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Tracking the Trucks: Todd Gilliland Victorious in Inaugural COTA Race

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In a Nutshell: Todd Gilliland snagged his first win since 2019 in the Camping World Truck Series’ inaugural visit to Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas Saturday afternoon. The driver of the No. 38 recovered from an early penalty for a crew member over the wall too soon to score the first victory for Front Row Motorsports.

“I definitely did a lot of stuff wrong but that’s what I love about road course racing, there’s 20 turns here, 20 opportunities to pass but also make mistakes,’’ Gilliland said. “Last year we didn’t quite have the season we knew we could and just to come out here and win early, we’ve been building momentum and for my team to get this win is just amazing.’’

Kaz Grala finished third, followed by polesitter Tyler Ankrum, who led four of the final 10 laps. Grant Enfinger, driving the No. 9 for Rohrbaugh Racing this week, and Sheldon Creed rounded out the top five.

Gilliland, whose win was his fourth top 10 in the last five races, also snagged the $50,000 bonus in the second of the Triple Truck Challenge events.

The Win That Could’ve Been

Sheldon Creed led almost the entirety of stage two before giving up the top spot to pit before the stage ended. In theory, track position was more important than the stage points, especially for a team that scored its first 2021 victory the last time the Truck Series raced at Darlington. And when the field took the green flag for stage three, Creed had the track position after other pitted under the final yellow.

Though he did take off as the green flag flew, it took just four laps for Tyler Ankrum and then eventual winner Gilliland to take the top spot, while Creed settled into a fifth-place finish.

Race Notes:

  • Kaz Grala, in just his second race this season, stepped into the No. 02 Youngs Motorsports Chevrolet and didn’t disappoint. He qualified second, took the lead almost immediately after the green flag flew and held the top spot for the first 11 laps before giving it up to stage one winner Gilliland. Finishes of second and sixth in the first two stages ended in a second-place run for the 22-year-old.

  • Polesitter Tyler Ankrum led four laps in stage three after chasing down Creed, who held the top spot on the final restart, and while he didn’t have enough to hold off a hard-charging he did hang on for a third-place run. After finishing third and fifth in the first two stages, respectively, the drive of the No. 26 Chevrolet matched his best run this season at Richmond four races ago. He also gained two positions in the championship standings and narrowed his deficit on 10th to 47 points.

  • Though a lack of sponsorship has put Grant Enfinger in a part-time schedule with ThorSport Racing, he continues to do what he can to remain behind the wheel each weekend. This time around, he was back in the No. 9 for Rohrbaugh Racing and scored his best finish of the 2020 season in fourth. Despite scoring zero stage points at COTA and missing the Daytona International Speedway road course, Enfinger moved up to seventh in the standings.

  • In true Paul Menard fashion, the 40-year-old quietly made his return to NASCAR for the first time since the end of the 2019 season behind the wheel of a fifth ThorSport entry. Menard qualified 26th in his first Truck Series race since 2007 and worked his way through the field to an 11th-place finish.
  • Parker Chase made his second and final scheduled start for Kyle Busch Motorsports at COTA. After qualifying eighth, he settled into an 18th-place finish, besting his 23rd-place run for the organization at the Daytona road course.
  • With 44 trucks on the entry list, it was a foregone conclusion that eight wouldn’t make the field when the series qualified for the first time this season. Norm Benning withdrew his No. 6 prior to the race, while seven others were left sitting on the sidelines. Four of the drivers hoping to make their series debuts were locked out of the field. Logan Bearden posted the 32nd-quickest qualifying time but was locked out due to owner points. Additionally, all three CMI Motorsport entries in John Atwell, Samuel Lecomte and Brad Gross, didn’t make the field. Series regulars Dawson Cram, Spencer Boyd and Jennifer Jo Cobb also failed to qualify.
  • Three of the drivers attempting to make their series debuts did, though none were anywhere near the front of the field. Cameron Lawrence qualified the best in that bunch with the seventh-quickest speed behind the wheel of the No. 33 Reaume Brothers Racing Chevrolet. He ultimately settled into a 36th-place finish, seven laps down. Meanwhile, Michele Abbate qualified 25th and finished 29th on the lead lap. ARCA Menards Series driver Jack Wood started 33rd after the No. 24 team needed owner points to make the field; he finished 28th.

2021 Rookie Report

No. 1 – Hailie Deegan
No. 02 – Kris Wright
No. 18 – Chandler Smith
No. 23 – Chase Purdy
No. 42 – Carson Hocevar

No. of rookies in the race: 4

No. of rookies in the top 10: 1; Carson Hocevar, finished seventh

Rookie of the Race: Hocevar

Point Report: After posting just his second finish outside the top 10 this season, John Hunter Nemechek remains at the top of the standings with a 31-point advantage over Ben Rhodes. Sheldon Creed sits seven markers behind Rhodes in third, followed by Austin Hill. Race winner Todd Gilliland moves up one spot and sits fifth.

Matt Crafton dropped one position and is sixth in the standings, followed by Grant Enfinger and Zane Smith, who both moved up one spot. Stewart Friesen dropped two positions to ninth, and Carson Hocevar, up one spot, rounds out the top 10.

Series regular winners: Ben Rhodes (Daytona, Daytona road course); John Hunter Nemechek (Las Vegas, Richmond); Sheldon Creed (Darlington); Todd Gilliland (COTA)

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Up Next: The Truck Series heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway next Friday night for the final race in the Triple Truck Challenge. Coverage for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 begins at 8:30 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1.

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