Grant Enfinger wins 2022 Truck Series Playoff opener at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park

A gusty call to pit for four fresh tires under caution with less than 10 laps remaining before bolting his way to the front through two late-race restarts netted Grant Enfinger a big victory in the TSport 200 at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park on Friday, July 29.

The 37-year-old Enfinger from Fairhope, Alabama, led four times for 13 of 207 over-scheduled laps and utilized four fresh tires to overtake Zane Smith during an overtime attempt to capture his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of the season and to become the first Playoff contender to transfer from the Round of 10 to 8.

With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup on Friday, Playoff contender John Hunter Nemechek started on pole position for the fifth time in 2022 after posting a pole-winning lap at 111.188 mph in 22.211 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Nemechek’s teammate and Playoff contender Chandler Smith, who won last weekend’s event at Pocono Raceway and won Friday’s ARCA Menards Series event earlier at IRP before he clocked in his best lap at 110.998 mph in 22.249 seconds.

Prior to the event, Chris Hacker and Josh Reaume dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to their respective trucks.

When the green flag waved and the race started, Nemechek launched his No. 4 Yahoo! Toyota Tundra TRD Pro to the lead while Chandler Smith and Christian Eckes battled for the runner-up spot before the former retained the spot in front of the field.

As the field returned to the start/finish line to complete the first lap, Nemechek retained the top spot ahead of teammate Chandler Smith and Eckes while Grant Enfinger, Carson Hocevar and Corey Heim battled for spots within the top six.

By the fifth lap, Enfinger moved his No. 23 Champion Power Equipment Chevrolet Silverado RST up to third followed by Hocevar while Eckes fell back to fifth in front of Stewart Friesen and Heim. Meanwhile, Nemechek remained as the leader by three-tenths of a second over Chandler Smith’s No. 18 Safelite Toyota Tundra TRD Pro.

Nearing the Lap 10 mark, the first caution of the event flew when Josh Reaume and Spencer Boyd wrecked in Turn 1, resulting in Reaume’s truck sustaining significant rear-end damage and Body’s truck bursting into flames. By then, Nemechek, who nearly lost the lead to teammate Chandler Smith, was back out in front followed by Enfinger, Hocevar and Friesen while Heim, Eckes, Ben Rhodes, Ty Majeski and Derek Kraus were in the top 10. In addition, Zane Smith, the 2022 Truck Series regular-season champion, was mired in 17th behind Austin Wayne Self while Matt Crafton was back in 22nd behind Chase Purdy.

Following an extensive caution period, the event restarted under green on Lap 20. At the start, Nemechek retained the top spot while Carson Hocevar made a bold move on the inside lane in an attempt to take the lead before he settled in third behind Chandler Smith. Behind, Enfinger and Stewart Friesen battled for fourth in front of Corey Heim and the field that fanned out to multiple lanes. 

Through the first 25 scheduled laps, Nemechek was leading by two-tenths of a second over teammate Chandler Smith followed by Hocevar, Friesen and Enfinger while Heim, Ben Rhodes, Eckes, Kraus and Majeski were in the top 10. 

Four laps later, the caution returned when Reaume, who was involved in the first caution with Spencer Boyd, spun in Turn 4. During the caution period, Matt Crafton pitted for adjustments to his No. 88 Menards Toyota Tundra TRD Pro along with Jesse Little and Blake Lothian while the rest of the field led by Nemechek remained on the track.

When the event proceeded under green on Lap 37, Nemechek retained the lead while Chandler Smith fended off Hocevar and Friesen to remain in second. As the field fanned out, Enfinger was in fifth followed by Heim, Rhodes, Majeski and Eckes while Zane Smith cracked the top 10.

At the Lap 50 mark, Nemechek continued to lead by more than a second over teammate Chandler Smith as the top-10 spots were occupied by Playoff contenders. The only Playoff competitor who was not in the top 10 was Crafton, who was mired in 24th.

When the first stage concluded on Lap 60, Nemechek captured his fourth stage victory of the season. Teammate Chandler Smith trailed in the runner-up spot while Hocevar, Friesen, Enfinger, Rhodes, Heim, Majeski, Zane Smith and Eckes were scored in the top 10. Crafton, meanwhile, was still mired in 24th.

