Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks
In a Nutshell: Greg Biffle did Kyle Busch things in a Kyle Busch Motorsports truck at Texas Motor Speedway Friday night (June 7) and won the SpeedyCash.com 400. In his first Gander Outdoors Truck Series start in 15 years, the veteran driver hopped into the No. 51 Toyota and led twice for just 18 laps, including the one that mattered most.
“It means a lot to me that Kyle (Busch) gave me this opportunity to come back and drive this truck,” Biffle said. “I am just excited to be here. I don’t even know what to say. I am so thankful for all the opportunities I have had to drive great trucks. This thing was really fast.”
Damn I’m a genius. 🏁🏆
— Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) June 8, 2019
Matt Crafton, who made a hard charge at Biffle a few times inside 20 laps remaining, ended up finishing second, nearly a full second behind the race winner. Rookie Tyler Ankrum scored a career-best finish in third, followed by Grant Enfinger. Harrison Burton rounded out the top five.
Who Should Have Won: In reality, several drivers showed their strength throughout the race, and no one competitor had a stranglehold on the competition. But when it came down to a 10-lap shootout for the checkered flag, Biffle found his way to the front of the field and held off a hard-charging Crafton for what may go down as one of the most popular wins this season.
— Beth Lunkenheimer (@NASCARBeth) June 8, 2019
Todd Gilliland’s Rotten Season Continues
When you work for Busch, there’s no doubt that position comes with high expectations for on-track performance, especially with an organization like KBM that has a reputation for winning races and a couple of championships along the way.
So of course, the spotlight shines squarely on rookie Burton and his sophomore teammate Todd Gilliland. The team itself has been in the headlines all week after team owner Busch was less than complimentary of his drivers.
Enter a crew chief swap that took Marcus Richmond away from the No. 4 team and put interim crew chief Wes Ward atop the pit box for Texas. Suddenly, Gilliland showed solid speed in practice on Thursday and followed it up with a pole-winning qualifying lap Friday afternoon.
Fast forward to the race and Gilliland led twice for 31 laps before getting loose and spinning while running inside the top five. The wall contact proved terminal and Gilliland was left to settle for a disappointing 27th-place finish and his third DNF in nine starts this season.
What’s interesting is just how quickly people want to sideline Gilliland, though. Sure, he hasn’t had the greatest finishes, especially this season. But he’s also just barely 19 years old and still maturing and gaining track experience. Sure, KBM equipment comes along with the expectation that he should be able to win races and run up front on a regular basis, but some have taken to the Truck Series faster than others.
While his job may be in jeopardy when it comes to setting the 2020 team lineup, unless things get drastically worse — and I mean much worse — in all likelihood, Gilliland will still finish out the season behind the wheel of the No. 4 Toyota. But I can say almost without a doubt that if he doesn’t manage to find victory lane at some point this season, he will no longer work for KBM once the checkered flag flies on 2019.
Tyler Ankrum Hits the Wall, Slides Down Pit Lane, Recovers to Career-Best Finish
Texas Motor Speedway might hold a special place in Ankrum’s heart for quite some time after his Friday night. He graduated from high school before driver intros on the temporary stage set up on the track, and by the time the end of stage one rolled around, he had smacked the wall, went two laps down, received the free pass twice and rejoined the lead lap.
But that’s only the beginning. Just a handful of laps before the conclusion of stage two, Ankrum spun inside Stewart Friesen and made an incredible slide down pit road before righting the No. 17 Toyota and starting all over again two laps down. The high number of cautions allowed for two more free passes and another shot at racing on the lead lap.
This time, Ankrum took his truck all the way to a third-place finish, besting his career high.
At the end of the day, an exhausted Ankrum walked away with a career-best third-place finish and some incredible highlight reels to talk about at family functions for many years to come. And while DGR-Crosley hasn’t always been the team you might put in the conversation for potential race winners, Ankrum has proven that his group is capable of running up front and capitalizing on its success.
After all, they did finish third after an adventurous day. Friday night’s race will definitely go down as one of those what-if moments, where you wonder what more, could have been had without the setbacks.
- Friday night’s SpeedyCash.com 400 broke several Truck Series records at Texas Motor Speedway. The whopping two-and-a-half hour race featured 13 cautions (previous record was 10) for 63 laps (previous record was 46). It also was the longest Truck Series race held at Texas since the series began visiting the mile-and-a-half oval in 1997.
- On a weekend where KBM as a whole was under more scrutiny, Burton quietly rolled his way to a fifth-place finish by the time the checkered flag flew. Struggling with handling and the ability to pass others as he approached their back ends, the rookie still managed to gain a little ground, keep his fenders mostly clean and walk away with a solid finish.
- While it wasn’t a career-best finish for Josh Reaume, who ended up sixth in the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, Reaume Brothers Racing posted its best average finish with two trucks in the field. Reaume ended up 14th with Scott Stenzel close behind in 16th. And though 14th and 16th don’t sound all that exciting, for a team that scratches and claws just to make it to the track each week, it’s almost as good as a win.
- Austin Hill took some damage to the No. 16 Toyota when he tangled with Johnny Sauter at the beginning of stage two. While Sauter’s damage took away any hope he had of winning once again, Hill was able to continue after his crew worked feverishly to make repairs on pit road. He actually went on to lead 34 laps in the middle of stage three but ended up with an eighth-place finish. It marked his sixth top 10 in nine races this season, which now ties his top 10 count for the entire 2018 schedule.
- Ross Chastain kicked off his 2019 Truck Series championship campaign with a 10th-place finish that was hardly indicative of the speed his No. 38 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet had throughout the race. He earned stage points in both stage one and two before settling in for 10th. Though he’ll need a win (or a minor miracle) to make the playoffs, getting himself inside the top 20 by the time the playoffs begin should be relatively painless if the team continues to bring the trucks and the speed it has all season.
2019 Rookie of the Year Candidates:
No. 02 – Tyler Dippel
No. 2 – Sheldon Creed
No. 12 – Gus Dean
No. 15 – Anthony Alfredo
No. 17 – Tyler Ankrum
No. 18 – Harrison Burton
No. 54 – Anthony Alfredo/Natalie Decker
Number of Rookies in the Race: 7
Number of Rookies finishing in the Top 10: 3; Tyler Ankrum, finished third; Harrison Burton, finished fifth; Sheldon Creed, finished sixth
Rookie of the Race: Ankrum
What a night last night!! Thank you to @DGR_Crosley @eddiegossage @TXMotorSpeedway @TruexManagement @RAILBLAZA_USA Graduation ✅ slid down pit road✅ finished p3 ✅ have the best team and partners ✅✅ I’m grateful that I have the best team,family and friends that support me! 🙌🏻
— Tyler Ankrum (@TylerAnkrum) June 8, 2019
Up Next: The Gander Outdoors Truck Series heads to Iowa Speedway for the second race in the Triple Truck Challenge where the $50,000 added incentive to win remains in place. Coverage for the M&M’s 200 begins Saturday, June 15 at 8:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1; the race can also be heard on your local MRN affiliate or SiriusXM NASCAR Channel 90.