NASCAR Race Weekend Central
(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Tracking the Trucks: Austin Hill, Matt Crafton Win Kansas Double-Header

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In a Nutshell: For the first time in NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series history, drivers hit Kansas Speedway for a pair of races less than 24 hours apart. Friday night (July 24),

Austin Hill emerged victorious for his first win of 2020. He easily beat out Brett Moffitt by nearly three seconds in a dominant race that saw Hill lead a race-high 65 of 134 laps.

Grant Enfinger, Matt Crafton and Derek Kraus rounded out the top five.

Fast forward to Saturday afternoon (July 25) and it was Crafton who broke a 67-race winless streak to score his first victory since Eldora Speedway in 2017. He narrowly beat Christian Eckes by a slim 0.324-second margin to the checkered flag. Enfinger, Tanner Gray and Ben Rhodes rounded out the top five.

Race Rundown:

ThorSport Racing’s (Mostly) Strong Weekend

Friday night’s race saw ThorSport Racing put all four of its drivers inside the top 10 for the first time all season. In a year where Enfinger won the season opener at Daytona International Speedway and snagged a second victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the organization had been unable to have all of its trucks finishing well in the same race.

That ended in the Blue-Emu Maximum Pain Relief 200 on Friday night when Enfinger finished third, followed by Crafton in fourth. Rhodes and Johnny Sauter finished seventh and ninth, respectively.

Crafton’s victory in Saturday’s E.P.T. 200 marked the third for the organization in 10 races this season, and Enfinger ended up with another third-place finish. It marked the No. 98 team’s third straight top 10 after going through the first seven events with the two victories standings as the only two top-10 results.

Meanwhile, Rhodes’ fifth-place finish marked his fifth straight top 10 and his eighth in 10 races this season. Sauter, though, wasn’t as fortunate on Saturday. He was caught up in the big wreck that brought out the sixth caution and a brief red flag for cleanup.

The wreck and subsequent DNF erased any good Friday’s ninth-place run did for the No. 13 team. In fact, Sauter now sits 43 points below the playoff cut line with only six races remaining.

Tyler Ankrum’s Dismal Weekend

Tyler Ankrum, who’s struggled to find any kind of consistency throughout his sophomore season, would probably like to forget about the Kansas double-header weekend that saw him drop from eighth to 11th in the playoff standings.

His troubles began early Friday with a flat right-rear tire that had to be serviced with an unscheduled green-flag pit stop. To make matters worse, that flat repeated itself and took out a brake line along the way, sending Ankrum to the garage for extended repairs. Though he was able to get back out on the track and posted lap times similar to the leaders, the damage was done and he was left to settle for a 33rd-place finish, 22 laps down.

Fast forward to Saturday when Ankrum had to start 33rd, thanks to his results on Friday and he was able to race into the top five by stage two. Showing the kind of speed the No. 26 Chevrolet and GMS Racing as a whole has shown all season, it looked like Ankrum might still be able to make something out of the weekend.

But as he and teammates Zane Smith and Moffitt ended up running three wide, the trio tangled, taking Ankrum and Moffitt out on the spot.

Smith was able to continue for a top-10 finish, but Moffitt and Ankrum finished 27th and 28th, respectively, bringing Ankrum’s double-header average finish to a disappointing 30.5.

The good news for Ankrum, though, is that he did have plenty of speed to contend, though the finishes have hardly been indicative of what the truck has been able to run throughout the races. With just three top 10s and an average finish of 16th in 10 races, you can bet Ankrum and his crew chief will spend their off-week looking at ways to finish the race where they’ve been running.

Quick Hits:

  • Just six drivers managed to finish inside the top 10 in both races at Kansas. Race winners Hill and Crafton were joined by Enfinger, Rhodes and rookies Kraus and Smith.
  • Moffitt experienced the highs and lows of the double-header weekend. He wasn’t able to keep up with Hill’s winning truck on Friday night but posted a season-high second-place finish, something that brought him a lot of confidence heading into Saturday’s race. But despite having plenty of speed and running inside the top five to 10 most of the day, a tangle with his teammates took Moffitt out and sent him to a 27th-place finish.

  • Travis Pastrana made his first Truck Series start since 2017 on Saturday following a last minute call to fill in for Ross Chastain, who wanted to focus on his Xfinity Series race. After starting at the rear of the field due to the driver change, Pastrana suffered an early flat right rear tire, which interestingly enough is that the same place Chastain struggled the night before. Despite going two laps down and a later spin through the grass, Pastrana still brought the truck home relatively unscathed with a respectable 22nd-place finish.

  • Though he doesn’t have a victory to show for it, Smith lead a race-high 50 laps in Saturday afternoon’s event. It was also the longest the rookie has spent out in front of the field in a single race this season. The rookie’s ninth-place finish marks his sixth top 10 in 10 races this season, which is pretty impressive given the lack of practice and qualifying this year.
  • The same could be said about Kraus, who in a single-truck effort to run for Rookie of the Year honors, has been downright impressive. He has a single finish this year outside the top 20 (22nd at Las Vegas Motor Speedway) and hasn’t finished outside the top 15 since Charlotte Motor Speedway in the series’ first race after the COVID-19 break. Four top 10s in the last five races has brought his average finish to an impressive 10.5, which ranks fourth among full-time drivers. Those who sit ahead of him in average finishes this season? Hill, Rhodes and Enfinger. That’s some pretty good company to be in.
  • With just a handful of laps remaining in Friday’s race, Jordan Anderson and Spencer Davis tangled, forcing both drivers to a backup truck. The pair finished Saturday’s race in 15th and 14th, respectively.

Rookie Report

2020 Rookie of the Year Candidates

Tate Fogleman – No. 02 Young’s Motorsports Chevrolet
Raphael Lessard – No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota
Spencer Davis – No. 11 Spencer Davis Motorsports Toyota
Zane Smith – No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet
Tanner Gray – No. 15 DGR-Crosley Ford
Christian Eckes – No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota
Derek Kraus – No. 19 McAnally-Hilgemann Racing Toyota
Ty Majeski – No. 45 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet

Number of Rookies in Race 1: 8

Number of Rookies finishing in the Top 10 in Race 1: 2; Kraus, finished fifth; Smith, finished sixth

Rookie of the Race in Race 1: Kraus

Number of Rookies in Race 2: 8

Number of Rookies finishing in the Top 10 in Race 2: 4; Eckes, finished second; Gray, finished fourth; Kraus, finished sixth; Smith, finished ninth

Rookie of the Race in Race 2: Eckes

Points Update: Hill remains as the point leader by 43 over Rhodes. Rookies Eckes and Smith are tied for third, both 50 markers behind the leader. Moffitt, despite his DNF in the second Kansas race, rounds out the top five. Crafton’s third-place result Friday, combined with Saturday’s win has propelled him to sixth, just a single point ahead of teammate Enfinger. Creed, Kraus and Todd Gilliland round out the top 10.

The gap below the playoff cut line has expanded just a bit with only six races remaining to set this year’s championship contenders. Ankrum is 11th, 22 points back, while Sauter sits 12th, 43 markers below the cut line. Gray, Stewart Friesen and Raphael Lessard round out the top 15.

Series-regular winners this season (locked into 2020 playoffs): Enfinger (Daytona, Atlanta), Creed (Kentucky), Hill (Kansas 1), Crafton (Kansas 2)

Tweetable:

Up Next: The Truck Series takes a weekend off before heading to Michigan International Speedway on Friday, Aug. 7. Race coverage begins at 6 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.

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