Todd Gilliland cruises to a Truck Series win at Knoxville

Todd Gilliland made the most of his final off-weekend period from the NASCAR Cup Series and his one-race return to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series by winning the second annual Clean Harbors 150 at Knoxville Raceway on Saturday, June 18.

The 22-year-old Gilliland from Sherrills Ford, North Carolina, who competes as a full-time rookie in the NASCAR Cup Series, led 58 of 150-scheduled laps, including the final 11, as he muscled away from John Hunter Nemechek and the field during a four-lap shootout to claim his first NASCAR national touring series victory on dirt and his first series win in more than a season.

The starting lineup for the main event was determined through a formula that evaluated the results and number of positions each competitor gained through four heat events that occurred two hours prior to the main event. When the dust settled and the four heat events concluded, Derek Kraus, who finished second behind John Hunter Nemechek in the first heat event but earned 15 qualifying points, claimed the pole position for a second consecutive season at Knoxville. Joining him on the front row was Carson Hocevar, who won the second heat event and earned a total of 14 qualifying points. Braden Mitchell and Norm Benning were the two competitors who did not qualify for the main event.

Prior to the event, rookie Jack Wood and Spencer Boyd started at the rear of the field due to both missing driver’s introductions.

When the green flag waved and the race started, Hocevar battled with Kraus through the first two turns until he pulled ahead on the outside lane and went on to lead the first lap. Stewart Friesen challenged Kraus for the runner-up spot ahead of Ben Rhodes, Buddy Kofoid and John Hunter Nemechek as the field scrambled for early positions.

Four laps into the event, the first caution flew when Christian Eckes made contact and turned Dean Thompson in Turn 1 as Thompson limped back to pit road with a flat left-rear tire.

Another four laps later, the race proceeded under green. At the start, Hocevar retained the lead following a strong start on the outside lane while Rhodes muscled his way into the runner-up spot over Friesen.

At the Lap 10 mark, Hocevar was leading by nearly four-tenths of a second over Rhodes followed by Friesen, Nemechek and Ty Majeski while Todd Gilliland, Chandler Smith, Kraus, Buddy Kofoid and Grant Enfinger were in the top 10.

Ten laps later, Hocevar continued to lead by more than two seconds over both Rhodes and Stewart Friesen while John Hunter Nemechek and Gilliland were scored in the top five. Majeski slipped back to sixth ahead of Chandler Smith, Kraus, Enfinger and Kofoid while Tanner Gray, Brett Moffitt, Zane Smith, Matt DiBenedetto, Matt Crafton, Eckes, Hailie Deegan, Tyler Ankrum, Jessica Friesen and Kaz Grala were scored in the top 20.

Another 10 laps later, Hocevar remained as the leader by more than a second over Friesen while Nemechek, Gilliland and Kraus were in the top five. Meanwhile, Rhodes had fallen back to seventh behind teammate Majeski while Chandler Smith, Enfinger and Moffitt were in the top 10. 

Shortly after, the caution flew when Tanner Gray made contact with Kofoid’s No. 51 Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro on the inside lane and spun as he was hit by a sliding Spencer Boyd in Turn 3. During the caution period, Rhodes pitted from seventh place to have the front nose of his No. 99 Tenda Toyota Tundra TRD Pro repaired along with having an overheating issue addressed.

With one lap remaining in the first stage and as the field fanned out when the race restarted under green, Hocevar pulled ahead once again and went on to claim the first stage victory on Lap 40, which marked his second stage victory of the season. Todd Gilliland settled in second followed by Nemechek, Kraus, Ty Majeski, Enfinger, Chandler Smith, Moffitt, Matt DiBenedetto and Zane Smith. Meanwhile, Friesen, who was running in the top five, lost momentum entering Turn 3 after his No. 52 Halmar Toyota Tundra TRD Pro suffered a flat right-rear tire, though he remained on the lead lap.

Following a three-minute break period to allow the pit crew members to service their respective trucks, the second stage started under green on Lap 41 as Hocevar and Gilliland occupied the front row. At the start, Hocevar retained the lead while Kraus moved his No. 19 NAPA Chevrolet Silverado RST into the runner-up spot ahead of Gilliland while Enfinger and Moffitt were in the top five.

Through the first 50 laps of the event, Hocevar was leading by nearly four-tenths of a second over Kraus followed by Gilliland, Moffitt and Enfinger while Nemechek, Majeski, Zane Smith, Matt Crafton and Hailie Deegan were in the top 10. Chandler Smith and Eckes battled for 11th ahead of Stewart Friesen and DiBenedetto while Kofoid was in 15th ahead of Colby Howard, Kaz Grala, Tyler Ankrum, Tyler Carpenter and Jessica Friesen.

