MARTINSVILLE, Va. – Grant Enfinger had to win Friday at Martinsville Speedway in order to race for his first NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series championship next weekend at Phoenix Raceway.
That’s exactly what he did.
Enfinger survived multiple restarts during the final 50 laps of Friday’s NASCAR Hall of Fame 200, including the final restart with two laps left, to earn his fourth victory of the season and an automatic ticket to the Truck Series championship race.
“Just proud of everybody on this team,” Enfinger said. “We kind of came in here with nothing to lose. Honestly that’s probably how we’ll approach Phoenix as well.”
The native of Fairhope, Ala., had to do things the hard way. He used his bumper multiple times and had to go on the defensive several times. He muscled his way into the lead during a restart with 39 laps left by shoving Carson Hocevar out of the way, but that wouldn’t be the last time Enfinger would use his bumper.
Clay Greenfield would spin with 35 laps left, setting up another restart with Enfinger on the point. Using the choose rule, Sheldon Creed restarted alongside Enfinger and the two battled for supremacy during the restart.
The two beat and banged off of each other, opening the door for third-place Brett Moffitt to poke his nose under Enfinger to challenge him for second. The trio entered turn three three-wide, with Enfinger tapping Creed and sending him for another spin to bring out another caution.
“We were three wide in the middle. Being a must-win situation, I have to stay in there,” Enfinger explained. “Unfortunately Sheldon went for a loop right there, hate that for him, but Martsinville definitely isn’t meant for three-wide racing. It seemed like we were in that position a few times tonight.”
On the next restart Enfinger found himself alongside Raphael Lessard, who restarted on his outside after moving up thanks to the choose rule. When the race resumed with 19 to go Lessard did exactly what he needed to do, surviving multiple hits from Enfinger to take the race lead.
Moffitt was also able to get under Enfinger for second moments before Hocevar spun again with 16 laps left to bring out another caution. Enfinger restarted behind Lessard and Moffitt in third, but somehow muscled his way to the inside to challenge Lessard for the lead when the race resumed with 10 laps left.
The field completed one lap before Lessard got sent spinning in turn two after contact with Ben Rhodes, with the incident also collecting Moffitt, ending his night in the process.
Enfinger was now the leader, but he had ThorSport Racing teammate Rhodes in second. Rhodes was in the same position as Enfinger, needing a win to earn a spot in the championship race at Phoenix.
The green flag waved with two laps left and Enfinger went right to work, pulling clear of Rhodes to take the lead. Behind him, Rhodes got a big shot in the bumper from Christian Eckes, whom Rhodes intentionally wrecked last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway.
The shot from Eckes moved Rhodes up the track, allowing Enfinger to pull away from the battle for second and earn his first victory at Martinsville Speedway and punch his ticket to the championship race.
“We were able to control the race for a little bit of it,” Enfinger said. “Even though we were in the lead for some of it, we still weren’t really in control. We needed two or three laps to click off and then we could get in a rhythm and go. To get to that point was a lot of getting roughed up and a lot of having to use that bumper.”
Joining Enfinger in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series championship race next weekend at Phoenix Raceway will be Moffitt, Creed and Zane Smith, who earned the final spot in the championship race by three points over defending series champion Matt Crafton.
Smith finished Friday’s race in third behind Enfinger and Rhodes and two spots ahead of Crafton, which gave him just enough points to earn his spot in the championship race.
“I don’t know if this was Martinsville or Bowman Gray. It was pretty bad,” Smith said in reference to the amount of bumping and banging on the track Friday night. “I kind of didn’t expect anything less I guess.”
Rhodes admitted he didn’t have the best truck, but he did everything in his power to win the race and earn a shot at the championship at Phoenix.
“We really, really, really didn’t have the best truck, by far,” Rhodes said. “My team did a good job with strategy and putting me in positions up front to kind of just try to survive. That’s really what we were doing. I was actually praying cautions so I would not have to burn my truck up.”
Also eliminated from championship contention were Austin Hill, Tyler Ankrum and Crafton. Hill, who won the regular season championship, finished 35th after the engine in his Toyota Tundra failed after he completed 117 laps.
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