Enfinger Denies Hill, Steals Atlanta Truck Spoils

0
580
Enfinger Denies Hill
Grant Enfinger crosses the finish line to win Saturday's Vet Tix/Camping World 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images photo)

HAMPTON, Ga. – With a daring outside pass on an overtime restart, Grant Enfinger stole the victory in Saturday’s NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway from home-state favorite Austin Hill.

Hill, the Winston, Ga., native who was well in control of the Vet Tix/Camping World 200 in its closing stages, had a lead of more than five seconds with three laps to go.

However, a lap-128 caution for the spinning truck of Chase Elliott – who was third at the time – set up an overtime finish that shifted the narrative and opened the door for others to challenge.

After all the lead-lap trucks pitted for fresh tires and fuel, Hill led the field to green for overtime alongside Todd Gilliland, with Christian Eckes and Zane Smith in row two and Enfinger back in fifth.

On the restart, Gilliland spun the tires in the outside lane, backing up the top side as Eckes and Enfinger came storming forward behind the leading Toyota Tundra of Hill. Enfinger quickly worked inside of Eckes to go to second. By the time the field hit turn three, Enfinger was sailing high and looking for the lead.

He drag-raced Hill to the white flag, edging ahead at the start/finish line with his No. 98 Ford F-150 before powering clear for good in turns one and two on the final lap.

From there, it was smooth sailing for Enfinger, who went on to collect his fourth career Truck Series win and second of the season by .215 seconds over Hill.

It marked the first time in Enfinger’s Truck Series career that he’s won multiple races in a single season.

Grant Enfinger celebrates in victory lane after winning Saturday’s Vet Tix/Camping World 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images photo)

“My spotter Chris Lambert said it perfectly over the radio, ‘This race was won at the shop,’” Enfinger noted in victory lane. “We didn’t have the best truck on the long run, but we had the best truck on the short run, I feel like. The Good Lord was looking out for us.

“Just an incredible turn of events on that restart; I was able to nail the gears,” he added. “That’s something that we’ve been intermittent with, but we had the drive built into the truck, we had the short-run speed, and that’s what it came down to. It was fun, but it was great to have the fast F-150 that we had. This one today means a lot.”

Hill, who led 36 laps before Enfinger struck in overtime, was understandably frustrated after coming so close to victory at his home track and ending up one spot short.

“All day on the restarts, it took our truck five to seven laps to get going,” lamented Hill. “We would be on the splitter a little bit, but as the tire wear came in and the pace fell off, our splitter heights were really good. There at the end, on that white-flag lap, I was going into turn one beside the 98 (Enfinger) and I drove in deeper than I had all day. It got on the splitter a little bit, and when it did, I got tight and I had to lift a little bit.

“I’ll take the blame on that one for not getting the win. We had a dominating truck,” Hill added. “There at the end, we were just as dominant as the 51 (Kyle Busch) before we got to the lead. I can’t thank everyone enough at HRE for all their efforts in bringing us fast trucks. We’re going to be good in Miami.”

Rookie Christian Eckes earned his best finish of the season with a third-place result, followed by Todd Gilliland and a second rookie contender in Zane Smith.

Ross Chastain, Derek Kraus, Brett Moffitt, Ben Rhodes and Stewart Friesen filled out the balance of the top 10.

Kyle Busch, who led the most laps on the day with 37 and swept the first two stages, was on his way to victory before his final pit stop of the day with 34 to go – when he was nabbed for speeding and hit with a pass-through penalty as a result.

Busch then scraped the wall exiting turn four after coming up on the slower truck of Jordan Anderson, before being busted for speeding a second time while serving his initial speeding penalty.

The all-time series wins leader finished 22nd, one lap down at the checkered flag.

The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series season continues June 13 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where Hill is the defending race winner.

To view complete race results, advance to the next page.