Todd Gilliland wins Martinsville Truck race; playoff contenders struggle
For many of the six remaining NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series playoff contenders, Saturday’s race at Martinsville Speedway wound up being more like Mayhemville Speedway.
Todd Gilliland won his first career Truck race in the NASCAR Hall of Fame 200.
But the big story of the day was how playoff contenders Brett Moffitt, Austin Hill and Tyler Ankrum were knocked out due to wrecks, and Matt Crafton suffered a mechanical issue, leaving all of them with disappointing finishes heading into the final championship-qualifying race in two weeks at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.
Crafton finished 23rd, while Ankrum was 25th, Austin Hill 26th and Moffitt was the lowest-finishing playoff contender (29th).
Moffitt still was able to hold on to his lead in the standings, having a 10-point edge over Stewart Friesen, who finished sixth Saturday. Ranked third is Ross Chastain, who trails Moffitt by 25 points after finishing second Saturday and is 20 points above the cutoff line.
In the fourth and final transfer spot is Hill, who is 36 points behind Moffitt and nine points ahead of Crafton in fifth.
Ankrum is 15 points behind Hill as the last playoff-eligible driver in the points standings, which can viewed by clicking here.
It was Gilliland’s first win in 46 career Truck Series starts.
“It feels amazing,” Gilliland said after the race. “This place is really hard to win at. ... Luckily we were out front. Just wish we could’ve been a little bit faster all weekend, but as a driver that’s what you always hope for and this thing was fast enough today. ... What a race.”
As for the rest of the top five finishers in the race, Johnny Sauter was third followed by Grant Enfinger and Timmy Hill.
Moffitt dominated the first stage, leading all but the first lap of the 50-lap segment. But he was knocked out of the race early in the final stage on Lap 116 when he hit the retaining wall while trying to avoid a wreck between Jeb Burton and Natalie Decker.
“That’s Martinsville,” Moffitt told FS1. “We had a dominating truck. When we got out front, we could just ride and be two tenths faster than the field. It’s a bummer, but we’ll go to Phoenix and try to win that one and then go to Homestead and win that one.”
Rookie Sam Mayer, making only his second career Truck race start, won Stage 2. However, 23 laps later, the 16-year-old Mayer was involved in a nine-truck wreck that also knocked him out of the race.
“Just disappointed in myself, trying to get in a hole that wasn’t there,” Mayer told FS1. “I just misjudged it. … We did well while it really mattered, but when it really did matter, we kind of messed up at the end. Hopefully we can go to Phoenix (in two weeks) and do better.”
Stage 1 winner: Brett Moffitt (fifth stage win of the season).
Stage 2 winner: Sam Mayer (first career stage win).
Who had a good race: Gilliland, obviously, but kudos also have to be given to Chastain as well as Harrison Burton. Though Burton was involved in a last-lap spin and finished 18th, he was closing in on the lead and the potential win in the final laps until that incident.
Who had a bad race: With less than 20 laps to go in Stage 2, Matt Crafton was closing in on the lead, only to be forced to pit to replace the battery and cockpit computer on his Toyota Tundra, dropping him eight laps behind the leaders. Crafton, who finished 23rd (eight laps down), is facing a nine-point deficit heading into ISM Raceway in Phoenix in two weeks for the fourth and final spot in the championship round at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
What’s next: Lucas Oil 150 at ISM Raceway, Nov. 8, 8:30 p.m. ET. The four highest-ranked playoff drivers after that race will battle for the Truck Series championship on Friday, Nov. 15, at Homestead-Miami Speedway.