Speedway Digest Staff

Speedway Digest Staff

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Austin Hill cashed in at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (LVMS) on Friday night with a third-place finish, his first top-five of the year, and continued his strong start to the 2020 campaign. The result earned Hill the lead in the points standings after two events, and marks the second time in his career that the driver of the No. 16 United Rentals Toyota Tundra has led the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series championship standings.
 
Hill’s evening began from the sixth position after a strong performance in qualifying and climbed as high as third in the opening stage. Despite having cleaner air, Hill dealt with a tight handling condition which contributed to concerns about tire wear in the first stint. In the closing laps of Stage 1, Hill was forced to conserve his tires as excessive wear on the left front tire burned through the tread and down to the cords. As a result, Hill ran fifth at the lap 30 stage caution and collected six points.
 
Crew chief Scott Zipadelli and the United Rentals team gave Hill four tires under the stage caution as well as fuel and air pressure adjustments to improve the handling and tire wear. Despite quick work on pit road, Hill was tagged with a pit road penalty and restarted the race in 27th on lap 39. The balance of Stage 2 ran under green and allowed Hill to advance through the pack and into 12th by lap 60.
 
Zipadelli and company dialed up the same plan and adjustments on pit road, as a lightning quick pit stop allowed Hill to restart seventh on lap 68. Hill stayed committed to the bottom side of the speedway on the restarts and allowed him to advance inside the top five by the race’s final caution on lap 91. The Winston, Ga wheelman had to navigate a chaotic restart with three-wide racing on lap 96 after restarting sixth and immediately jumped back into the top five. Hill took over the third position on lap 102 and held off a strong challenge from the No. 88 truck in the waning laps to finish in a podium position. The third-place result is Hill’s third top-10 finish at LVMS in five starts and earned him the lead in the championship standings by nine points.
 
Austin Hill Quote:
“If you look at our left front (tire), it’s all corded. This tire that we brought just wasn’t what we needed. I’ve always went by the philosophy that if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. They came with a different tire compound and we just struggled all night finding grip. I could only run the bottom, I couldn’t run up the racetrack any, and if I did it was just a four-wheel slide. I felt like we were on top of the racetrack. Can’t thank United Rentals enough for coming on board. Our Tundra was okay early in the run, but then once the tire wear came in and the left front started cording, there’s really nothing else you can do. I have to thank my guys Scott (Zipadelli, crew chief) and all the guys at the shop. Eddie (D'Hondt) up in the spotter’s stand, he gave me a lot of tips and tricks in the race that seemed to help me get back up to the front. It was an okay day for us. I wanted to race against Kyle (Busch), but we weren’t good enough.”
 
HRE PR
Tanner Gray, No. 15 Ford Performance F-150
 
Start: 14th
Finish: 8th 
  • Stage One: 20th
  • Stage Two: 11th
  • Stage Three: 8th
 
  • Tanner Gray and the No. 15 Ford Performance team started the Strat 200 from the 14th position. He fought the handling of his F-150 throughout Stage One, reporting that he was way too free and loose off of corner exit. Gray made it through the first 30 laps without incident but was scored 20th when the stage-ending caution came out. Crew Chief Shane Wilson called for major adjustments along with four tires and fuel under caution.
  • The adjustments proved to be helpful as Gray had worked himself up to the 12th position by lap 50 of the 134 lap race. When the green-white-checkered flag flew to end Stage 2, the No. 15 Ford Performance team was scored 11th. Gray once again brought his F-150 down pit road under caution for four tires, fuel and more adjustments to help with the handling.
  • Gray started Stage Three from the 11th position. When the caution came out on lap 89 for a wreck, he was scored eighth. The team called him down pit road for the last pit stop of the night, where they set him up for the final long green-flag run. On the restart, Gray got a great run and worked himself up to third, and eventually went on to battle back and forth for the second position. He reported that the truck was starting to get more free every lap and eventually lost some of his momentum as the laps wound down. Gray ended the night with an eighth-place finish in his first race at the mile-and-a-half track of Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
  • Gray collected his first top-10 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series finishes and sits 17th in Driver Point Standings after two races this season.
 
