Friday night marked the NASCAR Truck Series’ first trip to Indianapolis Raceway Park since 2011. The result? Flaring tempers, crazy racing, and a crucial victory.
INDIANAPOLIS — The setting could not be any better. A 70-degree night at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park in the lively western suburb of Clermont, Indiana. There were a few ribbons of cloud in the sky, but not a trace of precipitation or even humidity for that matter. The breeze was at most 10 mph, and it was just enough to cool someone down just the right amount.
Not to mention that this race, the TSport 200, held significance in multiple different ways: First of all, this was the first time the Truck Series has raced at Indianapolis in 11 years. In fact, the winner in that 2011 race was 21-year-old Austin Dillon.
But wait! There’s more.
Friday night was the first race of the seven-race NASCAR Truck Series Playoffs, with 10 playoff drivers being whittled down to eight by the time the series reaches Bristol in September. Because of the pressure to advance in the playoffs, it became clear throughout the night that this 200-lap race was meaningful to both fans and drivers alike.
At the end of the day, GMS Racing’s Grant Enfinger wheeled his way into victory lane, his first of 2022 and the one that advances him into the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Truck Series Playoffs.
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Enfinger for the win
It was a race of plentiful lead changes, with drivers like John Hunter Nemechek, Chandler Smith, Carson Hocevar, and Ty Majeski all leading laps. Yet it was Enfinger who had “the solid truck” according to himself. The 37-year-old Alabama native said, “…we were not the best truck out there.” But when it came down to the overtime finish, Enfinger was the fastest truck to reach the checkered flag.
When asked if winning at IRP meant something to him, Enfinger explained it was special because it was his return to victory lane since his four-win 2o20 season, after which he found himself “half out of a job” in his own words. But neither 2020 nor 2021 mattered on Friday night, as Enfinger truly fought his way around IRP to clinch a spot in the Round of 8.
Nemechek involved in skirmishes
Polesitter John Hunter Nemechek had a pretty interesting 200 laps. After starting on the pole, he led most of the first stage. Then after losing out on the first round of pit stops, he found himself a few spots back of the lead. During the second stage, he climbed his way back up to the point, until he spun while trying to overtake a lapped car on Lap 107.
Yet after all of those shenanigans, the 25-year-old found himself in a position to fight for the win with two laps to go, after a late caution split the field on strategy. Taylor Gray pulled a solid gap to Nemechek on the restart, but on the penultimate lap, Nemechek dove hard into Turn 3, sending a spinning Gray into the wall. On the overtime restart, regular season champion Zane Smith returned the favor, shoving Nemechek into the wall coming out of Turn 2.
After the race, Nemechek issued a social media apology to his team as well as Gray’s team.
Overall, it was a thrilling return to Indianapolis for the NASCAR Truck Series. You should not be surprised if they keep coming back to the 317 for a long time to come.
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