After a 90-minute rain delay, the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race got underway shortly after 9:30 p.m. ET. While Austin Hill didn’t qualify on the pole, he most certainly had the fastest truck of the night, winning both stages and ultimately winning the race. Hill took the lead from Matt Crafton with 22 laps to go to secure his fourth win of the season.
“This Truck was on rails all night,” Hill said to MRN Radio. “We started off just a little on the tight side. Scott (Zipadelli, Crew Chief) made some awesome adjustments there and got the Truck a little bit better. That pit stop, I kind of took it a little too easy coming down to pit road, I think that hurt us just a tad coming back out third. I had to work extra hard to get back up there and get the lead. Can’t thank Toyota enough. Chiba Toyopet Toyota Tundra was really good all night long. TRD, United Rentals can’t thank those guys enough.”
“To be able to win this race and lock down the Toyota manufacturer championship means a lot to me. So, I’m glad I could help Toyota out with that.”
Early rain showers pushed the race back for a couple of hours, before finally getting underway shortly after 9:30 p.m. ET. The starting grid was set by owner points with Stewart Friesen on the pole.
Before the race got started, the No. 15 of Anthony Alfredo had an oil leak on his Truck. With that issue, Alfredo was never able to make a lap and was credited with a last-place finish. Stages were broken up in 30/30/74 laps to make up the 134-lap race.
Stage 1: Lap 1- Lap 30
Nothing too crazy happened in the first stage to affect the race but there was some great racing action between the Championship 4 drivers. Ross Chastain led the first 28 laps of the first stage before Hill took the lead with just a few laps to go and won the stage. Championship 4 driver Chastain was second, Friesen was third, Brett Moffitt was fourth and Matt Crafton finished sixth in Stage 1.
However, while the Championship 4 drivers finished in the top-10 none of them collected any stage points.
Stage 2: Lap 35- Lap 60
Like Stage 1, the second stage almost went green the whole way. The first real incident of the night came on Lap 50. The No. 49 of Ray Ciccarelli’s Truck had fluid coming out of the back end which prompted officials to throw the yellow flag.
From that point on, the stage remained green and Hill once again picked up the stage win. Crafton was second, Chastain was third, Moffitt was fourth and Friesen finished fifth in Stage 2.
Stage 3: Lap 67- Lap 134
It was crunch time for the Championship 4 drivers as Stage 3 began with 67 laps to go. While Chastain and Friesen certainly had the best Trucks early on in the night, Crafton’s Truck started to come to life near the end.
Pit stops broke out with 38 to go. Both Chastain and Friesen pit. Crafton and Moffitt elected to come down pit road one lap later to stay on the lead cycle. Race leader Hill pitted with 35 to go. After pit stops, Crafton cycled back out into the lead five laps later. However, Hill retook the lead with 22 to go and led the rest of the way, taking the checkered flag to win.
As much as Crafton wanted to win the race and the championship, the bigger picture was to collect his third Truck Series championship in 453 starts. The Tulare, California native is now tied with former series champion Jack Sprague.
“We didn’t win the battle, but we won the war,” Crafton excitedly said. “It was such a sweet deal to put this Ford Menards F-150 into victory lane. I know it’s Fords last time here championship weekend and nothing sweeter than to put the Ford into the championship. Ford and everybody has worked so hard here.”
Knowing Crafton could win the race at one point in the race, he quickly realized it was all about winning the championship.
“That was really hard to do,” he added. “I wanted to race the 16 (Hill) so hard. He definitely was a little faster than us there at the end. I knew what it was about and hoisting this big trophy at the end of the night, that’s what we’re here to do and that’s what we did.”
With Crafton locking up his third Truck Series championship, he becomes one of the few drivers to do so in Truck Series history.
“Oh, it’s awesome. Like I said, one step closer to the great Truck Series guy Ron Hornaday. We can battle with them again next year and maybe we can get number four.”
Quite possibly lost in the shuffle was the Owner Series Championship. Four drivers were also battling for that as well. In the end, however, it was newly announced Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Christian Eckes who helped the team secure its seventh owner’s championship in the team’s existence.
“I struggled for most of the race, honestly,” Eckes said to MRN Radio. “Got a little better out there in front. Rudy (Fugle, Crew Chief) made a great call, able to lead some laps and come home third. It’s awesome to get another championship with these guys. Just ready for 2020.”
Hill led five times for 56 laps en route to the fourth win of his career. There were three cautions for 14 laps and 12 lead changes among six different drivers.
- Austin Hill – led 56 laps, won both stages
- Matt Crafton – led nine laps, 2019 Truck Series Champion
- Christian Eckes – led 26 laps, won Owners Championship for KBM
- Ross Chastain – led 36 laps
- Brett Moffitt – led three laps
- Johnny Sauter
- Grant Enfinger
- Todd Gilliland
- Sheldon Creed
- Parker Kligerman
- Stewart Friesen
- Ben Rhodes
- Harrison Burton
- Joe Nemechek – one lap down
- Gus Dean – led four laps, one lap down
- Tanner Gray – one lap down
- Jesse Little, one lap down
- Tyler Dippel – one lap down
- Austin Wayne Self – one lap down
- Natalie Decke1r – one lap down
- Jordan Anderson – two laps down
- Tyler Ankrum – 2019 Truck Series Rookie of The Year, two laps down
- Tyler Hill- two laps down
- Colby Howard – two laps down
- Danny Bohn – two laps down
- Codie Rohrbaugh – four laps down
- Cory Roper – five laps down
- Jennifer Jo Cobb- six laps down
- Angela Ruch – seven laps down
- Josh Bilicki – OUT, Electrical
- Ray Ciccarelli, OUT, Oil Line
- Anthony Alfredo – OUT, Engine, Did Not Start
Up Next: The 2019 Truck Series season is officially over after race No. 23. The next on-track action will be the 2020 season opener at Daytona on Friday, Feb. 14.