With his racing plans for next season undetermined, Brett Moffitt made the most of a one-race NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series return for Front Row Motorsports by winning the Love’s RV Stop 250 at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, September 30, amid an overtime shootout.
The 2018 Truck Series champion from Grimes, Iowa, led five times for 22 of 99 over-scheduled laps in an event where he started 31st before methodically drafting his way towards the front amid a total of 23 lead changes for 11 different leaders, eight caution periods and late on-track chaos that ensued and collected a host of competitors and Playoff contenders. Leading for the first time on Lap 63, Moffitt lost the lead at the start of overtime to Christian Eckes and Chandler Smith but was quick to cross underneath Eckes and shove Eckes out of the draft at the start of the final lap to muscle ahead from Smith with drafting help from Parker Kligerman through the backstretch. For the final two turns, Moffitt fended off late challenges from Kligerman, Smith and Ben Rhodes through the tri-oval to claim his first checkered flag in the Truck Series in three years and serve as the spoiler for winning the Truck Series Playoff event at Talladega as a non-title contender.
With on-track qualifying that determined the starting lineup occurring on Saturday, Chase Purdy notched his second Truck pole position of this season and of his career after posting a pole-winning lap at 179.433 mph in 53.368 seconds. Joining him on the front row was Playoff contender Nick Sanchez, who posted the second-best qualifying lap at 178.480 mph in 53.653 seconds.
Prior to the event, Dean Thompson and Greg Van Alst dropped to the rear of the field due to unapproved adjustments made to their respective trucks. Byan Dauzat also dropped to the rear of the field for missing driver introductions. Soon after, rookie Jake Garcia, who qualified third, took his truck to the garage due to a mechanical issue.
When the green flag waved and the race started, Purdy quickly transitioned from the outside to the inside lane in front of Sanchez entering the first turn while teammate Jack Wood was trying to keep pace on the outside lane. With the field quickly fanning out to three lanes through the backstretch, Purdy maintained the lead ahead of Sanchez and Ben Rhodes led a charge from the outside lane followed by teammate Matt Crafton while Wood was falling back after losing the draft. With rookie Rajah Caruth igniting another drafting lane towards the outside wall, Purdy proceeded to lead the first lap ahead of Sanchez, Ty Majeski, Carson Hocevar and Corey Heim. By then, Wood was penalized for pulling out of line before the event’s start and was forced to serve a pass-through penalty through pit road.
Through the second to fifth lap, Purdy maintained the lead from the inside lane ahead of Sanchez while Caruth was the lead competitor on the outside lane in sixth place. As Chandler Smith tried to form a third drafting lane, Purdy transitioned from the outside to the inside lane to maintain the lead amid the draft. Not long after, Caruth challenged Purdy for the lead on the outside lane, but Purdy rocketed ahead to maintain it on the inside lane. Then as Purdy tried to block Caruth, which he was too late to do so, he got stuck in the middle lane, allowing Sanchez to muscle ahead on the inside lane. With Sanchez leading Majeski, Hocevar, Caruth and Heim, Purdy fell back into the top 10 and towards the middle of the pack that fanned out to three lanes and continued to jostle for early positions.
Through the first 10 scheduled laps and as the field continued to battle amid two tight-packed lanes, Sanchez maintained the lead ahead of Majeski, Hocevar, Parker Kligerman and Heim while Purdy, David Gilliland, Jake Drew, Bret Holmes and Dean Thompson were in the top 10. By then, Playoff contenders Grant Enfinger, Christian Eckes and Zane Smith were running in the top 16 while Ben Rhodes was back in 24th.
By Lap 15, Sanchez continued to lead ahead of Majeski, Hocevar, Kligerman and Purdy while Heim, David Gilliland, Thompson, Holmes and Enfinger were jostling and battling within the top 10 along with the rest of the field. Behind, Eckes was in 12th, Zane Smith was in 14th and Rhodes was in 20th.
When the first stage period concluded on Lap 20, Sanchez, who came into the event 22 points below the top-eight cutline in the Playoff standings, fended off the stacked field to notch his third Truck stage victory of the 2023 season. Hocevar trailed in second while Heim, Majeski, Holmes, Colby Howard, Kligerman, Tanner Gray, Gilliland and Thompson were in the top 10. By then, Playoff contenders Zane Smith, Rhodes, Enfinger and Eckes were in the top 20 while 32 of 36 starters were scored on lead lap.
