13th-Place Finish Allows Safelite AutoGlass Team to Advance to the Round of 6 of Truck Series Playoffs
Date: Oct. 13, 2018
Event: Fr8auction 250 (Race 19 of 23, Playoff Race 3)
Series: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series (NCWTS)
Location: Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway (2.66-mile tri-oval)
Format: Three Stages; 20 laps/20 laps/54 laps
Start/Finish: 13th/13th (Running, completed 93 of 94 laps)
Winner: Timothy Peters of GMS Racing (Chevrolet)
Noah Gragson and the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass team came close to perfectly executing the game plan they put in place for Saturday’s Fr8auction 250 at Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway. They were able to collect a handful of stage points to pad the 23-point cushion they had on the cutoff line entering the race and then avoid incidents in the middle of the race to put themselves in a position to win the race in the closing stages.
Gragson vaulted from the third position to the lead with four laps remaining and remained out front when the field took the white flag. As the pack raced down the backstretch, the Las Vegas native maneuvered his Tundra in front of Timothy Peters truck in an effort to impede Peters’ momentum. Peters’ front bumper made hard contact with the rear bumper of the Safelite Tundra and sent it caroming hard into the outside wall before coming to rest on the apron. The caution immediately waved ending the race with Peters as the winner.
The No. 18 team would end the day with a disappointing 13th-place finish, but the result was good enough for Gragson to advance to the Round of 6 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs.
Stage One Recap:
- Gragson started from the 13th position and adhered to the plan that he and crew chief Rudy Fugle implemented. The Safelite Tundra remained glued to the yellow line along the inside of the track for all 20 laps of Stage One. He slowly but surely maneuvered his way forward as other drivers got impatient and tried to make moves to the outside. When the field crossed the stripe to complete the stage he was in the fifth position and collected five points.
Stage Two Recap:
- When pit road opened, Fugle summoned the Safelite Tundra to pit road for a fuel-only stop. Gragson returned to the track scored in the fourth position for the start of Stage Two.
- Gragson pushed Spencer Gallagher to the lead in the outside lane and then was getting a push of his own from Todd Gilliland, when Gilliland maneuvered to the middle lane leaving his teammate hung out of line. Gragson would fall all the way back to the 19th position.
- In the closing laps of the stage Gragson was able to gain back some of the positions he lost and would finish Stage Two in the 12th spot.
Final Stage Recap:
- When pit road opened, Gragson brought the Safelite Tundra to pit road for a four-tire and fuel stop with a trackbar adjustment. He returned to the track scored in the 10th position when the Final stage went green on lap 45.
- The Las Vegas native was running 15th when “the big one” broke loose in front of him on lap 59. After getting tapped in the rear end as he began to slow down, he was able to dive down onto the apron and narrowly escaped through the wreckage with minimal damage.
- After the red-flag conditions were lifted, Fugle summoned his driver to pit road to asses the damage and put four fresh tires on the Safelite Tundra. After returning the track, Gragson came down pit road one more time before the field went green for the crew to take another look at the truck and top it off with fuel.
- The field went back green with 31 laps remaining with the No. 18 Toyota scored in the 12th position. Gragson rode near the back of what was a smaller field of trucks for the next phase of the race, hoping to avoid any further incidents to have his truck in one piece for the finish of the race.
- He was running in the 12th position when the fifth caution of the day slowed the field with 10 laps remaining and restarted from the 11th position when the field went back green with six laps remaining.
- David Gilliland and Grant Enfinger made contact battling for the lead and Enfinger went spinning. The caution didn’t come out, but while drivers were trying to avoid the spinning truck it put the field three wide. Gragson made a strong run up the middle and with five to go he had advanced up to the third spot.
- Running third, Gragson slowed down to get to the bumper of his teammate David Gilliland and then used a push from Gilliland to vault to the outside around the top two into the lead with four laps remaining.
- Halfway down the backstretch on the final lap the field began making moves in an effort to get around Gragson. Peters had a strong run in the middle lane when Gragson moved up in front of him in an effort to impede his momentum. Peters slammed into the back of Gragson and sent him crashing hard into the outside wall. Unable to get his truck fired after the accident, Gragson was relegated to a 13th-place finish one lap down.
Noah Gragson, driver of the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra for Kyle Busch Motorsports:
Did you know you were locked into the next round of the Playoffs on the last restart?
“On the last restart, my crew chief Rudy Fugle told me, ‘Hey man, we’re pretty much locked into the next round so listen to your spotter Tony Hirschman and do whatever you have to do to go up there and win the thing.’ I’m a terrible speedway racer and I didn’t know what I was doing – I was just listening to my spotter and he did a really good job. We were bobbing and weaving our way up there and it played out in my favor. These things, you can’t get away or too far out because they’re just going to pass you. I was looking in my mirror those last six or seven laps and got collected, but before that it was a blast, a lot of fun.”
Were you trying to block Timothy Peters when the accident occurred?
“I was just trying to keep Timothy (Peters) with me and have him keep pushing because that was the only way we were going to be able to win the race. Not trying to block, but just trying to stay with my line. That’s speedway racing. I don’t blame anybody in there and I hope they don’t blame me. Hopefully we gave the fans one hell of a finish because it was fun in the driver’s seat. Normally I hate racing at these places, but that was a lot of fun.”
You don’t blame Timothy Peters for the bump at the end of the race, correct?
“No, he was trying to push me to get the win and at the end of the day, that’s the only thing that matters. It is what it is.”
Fr8auctions 250 Recap:
- Timothy Peters collected his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of 2018 and the 11th of his career. Myatt Snider finished in the runner-up spot. David Gilliland finished third while Justin Haley and Wendell Chavous rounded out the top-five finishers.
- The race featured six cautions for a total of 21 laps. There were 22 lead changes among 12 drivers. Gragson led once for three laps. He has now led at least one lap in all but two of his 18 starts in 2018 and continues to lead the Truck Series with 546 laps led on the season.
How Gragson’s KBM Teammates Fared:
- David Gilliland, driver of the No. 51 Toyota, finished third
- Todd Gilliland, driver of the No. 4 Toyota, finished 20tth
NCWTS Championship Standings:
Gragson finished the Round of 8 fourth on the playoff grid and advances to the Round of 6. With the points reset, he will begin the Round of 6 third on the grid based on playoff points earned.
Gragson will be back behind the wheel of the No. 18 Safelite AutoGlass Tundra when the Truck Series resumes action Oct. 27 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. Live coverage of the Texas Roadhouse 200 begins Saturday at 1 p.m. on FS1