Seven laps later, the caution flew when Jessica Friesen flipped and got her No. 62 Halmar Toyota Tundra TRD Pro stuck on the inside burn curb in Turn 3. 

When the race restarted under green on Lap 65, Gilliland pulled a bold slid job on Hocevar to assume the lead. During the following lap, however, disaster struck for Hocevar, whose No. 42 Worldwide Express Chevrolet Silverado RST fell off the pace entering the fronstretch before he came to a stop towards the outside wall in Turn 1 and retired due to an engine failure as the caution returned. By then, his teammate Tyler Carpenter, a 30-year-old racer from Parkersburg, West Virginia, who earned a one-race ride with Niece Motorsports for Knoxville after winning the Gateway Dirt Nationals in December 2021, also retired due to a driveshaft issue.

“[The truck] done blown up,” Hocevar said. “That’s it. I thought Sonoma [Raceway] was gonna be the hardest one to watch and now, this one’s gonna be harder to watch. I’ll probably just sit and think about it for a while…Just sucks. It is what it is. We can’t control. We can’t do anything. It’s fitting this would be our luck.”

With the race restarting under green on Lap 72, Gilliland retained the lead followed by Kraus as Nemechek issued his challenge for the spot ahead of Moffitt and Zane Smith. As the race reached its halfway mark on Lap 75, Gilliland was leading by more than a second over Nemechek while Zane Smith, Kraus, Moffitt, Stewart Friesen, Enfinger, Grala, Eckes and Deegan were in the top 10.

By Laps 85, Gilliland continued to lead by more than four seconds over Zane Smith while Nemechek, Moffitt and Stewart Friesen were battling in the top five.

When the second stage concluded on Lap 90, Todd Gilliland captured his first stage victory in his first Truck start of the season. Zane Smith settled in second followed by Nemechek, Moffitt, Kraus, Enfinger, Grala, Stewart Friesen, Crafton and Tyler Ankrum.

Following a second three-minute break period to allow the pit crew members to service their respective trucks, the final stage started under green with 59 laps remaining. At the start, Moffitt, who was one of four competitors who remained on the track without pitting, rocketed with the lead in his No. 22 Concrete SupplyDestiny Homes Chevrolet Silverado RST on the outside lane while Enfinger and Kofoid battled for the runner-up spot ahead of Zane Smith and Gilliland. Soon after, Moffitt was black-flagged by NASCAR for a restart violation after NASCAR deemed that he jumped the initial restart. With Moffit serving his penalty by driving through pit road under green, Enfinger assumed the lead with 54 laps remaining followed by Gilliland, Zane Smith, Kofoid and Kraus.

With 50 laps remaining, Enfinger was leading by three-tenths of a second over Gilliland followed by Zane Smith, Nemechek and Kraus while Stewart Friesen, Kofoid, Eckes, Majeski and Crafton were in the top 10. Not long after, Gilliland reassumed the lead over Enfinger.

Ten laps later, Gilliland was leading by nearly a second over Nemechek while Enfinger settled back in third ahead of Zane Smith and Stewart Friesen. Another three laps later, the caution flew due to Bryson Mitchell falling off the pace and becoming slow on the track.

Down to the final 28 laps of the event, the race restarted under green. At the start, Nemechek moved his No. 4 Mobil 1 Toyota Tundra TRD Pro to the front ahead of Gilliland and the field. Three laps later, however, the caution returned for an incident involving Moffitt and Tanner Gray, both of whom made contact with one another in Turn 4, where Moffitt nearly flipped before both collided again in Turn 1, and sustained damage to their respective machines. At the same time, Grala and Colby Howard slid and collided against one another with Moffitt retiring in the garage.

With 18 laps remaining, the race restarted under green. At the start, Nemechek retained the lead while Stewart Friesen and Gilliland battled for the runner-up spot, with the former pulling ahead. Behind, Zane Smith and Kraus were in the top five ahead of Enfinger and the field.

A few laps later, Gilliland muscled his way back into the runner-up spot and Friesen was left battling with Kraus for third place while Nemechek continued to lead by a narrow margin.

Down to the final 10 laps of the event, Gilliland slid his No. 17 Frontline Enterprises Ford F-150 back into the lead while remaining in a tight battle with Nemechek for the lead while Kraus, Scored in the top 10 were Zane Smith and Friesen occupied the top five. Majeski, Enfinger, Kofoid, Crafton and Eckes.