Under the stage break, the lead lap field led by Sanchez pitted for the first time as mixed strategies ensued with some taking two tires while the rest opted for four fresh tires. Amid the pit stops, Playoff contender Zane Smith slid his truck sideways while trying to enter his pit stall as he ended up clipping his tire carrier, which sent the tire carrier and two tires the carrier was carrying flying, with the tires rolling out of the pit stall, as Smith ended up having his truck serviced backward in the pit stall.
The second stage started on Lap 27 as Sanchez and Kligerman occupied the front row. At the start, Sanchez received a strong push from Majeski to muscle ahead of Kligerman and retain the lead through the first two turns and the backstretch. With the field quickly fanning out to three stacked lanes, Sanchez continued to lead until Kligerman received drafting help from Gilliland to assume the top spot in his No. 75 Tide Chevrolet Silverado RST through the frontstretch and back to the start/finish line.
At the Lap 30 mark, Kligerman was leading ahead of Hocevar followed by Gilliland, Sanchez and Holmes while Thompson, Majeski, Rhodes, Chandler Smith and Wood were in the top 10. In the midst of the battles towards the front, Playoff contenders Enfinger, Eckes and Heim were running 16th to 18th. Meanwhile, Zane Smith, who sustained damage to the right-rear quarter panel of his truck amid his pit road incident, was mired a lap down in 35th after he had reported his No. 38 Love’s Ford F-150 was jumping out of gear.
Five laps later, Hocevar, who assumed the lead three laps earlier, was leading ahead of Majeski followed by a hard-charging Kligerman, Rhodes and Sanchez while Holmes, Tanner Gray, Taylor Gray, Thompson and Heim were mired in the top 10 and amid the stacked pack. Behind, Eckes was in 14th and Enfinger was back in 27th while Zane Smith took his truck to the garage.
Then with two laps remaining in the second stage period, the caution flew after Eckes made contact with Stewart Friesen, which resulted in Friesen clipping Tyler Ankrum before Friesen’s No. 52 GearWrench Toyota Tundra TRD Pro went dead straight towards the Turn 3 outside wall and wrecked hard as David Gilliland was also collected. As a result of the multi-truck incident, the second stage period that was scheduled to end on Lap 40, instead, concluded under caution as Kligerman claimed the stage victory. Sanchez settled in second followed by Playoff rivals Hocevar, Majeski and Rhodes while Tanner Gray, Taylor Gray, Holmes, Thompson and Heim were scored in the top 10. By then, Eckes and Enfinger were mired in the top 20, Rhodes was scored outside the top 20 and Zane Smith was in the garage amid his mechanical issues.
During the stage break, the lead lap field led by Kligerman returned to pit road as various pit strategies again occurred with Colby Howard opting for fuel only to his truck and select names including Tanner Gray, Purdy, Heim, Enfinger, Tyler Hill and Dean Thompson changing two tires while the rest opted for four fresh tires.
With 48 laps remaining, the final stage started as brothers Tanner and Taylor Gray occupied the front row. At the start, Tanner Gray muscled his No. 15 Sport Clips Toyota Tundra TRD Pro ahead on the inside lane while the field quickly fanned out to three lanes through the first two turns and through the backstretch. As the field made its way back to the tri-oval to reach the halfway mark on Lap 47, Tanner Gray maintained the lead ahead of Howard, Heim, Sanchez and Tyler Hill while Thompson, Taylor Gray, Purdy, Holmes and Wood were in the top 10. In the process and amid the stacked racing, Eckes was in 12th, Rhodes was back in 15th followed by Enfinger in 17th, Majeski was strapped in 20th and Hocevar was back in 22nd.
Four laps later, the caution returned after Taylor Gray got turned sideways off the front nose of Bayley Currey entering the backstretch, which resulted in Gray spinning and clipping Ankrum, who also clipped Crafton in the process, as Playoff contender Enfinger was also involved as he spun sideways and emerged with damage to his No. 23 Champion Power Equipment Chevrolet Silverado RST. During the caution period, select names that included Lawless Alan, Currey, Kligerman, Chandler Smith, Cory Roper, Ryan Vargas, Hailie Deegan and Garrett Smithley pitted while the rest led by Tanner Gray remained on the track.
During the proceeding restart with 38 laps remaining, Tanner Gray and Sanchez dueled for the lead ahead of the stacked pack through the first two turns and the backstretch. Gray and Sanchez would remain in a dead heat for the lead for the next two laps until the caution returned as Currey and Enfinger made the slightest of contact through the frontstretch that got Enfinger loose and turned Currey into the path of Tyler Hill as Currey ended up hitting the inside wall. With Enfinger initially being in the position of cycling back on the lead lap due to being the first competitor a lap down when the carnage ensued, he lost the benefit due to being involved in the incident.
