The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers headed to the World-Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway Motorsports Park on Aug. 20 for the first race of the playoffs. They dealt with power outages and other issues but continued to fight for the checkered flag. Sheldon Creed turned in a dominant performance and locked up his spot in the next round of the playoffs.
The GMS Racing driver won the first two stages in what was a relatively clean race. He then raced to the front of the pack at the start of the final stage while an incident behind him hurt the chances of other playoff drivers. A wreck caused damage to vehicles belonging to Austin Hill, Carson Hocevar, Todd Gilliland, and John Hunter Nemechek.
Hill and Gilliland could not continue in the playoff race and saw their days come to an early end under the damaged vehicle policy. Nemechek and Hocevar, however, returned to the track in time for the green flag. Though the championship favorite in Nemechek left the track once again after the brake rotor on the No. 4 KBM Toyota Tundra broke in half, dropping him five laps down.
While the other drivers dealt with mechanical issues, Creed simply continued to build upon his advantage. He raced around the oval track, increasing his lead over Ben Rhodes and Matt Crafton to nearly three seconds before a late caution created an overtime shootout. Creed jumped to the front of the pack once again and won his second consecutive race at the Illinois track.
The Truck Series Race Came to a Surprising Stop
The early portions of the Truck Series race featured fluid on the track and mechanical issues, but the drivers completed the first stage with Sheldon Creed taking the green and white checkered flag. They headed to pit road for the first stop of the night and then kicked off Stage 2. However, the race came to a surprising halt with 62 laps remaining.
NASCAR officials waved the caution flag early in the second stage after a power outage. A good portion of the lights went out, enveloping part of the track in darkness. The drivers made some laps around the track before the officials brought out the red flag and sent them to pit road.
Chris Blair, GM of the track, provided more information about the outage on Twitter. He revealed that there had been a fire in Fairmont City that took out a transformer. He added that power company Ameren sent a crew out to assess the damage and make repairs in order to get the race back on track.
The crews managed to get the lights back on after a significant delay and prompted the drivers to get back into their stock cars. The race finally went green after a delay that lasted 48 minutes and 38 seconds, setting up a final run to the finish line.
A KBM Driver Ended the Race Early
While drivers such as John Hunter Nemechek and Ben Rhodes have an early advantage in the playoffs due to stacking wins and points during the regular season, others have to lock up as many points as possible. One such example is Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Chandler Smith, who needed every race in the regular season to secure his spot.
Unfortunately for the KBM driver, a mechanical issue sent him to the garage during the first stage of the race. He headed down pit road while reporter Regan Smith tried to determine the cause for an early stop. Smith explained on the broadcast that all of Smith’s gauges were fine and that he had oil pressure. However, the team members revealed that there was a problem with the right rear hub on the No. 18 Toyota Tundra.
Smith remained in the garage with the pit crew working on his vehicle while the rest of the field continued to fight for points. Stage 1 came to an end with him sitting in 38th place overall and several laps behind the pack.
Smith entered the race at Gateway Motorsports Park as the ninth seed in the 10-driver field. The only driver behind him was Stewart Friesen. However, he fell to the back of the playoff field with a mechanical issue. Though he did make his return to the track nearly 40 laps behind his fellow playoff drivers while Zane Smith headed to the garage with a major transmission issue.
The Truck Series playoffs will continue on Sept. 5 with a trip to Darlington Raceway. The drivers will face off in the In It To Win It 200, giving another driver an opportunity to move on to the Round of Eight. The final race before the first set of cuts will be the UNOH 200 presented by Ohio Logistics at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sept. 16.
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