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Chaotic NASCAR Truck Series regular season finale at Michigan International Speedway sets stage for playoffs Featured

Posted On Sunday, 11 August 2019 16:16 Written by
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Austin Hill crosses the line first to win the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Corrigan Oil 200 on Saturday at Michigan International Speedway. Austin Hill crosses the line first to win the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Corrigan Oil 200 on Saturday at Michigan International Speedway. Photo courtesy of Michigan International Speedway

BROOKLYN, Mich. — I’ll start with a proclamation: The Truck Series is the best and most competitive of the three top-tier series in NASCAR, so when Saturday’s race at MIS kicked off, I had high expectations.

In the end, as per usual, I was not disappointed.

With the exception of the opening 20-lap segment, which was dominated by Ross Chastain before he had some bad luck and incurred damage on pit road, the race was one of the best all season.

Ben Rhodes, in a smooth-looking Havoline throwback paint scheme, threatened to take the win and enter the playoffs. Brett Moffitt was in the hunt for yet another win. Young Tyler Ankrum was on the front row for several restarts, and even the KBM trucks made appearances up front as they battled in their final attempt to make the playoffs.

One dramatic moment came late in the race when a bump from Matt Crafton wrecked a handful of trucks, including all three entries from DGR-Crosley.

The lead never stayed with one driver for long, but in the end, it was an unexpected name who led for much of the race and took home the trophy — Austin Hill, who hadn’t won since Daytona at the start of the season and gained some serious momentum heading into the playoffs.

“It’s huge. We have had a struggle these last few races. First time it had seen the race track was yesterday. When we unloaded, we had to work out some bugs. We got it driving really good. I was really happy with the speed of it,” Hill said. “Man, this race was crazy. I had to come from the back a few times. I had a speeding penalty one time, and I kind of thought our race was done, but man we came back through the field.”

The final grid for the playoffs is: Brett Moffitt, Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen, Ross Chastain, Austin Hill, Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter and Tyler Ankrum. The first round of the playoffs includes races at Bristol, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Las Vegas.

Missing the playoff field were BOTH Kyle Busch Motorsports drivers (Todd Gilliland and Harrison Burton), who were inconsistent in 2019 and couldn’t find Victory Lane, and had their chances dashed by surprise entries into the playoffs like Chastain and Ankrum. Knowing Kyle Busch, this will make him livid, but it shows how difficult it is to win in this very competitive series.

“It’s kind like our season; (Today) was up and down. We ran really bad at the beginning; we weren’t very fast. Towards the end, we made good adjustments on the truck and we got better,” Burton said. “Led a couple laps, and then we lost the lead. The 16 (Austin Hill) got a good run from behind me and took the lead. He was really fast and hard to catch. Everyone did a good job.”

Rhodes, who contended for several wins this year but could never seal the deal, will also miss the playoffs. He and the KBM drivers are still weekly contenders and could steal victories from those still in the hunt, making the playoffs more interesting.

The first round takes place at Bristol, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Las Vegas and will eliminate the two lowest drivers in points without a win. The same goes for the second round at Talladega, Martinsville and Phoenix.

“Man, I am ready for it. Especially what we did today. We are still one of the top teams,” Hill said. “We are really fast. Can’t thank TRD enough for all those guys for what they do for me.”

Interestingly, Grant Enfinger claimed the regular season championship, and the bonus points that come with it, without even logging a victory so far in 2019.

And if MIS 2nd-place finisher Sheldon Creed, who was charging at the end of the race, had been able to pass Hill on the last lap, he would have bumped Matt Crafton out of the playoffs. Luckily for him, Crafton could breathe a sigh of relief when the pass did not succeed before the checkered flag.

Sunday’s Cup lineup set

Rochester Hills, Mich., native Brad Keselowski will lead the field to the green flag today for the Cup race at Michigan International Speedway. No Michigan-born driver has ever won a Cup race at MIS, but Keselowski has run up front multiple times during his career.

Kevin Harvick will start second followed by William Byron, Alex Bowman and Clint Bowyer. The green flag to the Consumers Energy 400 flies at 3 p.m. on Aug. 11 on NBCSports.

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Matt Myftiu can be reached via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or follow him on Twitter @MattMyftiu. Follow AutoTechReviews.com on Twitter @AutoTechReview.

 

 

Matt M. Myftiu

Matt Myftiu has been a journalist for two decades with a focus on technology, NASCAR and autos.

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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