Gray on Las Vegas: "Obviously it was good to get up front and be behind Kyle [Busch] and learn from him, but I'm also disappointed because I had them over adjust there on that last stop and we just ended up too free. All in all, it was a good night. I'm really happy with everyone at DGR-Crosley, they put together an awesome truck, and I feel like we had a pretty fast Ford F-150. It's good to have a race like this and get some confidence to learn and build off it. We'll go back to the shop and regroup to get ready for Atlanta, but it's hard not to be happy with that."
 
DGR Crosley PR

 

Start: 25th
Finish: 7th
  • Stage One: 14th
  • Stage Two: 9th
  • Stage Three: 7th
 
  • After struggling with the handling of the Speedco F-150 in practice and qualifying, Gilliland started the Strat 200 from the 25th position. He quickly started making up ground when the green flag flew, moving up 11 spots in one lap. He maintained the 14th position for the duration of Stage One. When the green-white-checkered flag was displayed after 30 laps of racing, Gilliland reported that his F-150 was handling loose, and it progressively got worse as the run went on. The No. 38 team called him in under the caution where they made major adjustments as well as took four tires and fuel. Gilliland's pit crew was impressive all night. They earned eight spots on pit road during the first pit stop of the night.
  • When Stage Two went green, Gilliland's Speedco F-150 seemed to be handling better. He was running inside the top-five by lap 50 of the Strat 200. As the long green-flag run went on, the handling started to go away, and Gilliland was fighting a loose truck for the last 10 laps of Stage Two. He ended the stage in the ninth-position, gaining two stage points. When the stage-ending caution came out, Gilliland pitted for fuel four tires, and another round of adjustments to set him up for the final run.
  • Gilliland's F-150 looked the best that it had all night at the beginning of Stage Three. Starting from the third position, he chased down the second-place truck by lap 70. As the long green-flag run went on, Gilliland again started fighting the handling losing several positions. With 25 laps remaining in the Strat 200, he was sitting in 10th place. With a strong run in the closing laps, the No. 38 Speedco F-150 was able to gain three more spots and come away with a seventh-place finish.
  • The Front Row Motorsports team collected their first top-10 finish in NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series competition when Gilliland took the checkered from in the seventh position. After two races this season, Gilliland moved up to ninth in Driver Point Standings.
 
Gilliland on Las Vegas: "My Speedco team fought through a lot of adversity today. We were 27th in practice, so we changed all four springs and all four shocks before the race and still went out and qualified 25th. Obviously, we aren't happy with those results. A lot of people would have gotten down, but we stuck together great as a team and fought through it. My pit crew really saved us tonight -- I think they gained like 20 spots overall tonight. We win and lose as a team, and overall I'm really happy with the outcome. I never thought that we'd walk away with a seventh-place finish the way that we unloaded this morning."
 
FRM PR
Raphael Lessard was relegated to a 30th-place finish in the Strat 200 at Las Vegas (Nev.) Motor Speedway in his first start on a 1.5-mile speedway. The young driver qualified eighth in one round of single-vehicle qualifying, and then was running in the top-10 before a pit stop miscue cost him track position. The Canadian teenager was able to climb back into the top-10, but then lost control of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Tundra and hit the wall, ending his evening.
 
 
Stage One Recap:
  • Lessard earned the eighth starting spot in one lap of single vehicle qualifying on Friday afternoon.
  • In the opening laps, Lessard reported that his truck was loose, but he was able to maintain position in the top-10.
  • Lessard finished the first stage in sixth.
  • Crew chief Mike Hillman Jr. called the talented teenager to pit road for four tires and fuel during the stage break.
 
 
Stage Two Recap:
  • Lessard started the second stage in fifth.
  • Lessard worked his way up to third, but then was hung out of the draft and shuffled back to tenth.
  • The young driver was able to finish the second stage in eighth.
  • Following the conclusion of Stage 2, Hillman Jr. brought the Canadian driver to pit road for four Goodyear tires and Sunoco fuel, but the pit crew did not tighten enough lug nuts on one wheel and Hillman called the No. 4 back down pit road to fix it.
 
