After enduring a winless drought throughout the regular-season stretch, Ty Majeski commenced the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Playoffs with an emphatic statement after notching a dominant victory in the TSport 200 at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park on Friday, August 11.
The 28-year-old Majeski from Seymour, Wisconsin, led twice for a race-high 179 of 200-scheduled laps in an event where he started on the front row and quickly assumed the lead by the fourth lap. Proceeding to sweep both stage periods and fending off several restart challenges, including from ones by Playoff rivals Christian Eckes and Corey Heim, Majeski capitalized on a restart with 52 laps remaining to muscle his No. 98 ThorSport Racing Ford entry away from the field and claim the Playoff opener victory by more than three seconds over Eckes.
With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Friday, August 11, Playoff contender Christian Eckes secured his second Truck pole position of the 2023 season after posting a pole-winning lap at 107.918 mph in 22.884 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Playoff contender Ty Majeski, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 107.739 mph in 22.922 seconds.
Prior to the event, the following names that included Playoff contender Zane Smith, Lawless Alan, Matt Mills and Logan Bearden dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments to their respective trucks. Tyler Ankrum also dropped to the rear of the field in a backup truck.
When the green flag waved and the race commenced, Eckes muscled ahead with an early advantage on the inside lane followed by Majeski and Corey Heim as the field fanned out through the first two turns. As the field continued to fan out and jostle early for positions, Eckes proceeded to lead the first lap in his No. 19 NAPA Chevrolet Silverado RST while Majeski and Heim battled for the runner-up spot.
Through the second lap and as the field continued to jostle early for positions, Eckes maintained the lead by a tenth of a second over Majeski with Heim following pursuit. By the third lap, however, Majeski drew himself even against Eckes in an early battle for the lead. He continued to duel with Eckes for the following lap until Majeski muscled ahead from the outside lane. Another lap later and at the fifth lap mark, Heim moved into the runner-up spot over Eckes as he began his pursuit on Majeski for the lead.
At the Lap 10 mark, Majeski was leading by nine-tenths of a second over Heim followed by Eckes, Carson Hocevar and Grant Enfinger while rookie Jake Garcia, rookie Nick Sanchez, rookie Rajah Caruth, Matt Crafton and Layne Riggs were in the top 10. Behind, William Sawalich was in 11th ahead of Tanner Gray, Colby Howard, Ben Rhodes and Stewart Friesen while Jake Drew, Dean Thompson, rookie Daniel Dye, Chase Purdy and Connor Jones battled in the top 20. Meanwhile, Zane Smith was mired in 21st ahead of Matt DiBenedetto.
Nearing the Lap 14 mark, the first caution of the event flew for a multi-truck wreck involving Greg Van Alst, Landen Lewis and Hailie Deegan in Turn 3.
When the race restarted on Lap 21, Majeski received a push from Eckes on the inside lane to emerge ahead by a hair before Eckes and Heim took Majeski three-wide in Turn 1. With Majeski and Heim breaking away from the field entering the backstretch, Heim gained the advantage on the outside lane through Turns 3 and 4 as he assumed the lead in his No. 11 Safelite Toyota Tundra TRD Pro for the following lap, though Majeski kept pressuring him for the lead. Majeski and Heim would then battle dead even for the proceeding laps until Heim muscled ahead by Lap 23. As Heim fended off Majeski for the lead, Eckes retained third while Hocevar and Enfinger were in the top five.
Nearing the Lap 30 mark, the battle for the lead intensified as Majeski made several attempts to draw even with Heim through the turns and the straightaways from the inside lane, though Heim managed to remain ahead while running on the outside lane. While both continued to battle nearly dead even for the lead, Eckes was under pressure by Hocevar for third place as Enfinger retained fifth ahead of Garcia, Riggs, Caruth, Sanchez and Tanner Gray.
By Lap 40, Majeski, who pulled the slide job on Heim in Turn 1 to assume the lead a lap earlier, was leading by two-tenths of a second in his No. 98 Road Ranger Ford F-150 over Heim followed by Eckes, Hocevar and Enfinger while Garcia, Riggs, Sanchez, Caruth and Tanner Gray were in the top 10. Behind, Zane Smith was up to 11th ahead of Rhodes, Jake Drew, Sawalich and Crafton while Thompson, Purdy, DiBenedetto, Taylor Gray and Deegan were running in the top 20.
