OBSERVATIONS: JAG Metals 350 at Texas Motor Speedway
While the focus may have been on the six drivers that are in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs, this race will be remembered for another reason.
Justin Haley got to reap the rewards of a well-earned win in victory lane, celebrating after running up front all night and making the last lap pass on Todd Gilliland for the win. Ultimately, it puts the championship in GMS Racing’s favor with both of their eligible drivers locked in to the Championship 4. The battle of youth vs. experience is a story in itself.
The night, though, appeared to be set to belong to Gilliland in the form of his first series victory, after he took the lead following the last round of pit stops. However, everything fell apart when his No. 4 Toyota sputtered on the last lap, out of fuel. It’d be understandable to see a team run out of gas if you’re pitting early in a cycle, and trying to conserve enough at the end. However, instead, this was a case of a splash and go being performed too quickly. A couple extra seconds on pit road, and the tables would have turned in his favor.
The last time Gilliland found himself in the lead late in the event was at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, when contact with his teammate Noah Gragson took him out of contention. Who took advantage on that race day? Haley, once again.
Stewart Friesen also had a chance to win the event, as he initially took the top spot with 39 laps to go before the pit cycle began. However, a pit road speeding penalty set him back, resulting in an eighth-place finish.
Although a lot of “What ifs?” can be asked about this event in conclusion, the racing was solid on-track. There were battles for position throughout the event, sometimes three-wide down the backstretch as drivers looked for a lane to get by their competitor.
A solid day by Brett Moffitt, combined with Gragson rebounding after stage two contact for a top-10, now have both drivers sitting pretty, 18 points above the cut-off line. Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton will need to make something happen at ISM Raceway to keep their playoff hopes alive.
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