Stage Three Recap:
  • Lessard began the final stage in 20th position, but quickly began to move toward the front of the pack.
  • By lap 84, Lessard managed to return to the top-10.
  • Only six laps later while riding in the top-10, Lessard lost control of the No. 4 Mobil 1 Tundra and hit the wall, causing him to retire the machine and resulting in a 30th-place finish.

KBM PR

Kyle Busch and the No. 51 Cessna/Beechcraft team put on a dominating performance and led 108 of 134 laps en route to victory in the Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The No. 51 team posted the 14th-fastest time in one practice on Friday morning, and then Busch qualified his Tundra in the third position in one round of single-vehicle qualifying.
 
After the green flag fell, Busch wasted no time making his way to the front of the field once the green flag fell. He took the lead on lap 12, with teammate Christian Eckes close behind, then won the first and second stages, only giving the lead up after pit stops. Busch would go on to lead seven times for 108 of 134 laps to earn his 209th career NASCAR National Series win and his 57th victory in 151 Gander Trucks races. Busch has four more scheduled NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series races this season.
 
Stage One Recap:
  • Qualifying for the event consisted of one round of single truck qualifying, and Busch earned the third starting position.
  • Busch took the lead on lap 12, and led the rest of the laps until the stage caution on lap 30.
  • At the stage conclusion, crew chief Danny Stockman brought Busch to pit road for four fresh Goodyear tires and a tank full of Sunoco fuel.
 
Stage Two Recap:
  • Busch began the second stage in second place and battled with teammate Christian Eckes for the lead, eventually taking it on lap 45 and winning the second stage.
  • During the second stage, Busch reported that the handling of his Tundra was one number loose.
  • Stockman called him to pit road following the end of the stage for four more Goodyear tires and Sunoco fuel.
 
Stage Three Recap:
  • The 34-year-old owner-driver began the final stage at the front of the field and battled back and forth with the No. 2 truck, but eventually would lead the final 37 laps.
  • With 43 laps to go, the caution flag flew and Stockman brought Busch to pit road for the final time for four tires and fuel.
  • Busch earned his third victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the Gander Trucks Series and his first victory of 2020 in the Strat 200. This is his 57th overall Gander Trucks win and his 209th National Series win.

KBM PR

Christian Eckes was running up front battling with his owner Kyle Busch for the opening two stages of Friday night's Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, before he got shuffled back a few spots on a restart early in the Final Stage and then put into the wall by another competitor as he was making his way back towards the front of the field.
 
After making contact with the wall, the damage to the right-front fender caused the tire to blow and sent the Safelite Tundra caroming into the outside wall and bringing out the caution on lap 75. After several trips down pit road to make repairs to Eckes' Tundra he would return to the track, but limp home multiple laps down in the 23rd position.
 
Stage One Recap: 
  • Eckes qualified fourth with a lap of 30.476 seconds at 177.189 mph in Friday afternoon's qualifying session. After an early caution, the 19-year-old driver restarted fourth but began to maneuver forward. He made his way into the third position on lap 15 and on lap 17 settled into the runner-up spot behind Busch.
  • The Safelite Tundra would remain second for the remainder of the opening stage, crossing the stripe 3.25 seconds behind Busch. 
Stage Two Recap:  
  • Before hitting pit road for the first time, Eckes communicated that his Toyota was "tight at the 3/8 mark in turns 3 and 4." The over-the-wall crew executed a four-tire and fuel stop with an air pressure adjustment. A speedy stop allowed their young driver to exit the pits with the lead.
  • Eckes would remain out front for the first seven green-flag laps of stage two before surrendering the lead to Busch on lap 45. The talented teenager remained in the second position when stage two came to a close on lap 60. 
Final Stage Recap:  
  • Before hitting pit road, Eckes communicated to veteran crew chief Rudy Fugle that his Safelite Tundra was "really good on bottom, but gets edgy when I move up."
  • Once on pit road, the over-the-wall crew once again administered a four-tire and fuel stop with an air pressure adjustment.
  • When the final stage went green on lap 67, the No. 18 Toyota was scored in the second position, next to Busch. Eckes had a bad restart and was shuffled back to the fifth position by the time field got back to the start-finish line to complete lap 68.
  • Eckes gained two positions back on lap 69 and on lap 74 was maneuvering around the outside of Todd Gilliland for the runner-up position when Gilliland tried to block his run and moved him into the outside wall.
  • The Safelite Tundra was able to continue on, but shortly after the contact blew a right-front tire from the contact made with the wall.
  • After multiple trips down pit road to repair the damage and the steering of the truck, Eckes was able to return to the track scored in the 24th position for the lap-78 restart.
  • Eckes once again had a tire go down and hit the wall again under green-flag conditions. After hitting pit road for repairs and a fresh set of tires, he would return to the track multiple laps down.
  • When the field crossed the finish line to end the 134-lap event, the Safelite Tundra was scored four laps down in the 23rd position.