Amid the incident, the field led by Sanchez returned to pit road for service and mainly for fuel. Following the pit stops, Sanchez retained the lead after exiting pit road first followed by Purdy, Moffitt, Tanner Gray, Chandler Smith and Hocevar.
With the event restarting under green with 33 laps remaining, Sanchez and Holmes battled for the lead entering the first two turns until Sanchez muscled ahead from the outside lane. Then as Sanchez moved to the inside lane and regained drafting momentum, Brett Moffitt muscled his way into the lead after receiving drafting help from Chandler Smtih as Hocevar followed suit. Soon after, Sanchez steered his No. 2 Gainbridge Chevrolet Silverado RST to pit road and served a pass-through penalty for a restart violation as a result of hanging back on the restart. Amid the penalty, Moffitt retained the lead ahead of a long line of competitors with 30 laps remaining.
Down to the final 25 laps of the event, Moffitt continued to lead ahead of Purdy, Chandler Smith, Rhodes and Jake Drew while Crafton, Heim, Hocevar, Lawless Alan and Holmes were in the top 10. Behind, Eckes fell back to 11th, Majeski was back in 20th and both Sanchez and Enfinger were in 25th and 26th.
Two laps later, the caution flew after the hood off of Jack Wood’s No. 51 TrueTimber Chevrolet Silverado RST came loose and disintegrated through the backstretch. The caution occurred after teammate Purdy had reassumed the lead with 27 laps remaining.
During the ensuing restart with 19 laps remaining, trouble struck for Purdy, who started alongside Moffitt on the front row but stacked up the inside lane and dropped off the pace due to a power issue to his No. 4 Bama Buggies Chevrolet Silverado RST. With Purdy dropping out of the racing groove, Moffitt assumed the lead until Crafton challenged on the outside lane with drafting help from Bret Holmes.
Then with 16 laps remaining, the caution returned after Caruth and Ryan Vargas made contact through the frontstretch, which resulted in Vargas hitting the outside wall and Caruth spinning just past the start/finish line while Playoff contender Hocevar barely dodged the incident.
Down to the final 10 laps of the event, the race restarted under green. At the start, Moffitt rocketed ahead on the inside lane with drafting help from Rhodes, who moved to second through the backstretch before Eckes regained the momentum and assumed the lead through the backstretch with drafting help from Chandler Smith. As Eckes and Smith moved in front of Moffitt, Rhodes and the field entering the frontstretch, the caution quickly returned when Colby Howard and Purdy made contact as Purdy turned Howard before both veered towards the outside wall, with Purdy slapping the wall and damaging his pole-winning truck while Howard spun across the track, the tri-oval grass and down pit road as the field scattered to avoid the carnage. The incident and leaked fluid across the tri-oval would be enough to place the event in a red-flag period for more than five minutes as the on-track safety crew proceeded to clear the carnage.
Once the red flag lifted and the race restarted under green with three laps remaining, Eckes and Moffitt dueled for the lead through the first two laps as Eckes had Chandler Smith drafting him while Moffitt had drafting help from Rhodes. Then as the field approached the tri-oval, the caution returned and the event was sent into overtime after Sanchez made contact with Crafton, who rammed into Bret Holmes and clipped Tanner Gray, with a multi-truck wreck ensuing that collected Caruth, Enfinger, Hocevar, Garrett Smithley, Majeski, Cory Roper and Van Alst, who impacted the outside wall head-on. Amid the carnage, Eckes retained the lead ahead of Moffitt while the event was sent into a second red flag period that spanned for more than five minutes.
Once the red flag lifted and the event restarted in overtime, Moffitt and Eckes dueled for the lead exiting the frontstretch until Moffitt received a shove from Rhodes, Thompson and Kligerman to muscle ahead through the first two turns. With Moffitt briefly losing the draft through the frontstretch, Eckes and Chandler Smith responded back amid a two-truck draft as Smith drafted Eckes into the lead through the frontstretch.
When the white flag waved and the final lap started, Eckes was leading ahead of Chandler Smith as the rest of the field regained their momentum to catch the two leaders. With Eckes and Smith getting separated, this allowed Moffitt to jump to the outside lane and close in on Eckes for the lead through the first two turns. Eckes then moved his No. 19 NAPA Chevrolet Silverado RST up to try to block Moffitt, but Moffitt crossed his No. 34 Fr8Auctions Ford F-150 underneath Eckes. This resulted in Eckes losing momentum and falling out of the draft while Moffitt and Smith dueled for the lead ahead of two stacked lanes through the backstretch. Moffitt then started to muscle back ahead with the lead followed by Kligerman as both managed to move in front of Smith and Rhodes through Turns 3 and 4. Then as Kligerman tried to make his move to Moffitt’s outside, Smith and Rhodes remained with Moffitt on the inside lane while Kligerman started to lose the draft entering the tri-oval. Smith and Rhodes then tried to fan out and gain a final lap run on Moffitt, but the momentum for both was not enough as Moffitt managed to retain the lead and win by 0.089 seconds over Rhodes.
