AVONDALE, Ariz. – NASCAR’s ever-expanding youth movement was on full display under the lights during Friday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at ISM Raceway.
While Brett Moffitt, Noah Gragson and Grant Enfinger battled for a victory and a place in the Championship 4 during the Lucas Oil 150, names like Harrison Burton, Derek Kraus and Christian Eckes were making statements of their own, contending against some of the best the Truck Series has to offer.
Burton may have finished highest among that group of names, coming home third behind eventual winner Moffitt and his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Gragson, but it was Kraus who arguably turned the most heads with a standout performance in his series debut.
Driving the No. 19 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota for Bill McAnally Racing, the team he’s contested the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West with for the last two years, Kraus started the day by qualifying eighth-fastest. He then took full advantage of the track position, remaining inside the top 10 most of the night.
In fact, Kraus raced cleanly against former Truck Series champions in Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton during the first two stages and lined up fifth for the race’s final restart with three laps left, fading back to where he started in eighth but putting on a show and leaving his mark in the process.
Kraus’ top-10 effort marked the second-best Truck Series finish for team owner Bill McAnally in McAnally’s first time fielding a truck in the series since 2001, when Brendan Gaughan raced at Phoenix.
“This was a huge night and a great showing for us,” Kraus told SPEED SPORT. “We unloaded off the truck really fast and the team did a great job keeping speed in our truck throughout the day. Everyone on this Bill McAnally Racing crew worked really hard on this truck to make it strong and I feel like that showed.
“In the race, I just had to keep it clean and earn respect, and that’s what I tried to do all night,” he continued. “It was really fun out there and I learned a lot. I’m looking forward to hopefully getting another chance to run one of these things again sometime!”
– Burton’s strong performance saw him charge to the race lead on a lap 54 restart and win the second stage of Friday night’s race by holding off two-time champion Crafton for much of the 45 laps.
After pit stops, Burton hung around behind a torrid battle between John Hunter Nemechek, Enfinger and Gragson for the race lead during the final stage, eventually lining up fourth for the race’s final dash with three laps left.
Burton eventually crossed the line third, matching his career-best Truck Series finish after turning in a history paper to his teachers at the Cannon School between practice and qualifying earlier in the day.
The 18-year-old now turns his attention to his fourth-straight start and last of the season, next week’s finale at Homestead-Miami (Fla.) Speedway.
“I’m really excited about Homestead next week,” said Burton. “Texas went pretty well. I feel confident on mile-and-a-halves as a whole now. I feel like I can go there, fire off in the truck and just let her rip.”
– NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion Tyler Ankrum backed up his lead-lap finish in his Truck Series debut at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway last month with a sixth-place run in DGR-Crosley’s No. 17 Toyota on Friday night.
Ankrum started 15th but slowly and methodically moved his way forward, rallying from contact with Jason White that sent Todd Gilliland spinning and drew and early caution for a top-10 result in just his second series start.
The run was DGR-Crosley’s seventh top-10 finish of the season, with their fifth different driver.
– Christian Eckes quietly made consistency a hallmark of his four-race Truck Series schedule with Kyle Busch Motorsports this season, earning his third top 10 on Friday night in the No. 46 Mobil 1 Toyota.
Eckes came home ninth for the second-consecutive race, moving his average finish to 13.5 for the year.
The only race he didn’t finish inside the top 10 was at Gateway Motorsports Park in late June, where he won the second stage before contact with Stewart Friesen led to a crash and a 28th-place finish.
A native of Middletown, N.Y., Eckes turns 18 on Saturday and will run for the ARCA Racing Series championship with Venturini Motorsports next season.
– ARCA champion Sheldon Creed backed up his announcement of a full-time Truck Series schedule with GMS Racing next season with a top-10 finish at ISM Raceway.
Creed crossed the line 10th, his best result in six career Truck Series appearances.