Enfinger races into Championship 4 with Gander Trucks win

There was no mistaking the raised intensity level in Friday night’s NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 – the final race to set the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series’ Championship 4. And ultimately, veteran Grant Enfinger rallied when he needed to, holding off his ThorSport Racing teammate Ben Rhodes for the victory necessary to punch his ticket into next week’s championship finale.

Enfinger, 35, of Fairhope, Alabama, earned this win managing two restarts in a frantic final 10 laps of racing on the 0.526-mile Martinsville Speedway notorious for its rough-and-tumble high-action brand of competition. He held off Rhodes by a mere 0.803 seconds to earn his career-best fourth win of the year and join Brett Moffitt, Sheldon Creed and rookie Zane Smith as the four drivers who earned a shot to challenge for the 2020 season title next week in Phoenix.

“Thank you guys, thank you guys, this is unbelievable,” Enfinger told his team as the No. 98 ThorSport Racing Ford took the checkered flag.

“It was tough, we knew we were going to have to take our gloves off and fight for this one,” Enfinger said after celebrating. “It’s been an up-and-down season for us, but we tended to peak when we needed to. And now I feel really good about our chances at Phoenix.”

Grant Enfinger, driver of the #98 Champion/Curb Records Ford, and Brandon Jones, driver of the #51 Magick Woods Vanities Toyota, race during the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Smith finished third followed by Christian Eckes and reigning series champion Matt Crafton.

Both runner-up Rhodes and Crafton failed to advance to the Championship 4 round. While Rhodes’ hopes were lost in a blink of an eye behind Enfinger, Crafton finished fifth and came within three painstaking points of Smith for that fourth and last championship-eligible position.

“We had a shot, but first off, congrats to Grant, they worked their butts off all year,” Rhodes said of his teammate. “They have three wins, this is their fourth, they deserve it.

“We were racing as hard as we can. Didn’t have the speed we needed, but we hung around and my team had good strategy all day long. It’s just unfortunate.”

With eight laps remaining, three of the front-running trucks spun in a big chain-reaction crash that involved Rhodes, Raphael Lessard and sidelined Moffitt. Rhodes was able to continue and rejoined the field in second place right behind his teammate Enfinger.

The field was then set for the final two-lap sprint to the finish. Rhodes had to line up directly in front of Christian Eckes with his championship hopes on the line – one week after the two had an incident at Texas Motor Speedway followed by post-race confrontation in the garage. Rhodes and Eckes had contact, but Rhodes was just not able to catch and pass Enfinger, who led 49 laps overall.

Grant Enfinger, driver of the #98 Champion/Curb Records Ford, and Austin Hill, driver of the #16 AISIN Group Toyota, battle at Martinsville Friday night. (Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images)

Perhaps the most unexpected competitive moment of the race came when regular-season champion Austin Hill brought his hobbled truck onto pit road and called it a night only 117 laps into the 200-lap race.

For a two-race winner, who has led the championship points standings since the second week of the season, it was an unexpected and gut-wrenching turn of events. He came into the race the highest ranked driver without a victory in this playoff round – holding a healthy 27-point advantage on the cutline.

Unfortunately, Hill started sensing a problem in his No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota by the start of the second stage. The team tried to diagnose and correct the problem on multiple pit stops, but the truck had to retire and a disappointed Hill could only hope something major would happen in the final laps that may put him back in position to race for the title. It did not.

“We’re not a 100 percent sure what happened but it was definitely blowing up on us,” Hill said. “It’s just frustrating to potentially end your season on an engine failure like that. … We should definitely be in this final four. … I can’t even put into words what I’m feeling right now.”

Creed won the first stage and led a race-best 65 laps. He finished eighth.

Race Results

Fin Str No. Driver Team Laps Status Led
1 8 98 Grant Enfinger (P) Champion/Curb Records Ford 200 Running 49
2 7 99 Ben Rhodes (P) Tenda Heal Ford 200 Running 1
3 2 21 Zane Smith # (P) LaPaz/MRC Chevrolet 200 Running 20
4 14 18 Christian Eckes # Safelite AutoGlass Toyota 200 Running 0
5 5 88 Matt Crafton (P) Denali Aire/Menards Ford 200 Running 6
6 18 52 Stewart Friesen Halmar Racing To Beat Hunger Toyota 200 Running 5
7 19 30 Danny Bohn North American Motor Car/Blue Buffalo Toyota 200 Running 0
8 1 2 Sheldon Creed (P) Chevy Truck Month Chevrolet 200 Running 65
9 13 22 Austin Wayne Self AM Technical Solutions/GO TEXAN Chevrolet 200 Running 0
10 11 19 Derek Kraus # SHOCKWAVE/ENEOS Toyota 200 Running 0
11 21 45 Trevor Bayne iRacing/CRC Brakleen Chevrolet 200 Running 0
12 6 26 Tyler Ankrum (P) LiUNA! Chevrolet 200 Running 0
13 33 42 Carson Hocevar GMPartsNow Chevrolet 200 Running 5
14 23 56 Timmy Hill HairClub Chevrolet 200 Running 0
15 17 20 Spencer Boyd Plan B Sales Chevrolet 200 Running 0
16 24 41 Dawson Cram Magnum Contracting Inc. Chevrolet 200 Running 0
17 9 51 Brandon Jones(i) Magick Woods Vanities Toyota 200 Running 0
18 22 24 Sam Mayer Armour Guard Chevrolet 199 Accident 0
19 16 3 Jordan Anderson US Law Shield Chevrolet 199 Running 0
20 10 4 Raphael Lessard # Mobil 1 Toyota 199 Running 10
21 32 68 Clay Greenfield Rackley Roofing Toyota 198 Running 0
22 28 33 BJ McLeod(i) Colonial Countertops Toyota 198 Running 0
23 15 13 Johnny Sauter Vivitar Ford 197 Running 39
24 37 75 Parker Kligerman Food Country USA Chevrolet 196 Running 0
25 30 83 Ray Ciccarelli CMI Motorsports Chevrolet 196 Running 0
26 34 6 Norm Benning H & H transport Chevrolet 196 Running 0
27 26 44 Natalie Decker Ruedebusch Development Chevrolet 195 Running 0
28 4 23 Brett Moffitt (P) Destiny Homes Chevrolet 192 Accident 0
29 29 10 Jennifer Jo Cobb Fastener Supply Company Chevrolet 174 Running 0
30 25 40 Ryan Truex Marquis Chevrolet 169 Running 0
31 12 15 Tanner Gray # Ford Performance Ford 154 DVP 0
32 20 38 Todd Gilliland Black’s Tire Service Ford 149 Overheating 0
33 36 11 Spencer Davis Polar Bear Coolers Toyota 135 Brakes 0
34 35 9 Codie Rohrbaugh Grant County Mulch Chevrolet 123 Overheating 0
35 3 16 Austin Hill (P) AISIN Group Toyota 117 Engine 0
36 27 2 Tate Fogleman # Solid Rock Carriers Chevrolet 115 Accident 0
37 31 0 Josh Reaume LEVRACK Chevrolet 0 Transmission 0
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