Under the stage break, the leaders led by Nemechek pitted and teammate Chandler Smith emerged with the lead followed by Hocevar, Nemechek, Rhodes, Heim and Enfinger. Following the pit stops, Rhodes and Kris Wright were sent to the rear of the field for speeding on pit road.

The second stage started on Lap 70 as Chandler Smith and Hocevar occupied the front row. At the start, Hocevar rocketed his No. 42 Premier Security Chevrolet Silverado RST to the lead on the inside lane in front of Chandler Smith as the field fanned out to multiple lanes around the circuit.

Three laps later, the caution returned when Blake Lothian came to a stop in Turn 1 as his night came to an end.

When the event restarted under green on Lap 80, Hocevar managed to retain the lead while on the inside lane as Enfinger challenged Chandler Smith for the runner-up spot in front of Nemechek. Behind, Tyler Ankrum was in fifth ahead of Heim, Kraus, Friesen, Eckes and Zane Smith.

By Lap 90, a heated side-by-side battle for the lead was occurring between Hocevar and Enfinger. While Enfinger gained a run and was strong through the turns, Hocevar managed to fend off Enfinger and retain the lead entering the straightaways. Meanwhile, third-place Nemechek trailed by less than a second while Chandler Smith and Ankrum were in the top five.

At the halfway mark on Lap 100, Hocevar was leading by a narrow margin over Enfinger while Nemechek, Chandler Smith, Ankrum, Friesen, Heim, Zane Smith, Majeski and Kraus were in the top 10. Meanwhile, Christian Eckes was in 11th, Rhodes was in 14th and Crafton was back in 17th behind Taylor Gray.

Five laps later, Enfinger persevered through his tight, endless battle against Hocevar by taking the lead through the backstretch and entering Turn 3. Another two laps later, the caution returned when Nemechek, who was closing in on Hocevar and teammate Chandler Smith for the runner-up spot, spun in Turn 2 after making contact with the lapped truck of Kris Wright. Despite spinning and coming to a stop in the middle of the track and in a cloud of smoke in Turn 2, Nemechek was dodged by the oncoming competitors led by Ankrum as he managed to continue without sustaining any significant damage.

During the caution period, most of the field led by Enfinger pitted while names that included Chandler Smith, Rhodes, Kaz Grala, Lawless Alan and Timmy Hill remained on the track as Smith reassumed the lead.

With six laps remaining in the second stage, the race restarted under green. At the start, Chandler Smith retained the lead on the inside lane ahead of Rhodes as the field fanned out entering the backstretch. Two laps later, however, Ty Majeski muscled his No. 66 Road Ranger Toyota Tundra TRD Pro to the lead on fresh tires followed by Enfinger, who quickly dispatched Chandler Smith on fresh tires. Another two laps later, Zane Smith and Chandler Smith made contact as Zane rubbed against Chandler’s No. 18 Toyota in Turn 1 with both making contact with the outside wall. Despite the contact, the race proceeded under green as Majeski remained as the leader. 

When the second stage concluded on Lap 120 under caution after Dean Thompson spun in Turn 2, Majeski held off Enfinger to claim his second stage victory of the season. Enfinger settled in second followed by Rhodes, Hocevar, Zane Smith, Heim, Friesen, Chandler Smith, Ankrum and Colby Howard.

Under the stage break, Chandler Smith, Zane Smith, Rhodes, Lawless Alan, Kaz Grala, Austin Wayne Self, Johnny Sauter, Hailie Deegan, Timmy Hill and Jake Garcia pitted while the rest led by Majeski remained on the track.

With 72 laps remaining, the final stage commenced under green. At the start, Majeski fended off Enfinger to remain as the leader while Hocevar was in third ahead of Friesen, Ankrum, Nemechek and Heim while the field fanned out.

