AVONDALE, Ariz. — Stewart Friesen wins at ISM Raceway in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series in Friday’s Lucas Oil 150, as the Championship 4 are now officially set for next weekend’s title-deciding race.
“We’ve got a badass piece for next week, too,” stated a confident Friesen, as he locked himself into next Friday’s championship race.
After facing an opening-lap penalty for beating polesitter Austin Hill to the line on the initial start, Friesen battled his way back to the front, leading 44 laps in the 150 lap event.
“It was a great race car,” said Friesen, who was sent to the rear of the field after getting to the stripe ahead of Hill, who spun his tires on the initial start. “We were able to pass ‘em all, pass ‘em all clean.
“Great race car, great race team. We’ll all celebrate tomorrow, and then it’s game on.”
The other three drivers to join him will be Ross Chastain, Matt Crafton and last year’s champion, Brett Moffitt.
“My main concern for the day was getting us locked into the owner points as well,” Moffitt said. “We got both jobs done today.”
Chastain declared points for the Truck series partway through the season, and now finds his team as one of the four who will race for the 2019 title.
“Man, this is crazy — a dream come true though,” Chastain said.
Crafton was below the cutoff line, but was strong all day and earned many points from Stage 1 and 2 to earn his way into Miami.
“I didn’t have anything to lose and everything to gain,” Crafton said. “And that’s the way I drove it from the green flag to the checkered flag.”
Brandon Jones was the highest finishing non-Playoff driver in the runner-up position. With roughly 30 laps remaining, he radioed to his crew to ask about Friesen’s point status. When his crew chief responded that Friesen was essentially locked in, the No. 19 driver drove more aggressively after the leader. He, however, fell short when they battled through lapped traffic.
At the end of the night, two drivers were eliminated: Hill and Tyler Ankrum. Ankrum missed the first three races of the year but was able to make it as far as the Round of 6 before missing the final round. Even he didn’t realize he would make it this far but looked back on the year with much to learn. As he reflected on his year, he felt some races were missed opportunities but was still proud of what he was able to accomplish as one of the bigger underdogs of the field.
“For me, I think there’s one or two races we should have won, but didn’t win,” Ankrum stated when reviewing his first full-time season as a whole. “I think Pocono is one of those. I think I could have done a lot better at Canada finishing wise. Bristol could have been a lot better with electrical issues there and then Las Vegas, burning up two pistons. Stuff like that I look back on and those things are out of my control, and I think we could have had a really good race, then we didn’t.
“In most people’s eyes, we’ve overachieved or exceeded our expectations, which I’m really proud of. For me, personally, I’m really proud of what we’ve done here this year. Not just based off of what we’ve done on the racetrack, but also between what we’ve done as a team working really well together and become a family.”
As for Hill, he knew he needed to stay ahead of Ankrum and Crafton. He started strong by earning the pole in qualifying earlier in the day and was able to outrun Ankrum during the race, who finished six laps down. But Crafton beat Ankrum overall both in finishing position and with points collected with 15 more points. That gave Crafton the edge over Hill by just a handful of points to push Hill below the cutoff line.
“We were getting eaten up on the restarts, and were put in the middle 3-wide sometimes,” Hill shared after the race. “When we had a really long run, we were okay. That last run, we tried to loosen it up but it was the tightest we ever were. We just didn’t perform; we didn’t execute like we were supposed to. We had high hopes after qualifying on the pole, and we just fell back like an anchor.”
The last race of the season will be held next weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.