Brett Moffitt continues championship defense with win at Chicagoland

Brett Moffitt continues championship defense with win at Chicagoland NK Photography Photo

Brett Moffitt has long insisted he wanted to earn a checkered flag this season with his performance on track and Friday night at Chicagoland Speedway he did just that – winning the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Camping World 225 by a no-doubt 3.950 seconds over Brandon Jones.

The reigning series champion Moffitt has been vocal in his desire to hoist a trophy this weekend at Chicago – for the second consecutive year. And he earned It in convincing style – smiling widely as the confetti flew in victory lane while the crowd cheered approvingly. It was a welcome and different scene from the win he was awarded two weeks ago at Iowa after Ross Chastain was disqualified. Moffitt did not lead a lap in the race and only got to celebrate with his team in victory circle at an empty Iowa Speedway.

Not this time.

“It’s like the first win,’’ his crew chief Jerry Baxter said with a wide smile after the race. “This feels real good.’’

“We’ll go home and celebrate,’’ Moffitt said. “I felt confident, it was just a matter of a caution coming out or not. I’m sure he (Baxter) was nervous, I was nervous we were just praying for no caution to come out.’’

And celebrating in victory lane this time?

“It was a heck of a lot more fun, and it’s fun not only me but for the whole pit crew,’’

Moffitt’s No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet certainly kept the field honest all race. Stewart Friesen finished third with rookie Harrison Burton and pole-winner Austin Hill rounding out the top-five. Six of the top-10-finishing drivers have never won a race before.

Three Kyle Busch Motorsports drivers earned top-10 finishes – the 22-year-old Jones (runner-up), Burton (fourth) and 18-year old Todd Gilliland (sixth).

“We have just been working really really hard, all the guys at KBM busting their butts,’’ said Burton, who remains in playoff contention,

“I’m lucky to be in this position, we’re fighting our way into the playoffs and it’s a lot of fun. If we get in, they better watch out.”

Jones, who has only two previous truck starts this season was equally as pleased with his runner-up finish.

“We put ourselves in position  to learn a bit and that’s the most fun I’ve ever had in a truck race,’’ Jones said, “We’ve got two more with these guys.”

With playoff positions at stake with four races left to set the championship field and plenty of pride on the line, a handful of the top-ranked drivers showed up at Chicagoland Speedway determined to settle for nothing less than a trophy. And it showed in a thrilling race featuring 12 lead changes and slowed by only five cautions (two for stage breaks).

The intensity was especially evident in the third and final stage. The trucks ran four-wide in the opening laps ultimately leading to the downfall of early race leader Grant Enfinger. The lapped car of Spencer Davis was running alongside Enfinger just after the final stage restart. Contact between the two forced Enfinger’s No. 98 Ford hard into the outside wall and sent Davis’ Chevy into the infield.

It was especially tough luck for Enfinger, who had led a race-best 49 of the opening 79 laps up to that point and had scored the Stage 2 victory only minutes earlier. He ended up 16th, two laps down but maintained his championship points lead by 52 points over Friesen.

Enfinger’s fate was part of a rough night for his ThorSport Racing team. Two of his teammates – Ben Rhodes and Johnny Sauter had engine issues. Only former two-time series champion Matt Crafton scored a top-10 (eighth).

Chastain, who started 16th and had to pit early in the opening stage rallied back to a seventh-place finish. The hard work is especially important for Chastain, who won the race at Gateway last week but needs to break into the top 20 in the rankings to be playoff eligible. He is now 10 points behind Jennifer Jo Cobb at the 20th place cutoff.

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