Six laps later, contact was made on Lap 46 as Garcia, who was trying to overtake Enfinger for fifth, got loose, slid up the track and forced Enfinger to scrape the outside wall through Turns 1 and 2. Both, though, continued to run in the top 10 as Majeski extended his advantage to two seconds over Heim.
When the first stage concluded on Lap 60, Majeski, who ran into the rear bumper of rookie Daniel Dye in Turn 1 to get him loose and lap him several laps earlier, claimed his fifth stage victory of the 2023 Truck season. Heim settled in second followed by Eckes while Riggs, Garcia, Hocevar, Enfinger, Caruth, Tanner Gray and Zane Smith were scored in the top 10. By then, 23 of 36 starters were scored on the lead lap while Rhodes, Sanchez, Crafton and DiBenedetto did not score any stage points from the first stage period.
Under the stage break, the lead lap field led by Majeski pitted for service. Following the pit stops, Majeski retained the lead after exiting first followed by Heim, Hocevar, Enfinger and Tanner Gray while Eckes exited sixth after losing three spots on pit road.
The second stage started on Lap 70 as Majeski and Heim occupied the front row. At the start, Majeski rocketed ahead with the lead from the outside lane as the field fanned out entering Turn 1. Through the backstretch, Majeski retained the lead over Heim while Enfinger was in third ahead of Hocevar and Eckes amid the field still fanning out and jostling for positions.
At the Lap 75 mark, Majeski was leading by more than a second over Heim while Enfinger, Hocevar and Eckes remained in the top five. Behind, Sawalich was in sixth followed by Rhodes, Tanner Gray, Zane Smith and Riggs while Jake Drew, Sanchez, Crafton, DiBenedetto and Caruth occupied the top 15 on the track.
Ten laps later, Majeski extended his advantage to more than two seconds over Heim while third-place Enfinger trailed by more than three seconds. Meanwhile, Hocevar and Eckes remained in the top five while Playoff contenders Rhodes and Zane Smith were in eighth and ninth. By then, the remaining Playoff contenders that included Sanchez, Crafton and DiBenedetto were mired in 11th, 13th and 16th, respectively.
At the halfway mark on Lap 100, Majeski continued to extend his advantage as he was leading by more than three seconds over Heim while Enfinger, Eckes and Hocevar continued to run in the top five. Behind, Sawalich, Tanner Gray, Zane Smith, Rhodes and Riggs were in the top 10 as 23 of 36 starters were scored on the lead lap. Notably, Sanchez and Crafton were in 11th and 12th, DiBenedetto was mired in 15th ahead of Garcia and Shane van Gisbergen, the debutant winner of the NASCAR Cup Series event at the Chicago Street Course who was making both his Truck and oval debut for Niece Motorsports, was in 22nd behind Jack Wood.
Ten laps later, Majeski, who lapped van Gisbergen a few laps earlier, retained the lead by more than five seconds over Heim while third-place Enfinger trailed by more than six seconds. As Eckes and Hocevar remained in the top five, Zane Smith moved up to seventh over Tanner Gray while Sanchez cracked the top 10 ahead of Crafton.
Another five laps later, the caution flew when Chris Hacker, a Noblesville, Indiana, native got loose and spun entering the backstretch as he barely managed to keep his No. 30 UBPN/Morgan & Morgan Toyota Tundra TRD Pro off the wall before continuing. Hacker’s incident was enough for the second stage period scheduled to conclude on Lap 120 to finish under caution as Majeski captured his sixth Truck stage victory of the 2023 season and second of the night. Heim settled in second while Enfinger, Eckes, Hocevar, Sawalich, Zane Smith, Tanner Gray, Riggs and Sanchez were scored in the top 10. By then, 20 of 36 competitors were scored on the lead lap while Playoff contenders Crafton, DiBenedetto and Rhodes were scored outside the top 10.
