NASCAR Camping World Truck Series - Talladega Fred's 250 Recap
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series ran the Fred's 250 Presented by Coca-Cola at Talladega Superspeedway on Saturday, October 14. It was the final race in the Round of 8, with two drivers being eliminated at the contest's conclusion. The race would be broken into three stages. The first and second stages being 20 laps long. The final stage would consist of 54 laps.
Christopher Bell won the pole less than two hours before the race was scheduled to begin, topping Johnny Sauter by .326 seconds. It is Bell's fourth career pole.
At the drop of the green flag, Bell lead two-by-two files of trucks into turns one and two. Johnny Sauter and Justin Haley shot to the lead down the backstretch, pulling into the bottom lane in front of Bell.
As the beginning laps began to click by, more and more trucks began to drop into the lower lane, making the pack single file with the exception of a handful going double file in the back. Kaz Grala, who had engine trouble during qualifying and had to start at the back of the field, was not making up much ground, mired around 24th.
With 14 to go in stage one, championship contender Chase Briscoe's machine started losing oil. Just behind, Myatt Snider received a windshield full of fluid as Briscoe moved high and faded to the back. Briscoe would head to the garage with his playoff hopes more than likely dashed.
Sauter would continue to lead a mostly single file group of trucks. With seven laps left in the stage, Noah Gragson dove to pit road with a flat left rear tire. Noah has been sick throughout the weekend and Erik Jones was on standby in the No. 18 pit to take the wheel if needed. On this stop, Gragson would remain in the truck. He would lose a lap while in the pits.
Austin Cindric would head down pit road with just a few laps to go. His team deciding to try some pit strategy to gain an advantage on the track. His teammate Chase Briscoe would return to the race at this point. His team discovered a pinched o-ring in one of the valve covers. Briscoe would return 10 laps down to the leader.
Caution flew coming to take the white flag for the end of stage one. Another championship contender, Kaz Grala made hard contact with the outside wall. Cody Coughlin, running ninth, got a little high and out of line coming off turn four. Trying to get back in line, Coughlin came across the nose of Chris Fontaine's machine, causing Fontaine to spin to the inside. In the stack-up behind the incident, Grala has hit from behind by Ryan Truex and spun to the outside, making contact with the wall with the front end of his truck, causing major damage. Grala, who missed round two of qualifying due to an engine problem, would be done for the day. Truex would head in for repairs, losing multiple laps and eventually retiring from the race. Fontaine would pit after avoiding any further contact. Coughlin would continue on to stop during the caution between stages. Ben Rhodes would suffer some rear-end damage in the melee as well. He made repairs during the caution. Spencer Boyd would receive the free pass.
Stage one top ten finishers, in order: Johnny Sauter, Justin Haley, Christopher Bell, Stewart Friesen, Myatt Snider, Matt Crafton, John Hunter Nemechek, Ben Rhodes, Cody Coughlin, Parker Kligerman. Chris Fontaine received the free pass.
The pit cycle during this caution saw most of the field head in for service. Most drivers did not take tires. Christopher Bell and Myatt Snider did get two fresh tires during their stops. Top five coming off pit road: Sauter, Crafton, Haley, Bell, Vinnie Miller.
Austin Cindric would lead the field back to green at the beginning of stage two. His team's earlier pit strategy appearing to pay off. The drivers stayed in double file formation for the first lap then the front began to stretch out single file, with Sauter again leading Justin Haley past the leader and down into the inside lane.
During the restart, the bed flap on Sauter's truck deployed, even though he was headed in the proper direction. This issue with the flaps had been a problem for a few drivers during qualifying and appeared to be having an affect on several during the race. These safety devices are being used for the first time in today's race. They are meant to keep the trucks from getting airborne if they get turned backwards at high speed.
Just before the pits closed at two laps to go in the stage, a few drivers headed to pit road hoping to gain an advantage through strategy. Christopher Bell and Noah Gragson were a pair of notable drivers trying to use these early stops to their advantage. Both took two tires and fuel.