With the victory, Moffitt notched his 13th career win in the Craftsman Truck Series, his first both at Talladega and on a superspeedway venue, and his first since winning at Kansas Speedway in October 2020, which marked his latest full-time stint in the series. In addition to achieving his first Truck victory driving a Ford, Moffitt also recorded the eighth Truck career victory for Front Row Motorsports and the first for FRM’s No. 34 entry in the entry’s debut.
With Moffitt being a former winner and champion in the Truck Series but competing this season on a full-time basis for AM Racing in the Xfinity Series, this season marks the eighth consecutive season where the Truck’s Talladega Playoff event was won by a non-Playoff contender, which extends the streak of non-Playoff competitors winning at Talladega and preventing the current seven Playoff contenders from winning and earning an automatic berth to this year’s Championship 4 field.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Moffitt, whose racing plans for 2024 remain undetermined, said on the frontstretch on FS1. “I’ve notably struggled at superspeedways in the past and dreaded coming to them, but this was all “pressure off” situation that Front Row [Motorsports] gave me, Fr8Auctions to come here and just go out there and try to help a teammate. Obviously, that didn’t work out for that group, but to come here and have a shot at a win and to do it is pretty amazing. Reminds me of the good old days that I wanna get back to doing this on a regular basis, so we’ll see what happens.”
Playoff contender Ben Rhodes was the highest-finishing Playoff contender on the track as he settled in the runner-up spot for a second consecutive year at Talladega while Dean Thompson tied his career-best result of third place. Chandler Smith, who was piloting Rackley W.A.R.’s No. 25 Chevrolet Silverado RST, came home in fourth place while Corey Heim, who is already guaranteed a spot for this year’s Championship 4 finale after winning at Bristol Motor Speedway, finished fifth.
Rookie Daniel Dye, Nick Sanchez, Hailie Deegan, Kligerman and Lawless Alan completed the top 10 on the track. Notably, Hocevar and Enfinger finished 11th and 13th while Eckes drifted all the way back to 19th. In addition, Majeski retired in 21st while Zane Smith capped off his long afternoon in 32nd.
There were 23 lead changes for 11 different leaders. The race featured eight cautions for 41 laps. In addition, 19 of 36 starters finished on the lead lap.
1. Brett Moffitt, 22 laps led
2. Ben Rhodes
3. Dean Thompson
4. Chandler Smith
5. Corey Heim
6. Daniel Dye
7. Nick Sanchez, 25 laps led, Stage 1 winner
8. Hailie Deegan
9. Parker Kligerman, 10 laps led, Stage 2 winner
10. Lawless Alan
11. Carson Hocevar, five laps led
12. Rajah Caruth
13. Grant Enfinger
14. Jack Wood
15. Garrett Smithley
16. Bret Holmes, three laps led
17. Ryan Vargas
18. Taylor Gray, one lap led
19. Christian Eckes, eight laps led
20. Jake Drew, one lap down
21. Ty Majeski – OUT, Accident
22. Cory Roper – OUT, Dvp
23. Colby Howard – OUT, Accident
24. Matt Crafton – OUT, Accident, one lap led
25. Tanner Gray – OUT, Accident, 12 laps led
26. Greg Van Alst- OUT, Accident
27. Jason M. White, 11 laps down
28. Chase Purdy – OUT, Accident, 11 laps led
29. Jake Garcia, 20 laps down
30. Tyler Hill – OUT, Accident
31. Bayley Currey – OUT, Accident
32. Zane Smith, 44 laps down
33. Tyler Ankrum – OUT, Accident
34. Stewart Friesen – OUT, Accident
35. David Gilliland – OUT, Accident
36. Bryan Dauzat – OUT, Handling
*Bold indicates Playoff contenders
1. Corey Heim – Advanced
2. Carson Hocevar +23
3. Christian Eckes +9
4. Nick Sanchez +3
5. Grant Enfinger -3
6. Ben Rhodes -5
7. Ty Majeski -19
8. Zane Smith -36
The Round of 8 in the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Playoffs is set to conclude at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida, on October 22, where the Championship 4 field will be determined. The event’s coverage is set to commence at noon ET on FS1.