Ty Majeski drove a stellar race to secure his spot in the next round of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Playoffs at Indianapolis Raceway Park, but all eyes were on Shane van Gisbergen.
The Kiwi driver made his first-ever oval start and just his second NASCAR start after aweing the sport with his win at the Chicago Street Race. And van Gisbergen delivered a solid finish in the TSport 200 at the .686-mile bullring, finishing inside the top twenty with a 19th-place result.
He was certainly happy after getting out of his Niece Motorsports truck.
“That was awesome!” van Gisbergen summed up his run.
“I have to say, I’m a little gutted,” he admitted. “Ten-to-go, finally dropped off the lead lap. But had a ball, had some awesome racing with people. A lot of fun.”
The ride came about through the Trackhouse Racing PROJECT91 program. Shane came to Indianapolis to race in the Cup Series event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, but Trackhouse has an alliance with Niece Motorsports and shared sponsor Worldwide Express came along to give him the opportunity to try an oval ahead of an expected transition to NASCAR full-time.
Got to thank Niece Motorsports, Worldwide Express, and the Trackhouse guys for having me. I’m living the dream,” he added. “It was really cool, everyone was respectful, it was awesome.”
As for the run itself, van Gisbergen wasn’t willing to give himself a grade, but he acknowledged that it was a good learning experience.
“I got a lot to learn,” he admitted. “Pace was okay in some spots, but I probably gave the wrong call on the adjustments and we really dropped off on the last stint. But so much fun.”
For Ty Majeski, early contact with a lapped truck was the only incident in a dominant drive at the front of the field. He led 179 laps in the 200 lap event, ultimately crossing the finish line with a 3.422-second lead over runner-up Christian Eckes.
It’s a career-best day for the driver in terms of laps led, but it’s also a special race for his Thorsport Racing team owners.
“That was awesome,” Majeski said. “Oh man, so cool. Du
ke and Rhonda Thorson put the support into this race. They wanted IRP to come back and they were a huge reason behind that. Thanks Duke and Rhoda – they’re all here tonight.”
The win also meant more to Majeski and his team after coming up just short in the prior race at Richmond Raceway despite having an equally dominant truck after a speeding penalty – by just .01mph – and deciding to stay out on old tires cost Majeski that win. But he doesn’t hold anything against his Ohio-based team or crew chief Joe Shear, Jr., especially when his calls and setup deliver this sort of dominating victory.
“Obviously a heartbreaking loss last week at Richmond,” Majeski admitted. “At the end of the day, we win or lose as a team. That was the message of our eight-hour drive back from Richmond through the night.”
“I love doing with Joe, we’re just a couple of short track guys having fun on the NASCAR stage. This is so cool, proud of the effort, but this is just the start of his Playoff run,” he concluded.
Runner-up Christian Eckes, who’s competing in the Playoffs, admitted that he just didn’t have anything for Majeski.
“I thought our NAPA Auto Care Chevrolet was really good there” Eckes said. “Just, he’d fire off a little better and would just be a little bit better throughout. They’ve kind of been the class of the field for the past few years. So we’ve got a little homework to do on this style of stuff.”
“Overall, just really proud of my guys for bringing what we had. Like I said, I thought we had a really good truck, we just needed a little bit more,” he added.
For Layne Riggs, who finished third, a career-best finish and a strong run means everything. The race was just his sixth-ever Truck Series start in the past two years while studying for a degree in mechanical engineering.
“Oh, it’s huge,” Riggs said of the result and the exposure. “I feel like this proves that I deserve to be here every weekend. I love Truck racing – I love NASCAR racing – but I want to do it more, it’s a rare occasion when I can do this.”
“It was a really good truck tonight. The first pit stop we kind of messed up and we made some adjustments to try to help it and it kind of hurt it back in dirty air. But that last stage we had to make our hay and we got to fourth pretty quickly, I think in two or three laps, and I was like ‘man, we got a shot at it.’ So thank you so much to everybody. I hope I can be in one soon.”
Carson Hocevar, van Gisbergen’s temporary Niece Motorsports teammate and a Playoff driver, ended up fourth. He was the driver who beat Majeski at Richmond after passing the Thorsport driver late with new tires. This time it was Majeski’s turn to win.
But Hocevar was still happy with his results, focusing on honing his abilities with his eyes on the Cup Series. He came in declaring that his goal was to be ‘Sunday ready’ and get strong finishes to earn a place at the championship finale at Phoenix Raceway.
“When I mean ‘Sunday ready,’ I just mean no silly mistakes: no immaturity, just good execution, no rookie mistakes,” Hocevar explained. “I think we achieved that today. