NASCAR Truck: Grant Enfinger gets first win in home state
Grant Enfinger celebrates in victory lane after winning the Fred’s 250 at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 22, 2016 (photo courtesy of Getty Images for NASCAR).
By AMANDA VINCENT
Saturday’s Fred’s 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway was the first Truck Series race after a couple of weekends off for the Truck Series and the third race of the first-ever chase for the series, making it the first elimination race in the history of the Camping World Truck Series. But non-chaser Grant Enfinger stole the show, starting on the pole and leading a race-high 45 laps of the 94 that made up the race en route to his first-career Truck Series win in his home state of Alabama.
The Talladega race was the seventh Truck Series start of the year for the reigning ARCA Racing Series champion and Fairhope, Ala., native.
“Definitely and unbelievable feeling,” Enfinger said. “My racing career started as a fan up here. Definitely a lot of emotion. A lot of friends and family at this race and definitely very, very special.”
Enfinger’s GMS Racing teammate, Grant Enfinger, took second by passing Timothy Peters soon after a restart with just under 10 laps remaining. The two teammates restarted first and second on the final restart with two to go and maintained their positions to give GMS Racing a one-two finish.
Peters, winner of the last two Truck Series races at Talladega, was the highest-finishing chase driver and one of only two chase drivers to finish in the top-five. He was third, while fellow-chaser Ben Kennedy rounded out the top-five.
“Red Horse Racing is an awesome team, and we superspeedway race really well and we race good all year long,” Peters said. “All the races we’re strong, but this is for the guys and women back at the shop that prepare these Tundras. That makes my job a lot easier to come here and perform the way we do. Shane [Huffman, crew chief] did a great job, and the pit crew did a great job. I don’t know how much more exciting you want to get.”
Rico Abreu also finished in the top-five, taking fourth.
John Hunter Nemechek and Daniel Hemric were the two drivers eliminated from the chase, cutting the chase field from eight to six drivers heading into the next round of the chase, set to begin Oct. 29 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
Nemechek fell out of the race early with an engine failure that brought out the first of seven cautions on lap 14.
Hemric was involved in three separate incidents. He was one of the four drivers involved in an incident at the halfway point of the race. He then was collected in a large multi-truck incident on lap 60 and spun with about 11 laps remaining. Hemric finished just outside the top-10 in 11th, despite the multiple problems, but it wasn’t enough to get him into a chase advancement position.
“We knew coming here that the variables of superspeedway racing could mean good days or bad days for other people and could set the tone for what happened to us, and it just didn’t work out for us on the good end of things,” Hemric said. “I hate we got caught up in the stuff we did, but we did everything we could to try to salvage the best day we could, and I feel like we did that. It just wasn’t what we needed.”
The race wasn’t perfect for fellow-chaser’s Christopher Bell and Matt Crafton, either. Bell was one of the drivers involved in the lap-60 wreck, and Crafton’s engine sputtered with six laps remaining. But Bell was able to recover to finish just outside the top-five in the sixth position. Crafton, meanwhile, wound up 22nd in the end, but had enough of a points cushion heading into the chase to manage to advance.
Drivers joining Crafton and Bell in the next round of the chase include 10th-place finisher William Byron, Kennedy, Peters and seventh-place finisher Johnny Sauter. Byron was the only chaser locked into a second-round chase slot, courtesy of a race win earlier in the first round.
Enfinger was the race leader after the lap 60 caution. He and Matt Tifft exchanged the lead a few times before Enfinger took command and Peters moved into second with 23 laps remaining.
Enfinger and Peters restarted on the front row with under 10 laps remaining, but when the race restarted, Gallagher got by Peters to take second. The GMS teammates of Enfinger and Gallagher then ran one-two for the remaining laps.