Johnny Sauter commanded the stage and took the green-and-white checkered flag. John Hunter Nemechek, trying to capitalize on other playoff contenders' issues, clawed through the field to finish the stage in sixth.
Top ten drivers, in order, at the end of stage two: Sauter, Haley, Snider, Cindric, Crafton, Friesen, J.H. Nemechek, Coughlin, Rhodes, Enfinger. Spencer Boyd received the free pass.
The leaders came to pit road during this caution. Most taking four tires and fuel. Myatt Snider's and Grant Enfinger's teams went with two tires and they led the race off pit road. Sauter, Crafton and Haley followed, each having taken four tires. Clay Greenfield used a two tire strategy to jump five spots after his stop.
The final stage of the final race in the Round of 8 began with Christopher Bell and Myatt Snider leading the field to the green flag. Unlike the previous restarts, the drivers stayed lined two-by-two for a few laps. Snider, pushed by Johnny Sauter, eventually cleared Bell and dropped to the inside, taking the lead. This NCWTS race is just the seventh of Snider's career and only his second on a restrictor plate track.
Cody Coughlin and Parker Kligerman pushed the outside lane to the front and they took the lead with 51 to go. Stuart Friesen, who has had a strong weekend at Talladega, took control of the outside lane and pulled even with Coughlin at the front. Friesen would clear and slide down in front of Coughlin, taking himself to the first lead in his NCWTS career. The top 12 fell into single file at this point.
Suddenly, disaster struck just behind the leader. Ben Rhodes clipped the left rear of Clay Greenfield, sending him spinning into the middle of the track. Matt Crafton plowed hard into Greenfield and managed to stay off the outside wall. The spinning Greenfield then trapped John Hunter Nemechek and Regan Smith into the outside wall with more hard contact. Crafton would need to pit to try and repair major front-end damage. Luckily, Matt had locked himself into the Round of 6 with his finishes in the first two stages. Unfortunately for Nemechek, we was still battling to take the next step forward in the playoffs, His team would attempt to repair front-end, rear-end and right side damage and get John Hunter back into the race. At his point, Nemechek and Briscoe would be tied for the final spot in the Round of 6. Greenfield would bring his machine to pit road to try and repair crash damage. Smith would retire from the race.
During the caution period, most of the leaders came to pit road for fuel. They were not inside of their pit window and should not be able to finish without pitting again without saving fuel or having another caution period. Friesen stayed out and in the lead. Kligerman, Sauter and Haley stayed out as well.
The field took the green with 34 laps to go. Friesen still leading and Kligerman trying to get in front as they headed into turn one. He would make the pass with some help from Christopher Bell. Kligerman was in first and Bell in second.
The field would get back to single file. Nemechek and Crafton were both able to reach minimum speed, so their five minute damage clocks would be reset, allowing them to make as many repairs as needed if another caution were to fly. Both were near the rear of the field.
With 32 laps to go, those who did not pit under the previous caution came to pit road for green flag service. Among them were the leader Kligerman, Friesen, Haley and Sauter. All went with fuel only. Friesen's crew had an issue getting the fuel can engaged and he would lose a lap. There was also a concern that he did not get full of fuel before leaving.
Cody Coughlin would inherit the lead with Kligerman and others heading to pit road. He would be followed single file by Enfinger, Bell, Gragson and Snider. Spencer Boyd, who to this point had taken two free passes, would hold down the sixth position.
With 25 laps to go, Clay Greenfield, in his damaged machine, led the outside line back even with the front. Greenfield and Coughlin would go side-by-side for the lead until Enfinger and Bell would be able to slide up into a small window as Greenfield fell back a couple of car lengths. Enfinger would lead Bell past Coughlin and into the top two positions.
Just as Enfinger was taking the lead through the tri-oval, trouble broke loose again, this time immediately behind the top two machines. Rhodes and Greenfield tried to go three wide past Coughlin. Cody lost momentum and backed up quickly. Myatt Snider wiggled a bit trying to check up and caught the right rear of Coughlin's No. 13. Coughlin spun to the outside in front of traffic. He collected Chris Fontaine and Ben Rhodes into the outside wall. Rhodes then spun to the inside and was hit by Wendell Chavous. Coughlin did become airborne for a brief moment, jumping on top of the hood of Fontaine's machine. Chris Fontaine took a seat on the pavement after being helped from his truck and before walking to a nearby ambulance. He would eventually be checked and released from the infield care center. This incident brought out a red flag.
