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Tracking the Trucks: Ross Chastain Scores Dominant 3rd Victory at Pocono Raceway

Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks

In a Nutshell: Ross Chastain scored his third win of the 2019 season with a dominant performance in the Gander RV 150 at Pocono Raceway Saturday afternoon, July 27. He dedicated his victory to late Kaulig Racing crew chief Nick Harrison, who died suddenly last weekend at the age of 37.

“I know we were a little mad because we lost Nick Harrison,” Chastain said. “We realize that everybody goes when it’s their time, but, man, we miss that big boy. These boys (on the Niece Motorsports team), a lot of them worked with him.

“I got to work with him at Kaulig Racing this year. Man, we miss him.”

Chastain led a race-high 54 of 60 laps, relinquishing the top spot only long enough to make a green-flag pit stop with three laps remaining in stage two. He took lead once again under the stage break and never looked back en route to a one-second victory.

Kentucky winner Tyler Ankrum and fellow rookie Harrison Burton finished second and third, respectively.

“We had a really good truck,” Burton said. “We were really, really fast. It was fun. We had to charge through the field there. We started ninth on the last restart and just had to go. I just ran out of time there in the end. It’s frustrating. There are guys that had good strategy. We were cutting it close on fuel. I knew they were riding around there a little bit. I thought maybe I could get to them, so I was driving as hard as I could there at the end, but it just didn’t come our way.”

Christian Eckes and Brett Moffitt rounded out the top five.

Race Rundown

Christian Eckes Posts Career-Best Finish

After posting three top 10s in four Truck Series starts last season, expectations for Eckes in another part-time schedule with Kyle Busch Motorsports coming into 2019 were high.

But instead of coming out of the gate with a strong season, Eckes had failed to finish inside the top 10 in his two prior starts. He crashed out of the season opener at Daytona International Speedway and then ended up 14th at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway after starting on the pole and leading 57 laps.

Fast forward to Pocono where he started 13th. Though he ended stage one seventh, he was outside the top 10 by the end of stage two. When the final stage ran caution-free, Eckes was able to recover to a fourth-place finish.

Despite a career-best run, Eckes walked away wanting more out of Pocono, though.

“It’s a little frustrating, having a truck that good and not be able to win with it,” he said. “Just kind of lost a lot of long-run speed there. Overall, it was a great week. First and fourth. We will take this momentum and move on to Eldora [Speedway] and Michigan [International Speedway] with KBM [Kyle Busch Motorsports] boys.”

While Eckes walks away frustrated with not getting to victory lane after he had won the ARCA Menards Series race Friday (July 26), there is plenty to be said about finally finishing well in a truck that’s found victory lane six times this season (five with Kyle Busch and once with Greg Biffle). It’s much-needed momentum heading into the next couple of races he has scheduled behind the wheel of the No. 51 Toyota.

Stewart Friesen Crashes Out on Lap 1

Stewart Friesen’s ended his day before it ever really began. He put himself in a three-wide situation going into turn one on lap 1 with an overly aggressive early move that sent him spinning into the outside wall. On the way, he clipped Anthony Alfredo, who was doing his best to avoid the spin, causing significant damage to both trucks.

Friesen was out on the spot, though Alfredo was able to run two more laps before retiring as well. The pair finished 31st and 32nd.

“We got spun around and made contact with the wall,” a visibly disappointed Friesen told Frontstretch. “Just a bummer. Got on the apron and it went around. I had a lot of friends and family here today, and I wish I could have done more. …We’ll be back, it just sucks right now.

“I expected the [No.] 16 to block, that’s what he does. He moved down to block and I tried to get up behind him and Sheldon [Creed] was on the outside. I’m not going to post blame on anybody, it’s just racing. I should have flexed my elbows out a little bit more and used some more racetrack to not clip the apron. I clipped it and went around.”

Understandably, Alfredo was frustrated with getting taken out of his first start at Pocono so early.

