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In a Nutshell: Brett Moffitt scored his second career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory Saturday afternoon when he took the checkered flag 1.326 seconds ahead of Noah Gragson in the Active Pest Control 200. The driver of the No. 16 Toyota led just the final two laps in an overtime finish to bring Hattori Racing Enterprises its first victory. Johnny Sauter, Ben Rhodes and Matt Crafton rounded out the top five.
— NASCAR (@NASCAR) February 24, 2018
Who Should Have Won: Although Kyle Busch clearly had the truck to beat, a late-race pit road issue that saw his left rear tire fall off of the No. 4 Toyota opened the door for Moffitt. The new driver of the No. 16 Toyota made a thrilling three-wide pass on the final restart that was eerily similar to his pass for the win at Michigan in 2016 en route to Victory Lane.
Hattori Racing Enterprises Scores First Win
Just a couple years ago, Ryan Truex and Hattori Racing Enterprises entered the 2016 Truck Series season planning to race the full schedule, but sponsorship issues sidelined that effort early. Last season, Truex entered fully funded and was a part of the team’s progression to potential championship contender, despite narrowly missing the playoffs.
Fast forward to the 2018 season when a late announcement put Moffitt behind the wheel of the No. 16 Toyota in place of Truex.
“It was very hectic when we learned that Ryan (Truex) was leaving and I’ll be honest, Brett (Moffitt) was the top of my list and Mr. Hattori knows that because we’ve talked about it several times over and over and I think we all felt the same way, we just had to figure out how we were going to do it,” crew chief Scott Zipadelli said. “We fielded tons of meetings with other potential drivers and took up most of our month in January and February, but we did everything we possibly could to get him in our truck and look what we did and look why we did it, we worked really hard for that.
“I think we have good chemistry together and this is one of those nights when you laugh. We were running third and then we win, tonight was easy and these are the nights we look forward to in the future.”
After a disappointing Daytona, Moffitt made a thrilling three-wide move to bring the organization its first win in just his second start behind the wheel.
“It’s just so emotional – everybody, Scott (Zipadelli, crew chief) and all the team members did a good job,” HRE owner Shige Hattori said. “Brett (Moffitt), he did our first K&N win and now our first truck win. I’m just so happy.”
Shige has put so much into that program, glad to see him in victory lane ?
— ryan truex (@Ryan_Truex) February 24, 2018
Based on last season’s performance by the No. 16 team, the timing on this victory was more of a question of when it would come rather than if. Frankly, now that HRE has its first win, it would be no surprise to Moffitt can knock off a couple more victories this season.
Loose Wheel Derails Kyle Busch’s Strong Run
Polesitter Busch won the second stage, led a race-high 67 laps and appeared to be on the way to his first victory at Atlanta in his own equipment, but it wasn’t meant to be. Under the final caution of the race, a slow pit stop on the right front, combined with a miscommunication saw Busch drive away with all five lugnuts removed from the left rear tire.
Not long after leaving pit road, the tire came off of the hub and rolled into the grass, leaving Busch to back the No. 4 Toyota back to his stall while sending sparks flying. He was relegated to a 21st-place finish, one lap down.
— NASCAR Camping World Trucks (@NASCAR_Trucks) February 24, 2018
Per the 2018 NASCAR Rule Book, the tire coming off of the truck should result in a four race suspension for the crew chief, tire changer and jackman.
- Jesse Little made his first start of the 2018 season at Atlanta Motor Speedway. After qualifying 12th, he ran inside the top 10 for much of the race and was inside the top five as the laps wound down. A chaotic restart for an overtime finish saw him drop back to eighth by the time the checkered flag flew, but it was still a career-best finish for the driver of the No. 97 Ford.
Overwhelmed by all the support!! I wanted to come here to learn & gain respect. I can’t do what I do without everyone that backs me & it’s a LONG list. Fun night. Happy for Brett! Time to go work towards Dover. Team & I are pumped! Thanks again for kind words ??
— Jesse Little (@jesselittle97) February 25, 2018
- Ben Rhodes faced mystery motor problems during qualifying early Saturday, and those issues weren’t resolved once the race began. For much of the early stages, he complained of the engine shutting off in the corners, and to make matters worse, the No. 41 team was hit with a penalty for having too many crew members over the wall looking into a suspected fuel pickup issue during the caution at the end of the first stage. But despite the problems the team faced, Rhodes recovered to an impressive fourth-place finish.
“I think [the motor issues] plagued us in qualifying, that’s why we started so far back,” Rhodes explained after the race. “I feel like I’m disappointed with fourth-place because I feel like we should have won. There were times during the race where I’d go a second and a half without power in the corners – the motor would just completely die. We have a championship team and we’re making championship runs, I’m just disappointed we couldn’t get the stage points we deserved.”
No. of rookies in the race: 4
No. of rookies to finish in the top 10: 1; Myatt Snider, finished seventh
Rookie of the Race: Dalton Sargeant, finished 14th
Points Update: Just two races into the season, Sauter finds himself with a 31-point advantage over Crafton, whose ThorSport teammate Grant Enfinger sits third, just two markers back. Gragson and Atlanta race winner Moffitt round out the top five. The remainder of the top 10 is separated by a mere six points. Rhodes and Sargeant are tied for sixth, followed by Spencer Davis in eighth. Joe Nemechek and Justin Haley round out the top 10.
“First of all I have to thank Shige (Hattori, team owner), AISIN, TRD and Mark Cronquist and JGR (Joe Gibbs Racing) engines and just everyone out here. This is unbelievable to even be in a race car at this point let alone in Victory Lane. We had a really good truck all night and Kyle (Busch) spun his tires earlier and that put us back, but I knew the 13 (Myatt Snider) was a sitting duck (on the final restart) and I just wanted to get a good restart. Hopefully they got into a battle behind us and they did – it’s pretty surreal.” Brett Moffitt
“I came from ninth. And I think I was in second halfway down the back straight away on that first lap. It was pretty hectic there at the end. I made a mistake there on pit road that cost us probably a position or two but everything happens for a reason. Restarting ninth and coming all the way to second and that’s that. I felt like we had a really fast Safelite Auto Glass Toyota Tundra all day and really all weekend. I felt like we were one of the best trucks here. I just didn’t get the job done.” Noah Gragson, finished second
Up Next: The Camping World Truck Series heads out west to Las Vegas Motor Speedway next Friday night. Coverage for the Stratospher 200 begins at 9 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.
About the author
Content Director Beth heads up management of our 30-person staff, acting as Tom’s main assistant with technology and personnel while working as Frontstretch’s Truck Series expert. The author of Truckin’ Thursdays and the coordinator of the site’s pre and post-race coverage, she also runs a periodic charity column that spotlights when NASCAR gives back. A childhood transplant to Texas, Beth is a 15-year writing veteran who has contributed content to BRANDT and Athlon Sports, among other outlets.