Grant Enfinger opens Truck Series Playoffs with overtime victory in NASCAR’s return to IRP

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - JULY 29: Grant Enfinger, driver of the #23 Champion Power Equipment Chevrolet, celebrates in victory lane after winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series TSport 200 at Indianapolis Raceway Park on July 29, 2022 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images)

Grant Enfinger won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoff-opening TSport 200 at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park in an overtime thriller Friday night.

Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park brought all the short track chaos promised and then some. With nine laps remaining, an on-track spin left the most important decision of the night up to the No. 23 ThorSport Racing crew chief Jeff Hensley with nine laps remaining — and pitting for four fresh Goodyear tires was the call.

That fresh rubber gave him the truck he needed to dive past Zane Smith after starting on the second row in Overtime, and he drove away to win. He led 13 laps on the night to score his eighth career win and his first this season.

“We’re finally moving forward,” Enfinger said after he climbed out of his truck. “This is the first laps we’ve led since, Atlanta, or something… terrible offseason, we’ve just been off a little bit as an organization. Can’t say thank you enough to everybody on this team, we’ve been working so hard.”

About the call that won him the race, Enfinger said the caution “put Hensley in a bad spot,” but said he “knew from experience to just trust his gut.”

The win locks the GMS Racing driver into the Round of 8, which starts at Bristol Motor Speedway on September 15th. The rest of the truck field gets two more chances at Richmond and Kansas before the last two drivers are eliminated from the Playoffs.

Behind Enfinger, Ben Rhodes ended up second to cap off an up-and-down race stemming from an early speeding penalty.

“We drove through the whole field tonight multiple times,” Rhodes said. “I really hate that we had that penalty. I still don’t know what happened. I felt like I was holding my speed correctly.” He said it was especially disappointing given that he had the speed to beat Grant Enfinger: “I think our Dan-O’s Toyota Tundra was a lot faster than his truck. I just need a few more laps and I know we could have got this Toyota Tundra into victory lane.”

Rhodes was followed by Zane Smith, Stewart Friesen and Corey Heim, to round out the top five. Zane Smith suffered heavy damage earlier in the race after contact with Chandler Smith, but bounced back with tremendous late-race strategy.

Ty Majeski ended up less fortunate as a result of the finish. He led a career-high 71 of the 200 laps, but ended up finishing eighth. He said the day “just didn’t go our way,” despite having a “really good truck.” But despite having tire problems late, he said it was gratified that he “had a chance to win, leading with 10 to go. That’s really all you can ask for.”

Nemechek led 76 laps, the race high, but he rolled the dice and decided to stay out in the late caution, leading the field on the restart with three laps remaining. After starting on the outside of the front row, Taylor Gray drove into the lead before Nemechek made contact with his left-rear quarter panel, spinning him in front of the field and triggering NASCAR Overtime.

Nemechek said the conversations with Tanner Gray’s team after the race “were private, but it is what it is. That team has their opinion, I have my opinion.”

The penultimate race in the Round of 10 is Saturday, August 13 at Richmond Raceway (8 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Nemechek won at Richmond in 2021.

Photos: NASCAR in Indianapolis Friday July 29, 2022

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race – Inaugural TSport 200
Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park
Indianapolis, Indiana
Friday, July 29, 2022

1. (5) Grant Enfinger (P), Chevrolet, 207.
2. (9) Ben Rhodes (P), Toyota, 207.
3. (21) Zane Smith (P), Ford, 207.
4. (8) Stewart Friesen (P), Toyota, 207.
5. (4) Corey Heim # (P), Toyota, 207.
6. (11) Tyler Ankrum, Toyota, 207.
7. (23) Layne Riggs, Toyota, 207.
8. (6) Ty Majeski (P), Toyota, 207.
9. (16) Matt Crafton (P), Toyota, 207.
10. (1) John Hunter Nemechek (P), Toyota, 207.
11. (18) Matt DiBenedetto, Chevrolet, 207.
12. (15) Johnny Sauter, Toyota, 207.
13. (17) Hailie Deegan, Ford, 207.
14. (10) Derek Kraus, Chevrolet, 207.
15. (36) Jesse Little, Chevrolet, 207.
16. (3) Christian Eckes (P), Toyota, 207.
17. (31) Timmy Hill, Toyota, 207.
18. (2) Chandler Smith (P), Toyota, 207.
19. (20) Austin Wayne Self, Chevrolet, 207.
20. (27) Kaz Grala, Chevrolet, 207.
21. (7) Carson Hocevar (P), Chevrolet, 207.
22. (13) Taylor Gray (P), Ford, 207.
23. (14) Tanner Gray, Ford, 207.
24. (34) Chris Hacker, Toyota, 207.
25. (19) Jack Wood #, Chevrolet, 207.
26. (26) Blaine Perkins #, Chevrolet, 207.
27. (33) Chase Purdy, Toyota, 206.
28. (24) Jake Garcia, Chevrolet, 206.
29. (25) Dean Thompson #, Chevrolet, 204.
30. (30) Chad Chastain, Chevrolet, 204.
31. (28) Kris Wright, Chevrolet, 204.
32. (12) Colby Howard, Chevrolet, Accident, 190.
33. (35) Josh Reaume, Toyota, Too Slow, 153.
34. (22) Lawless Alan #, Chevrolet, Accident, 147.
35. (32) Blake Lothian, Chevrolet, Driveshaft, 72.
36. (29) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, Accident, 9.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 69.961 mph.
Time of Race: 2 Hrs, 1 Mins, 47 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.477 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 10 for 78 laps.
Lead Changes: 12 among 6 drivers.
Lap Leaders: J. Nemechek (P) 1-64;C. Smith (P) 65-70;C. Hocevar (P) 71-104;G. Enfinger (P) 105-109;C. Smith (P) 110-116;T. Majeski (P) 117-157;G. Enfinger (P) 158;T. Majeski (P) 159-188;G. Enfinger (P) 189-193;J. Nemechek (P) 194-197;T. Gray (P) 198;J. Nemechek (P) 199-205;G. Enfinger (P) 206-207.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): John Hunter Nemechek (P) 3 times for 75 laps; Ty Majeski (P) 2 times for 71 laps; Carson Hocevar (P) 1 time for 34 laps; Chandler Smith (P) 2 times for 13 laps; Grant Enfinger (P) 4 times for 13 laps; Taylor Gray (P) 1 time for 1 lap.
Stage #1 Top Ten: 4,18,42,52,23,99,51,66,38,98
Stage #2 Top Ten: 66,23,99,42,38,51,52,18,16,91

Owen Johnson