Under the stage break, the lead lap field led by Majeski returned to pit road for service. Following the pit stops, Majeski retained the lead after exiting pit road first followed by Heim, Enfinger, Zane Smith, Sawalich, Eckes and Hocevar. Amid the pit stops, Heim was sent to the rear of the field for a safety violation after a crew member fell over his pit box while trying to retrieve a tire due to his pit stop. In addition, Enfinger made another pit stop to address missing lug nuts to his No. 23 Champion Power Equipment Chevrolet Silverado RST.
With 73 laps remaining, the final stage started under green as Majeski and Zane Smith occupied the front row. At the start, Majeski and Smith dueled for the lead until Majeski managed to rocket ahead from the outside lane through the first two turns and the backstretch. As the field fanned out and jostled for late positions, Eckes moved up to second while Hocevar, Sawalich and Riggs battled behind Smith. Amid the racing, Tanner Gray, who was running in the top 10, was black-flagged by NASCAR for a restart violation as he changed lanes prior to reaching the start/finish line to restart the event.
Shortly after and just as Tanner Gray was serving his penalty through pit road, the caution returned with 70 laps remaining when Dean Thompson got squeezed towards the outside wall through the backstretch. As Thompson’s truck was slowly sliding to a halt, he was then T-boned by Spencer Boyd as both competitors were left with heavy damage to their respective trucks.
Following an extensive caution period, the event restarted with 60 laps remaining. At the start, Majeski muscled ahead of Eckes from the outside lane to retain the lead as the field fanned out through the first two turns. With Majeski leading by nearly half a second during the proceeding laps, Eckes retained second while Zane Smith, Riggs and Hocevar were in the top five. The caution, however, returned with 59 laps remaining when Hailie Deegan spun off the front nose of Landen Lewis and rear-ended her No. 13 Ford Performance Ford F-150 into the outside wall in Turn 1 as her event came to a late end.
During the proceeding restart with 52 laps remaining, Majeski and Eckes dueled for the lead through Turn 1 as Eckes tried to muscle ahead from the inside lane. Eckes, however, slid up the track entering the backstretch, which allowed Majeski to regain the advantage and reassume the lead as the field jostled for positions throughout the following lap. With Majeski leading with 50 laps remaining, Eckes retained second ahead of Hocevar while Riggs and Zane Smith battled for fourth in front of Sawalich. In the midst of the battles towards the front, ThorSport Racing’s Rhodes and Crafton battled for seventh.
With 40 laps remaining, Majeski was leading by more than a second over Eckes followed by Hocevar, Riggs and Zane Smith while Sawalich, Caruth, Heim, Crafton and Sanchez were running and battling in the top 10. Behind, Rhodes was in 11th ahead of Enfinger, DiBenedetto, Garcia and Purdy while van Gisbergen, Jake Drew, Tanner Gray, Taylor Gray and Jack Wood were mired in the top 20.
Ten laps later, Majeski continued to lead by more than two seconds over Eckes while Riggs, who moved up to third place, trailed by nearly four seconds ahead of Hocevar and Zane Smith. Behind, Sawalich and Caruth retained sixth and seventh while Heim was still scored in eighth ahead of Sanchez and Crafton.
Down to the final 20 laps of the event, Majeski stabilized his advantage to more than two seconds over runner-up Eckes while third-place Riggs continued to trail by more than four seconds. By then, seven of 10 Playoff contenders were running in the top 10 while the remaining Playoff competitors that included DiBenedetto, Rhodes and Enfinger were mired in 11th through 13th, respectively.
With less than 15 laps remaining, Majeski retained the lead by nearly three seconds over Eckes and more than four seconds over third-place Riggs. Majeski would continue to lead by more than two seconds over Eckes with 10 laps remaining as Hocevar and Zane Smith remained in the top five ahead of Sawalich.
Down to the final five laps of the event, Majeski was leading by more than three seconds over Eckes and more than four seconds over third-place Riggs as the laps continued to dwindle.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Majeski remained as the leader by more than three seconds over Eckes. With Eckes not gaining ground to mount a final lap charge for the win, Majeski, who also had a clear racetrack in front of him, managed to cycle his way around the circuit for a final time and return to the frontstretch victorious for the first time in 2023.