Then with eight laps remaining, the caution flew when rookie Jack Wood spun in Turn 1. The caution stacked up the field for a late shootout to the finish.

With four laps remaining, the race proceeded under green and Gilliland managed to retain the lead while Nemechek and Zane Smith battled for the runner-up spot as the former retained the spot.

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Gilliland was ahead by more than a second over Nemechek as the field jostled for late positions. Having a clear racetrack in front of him, Gilliland was able to slip, slide and cycle his way back to the frontstretch and claim the checkered flag by nearly a second over Nemechek for his first NASCAR victory of the 2022 season.

By winning the second annual Truck event at Knoxville, Gilliland claimed his third career victory in the Truck Series, his first while driving for David Gilliland Racing and his first since winning at Circuit of the Americas in May 2021. The victory was also the first for David Gilliland Racing since Ryan Preece won at Nashville Superspeedway a year ago.

“Just so amazing, man,” Gilliland said on FS1. “The Cup Series is tough. Just racing every single week, I’ve had like a million people ask me, ‘Is this really what you wanna do on your off weekend?’ Absolutely, man. Nothing beats racing. I tell everyone I’m young. I wish I could do this every single weekend of the year. Just so happy for [crew chief] Seth Smith, my whole team, David Gilliland Racing, Ford, especially…Really, really cool. Just so thankful. I love the Truck Series. I ran here forever, it felt like, so to be able to come back and to get one, man, it’s so special.” 

“I just had an amazing truck,” Gilliland added. “These [David Gilliland Racing] guys prepared me a really good one. We got fitted in the seat on Tuesday afternoon. Just an amazing truck. These guys work so hard. The No. 17 truck’s been really fast a lot this year, so finally to get it a win. I think they’re close to the owners’ Playoff deal, so hopefully, [the win] helped them a little bit and I’ll be anxiously watching the rest of the year now. I feel like a little part of me’s gonna stay on this truck.”

Nemechek settled in the runner-up spot for the second time of the season and for his fifth top-five result while Zane Smith, Ty Majeski and Stewart Friesen finished in the top five. Kraus, Crafton, Enfinger, Tyler Ankrum and Ben Rhodes completed the top 10.

There were six lead changes for four different leaders. The race featured nine cautions for 45 laps.

With three races remaining of the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular-season stretch, John Hunter Nemechek leads the regular-season standings by five points over Zane Smith, 10 over Ben Rhodes, 14 over Chandler Smith, 43 over Ty Majeski and 49 over Stewart Friesen. 

Zane Smith, Ben Rhodes, John Hunter Nemechek, Chandler Smith and Stewart Friesen are tentatively locked into the 2022 Truck Playoffs based on winning at least once throughout the season while Ty Majeski, Christian Eckes, Carson Hocevar, Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton are above the top-10 cutline based on points. Derek Kraus trails the top-10 cutline by 27 points, Matt DiBenedetto trails by 43, Tanner Gray trails by 50, Tyler Ankrum trails by 53 and Chase Purdy trails by 106.

Results.

1. Todd Gilliland, 58 laps led, Stage 2 winner

2. John Hunter Nemechek, 17 laps led

3. Zane Smith

4. Ty Majeski

5. Stewart Friesen

6. Derek Kraus

7. Matt Crafton

8. Grant Enfinger, 10 laps led

9. Tyler Ankrum

10. Ben Rhodes 

11. Buddy Kofoid

12. Christian Eckes

13. Chandler Smith

14. Matt DiBenedetto

15. Hailie Deegan

16. Colby Howard

17. Dylan Westbrook

18. Lawless Alan

19. Timmy Hill

20. Chase Purdy

21. Jack Wood, one lap down

22. Tanner Gray, one lap down

23. Dean Thompson, two laps down

24. Joey Gase, two laps down

25. Blaine Perkins, two laps down

26. Kaz Grala, two laps down

27. Brayton Laster, three laps down

28. Kris Wright, five laps down

29. Spencer Boyd, eight laps down

30. Devon Rouse, 10 laps down

31. Thad Moffitt, 11 laps down

32. Brett Moffitt – OUT, Accident

33. Bryson Mitchell – OUT, Throttle

34. Jessica Friesen – OUT, Brakes

35. Carson Hocevar – OUT, Engine, 65 laps led, Stage 1 winner

36. Tyler Carpenter – OUT, Driveshaft

Next on the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule is Nashville Superspeedway for the second of three Triple Truck Challenge events, which will occur on Friday, June 24, at 8 p.m. ET on FS1.



The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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