Grant Enfinger took the checkered flag at Richmond International Raceway for the third time in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series 2020 season. It was his first victory since Atlanta earlier this season. The Alabaman took the lead from his ThorSport Racing teammate Matt Crafton with seven laps to go when Crafton had to check up off Turn 4 and roll out of the throttle, which let Enfinger roll on by for the victory.
“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.
Richmond International Raceway marked the first time since 2005 that the Truck Series has raced on the circuit, 15 years ago. And for many drivers, aside from veterans David Ragan, Crafton and Johnny Sauter, most of the drivers in the field did not have any racing experience on the .750-mile race track in Virginia. Race No. 16 of 2020 also marked the last race of the Truck Series regular season before the Playoffs begin at Bristol Motor Speedway on Thursday, Sept. 17.
Austin Hill started on the pole as determined by the new qualifying format that is based on competition percentages. He was also eligible to secure the regular season championship and pick up an additional 15 points as the series heads into the Playoffs. Stages of 70-70-110 laps made up the 250-lap event.
Stage 1: Lap 1 – Lap 70
Numerous drivers had issues from the get-go, while pole sitter Austin Hill checked out with the race lead.
On Lap 5, the No. 44 of Natalie Decker was on pit road with the hood up on her Niece Motorsports truck. She would eventually rejoin the race but many laps down and out of contention for the a solid finish. Meanwhile, Johnny Sauter’s season continued to get worse, as he was down on pit road just 10 laps into the race. Later on in the stage, the team reported that something had possibly broken on his No. 13 truck. Sauter continued to struggle throughout the night, before being credited with a 27th place finish.
The first caution flag of the night flew on Lap 55 when CMI Motorsports drivers Tim Viens and Ray Ciccarelli had an accident off Turn 4.
Under the caution, Enfinger came down pit road for four tires and fuel while David Ragan was penalized for a crew member over the wall too soon and Trevor Bayne went to the garage for mechanical issues.
After the brief yellow, the rest of the stage remained green from the Lap 61 restart until the Stage 1 completion on Lap 70.
Zane Smith took the stage win with Enfinger, Austin Hill, Stewart Friesen, Ben Rhodes, Derek Kraus, Sam Mayer, Brett Moffitt, Tate Fogleman and Christian Eckes were the top 10 finishers of Stage 1.
During the stage break, a few drivers received penalties while making their pit stops. The No. 15 of Tanner Gray was penalized for too many crew members over the wall and Ryan Huff was penalized for commitment line violation. Raphael Lessard received a penalty for pitting outside the box and was held a lap and Danny Bohn for a crew member over the wall too soon.
Prior to the restart of Stage 2, Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Chandler Smith was penalized for hitting the choose cone and was sent to the rear of the field.
Stage 2: Lap 82 – Lap 140
Stage 2 saw 59 laps of green-flag racing and no caution flags. The only notable of the stage was when Ben Rhodes took the lead from Enfinger on Lap 120 and held on to take the stage victory. Enfinger, Hill, Ragan, Zane Smith, Moffitt, Crafton, Creed, Gilliland, and Timmy Hill completed the top 10.
By virtue of finishing third in Stage 2, Austin Hill clinched the regular-season title and gained an additional 15 points for the Playoffs.
Stage 3: Lap 153 – Lap 250
Enfinger’s race almost went awry when the green flag flew for the restart. The Alabaman made contact with his teammate and race leader Rhodes. Due to the contact, Enfinger received left rear fender damage. The team elected to bring him down pit road and give up track position to fix the damage, which put Enfinger a lap down.
However, thanks to a Lap 175 caution for contact with Ciccarelli and Austin Wayne Self, Enfinger was the beneficiary of the free pass and was back on the lead lap. Under the caution, Crafton and Moffitt came to pit road, changing up their strategy.
The remainder of the stage was caution-free with Crafton dominating the race and passing Moffitt for the lead with 31 laps to go. Unfortunately for Crafton, lap traffic was starting to get in the way and began slowing him up.
As Crafton was not able to get through lap traffic smoothly, it allowed Enfinger to catch him, slowly but surely. The defining moment came with five to go when Crafton caught the No. 6 of Norm Benning at an unlucky time off Turn 4. From that moment on, Enfinger fended off Crafton for the checkered flag to pick up the win and five playoff points.
There were four cautions for 37 laps and eight lead changes among six different drivers. Enfinger led three times for 18 laps en route to victory.
By virtue of their finishes, Todd Gilliland and Tyler Ankrum clinched the last remaining playoff spots of ninth and 10th. Unfortunately for Derek Kraus, Johnny Sauter and Stewart Friesen, among others, they finished outside the top 10 and will miss out on the Playoffs. It’s the first-time in Sauter’s career he will miss the Playoffs.
Official Results following the Toyota Care 250 at Richmond International Raceway:
- Grant Enfinger, led 18 laps
- Matt Crafton, led 25 laps
- Ben Rhodes, won Stage 2. led 66 laps
- Brett Moffitt led 32 laps
- Tyler Ankrum
- Codie Rohrbaugh
- David Ragan, 1 lap down
- Austin Hill, led 65 laps, 1 lap down
- Timmy Hill, 1 lap down
- Stewart Friesen, 1 lap down
- Zane Smith, won Stage 1, led 44 laps, 1 lap down
- Chandler Smith, 1 lap down
- Sheldon Creed, 1 lap down
- Austin Wayne Self, 1 lap down
- Tate Fogleman, 1 lap down
- Tanner Gray, 1 lap down
- Todd Gilliland, 1 lap down
- Christian Eckes, 1 lap down
- Sam Mayer, 1 lap down
- Spencer Boyd, 3 laps down
- Clay Greenfield, 3 laps down
- Derek Kraus, 4 laps down
- Jordan Anderson, 4 laps down
- Josh Bilicki, 5 laps down
- Raphael Lessard, 5 laps down
- Johnny Sauter, 8 laps down
- Ryan Huff, 11 laps down
- Trevor Bayne, 13 laps down
- Norm Benning, 15 laps down
- Ray Ciccarelli, 19 laps down
- Josh Reaume 33 laps down
- Danny Bohn, OUT, Electrical
- Natalie Decker, 95 laps down
- Tim Viens, OUT, Crash
- Jennifer Jo Cobb, OUT, Clutch
Playoff Standings starting at Bristol
- Sheldon Creed, 2,026 points
- Zane Smith, -4 from the lead
- Austin Hill, -4 from the lead
- Grant Enfinger, -7 from the lead
- Brett Moffitt, -11 from the lead
- Ben Rhodes, -12 from the lead
- Matt Crafton, -17 from the lead
- Christian Eckes, -21 from the lead
- Todd Gilliland, -23 from the lead
- Tyler Ankrum, -24 from the lead
Up Next: The NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series will begin their 2020 Truck Series Playoffs with the Round of 10 beginning next Thursday night, Sept. 17, at Bristol Motor Speedway, which will be televised live on FOX Sports 1 and MRN Radio.