SPARTA, Ky. – Brett Moffitt had his third NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series win of the year in his sights, but came up a lap and a half short on fuel Thursday night at Kentucky Speedway.
The defending Truck Series champion appeared to have a winning truck – and strategy – for much of the final stage of the Buckle Up In Your Truck 225, taking the top spot when leader Tyler Ankrum pitted for the last time with 41 to go and cycling back to the front of the field after pit stops concluded on lap 125.
However, after only taking one can of fuel as a time-saver on his final trip down for service, what Moffitt and his GMS Racing crew didn’t count on was not having enough juice to make it to the checkered flag.
Crew chief Jerry Baxter radioed to Moffitt inside of 20 to go that he was two laps short on fuel to get to the finish. With an eight-second lead at that point, Moffitt began slowing his pace drastically.
Ankrum cut a half-lap deficit down to five seconds with five to go before Moffitt finally picked up the pace again, but it ultimately wasn’t enough. Coming toward the white flag, Moffitt’s fuel tank ran dry.
At that point, Ankrum raced by in a blue blur, and Moffitt’s chances at victory were dashed.
The Grimes, Iowa native ultimately finished seventh as the final driver on the lead lap after getting a splash-and-go stop after the white flag, but didn’t hang his head too far after climbing from his truck.
“I was just backing up as much as I could, but it wasn’t quite enough to make it,” said Moffitt. “It sucks to lose a race like that, but everyone on this team did a great job. … We had a really good truck tonight and (Jerry Baxter) called a great race. We were just a lap short. It’s tough; it’s definitely a bummer.”
Moffitt, who led 35 of the final 41 laps, wasn’t out in front during either of the first two stages and admitted afterward that he’s not mastered the art of leading a race and still conserving fuel.
“I’ve never really fuel-mileage raced,” said Moffitt. “I was trying to slow up my lap times based on what the crew was telling me and trying to draft off of other trucks, but we knew the 17 (Ankrum) was coming pretty fast.
“I don’t think I could have saved another lap,” he added. “I was basically riding down the straightaways at 30 to 50 percent throttle. That was about all she had.”
As bitter a pill as Thursday night’s race was to swallow, Moffitt doesn’t plan to dwell on his defeat for very long. He’s turning his focus quickly to the next Truck Series race on July 27 at Pocono (Pa.) Raceway.
“We just have to keep moving forward and go on to the next one,” said Moffitt. “That’s all we can do.”