By AMANDA VINCENT
Grant Enfinger began the 2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs Friday night with his first win of the season in the TSport 200, the first Truck Series race at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park since 2011. The win guaranteed Enfinger’s advancement to round two of the playoffs.
“We’re finally moving forward at all,” Enfinger said. “This is the first laps we’ve led since Atlanta or something. We’ve just been off a little bit as an organization. It hurts to say it, but we’ve had a terrible season to this point.”
Playoff drivers claimed the top-four finishing positions. Ben Rhodes finished second after a pit-road speeding penalty during the caution that followed stage one.
“We drove through the whole field tonight multiple times,” Rhodes said. “I really hate that we had that penalty. I still don’t know what happened. I felt like I was holding my speed correctly. There are some really big bumps at the start finish line, which is the section that we got the penalty in, so I ‘m thinking maybe the bumps got me going faster that I thought I did or that the light showed, but we came up through the field multiple times and circumstances kind of worked out in Grant’s favor those last two restarts. He certainly had a truck to win, but I think our Dan-O’s Toyota Tundra was a lot faster than his truck. It’s a shame, because I wanted to win the TSport 200 for my race team. This is their big event, and I just couldn’t get it done. I just needed a few more laps, and I know we could have got this Toyota Tundra into victory lane.”
Zane Smith was third after starting 21st and involvement in an incident that brought out the eighth caution of the race on lap 148. Stewart Friesen finished fourth.
Corey Heim was the highest finishing non-playoff driver in fifth.
John Hunter Nemechek led a group of 10 drivers who stayed out during a caution for a Colby Howard spin on lap 191. While that caution didn’t send the race into overtime, it set the stage for a two-lap run to the scheduled 200-lap distance. But after Taylor Gray, who also stayed out during the Howard caution, took the lead on the restart, Nemechek wrecked him and retook the top spot.
The race was extended to 207 laps by the overtime. Nemechek lost the lead to Smith on the last restart. Enfinger, on newer tires, then, took the lead from Smith.
Nemechek, also a playoff driver, dropped to 10th by the checkered flag after leading a race-high 75 laps.
Enfinger also was the race leader prior to the lap-191 caution after taking the lead from Ty Majeski on lap 189.
Playoff driver Majeski finished eighth after leading a 71 laps.
One other playoff driver, Matt Crafton, finished in the top-10 in ninth. Tyler Ankrum finished sixth, and Layne Riggs, son of former Xfinity Series driver Scott Riggs, finished seventh in his series debut.
Nemechek won the first 60-lap stage after starting on the pole and leading the entire stage. Fellow-front-row starter and Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Chandler Smith ran second to Nemechek throughout stage one.
Majeski won the second stage that ended on lap 120. Unlike the first stage, stage two saw multiple race leader. Majeski took his stage-winning lead from Chandler Smith on lap 117.
Smith and Carson Hocevar beat Nemechek off pit road during the caution that followed stage one, and when the race restarted on lap 71, Hocevar took the lead.
“I had a really fast Yahoo Toyota Tundra TRD Pro tonight. Sometimes you are the bug, and sometimes you are the windshield,” Nemechek said. “We were the bug tonight. I made a mistake early on and spun myself. Then, we had a restart, there, at the end on older tires; everyone had fresher tires. I tried driving down the bottom of (turn) three underneath the 17 (Gray), and it just kept sliding. I accidently got into his left rear – tried to stay off of him. That team has their opinion. I have my opinion. I’m sure we will talk at some point. The final restart, I had a really good jump. I thought we were going to have a shot, there, and then we got run in the fence by the 38 (Zane Smith). That’s a couple of times that he has ran me in the fence. I’m taking notes. Solid points day for us. I don’t know where that puts us above the cut line, but we’ve got some really good tracks coming up for us. Proud of everyone at KBM (Kyle Busch Motorsports). Thank you to Yahoo, Toyota, TRD, everyone that gives me this opportunity. Let’s go win a championship.”
Enfinger battled Hocevar for the top spot for several laps before finally taking the position on 105.
When the yellow flag waved for the fifth time in the race for a Nemechek spin on lap 107, Smith led a handful of drivers who stayed out. Enfinger, meanwhile, gave up the lead to pit along with most of the other drivers.
After pitting during the Nemechek caution, Majeski and Enfinger stayed out after the second stage to restart in the top-two positions.
Three playoff drivers finished Friday night’s race outside the top-10. Christian Eckes wound up 16th, Chandler Smith 18th, and Hocevar finished 21st.