OBSERVATIONS: Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has been dubbed as having the best side-by-side competitive racing, and they proved why on Saturday evening at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
From the green flag to the checkered, trucks spent multiple laps battling for position, even going three-wide at times, throughout the entire field. From challenges for the lead, to three drivers vying for a top-five spot at once, the race had everything mixed into one.
Now combine that with a dramatic ending with an overtime finish and the strategy of taking two or four tires equally four-wide jostling for the lead, and you have the perfect package for a race put together.
Of course, the icing on the cake was seeing a team get their first career win, in the form of Hattori Racing Enterprises. After proving they could run up front last year with Ryan Truex, the team found their way to victory lane due to the efforts by Brett Moffitt. Moffitt ran up front throughout the entire event, electing for four tires on the final restart to enable him to go from third to first going into turn one.
Moffitt’s journey hasn’t been the smoothest in NASCAR, as he found himself in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series with an opportunity at Michael Waltrip Racing. However, he lost his ride, forcing him to slip back down the ranks of competition. Now with a chance to rebuild his career, the 25-year-old is getting a second chance that some can only wish they could have. Imagine if he turns it into championship glory at year’s end.
Seeing small teams succeed in the truck series is nothing new, as it has proven to be one of the more-forgiving avenues for smaller budgets. Moffitt wasn’t the only one breaking barriers on Saturday, as he was joined by fellow small team contender Jesse Little.
Racing for the family-owned JJL Motorsports, Little stayed within the top-10 throughout the entire event, running as high as third, en route to a solid eighth-place finish. While only boasting a team made up of two full-time crew members, they have managed to put their resources in the right places, buying some equipment from Brad Keselowski Racing when they closed last year. Coming off a great run in their opening event of 10 this year, Little would be the perfect underdog story for the series.
Though for most of the event, the story wasn’t about the small fries – but rather Kyle Busch. Driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, Noah Gragson scored the win in the first stage. Busch then put his truck out front in the second stage, and looked destined for glory entering the final portion of the event. However, a costly mistake ultimately took away his chance of winning.
Busch came down pit road set for four tires, when the crew member got hung up in trying to take off the right front. Crew chief Marcus Richmond saw the delay, and called for Busch to leave pit road with just two tires changed, not realizing the left rear tire had been undone by the changer already. Busch left as instructed, only to watch the tire come rolling off.
When NASCAR wanted to make sure teams were tightening lug nuts, a policy was put in place so teams would self-police themselves, but consequences would be heavy if a tire was to fall off. The penalty that comes from such infraction is severe, with the rulebook stating, “Any loss or separation of an improperly installed tire(s)/wheel(s) from the vehicle after exiting the team’s assigned pit box will result in a three race suspension of the crew chief, tire changer of the lost wheel(s), and the jack man.”
This situation for Busch brings forth an interesting element in the fact that jackman Ernie Pierce and tire changer Coleman Dollarhide also work for Stewart-Haas Racing in the Cup Series. When NASCAR would penalize before, all suspensions saw crew members removed from all three series of competition the week(s) of their suspension.
If incidents like this nature continue, a change could be seen in whether teams will allow their crew members to work for other organizations in other series during a race weekend.
In this case, though, there may be no penalty and nothing to worry about. NASCAR can make a judgement call here and look at the circumstances, seeing the team wasn’t trying to break the original intention of the rule and allow this to slide under the bus. Let’s face it – it wasn’t like the crew member was only trying to hit three or four of the five lug nuts, but instead going about his job as usual with a miscommunication.
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