DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series’ inaugural Triple Truck Challenge concludes its three-race run Saturday night at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
If the final event holds true to its two-race lead-in, there will be no shortage of drama and big news.
Brett Moffitt and GMS Racing stand to pick up a $150,000 bonus if the defending series champion wins for the second consecutive week.
The runner-up at Iowa, Moffitt was awarded the victory after apparent winner Ross Chastain’s truck was deemed illegal in post-race inspection. That verdict was upheld again on appeal this week.
Moffitt acknowledged he didn’t lead a lap in his win – the first by a disqualification in the history of the series – but welcomed the victory nonetheless, posting photos on social media of his team celebrating.
“This is a big change of emotions,” Moffitt said after being called to speak to the press following Chastain’s disqualification. “As a race car driver, I got beat on track and that’s not how you want to do it. … but I’ll take a win any way I can get it.
“It is what it is,” he continued. “We finally got a win that we needed and we’ll take it.”
And, he reminded, the big money from the Triple Truck Challenge was a nice companion to his first trophy of the season.
Saturday night’s CarShield 200 presented by CK Power is a sort of reset for everyone, with another huge paycheck on the line. If someone other than Moffitt wins, that driver still earns a $50,000 bonus as part of the Triple Truck Challenge incentive.
With the playoffs looming, it’s go-time for multiple reasons. The big incentive from series sponsor Gander Outdoors is icing on the cake.
Chastain, for example, now needs to win again and break into the top-20 in the standings to make the playoffs. He only declared himself Gander Trucks championship-eligible two races ago (before Texas) and sits 69 points behind the 20th place cutoff.
A victory this week would be a strong statement from his Niece Motorsports team.
Looking especially strong in recent weeks is Matt Crafton, a two-time Gander Trucks champion, who moved into second in the series driver standings last week at Iowa.
Crafton trails championship leader Grant Enfinger by 47 points and holds a slim two-point edge over third place Stewart Friesen.
Crafton drove the No. 88 ThorSport Ford to back-to-back pole positions at Kansas and Charlotte earlier this season. He has nine top-10 finishes in the season’s opening 10 races, including the last seven consecutively.
He was a season best runner-up in Texas in the Triple Truck Challenge opener two weeks ago, but he’s had only one top five in the last five races at Gateway – including three DNFs.
In two previous starts at Gateway, NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series point leader Grant Enfinger won the pole position last year and scored a best showing of fifth place in 2017. He’s finished top-10 in nine of 10 races this year – his worst finish is 11th at Vegas.
Enfinger was runner-up at the Daytona season-opener and has finished fourth in the opening two races of the Triple Truck Challenge.
There is plenty of motivation across the Gander Trucks field. Moffitt is the only driver ranked among the top-six in the championship standings with a victory.
There are no former Gateway race winners entered this week, but Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Todd Gilliland finished second last year and is still looking for his first series victory.
As far as Moffitt’s concerned, being awarded the victory last week following a competitor’s disqualification is not the same thing as taking the checkered flag after beating the field.
With that said, he remains as driven as ever, if not even more so.
“It’s a place I like and GMS Racing has proven its strong there,” Moffitt said of Gateway. “We’re looking forward to it and winning that 150 grand.”