LONG POND, Pa. – Tyler Ankrum showed the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series field that his recent victory at Kentucky Speedway wasn’t a fluke with a strong runner-up finish in Saturday’s Gander RV 150.
Ankrum, who missed the first three races of the year due to age restrictions but has come on strong in recent weeks, trailed eventual winner Ross Chastain for the entirety of the final stage and was in position to pounce had Chastain encountered any issues in the closing laps of the 150-mile event.
While Chastain stayed perfect and delivered Niece Motorsports its third win of the season, Ankrum kept him honest by finishing just one second adrift in the No. 17 Railblaza Toyota Tundra for DGR-Crosley.
“This is an awesome day,” noted Ankrum. “I think having a run like we did today really shows that we can still race with the best of them and that it’s not all about fuel strategy for our team. I’m really proud for this team; they gave me a great truck and I just fought myself a little bit at the beginning of the race. I was just overdriving the truck, stepping on my own toes … and it got us a little behind.
“Bono called a great strategy, though, by having us pit before the end of the second stage, and that put us on the front row so that Ross and I could run away from the field after that final restart,” Ankrum added. “I thought I had a good enough truck to chase him down, but just with the air and everything works, I couldn’t get close enough to him to catch the draft and I burned my tires up trying.
“Overall, this was a great effort for us and gives us something to build on going down the stretch.”
Chastain’s win delivered some good news to Ankrum, however, as it officially locked the San Bernadino, Calif., teenager into the Truck Series playoffs on the strength of his Kentucky victory.
With only two races remaining before the playoff reset, the maximum number of different winners possible is seven, meaning Ankrum is guaranteed to chase his first Truck Series championship starting next month at Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway.
That’s a designation that’s both a relief and a motivator for Ankrum, who just slipped through an opening-lap crash on Saturday that took out his teammate Anthony Alfredo, as well as Stewart Friesen.
“Now that we know we’re in, we can focus on what we need to do to go all the way to Homestead,” Ankrum said. “That’s a weight off our shoulders and a huge deal for this team. It’s an honor to know we’re going to be in that field of eight and have a chance to fight and maybe win a championship.
“We know we have some work to do yet, but we’re excited to have the opportunity and now I’m really looking forward to seeing what we can do with it as a group.”