KBM PR

An early-race incident left Derek Kraus battling to work his way from the back of the pack in the Strat 200 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday night.

 

The series rookie, who started 16th on the grid in the No. 19 ENEOS Toyota Tundra, rebounded half way through the field – but ended up finishing 22nd after pitting for a flat right rear tire with less than 10 laps to go.

 

That marked the second of two unscheduled pit stops he made in the 134-lap event. The first followed an incident on Lap 2 when his Tundra got sideways and brushed the wall going into Turn 3. Kraus restarted at the tail end of the field, but still on the lead lap.

 

He steadily worked his way forward and was in the 19th spot on a restart, with 39 laps remaining. He battled mid-pack through the remaining laps, until slowing with tire trouble late in the event.

 

Derek Kraus – Thoughts about Las Vegas

Talking about early-race incident

“I made a mistake and just lost it. I’m not really sure what happened. We will take what we learned here in Vegas and move on to Atlanta.”

 

BMR PR

It’s easy to spot a trend where Kyle Busch is concerned.

Put Busch in one of his own Kyle Busch Motorsports trucks, and he’s all but certain to win. That’s been the case for seven straight starts in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, counting Friday night’s victory in the Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, his home track.

Busch led seven times for 108 of the 134 laps in the 200-mile race. About the only difficulty he had was clearing Sheldon Creed on consecutive restarts in the final stage of the race. But five laps into a run, Busch was gone.

Busch started his seven-race streak in 2018 at Pocono. He won all five of his Gander Trucks starts last year and started 2020 with the hometown victory.

After the last restart on Lap 96, Busch pulled out to a lead of more than 7.8 seconds over polesitter and race runner-up Johnny Sauter. His winning margin over Sauter was 5.958 seconds. The victory was Busch’s 57th, extending his own record in the series, and his second straight at LVMS.

“I don’t know why but we just couldn’t fire off on the restarts,” Busch said. “We just didn’t have any speed. Once we got about 10 laps in, we started to check away from everybody. This Tundra was awesome – it really had great long-run speed.

“It was the first win for (crew chief) Danny Stockman at KBM, and it’s cool to have him on board. My guys worked their butts off. We unloaded and we really weren’t that close. We worked on it a lot with this new tire, and we got it a lot better.

“We kind of showed that with the (last) long run.”

Creed challenged Busch after the final restart, running side-by-side with the race winner and leading Laps 96 and 97, But Creed got loose under Busch’s No. 51 Toyota on Lap 98, surrendered the top spot and fell to 10th at the finish.

Sauter passed eventual eighth-place finisher Tanner Gray for second on Lap 101, and Austin Hill followed into third a lap later. Reigning series champion Matt Crafton came home fourth, with his ThorSport Racing teammate Ben Rhodes securing the fifth spot.

“We were way too loose at the start there,” Sauter said of his initial run from the pole. Adjustments during the first two pit stops helped matters, but not enough to gain equal footing with Busch.

Last week’s Daytona winner, Grant Enfinger, fell out early after Raphael Lessard’s Toyota broke loose in the bottom lane and carried both trucks into the outside wall. Lessard and Enfinger finished 30th and 31st, respectively.

Zane Smith, Todd Gilliland, Gray, Stewart Friesen and Creed completed the top 10.

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