Grant Enfinger made a major Playoff statement at the Milwaukee Mile, winning the pole, sweeping the stages, and winning the race. He Led 96 laps of 175 at the track that’s actually 1.015 miles in Milwaukee suburb West Allis en route to his dominant win.
Enfinger made the decisive pass on Carson Hocevar with a slide job underneath him with seventeen laps to go. He managed to hold onto the position despite washing to the outside and getting the bumper from Hocevar in the next corner. A strategy call that put him on newer tires was what put Enfinger behind in the first place.
The win not only locks Enfinger into the Round of 8 in the Playoffs, but is a big statement in the same week that his team, GMS Racing, announced that it will be shutting its doors at the end of the season.
“Yeah, I don’t want to hear anybody ask if we’re going to lay down again,” Enfinger said. “There’s been distractions going on all year long, so if anything this adds clarity. None of these guys, including me, have a job next year, I feel like we proved we deserved one.”
Starting on the pole gave him the advantage in the race, but none of that looked likely at the end of Saturday’s practice session. His team was able to make adjustments, and Enfinger used extra seat time in the ARCA Menards Series just before the Truck race to his advantage.
“I don’t think we were that good yesterday, maybe a fifth-place truck, maybe a seventh, eighth-place truck,” Enfinger admitted. “But [crew chief] Jeff, he believes in me when I tell him what I need, and I believe in him and the calls he made. We had a winning truck today. I don’t know if we had a dominant truck, but we had a winning truck.”
Winning his third race this season, and his tenth top ten, is a big statement heading into the Playoffs, Enfinger concluded.
“I think we’ve had speed. Have we executed perfectly? No. Did we execute perfectly today? No. But we’ve had speed all year long. When we hit it, we’ve done this twice now this year, here and Kansas. We’ve got three wins, but we’ve had two trucks like this,” he detailed.
The win makes Enfinger the first Truck Series winner at the famous track since 2009, the last time the series came to West Allis.
Carson Hocevar led 40 laps, but lost out to Grant Enfinger, who was on newer tires.
The result means he has a comfortable position in the Playoff standings, putting him 56 points above the cutline combined with his fourth-place effort in the opening race of the Round of 10.
“If we have a bad day or something happens, a freak deal, just confidence for us,” he said of what it gives him. “We’re plus-56, it would be hard to choke that one away.”
He credited a good car with being able to keep the lead for so long and even fight Grant Enfinger despite the tire deficit.
“We were on eleven-lap-old tires and we were able to hold up there, and I was finding lines, I was driving like a dirt car, sliding myself, I was running the top. I don’t know how much the fans loved it or how good a race, but I just loved it, being able to move around,” he explained.
“Just kind of a bummer to run second. I haven’t done this in quite a while, luckily we’ve been fortunate to win some races, so just close.”
As for the contact with Enfinger as the pass was made in the closing laps, Hocevar said that any contact certainly wasn’t intentional.
“No, I was just trying to get in really hard. You know, we’re racing and we’re good buddies, and I didn’t mean to get into him. It was pretty close, I’m really thankful he didn’t spin or I didn’t spin. But I just tried to get in deep,” he clarified.
“It’s just really fun, really enjoyable that the 98 finally got their superpower taken away and we can all finally race again,” Hocevar joked.
He was referring to Ty Majeski in the No. 98 truck, who dominated to win the series’ previous race at Indianapolis Raceway Park, punching his own ticket into the Round of 8 in the process.
Majeski ended up seventh at Milwaukee after a pass-through penalty for repeat inspection failures at the beginning of the race.
He still managed to earn a top-ten despite starting from the back and losing a tire in the race. But despite the monstrous drive, he wasn’t entirely happy.
“I don’t know, we would have liked to have mixed it up, I felt like we could have overcome,” he said. “I don’t know that we had a winning truck today, but it was decent, at least decent enough to mix it up. But could never get over that hump to do that.”
“We have a really good season going right now, a lot of momentum,” he said, looking on the bright side. “Today’s bittersweet. We’d like to be in victory lane here at my home state race, but we’ll go on to Kansas.”
Majeski wasn’t able to move up from seventh late considering the intense racing for position throughout the top ten, including three wide battling for sixth in the final five laps.
Update August 29th: NASCAR announced that Ty Majeski’s truck had a host of problems that warranted further penalty, with infractions that violated Sections 14.16.A, 14.16.1.A, and 14.16.1.c respectively, pertaining to “Wheels and Tires” and “Wheel Assembly.”
The penalty docks the team 75 points, and, pertinently, five Playoff points. That take their advantage going into the Round of 8 from 21 above the cutline to 16. Those 75 points will only apply to final standings after elimination from the Playoffs.
In addition, crew chief Joe Shear has been fined $25,000 and will be suspended for the next four rounds of the NASCAR Truck Series Playoffs.
Like Enfinger, third-place finisher Matt Crafton struggled in practice but was able to turn it around in the race.
“At the end of the day everybody just worked their butt off yesterday. It was honestly the loosest truck ever yesterday of my life,” he said. “And we tried something yesterday and it didn’t work and we tried to take as much out of it as we could while we had that fifteen-minute practice session and didn’t get it all, so we went back close to our baseline.”
“I just can’t thank these guys enough,” he added of his team. “They changed sway bars, changed shocks, changed springs. After practice they still believed the old man – still some that were haters,” he joked.
Corey Heim, who started on the outside of the front row, fell back to fourth by the end of the race. But it was still a positive result, since it locks him into the next round of the Playoffs, combined with an eighth place finish at the previous race in the Round of 10.
“It’s a good deal,” Heim said. “The Playoff points really paid off. It really just shows our consistency throughout the season getting stage points, and the Playoff bonus.”
And he’s motivated ahead of Kansas, the final race in this round of the Playoffs.
“It makes Kansas a lot easier. I thought Kansas was the perfect cut off race for me anyway, because I love that track and I feel like I’m really good there, so it allows us to go and chase a win, and I wish now Kansas was in the next round, I guess,” Heim laughed.
Alongside Heim, Christian Eckes has scored enough points to advance.
The race featured seven cautions, five of which were for cause. The final one came out on lap 142 of 175, when Playoff contender Nick Sanchez was spun by Corey Heim after checking up behind a slowing Hailie Deegan. Sanchez ended up 24th while Heim continued on undamaged.
The biggest incident came on 66, when Greg van Alst suffered a stuck throttle and plowed into Brad Perez on the restart after Stage 1, sending both hard into the outside wall.
The next race will eliminate two drivers from the Craftsman Truck Series Playoffs. Of the drivers still in jeopardy, Hocevar has a 56 point advantage, while Zane Smith is 29 points to the good, Matt Crafton has a nine-point buffer, and Nick Sanchez is up by two.
Ben Rhodes will come into Kansas three points below the cutline and Matt DiBenedetto will enter with 20 points to make up.
The Craftsman Truck Series returns at Kansas Speedway for the Kansas Lottery 200 on September 8th at 9 pm ET.
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