Once the red flag was lifted, John Hunter Nemechek immediately came to pit road to try and make more repairs to his heavily damaged truck. His battle with Chase Briscoe was extremely close and Nemechek's team was doing everything possible to make sure the No. 8 could finish the race without further incident.
None of the leaders chose to pit under this caution. Stuart Friesen came in to make sure his machine was topped off with fuel, trying to recover from their mistake on the previous stop.
Christopher Bell and Grant Enfinger led the field back to green with 18 laps to go. The top nine trucks raced side-by-side, in a pack of their own, for the first few laps. Enfinger fought around the outside to take the lead. Johnny Sauter would follow him to the inside line in second place.
Enfinger led the single file lead pack while Nemechek and Briscoe battled side-by-side in a literal dead heat for the final spot in the Round of 6. Their battle raged near the back of the pack. Nemechek would continually race around the outside, trying to gain a position on Briscoe, only to fall back because he could not find any drafting partners.
The race for the lead heated up with 10 laps to go. Sauter pulled to the outside to challenge Enfinger for the lead. Others followed into the outside lane and drivers began shuffling positions. This started two and three wide shuffling throughout the lead pack. Enfinger would briefly prevail, but Sauter jammed his way back around the outside and into the lead. This left Enfinger hanging out in the middle lane and he faded back into the pack. Parker Kligerman made a move below the double yellow line, which would normally mean a penalty. It appeared as though Enfinger may have forced the No. 75 below the line, which could keep NASCAR from issuing the penalty. In all the pushing and shoving for position, Christopher Bell ended up in the lead.
With five laps to go, caution flew as Austin Wayne Self spun by himself. Self would pit for repairs and the field would reset behind the pace truck.
The race would go into overtime with Christopher Bell in the lead. Parker Kligerman would start on the outside of the front row. Nemechek and Briscoe continued their battle for the Round of 6, still in a virtual tie.
Kligerman and Enfinger would swing past Bell and to the front as they came through turns three and four to take the white flag. Drivers began fanning out, looking to move forward. As the field entered the tri-oval, Kligerman led across the line.
Aggressive driving coming under the white flag would cost several drivers. Sauter jumped to the outside just as the inside line lost some momentum. The inside line stacked up underneath the No. 21 and he would find himself on the outside of a three wide battle with Austin Cindric and Noah Gragson. Justin Haley tried to go four wide and there was contact. Sauter, Haley and Gragson would crash into the outside wall. Haley was hooked from behind and spun back in front of the pack. Several more trucks would get collected and suffer heavy damage. In all the carnage, John Hunter Nemechek found his way through and continued towards the checkers. He would finish sixth and would take the final spot into the Round of 6 over Chase Briscoe, who was collected and suffered front end damage. He was able to limp across the finish line.
Parker Kligerman took the checkered flag and the yellow flag as the field, and the race for the playoffs, became more scrambled behind him.
This was Parker Kligerman's second NCWTS win, both coming at Talladega. He also won the 2012 race. After arriving in victory lane Kligerman talked about how everything seemed to go his way in the closing laps, "You know, it was just crazy. Every move worked. Its just sometimes they click. Those last ten laps no matter if I went high, I seperate the pack, the bump and the run, every move just worked. And sometimes they go your way and it was awesome."
Top ten finishers, in order: Kligerman, Bell, Snider, Enfinger, Cindric, Nemechek, Vinnie Miller, Greenfield, Crafton, Tyler Young.
The drivers advancing to the Round of 6: Christopher Bell, Ben Rhodes, Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton, Austin Cindric, John Hunter Nemechek.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series begins the Round of 6 at Martinsville Speedway on Saturday, October 28 when they run the Texas Roadhouse 200 Presented by Alpha Energy Solutions. (1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)
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