Townley scores career first Truck Series win at Vegas

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 3:  John Wes Townley driver of the #05 Zaxby's Chevrolet celebrates after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rhino Linings 350 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 3, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS, NV – OCTOBER 3: John Wes Townley driver of the #05 Zaxby’s Chevrolet celebrates after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rhino Linings 350 at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway on October 3, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)

LAS VEGAS – John Wes Townley collected his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Saturday night, saving just enough fuel during his final run to win the Rhino Linings 350.

Townley, who qualified his No. 05 Chevrolet second, battled among the top five for much of the race taking the lead from two-time series champion Matt Crafton with five laps to go when Crafton was forced to pit road for a splash of fuel.

Townley’s victory came in the Georgia veteran’s 89th career start. He scored a previous-best finish of third at Texas Motor Speedway in June. His best performance at Las Vegas had been a seventh place.

Both Townley and crew chief Michael Shelton credited the team’s spotter, Terry Cook, for coaching Townley through the deciding laps.

“I would have run out of gas if it hadn’t been for Terry,” said Townley of the former series competitor. “I took care of this thing (truck) tonight and it took care of me. This is amazing; awesome.”

Said Shelton, a former series championship crew chief, “It’s been a lot of time coming. He’s (Townley) had a tough career at times.”

Crafton, who led the most laps and qualified his No. 88 Toyota on the pole, finished eighth. He closed the gap on championship leader Erik Jones to four points as Jones finished ninth.

Red Horse Racing teammates Timothy Peters and Ben Kennedy drove their Toyotas to second and third-place finishes, respectively. John Hunter Nemechek, who won at Chicagoland Speedway last month in a race also dictated by fuel mileage, took fourth despite being involved in an early caution. Brandon Jones was fifth.

Nine different drivers swapped the lead 15 times with Crafton – whose ThorSport Racing truck had been the fastest in both practice and qualifying – leading seemingly at will. His greatest challenge came from a teammate, Cameron Hayley, who passed Crafton on the 69th lap and built a lead of five seconds before a slow pit stop dropped him back in the field.

Hayley’s Toyota, running third behind Crafton and Townley, also ran short of fuel and finished 10th.

Contact in Turn 4 on lap 14 between Brad Keselowski Racing teammates Austin Theriault and Tyler Reddick sent Theriault’s No. 29 Ford head-on into the outside wall, triggering the race’s first caution. Theriault was assisted from his truck by safety workers and was transported to a local hospital for evaluation, where he reportedly was awake and alert.

Reddick continued to finish seventh and remain in championship contention, 16 points behind Jones.

Johnny Sauter, the race’s 2009 winner, and Nemechek triggered another caution on lap 49, spinning in Turn 2 while battling for the runner-up position behind leader Peters. Both continued after pit stops for repairs.

Notes: Defending Rhino Linings 350 winner Jones, who entered the season’s 18th event leading Crafton by seven points, qualified his No. 4 Toyota 15th but fell to the rear of the field at the start after his Kyle Busch Motorsports crew made an engine change. … Action sports star Travis Pastrana made his second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start, finishing 16th. Pastrana was 15th in his initial appearance, also at LVMS in 2012.

 

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