Following a debris caution reported in Turn 4 10 laps later, the race proceeded under green with 55 laps remaining. At the start, Majeski retained the lead by a narrow margin over Enfinger while Nemechek, Friesen and Ben Rhodes duked for fifth in front of Hocevar, Heim and Tyler Ankrum. Not long after, however, the caution returned when Lawless Alan, who was locked in a tight four-wide battle through the backstretch, got turned by Chase Purdy as he spun and made hard contact against the inside wall. In the midst of the carnage, Zane Smith sustained minimal damage to his No. 38 Boot Barn Ford F-150 after hitting Alan.

During the caution period, names like Zane Smith, Taylor Gray, Austin Wayne Self and Dean Thompson pitted while the rest led by Ty Majeski remained on the track.

With 42 laps remaining, the event restarted under green. At the start, Majeski and Enfinger dueled for the lead through Turn 1 as Nemechek also attempted to squeeze his way to the top spot. Despite the tight racing for the lead entering the backstretch, Majeski managed to clear Enfinger to remain as the leader while Nemechek settled back in third. Behind, Friesen was in fourth while Rhodes was in fifth in front of Hocevar.

Down to the final 30 laps of the event, Majeski was leading by more than one-and-a-half seconds over Enfinger followed by Nemechek, Friesen and Rhodes while Hocevar, Heim, Colby Howard, Ankrum and Matt DiBenedetto were in the top 10. By then, Zane Smith, Chandler Smith, Crafton and Eckes were in 14th, 15th, 17th and 21st, respectively.

Ten laps later, Majeski, who was carving his way through lapped traffic, extended his advantage to more than two seconds over Enfinger while Nemechek, Rhodes and Friesen remained in the top five.

Then with 12 laps remaining, Majeski, who was getting stalled by the lapped truck of Hailie Deegan and Blaine Perkins, was caught by Enfinger as Enfinger dueled and overtook Majeski for the lead a lap after as Nemechek started to close in while running in third place. 

With 10 laps remaining, however, the caution flew when Colby Howard, who was having a strong run in eighth place, made contact with Hocevar entering Turn 4, which Hocevar repaid the favor by veering dead left and sending Howard’s No. 91 Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet Silverado RST backward into the outside wall. The incident prompted Howard to express his displeasure towards Hocevar after he exited his damaged truck.

During the caution period, the majority of the field led by Enfinger and Majeski pitted while names like Nemechek, Taylor Gray, Ankrum, Zane Smith, DiBenedetto, newcomer Layne Riggs, Johnny Sauter, Austin Wayne Self, Jesse Little and Chris Hacker remained on the track as Nemechek inherited the lead.

Down to a two-lap shootout to the finish, the race restarted under green. At the start, Taylor Gray managed to pull ahead of Nemechek and the field to take the lead entering the backstretch. Then entering Turn 4, Gray was hit by Nemechek as he spun his No. 17 David Gilliland Racing Ford F-150 across the outside wall, which prompted NASCAR to display the caution and send the event into overtime. At the moment of caution, Nemechek managed to retain the top spot followed by Zane Smith while Ankrum was in third ahead of Enfinger, Layne Riggs and DiBenedetto. 

At the start of the first overtime attempt, Nemechek launched ahead on the outside lane entering the first two turns before he got forced into the outside wall by Zane Smith. With Nemechek falling below the leaderboard following his late scrape, Zane Smith assumed the top spot followed by a hard-charging Enfinger, who was on four fresh tires, as the field fanned out and jostled for late positions. 

When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Enfinger was ahead by a nose over Zane Smith as Rhodes carved his way into third. Enfinger then managed to clear Zane Smith and the field through the first two turns and the backstretch to assume full authority. With no late challenges instigating behind and having four fresh tires to his advantage, Enfinger cycled his way back to the frontstretch and claimed the checkered flag by four-tenths of a second over Rhodes.

With the victory, Enfinger, who competed between ThorSport Racing and CR7 Motorsports a year ago before reuniting with GMS Racing as a full-time competitor this season, claimed his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win since winning at Martinsville Speedway in October and his seventh career win in the series. He also became the 13th overall competitor to win a Truck event at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park as he recorded the first victory of the season for GMS Racing and the third for the Chevrolet nameplate. 

By winning the first event of the 2022 Truck Series Playoffs at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, Enfinger, who managed to secure a Playoff spot based on points a week ago at Pocono Raceway, also earned an automatic transfer spot to the Round of 8 as he continues his pursuit to win his first NASCAR national touring series championship.

“We’re finally moving forward at all,” Enfinger said on FS1. “This is the first laps we’ve led since Atlanta or something. Terrible off-season. Not because of these [pit] guys behind me, but we’ve just been off a little bit as an organization. [I] Can’t say thank you enough to [GMS Racing president] Mike Beam, [owner] Maury Gallagher, Ron Booth, everybody at GMS Fabrication and everybody on this No. 23 team. We’ve been working so hard because we’ve been sucking. It hurts to say it, but we’ve had a terrible season to this point. We had a great No. 23 Champion Power Equipment Chevrolet all day. [I] Felt like every time I got the lead, the caution come out. It put [crew chief Jeff] Hensley in a bad spot. I knew from experience, just trust his gut. It’s a pretty special night. Definitely very, very thankful.”

During his victory celebration, Enfinger credited the late gusty pit call made by his veteran crew chief Jeff Hensley, who reunited with Enfinger at GMS Racing in late June. Both Enfinger and Hensley worked together at ThorSport Racing from 2017 to 2020.

“Four years and we’ve ridden the roller coaster together,” Enfinger added. “We’ve been in the lows. We missed the Playoffs our first year together and we haven’t missed it since then. We’ve had some success together. He’s a racer. I’m a racer. Neither one of us are very smart, but we put it together tonight.”

Rhodes came home in second place in front of Zane Smith while Friesen and Heim finished in the top five. Ankrum finished in sixth in front of newcomer Layne Riggs while Majeski, who was initially in a position to win his first NASCAR race, settled in eighth. Crafton rallied to finish ninth while Nemechek, who led a race-high 75 laps and ended up in the wall while leading, fell back to 10th place.

Notably, Playoff contenders Christian Eckes, Chandler Smith and Carson Hocevar finished 16th, 18th and 21st, respectively.

The Truck Series’ return to Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park since 2011 featured 12 lead changes for six different leaders. The race also featured 10 cautions for 78 laps.

Results.

1. Grant Enfinger, 13 laps led

2. Ben Rhodes

3. Zane Smith

4. Stewart Friesen

5. Corey Heim

6. Tyler Ankrum

7. Layne Riggs

8. Ty Majeski, 71 laps led, Stage 2 winner

9. Matt Crafton 

10. John Hunter Nemechek, 75 laps led, Stage 1 winner

11. Matt DiBenedetto

12. Johnny Sauter

13. Hailie Deegan

14. Derek Kraus

15. Jesse Little

16. Christian Eckes

17. Timmy Hill

18. Chandler Smith, 13 laps led

19. Austin Wayne Self

20. Kaz Grala

21. Carson Hocevar, 34 laps led

22. Taylor Gray, one lap led

23. Tanner Gray

24. Chris Hacker

25. Jack Wood

26. Blaine Perkins

27. Chase Purdy, one lap down

28. Jake Garcia, one lap down

29. Dean Thompson, three laps down

30. Chad Chastain, three laps down

31. Kris Wright, three laps down

32. Colby Howard – OUT, Accident

33. Josh Reaume – OUT, Too slow

34. Lawless Alan –  OUT, Accident

35. Blake Lothian – OUT, Driveshaft

36. Spencer Boyd – OUT, Accident

*Bold indicates Playoff contenders.

Playoff standings

1. Grant Enfinger – Advanced

2. Zane Smith +50

3. Ben Rhodes +36

4. Stewart Friesen +28

5. John Hunter Nemechek +24

6. Chandler Smith +24

7. Ty Majeski +19

8. Carson Hocevar +7

9. Matt Crafton -7

10. Christian Eckes -7

With the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs underway, the second Round of 10 events is scheduled to occur at Richmond Raceway on August 13. The event’s coverage is scheduled to occur 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.

More articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

My Betting Site

Online Casino

brand new bingo sites

Play at the best $1 deposit casino NZ to win with minimal risk


10 deposit casinos

Latest articles