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Moffitt takes Truck playoff opener at Bristol

Jeff Birchfield • Aug 16, 2019 at 12:04 AM

BRISTOL — Brett Moffitt celebrated with a victory as the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series playoffs opened with a bang Thursday night at Bristol Motor Speedway.

The defending series champion took the lead from Grant Enfinger with 45 laps to go and held off challenges from Chandler Smith, Ben Rhodes, Enfinger and Ross Chastain to win the UNOH 200 presented by Ohio Logistics.

Moffitt ran a special paint scheme celebrating NASCAR Hall of Famer Junior Johnson on the hood of his No. 24 Chevrolet.

“Man, this is so cool to win with Junior Johnson on the hood here at Bristol Motor Speedway,” Moffitt said. “I was thinking on that last restart not to mess it up. When it goes to a three-lap shootout, anything can happen. Any NASCAR driver will tell you this is a place they want to win.”

It was Moffitt’s first win at Bristol, his third win of the season and the 10th Truck Series victory of his career.

Smith, a 17-year-old from Georgia driving the Kyle Busch-owned No. 51 Toyota, outdueled Chastain, Enfinger and others to take the runner-up spot.

The race, run under a full moon, was slowed by a dozen caution periods and a red-flag stoppage of nearly seven minutes. Several crew members came up to take issue with Chastain’s aggressive driving.

Chastain, who finished third in the No. 45 Chevrolet, was unapologetic for his actions.

“Every time, I had position on the guys,” Chastain said. “It’s one lane around the bottom. You come into this place and there’s signs about rattling cages, helmets being thrown. I don’t know why the crew chiefs come down here and complain instead of letting their washed-up drivers handle it.”

Stewart Friesen finished fourth in a Chevrolet with Enfinger rounding out the top five in his Ford.

Sheldon Creed, Matt Crafton, Rhodes, Todd Gilliland and Austin Hill were the rest of the top-10 finishers.

EARLY STAGES

Chastain got around pole-sitter Brett Moffitt on the outside on lap 11 and rolled to the win in Stage 1. He used a different tactic in Stage 2, muscling his way past Moffitt on the inside. Racing behind the slower truck of Johnny Sauter desperately trying to stay on the lead lap, the drivers swapped the lead three times before Moffitt made a pass off turn 4 of the final lap for the stage win.

Moffitt set the pace in qualifying, taking the No. 24 Chevrolet around the track at 127.690 mph.

Jesse Little, who has family in Kingsport, was caught up in a wreck on lap 2, getting hit from behind by the truck of Sam Mayer. Little finished last in the 32-truck field.

Parker Kligerman, driving for the Abingdon-based Henderson Motorsports team, finished 13th in the No. 75 Chevrolet.

BUSH’S BEANS 150

Sam Mayer executed the bump-and-run and scored the season sweep for the NASCAR K&N Pro Series at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Mayer, a 16-year-old from Wisconsin, was sent to the back of the field after sending pole-sitter Chase Cabre for a spin on the opening lap. Mayer’s No. 21 Chevrolet made a furious charge to the front, nudging the No. 30 Ford of Spencer Davis up the track and taking the lead with 12 laps to go.

Once out front, there was no catching Mayer, who led all 150 laps of the K&N Series race in April.

“It was an amazing race. It was definitely fun to drive and that battle at the end was fun to be a part of,” Mayer said. “I’m here to get wins and win a points championship; that’s our goal.”

Ty Gibbs, the grandson of Super Bowl winning coach and NASCAR Cup Series team owner Joe Gibbs, also passed Davis on the move and finished second. Ruben Garcia Jr. in a Toyota was third, followed by Mason Diaz and Davis in Fords.

“The 21 has been the class of the field all year,” Davis said. “It’s Bristol, baby. I expected to get booted out of the way.”

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