By AMANDA VINCENT
During an off weekend for the NASCAR Cup Series, Cup Series rookie Todd Gilliland returned to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series on Saturday night to win the Clean Harbors 150 at Knoxville (Iowa) Raceway, the Truck Series’ second of two yearly races on dirt.
“The Cup Series is tough, just racing every single week. I’ve had like a million people ask me, ‘Is this really what you want to do on your off week?’ Absolutely. Nothing beats racing. I tell everyone I’m young, and I wish I could do this every single week of the year,” Gilliland said. “I love the trucks. I ran here forever, it felt like. So to be able to come back and to get one, it’s so special.”
The Knoxville race was the first Truck Series race of the year for the driver who competed full-time in the series last year and his first-career start for the DGR team owned by his father David Gilliland.
“I told him when the race started, all I want for Father’s Day is that trophy,” David Gilliland said. “We’ll be taking it home on the plane with us.”
John Hunter Nemechek took the lead from Gilliland on a lap-122 restart. But Gilliland retook the lead just before the 9th and final caution of the 150-lap race on lap 141 and led a total of 58 laps by the checkered flag.
Nemechek finished second.
Zane Smith finished third, Ty Majeski was fourth, and Stewart Friesen rounded out the top-five after overcoming a flat tire in the first 40 laps.
Brett Moffitt led a group of four drivers who stayed out during a lap-90 stage break, but after jumping the restart, Moffitt was black-flagged, and Grant Enfinger, who also stayed out, became the new race leader.
Gilliland, who restarted fifth after pitting, took the lead from Enfinger on lap 102.
Carson Hocevar dominated the race early. He started second on the front row after accumulating the most points in the second of four 15-lap heat/qualifying races with a heat win after starting fifth. Hocevar took the lead from pole sitter Derek Kraus on lap one of the 150-lap main event and ran up front until blowing his engine on a lap-65 restart.
One of Hocevar’s Niece Motorsports teammates, Tyler Carpenter, also blew an engine almost simultaneously.
Hocevar’s early-race dominance included a stage-one win on lap 40. Gilliland inherited the lead upon Hocevar’s misfortune and won stage two at lap 90.
Kraus finished sixth, Matt Crafton was seventh, Enfinger eighth, Tyler Ankrum ninth, and Ben Rhodes finished 10th after an overheating issue resulted in him going two laps down early in the race.
Other heat/qualifying race winners included Nemechek, who led the entire distance of the first qualifier; Hailie Deegan, who led all 15 laps of the third qualifier; and Gilliland, leader of the entire fourth qualifying race.
Kraus’ pole was the result of the most qualifying points earned (based on finish and positions improved from start) with a second-place finish after starting eighth in the opening heat/qualifier.