“I’ve got limited opportunities this year, and I’m very blessed to be in the position that I’m in,” he explained. “I’m just trying to make the most of every time. That’s not the way you want them to go. I’m trying to work hard and take advantage of these opportunities so I can run full time next year.

“You know, just someone else’s incident that we got caught up in and there was nowhere to go. I don’t know what happened, I didn’t see a replay, but he (Friesen) slid up and there was some guys underneath us, so I was trying to get through a hole and it got filled.

“I’m very appreciative of Gander Outdoors, and Gander RV for sponsoring this race. Toyota Racing brought great trucks. I think we will be able to have one in victory lane at the end of the day. Proud of my guys, DGR-Crosley, they did a great job. Very thankful for all of my partners. I had a lot of people here to support me, so really bummed they came all this way to see a quarter of a lap, but we will try to make it up to them in Michigan.”

Both drivers aren’t pleased about finishing the final two spots in the running order (and who would be?), but for very different reasons. For Alfredo, it’s simply the limited amount of seat time he gets in a part-time deal with DGR-Crosley. He’s already got his eyes on next season in hopes of finding a full-time ride and a shot to race for the championship.

Meanwhile, Friesen took a major points hit and finds himself in a precarious position just 13 markers ahead of Burton, who scored the most points at Pocono (52) and is just below the cut line with two races remaining before the playoffs begin.

Quick Hits:

  • For the second time in as many races, Hill retired within the first 30 laps for mechanical issues. Last race at Kentucky Speedway, it was an engine failure that sent him to the garage just 28 laps in. This week at Pocono, it was clutch issues that ultimately sidelined him after completing just 21 circuits. The good news for the No. 16 team is it has the victory at Daytona to protect its playoff hopes, though the organization might want to figure out its mechanical gremlins before Bristol Motor Speedway or it will be a short-lived championship battle.
  • Creed and his ARCA championship-winning crew chief, Jeff Stankiewicz, were reunited this week in hopes of finding a way to make the playoffs in Creed’s rookie season. And while things were looking great for the pair with a second-place finish in stage one, contact with Eckes put Creed hard into the outside wall at the beginning of stage two. While he was able to continue for a while, the damage required a trip down pit road for repairs under green. He ultimately retired to a disappointing 25th-place finish after completing 56 of 60 laps with an oil leak.
  • It’s hard to not notice the new paint scheme Ben Rhodes will sport for the next two races in a partnership with Havoline that began this weekend at Pocono. Rhodes started at the rear of the field for unapproved adjustments and recovered to a ninth-place finish.

Rookie Report

2019 Rookie of the Year Candidates:

No. 02 – Tyler Dippel
No. 2 – Sheldon Creed
No. 12 – Gus Dean
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: 2; Ankrum, finished second; Burton, finished third

Rookie of the Race: Ankrum

Points Update: Grant Enfinger’s 10th-place finish allowed him to keep the point lead by 34 markers over Moffitt. Matt Crafton sits third, followed by Friesen, who dropped two spots with a last-place finish. Burton rounds out the top five.

Ben Rhodes sits sixth, 51 points ahead of Todd Gilliland. Hill, Creed and Johnny Sauter round out the top 10.

Chastain’s victory at Pocono means there will be no more than seven series regular winners before the playoffs begin, guaranteeing him a spot in the championship battle. He’ll join Hill, Sauter, Moffitt, and Ankrum in the playoffs. Assuming Enfinger doesn’t win and maintains the point lead, he’ll take one of the remaining three playoff spots, along with two others (currently Crafton and Friesen) who will make the playoffs on points.

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Up Next: The Truck Series heads straight to Eldora for the Dirt Derby 150. Last year, Chase Briscoe, in a one-off start, snagged the win in an epic side-by-side battle with Enfinger. The five heat races to set the field begin at 7 p.m. ET, followed by the last chance qualifier at 8:15 p.m. ET. Coverage for the race itself 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.

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About Beth Lunkenheimer

Beth Lunkenheimer
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.