With the victory, Majeski notched his third career victory in the Craftsman Truck Series, all occurring throughout the Playoffs, and his first since winning at Homestead-Miami Speedway in October 2022. He also became the 14th different competitor to win at Indianapolis Raceway Park as he recorded the third victory of the season for ThorSport Racing and the fifth for Ford.
By winning the Playoff opener at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Majeski became the first competitor to transfer to the Round of 8 as he continues his pursuit for his first NASCAR Truck Series championship.
“Man, that was awesome. How about that, Indy?! Yeah!” Majeski said on FS1. “So cool. [Owners] Duke and Rhonda Thorson put the support into this race. They wanted [Indianapolis Raceway Park] to come back and they’re a huge reason behind that. Just so proud of everybody. Obviously, a heartbreaking loss last week at Richmond, but we win and lose as a team. This is so cool. Proud of the effort, but this is just the start of our Playoff run.”
Eckes, the pole-sitter who led three laps, settled in the runner-up spot for the second time this season and leaves Indianapolis Raceway Park with a 39-point advantage above the top-eight cutline to commence the Playoffs while Layne Riggs achieved a career-best third-place result in his sixth career start in the Truck Series and first with Spire Motorsports.
“I thought our NAPA AutoCare Chevrolet was really good there,” Eckes said. “[Majeski]’d fire off a little bit better, then would be just a little bit better throughout. They’ve kind of been the classes of the field on these style of races from the last two years. We got a little bit of homework to do on this style stuff, but overall, just really proud of my guys for bringing what we had.”
“[Tonight]’s huge,” Riggs said. “I feel like this proves that I deserve to be here every weekend. I love truck racing, I love NASCAR racing. I wanna do it more. It’s a rare occurrence when I can do this. It was a really good truck tonight. Thank you so much to everybody. I hope I can be at one soon.”
Hocevar came home in fourth place while Zane Smith ended up fifth as both competitors leave Indiana above the cutline.
William Sawalich, rookie Rajah Caruth, Heim, Crafton and DiBenedetto finished in the top 10. Notably, Playoff competitors Nick Sanchez, Grant Enfinger and Ben Rhodes finished 11th, 12th and 16th, respectively, while Shane van Gisbergen ended up 19th in his Truck Series debut.
There were three lead changes for three different leaders. The race featured five cautions for 41 laps. In addition, 18 of 36 starters finished on the lead lap.
1. Ty Majeski, 179 laps led, Stage 1 & 2 winner
2. Christian Eckes, three laps led
3. Layne Riggs
4. Carson Hocevar
5. Zane Smith
6. William Sawalich
7. Rajah Caruth
8. Corey Heim, 18 laps led
9. Matt Crafton
10. Matt DiBenedetto
11. Nick Sanchez
12. Grant Enfinger
13. Jake Garcia
14. Chase Purdy
15. Tanner Gray
16. Ben Rhodes
17. Jake Drew
18. Jack Wood
19. Shane van Gisbergen, one lap down
20. Taylor Gray, one lap down
21. Logan Bearden, one lap down
22. Daniel Dye, one lap down
23. Matt Mills, two laps down
24. Lawless Alan, two laps down
25. Bret Holmes, three laps down
26. Tyler Hill, three laps down
27. Connor Jones, four laps down
28. Landen Lewis, four laps down
29. Chris Hacker, five laps down
30. Stewart Friesen, 17 laps down
31. Hailie Deegan – OUT, Accident
32. Dean Thompson – OUT, Accident
33. Spencer Boyd – OUT, Accident
34. Tyler Ankrum – OUT, Electrical
35. Colby Howard – OUT, Suspension
36. Greg Van Alst – OUT, Accident
*Bold indicates Playoff contenders
1. Ty Majeski – Advanced
2. Corey Heim +47
3. Christian Eckes +39
4. Carson Hocevar +35
5. Zane Smith +29
6. Grant Enfinger +24
7. Ben Rhodes +4
8. Nick Sanchez +2
9. Matt Crafton -2
10. Matt DiBenedetto -3
With the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Playoffs underway, the second Round of 10 Playoff event is set to occur at the Milwaukee Mile in West Allis, Wisconsin, which will mark the series return to the venue since 2009. The event is scheduled to occur on August 27 at 4 p.m. ET on FS1.