Date: July 12, 2018
Event: Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 (Race 12 of 23)
Series: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS)
Location: Kentucky Speedway in Sparta (1.5-mile oval)
Format: Three Stages; 35 laps/35 laps/80 laps
Start/Finish: 1st/8th (Running, completed 150 of 150 laps)
Winner: Ben Rhodes of Thorsport Racing (Ford)
Noah Gragson captured the pole for Thursday night’s Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 at Kentucky Speedway, led 62 of the first 73 laps, won Stage Two and ended the night with an eighth-place finish. Despite reporting that he had a vibration in the middle of Stage Two, Gragson was able to hold on to win the stage but lost valuable track position when his over-the-wall crew put a wheel spacer on the right-front wheel to fix the problem.
The Safelite Tundra would start the Final Stage from the 13th position and with passing at a premium slowly worked its way back inside the top 10 and would end the day with an eighth-place finish. With his seventh consecutive top-10 finish, 19-year-old maintained second place in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series standings with four races remaining before the start of the playoffs.
Stage One Recap:
- Gragson captured his fourth pole of the season after posting the fastest lap in each of the two rounds of qualifying on Thursday afternoon. Within 10 laps the talented teenager had opened up nearly a two second lead.
- As the Safelite Tundra approached lap traffic with 10 laps to go in the opening stage, Ben Rhodes was able to close the gap and then worked his way around Gragson to lead lap 27. Gragson fought back by Rhodes and led laps 28 to 32, but as he got caught up with a driver trying to remain on the lead lap Rhodes worked his way back to the front with three laps remaining and would hold on to win Stage One.
Stage Two Recap:
- After Gragson communicated that his Safelite Tundra was too tight, Crew chief Rudy Fugle summoned his driver to pit road between stages for fresh right-side tires, a full tank of fuel and a trackbar adjustment to try and improve the handling.
- Stage Two went green on lap 42 with Gragson in the second position, but he quickly made his way back out front. Despite reporting that he had a tire vibration, he would remain out front for the entirety of Stage Two collecting a playoff point.
Final Stage Recap:
- When pit road opened, Gragson brought his Toyota to the attention of his over-the-wall crew who administered a four-tire and fuel stop and placed a wheel spacer on the right-front wheel in an effort to fix the vibration.
- With the stop taking extra time, the Safelite Tundra lined up 13th when the Final Stage went green on lap 76. Gragson returned to the top 10 on lap 90. He was running eighth on lap 123 when he was summoned to pit road under green-flag conditions.
- After getting right-side tires and fuel, the Las Vegas native returned to the track scored in the 15th spot with 25 laps remaining. Once pit stops cycled through, he was scored in the eighth spot and would remain there to finish the race.
Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports:
Did the loose wheel cost you a chance to race for the win?
“Yeah, we got a loose wheel there after the first pit stop putting on right side tires and had a vibration. I wasn’t sure how bad it was going to get since I just haven’t had very many wheel vibrations, so a loose wheel. Just stayed out there and ended up winning the stage, came in and put four tires on – just got shuffled back in the pack putting a wheel spacer on because the studs were messed up a little bit. I don’t know. Struggled there at the end with track position. Very track position-dependent race and not getting a caution there the last stage – I guess that whole entire race – really made it hard when you got back in traffic. I felt like King Kong there at the beginning in my Safelite AutoGlass Toyota Tundra when I was out front. It’s when you get back in the pack, it just makes it so difficult, so we’re just going to keep plugging away. I’ve got all the faith in the world in my team and my crew chief Rudy Fugle. We’re the best out there, so can move on to Eldora (Speedway), have a little fun there. No really expectations there – maybe pick up a few stage points, maybe a win, who knows? Ultimately have fun, so just thankful to be out here.”
Buckle Up in Your Truck 225 Recap:
- Rhodes collected his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of 2018 and the second of his career. Stewart Friesen finished 0.922 seconds behind Rhodes in the runner-up position. Matt Crafton finished third while KBM driver Brandon Jones finished fourth. John Hunter Nemechek rounded out the top-five finishers.
- The race featured three cautions for a total of 14 laps. There were 11 lead changes among five drivers. Gragson led three times for 62 laps. He has led at least one lap in 11 of the 12 events this season.
How Gragson’s KBM Teammates Fared:
- Brandon Jones, driver of the No. 51 Toyota, finished fourth
- Todd Gilliland, driver of the No. 4 Toyota, finished seventh
NCWTS Driver Championship Standings:
Gragson maintained the second position in the NCWTS Driver Championship standings. After 12 races the 19-year-old driver is 42 tallies behind championship leader Johnny Sauter. Gragson has earned 12 playoff points this season, including the one he earned for winning Stage Two at Kentucky.
Gragson will be back behind the wheel of the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra when the Truck Series resumes action July 18 at Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, Ohio. Live coverage of the Eldora Dirt Derby begins Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on FS1.