As Max Gresham climbed from his No. 8 Made in USA Brand (MIUSA) Chevrolet on Saturday, smoke and sparks were still spread across the frontstretch of the Talladega Superspeedway.
Gresham capped off a great weekend at Talladega Superspeedway with a career-best superspeedway finish in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS). Not only did the Sharp-Gallaher Racing driver get past a tumbling truck in the "Big One" on the final lap to collect an eighth-place finish in the fred's 250 Powered by Coca-Cola, he also accomplished his best NASCAR Camping World Truck Series qualifying position to date.
A massive 12-truck crash coming to the checkered flag created one of the wildest finishes of the 2013 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season. But for Gresham and Sharp-Gallaher Racing, it was a rare opportunity to dodge disaster for the top-ten finish.
As soon as Gresham parked his Silverado after the race, he examined the truck damage from the final-lap melee. That's when he learned he posted a career-best superspeedway finish.
"I don't know what's a more-welcomed surprise - missing that wreck or finishing eighth," Gresham said. "What a wild day."
The 20-year-old made his 34th career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start in the second position at the superspeedway. Gresham was the 29th competitor to attempt the restrictor-plate track and posted a lap of 54.403 seconds. His previous best qualifying effort was at Michigan International Speedway, where he qualified fourth earlier this season.
Gresham qualified the Made in USA Brand truck on the front row with a fast lap of 176.020 mph. Like any race that requires the use of a speed-reducing tapered spacer, he was shuffled to the back as often as he worked his way back to the front. He was as high as second place on the fourth lap, and 11 laps later he was down to 17th.
Gresham narrowly escaped a six-truck accident on the 67th of 94 laps. His No. 8 Sharp-Gallaher Racing truck was damaged by another competitor during the ensuing pit stop. He was forced to make two more stops so the team could make repairs.
By lap 78, Gresham was up to seventh place when he was forced off the track and onto the apron by another driver which dropped him back to 24th place.
"It was time to get going and we got ourselves in a good line of traffic," Gresham said. "We were moving up to put ourselves in a great spot for the finish when we got forced off the track."
Gresham mounted one more rally, getting up to 14th on the final lap. As the lead pack came through the tri-oval, two trucks made contact with each other and a chain reaction ensued that collected much of the field.
Gresham surged through the sparks and smoke to finish eighth.
"Four more inches and we would have finished third," crew chief Chris Showalter said.
"The 32 truck (Miguel Paludo) flipped right in front of me," the 20-year-old driver from Milner, Ga., said. "I can't believe we missed it. It proves again that at Talladega, it's all about being in the right place at the right time."
Gresham now moves from the fastest racetrack on the Camping World Truck Series schedule to the slowest - the Martinsville Speedway - for next Saturday's Kroger 200. It will be Gresham's 35th career start in the truck series.
Max Gresham PR