carson Hocevar, Chevrolet, 247.
23. (6) Derek Kraus #, Toyota, 246.
24. (23) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, 246.
25. (33) Josh Bilicki(i), Toyota, 245.
26. (7) Raphael Lessard #, Toyota, 245.
27. (20) Johnny Sauter, Ford, 242.
28. (35) Ryan Huff, Chevrolet, 239.
29. (24) Trevor Bayne, Chevrolet, 237.
30. (32) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, 235.
31. (34) Ray Ciccarelli, Chevrolet, 231.
32. (29) Josh Reaume, Toyota, 217.
33. (18) Danny Bohn, Toyota, Electrical, 175.
34. (27) Natalie Decker, Chevrolet, 155.
35. (36) Tim Viens, Chevrolet, Accident, 50.
36. (31) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, Clutch, 0.
The ToyotaCare 250 Stats
Average Speed of Race Winner: 94.551 mph.
Time of Race: One Hr, 58 Mins, 59 Secs. The Margin of Victory: 1.033 Seconds.
Caution Flags: Four for 37 laps.
Lead Changes: Eight among six drivers.
Lap Leaders: A. Hill 1-65;Z. Smith # 66-109;G. Enfinger 110-119;B. Rhodes 120-152;G. Enfinger 153;B. Rhodes 154-186;B. Moffitt 187-218;M. Crafton 219-243;G. Enfinger 244-250.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Ben Rhodes two times for 66 laps; Austin Hill one time for 65 laps; Zane Smith # one time for 44 laps; Brett Moffitt one time for 32 laps; Matt Crafton one time for 25 laps; Grant Enfinger three times for 18 laps.
Stage 1 Top-Ten: 21,98,16,52,99,19,24,23,02,18
Stage 2 Top-Ten: 99,98,16,17,21,23,88,2,38,56