Two races of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series semifinal round are complete, but a playoff driver has yet to win. Christian Eckes captured the checkered flag at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on September 24th and then Tate Fogleman pulled a stunning upset at Talladega Superspeedway on October 2.
The final run to the checkered flag took place after two massive last-stage wrecks that collected multiple playoff drivers. Matt Crafton had the lead on the high lane, but a large group headed to the bottom lane and left him behind. Todd Gilliland had the lead and appeared to be the favorite to win, but Chase Purdy passed him with two laps remaining.
The driver of the No. 23 Chevrolet did not remain at the front for very long. Gilliland hit Purdy from behind and spun him into the grass, bringing out the caution flag and setting up overtime. Ben Rhodes and Gilliland lined up at the front of the row, but neither made it to the checkered flag.
Multiple wrecks occurred after the white flag waved, giving John Hunter Nemechek the lead, but he did not keep his spot. Fogleman wrecked Nemechek and crossed the finish line first with Tyler Hill behind him, registering his first-ever Truck Series win. Gilliland finished third, Nemechek took fourth, and Ryan Truex rounded out the top five.
Per NASCAR rules, Fogleman did not get to initially celebrate in Victory Lane. He had to first climb into the ambulance and head to the infield care center. Once the medical professional released him, he was able to conduct an interview and talk about a wild end to the race and locking up his first career win.
The First Massive Wreck Collected 19 Trucks & 2 Playoff Drivers
The first two stages at Talladega were surprisingly light on caution flags. The only incident occurred when Bryan Dauzat lost control of the No. 28 Chevrolet Silverado and slammed into the wall. He somehow avoided colliding with other vehicles.
The situation changed, however, on Lap 58 of the playoff race. Austin Hill slammed into Zane Smith after a hit from behind, sending them both into the wall while a multitude of drivers crashed behind them. Some slid into the infield grass while others hit each other or the wall. The incident collected a total of 19 drivers and sent the vast majority to the infield care center.
Two of the big names involved were fighting for playoff points at the time of the incident. Zane Smith and Chandler Smith both entered the race well below the cutline and in need of several points. However, the wreck damaged both of their trucks. Zane’s left the track on the back of a tow truck while he headed to the care center with a 33rd-place finish. Chandler, on the other hand, was able to get back on the track after his team made significant repairs to the No. 18. Though he remained seven laps behind the field.
1 Race Remains for Truck Series Drivers Below the Cutline
With two races in the Round of Eight complete, there is only one more opportunity for the drivers below the cutline. They will head to Martinsville Speedway on October 30 (1 p.m. ET, FS1) for the final cutoff race. Eight drivers will enter, but only four will move on to the championship in Phoenix.
Zane Smith (-39) and Chandler Smith (-33) will enter the race with two of the worst positions after crashing at Talladega. They will both be in must-win situations heading toward the short track. Rookie Carson Hocevar (-36) will join them below the cutline after a crash relegated him to a 25th-place finish. Stewart Friesen (-4) is the fourth driver below the cutline after he crashed and finished 22nd, but he can gain enough points with a strong performance to move on to the championship race.
The battle above the cutline is heating up with one race remaining. Ben Rhodes and John Hunter Nemechek are tied for the points lead with 34 points to the positive while three-time champion Matt Crafton is just behind them with a 27-point advantage over the cutline. Defending champion Sheldon Creed sits in the worst position with only four points separating him from Friesen.