Brett Moffitt spoils Playoff drivers’ hopes in aggressive Overtime Trucks finish at Talladega

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA - SEPTEMBER 30: Brett Moffitt, driver of the #34 Fr8Auctions Ford, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Love's RV Stop 250 at Talladega Superspeedway on September 30, 2023 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Brett Moffitt didn’t carry too many expectations heading into Talladega. The Xfinity Series driver was announced as a late entrant for the Love’s RV Stop 250 Craftsman Truck Series race in a Front Row Motorsports truck to provide a drafting partner for the team’s primary driver, Zane Smith.

And any expectations certainly weren’t raised by qualifying before the race on Saturday when Moffitt could only manage 31st.

However, all that was changed at the end. Moffitt picked up the win in Overtime after a series of bold moves that gave him not only his first Truck Series win in three years, but his first NASCAR win in that time. Moffitt had picked up twelve total victories in the series, but has yet to win in the Xfinity Series, where he drives for AM Racing.

“It’s pretty awesome. I’ve notably struggled at the superspeedways in the past and always dreaded coming to them, but this was an all-pressure-off situation,” Moffitt said.

“It was a hell of a way to come back,” he added. “We struggled for track position early and just tried to race smart. This Ford F-150 FR8 Auctions was super fast in the race. It drove really good. I could put it wherever I wanted and never felt like I was on edge. It was a great handling race track, great sponsors, great race team in Front Row and we executed when it counted.”

Zane Smith was forced out of the race with a variety of issues, which Moffitt acknowledged enabled his team to be more aggressive and go for the win.

“We lost a drafting partner for sure, but we opened up our strategy and opening up my mental checklist of, ‘OK, now we can just go race for a win and nothing else matters, points don’t matter, just go out there and have fun and learn and try to succeed,'” he detailed.

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA – SEPTEMBER 30: Parker Kligerman, driver of the #75 Tide Chevrolet, and Carson Hocevar, driver of the #42 Worldwide Express Chevrolet, lead the field during the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Love’s RV Stop 250 at Talladega Superspeedway on September 30, 2023 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images)

It was Christian Eckes in position throughout most of the Overtime push, though. Eckes didn’t get a strong start in the outside lane, but a strong push from fellow Chevrolet driver Chandler Smith – who locked bumpers for most of the lap – gave him a big gap.

That gap proved his undoing, though, as the pack gained momentum behind Eckes. Though he pulled a big block on Moffitt, the eventual winner pushed past with help from Parker Kligerman and Ben Rhodes.

Eckes ended up nineteenth, the last car on the lead lap, while Rhodes finished second after staying in line.

“Yeah. Congrats to Brett Moffitt,” Rhodes said. “We worked really well together, but I wish it was me. We needed that to get into the Phoenix Championship 4, but either way we gave ourselves a shot today.”

Dean Thompson finished a quiet third after putting himself in position to take advantage of the Overtime chaos.

“It was awesome,” he said of his day. “We qualified fast but I had an issue, so we went to the back and we persevered. We never looked back and finished P3. Not bad, but wish we were two spots better though.”

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA – SEPTEMBER 30: Zane Smith, driver of the #38 Love’s/ RV Stop Ford, spins on his pit stop hitting a crew member and sending a loose tire onto pit roaduring the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Love’s RV Stop 250 at Talladega Superspeedway on September 30, 2023 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Thompson was followed by Chandler Smith, who replaced Matt DiBenedetto in the No. 25 Rackley WAR truck after the team dropped DiBenedetto for the final three races of the season.

Playoff driver Corey Heim rounded out the top five. Heim is locked into the Championship 4 by virtue of his win at Bristol, the only driver in that position two races into the Round of 8.

As for the rest of the Playoff standings, Carson Hocevar is in the next-best position, 23 points above the cutline, with Christian Eckes nine above and Nick Sanchez three above.

Coming into Homestead-Miami, the final race of the Round of 8 where three drivers will be sent home, Grant Enfinger is three points below the cutline, Ben Rhodes is 5 below, and Ty Majeski needs 19 points.

Grant Enfinger had a particularly difficult day, being involved in a wreck midway through the race that put him a lap down. He had competitive speed and was in free pass position for the next caution, but since he was deemed involved for making contact despite not spinning himself, he had to wait for the following caution to get back on the lead lap. Enfinger did eventually end up 13th though.

In effectively a must-win position is Zane Smith. He has a 36-point gap to the cutline to make up at Homestead after a turbulent race at Talladega.

Pitting after Stage 1, Smith spun his car around and barreled into his pit box, hitting rear tire changer Charles Plank in the process. Plank was alright, despite leaving a massive dent in the car. Smith was shaken, and his troubles continued when he left pit road and suffered a slipping clutch, which sent him to the garage.

“Hope whoever it was on my pit crew that I hit – I feel terrible about that, so that wasn’t a great start. But I guess after that once I rolled off pit road, my clutch was slipping and just fighting that,” Smith said in a TV interview from the garage. “Such a bummer.”

TALLADEGA, ALABAMA – SEPTEMBER 30: Cory Roper, driver of the #04 Fly Alliance/CarQuest Ford, Ty Majeski, driver of the #98 Soda Sense/Curb Records Ford, Grant Enfinger, driver of the #23 Champion Power Equipment Chevrolet, and Matt Crafton, driver of the #88 Jack Links/Menards Ford, spin after an on-track incident during the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Love’s RV Stop 250 at Talladega Superspeedway on September 30, 2023 in Talladega, Alabama. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Besides Smith’s scary incident on pit road, two drivers were actually sent to the hospital for further evaluation after the race which featured several hard crashes that brought the red flag out more than once.

Stewart Friesen was involved in a wreck early in Stage 2 along with David Gilliland and Tyler Ankrum. Greg van Alst hit the outside wall hard in a wreck that brought out Overtime, the biggest of the day, involving ten trucks.

Before bringing out the red flag, the wreck just before the field took the white flag of the scheduled distance was the eighth caution of the day. It stemmed when Matt Crafton and Nick Sanchez made contact, sending Crafton down the track and into the field. Playoff drivers involved, besides Sanchez, included Ty Majeski. Carson Hocevar also spun by himself while slowing to avoid.

Crafton was incredibly unhappy with Sanchez after the race, and he showed that: while Sanchez was walking back to his hauler, Crafton punched him in the face, leaving Sanchez bloodied and cursing Crafton. Sanchez called it a ‘cheap shot’ and said he’d have liked to have had a chance to get him back to media after the race.

Sanchez ended up seventh despite a pass-through penalty for a restart violation for laying back on a late restart, getting extra points for winning Stage 1 while Crafton failed to finish and was credited with 24th place.

Daniel Dye finished sixth, while Hailie Deegan came home eighth followed by Parker Kligerman and Lawless Alan in ninth and tenth respectively.

Parker Kligerman impressed as well. The full-time Xfinity Series driver and Playoff competitor ran up front, influencing the finish and scoring the win in Stage 2 in a part-time Truck effort for Henderson Motorsports.

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series returns for the final race of the Round of 8 before the Championship 4 field will be set at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Saturday, October 21st. It’s the second-to-last race of the Truck Series season.

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series at Talladega – FULL RESULTS

Owen Johnson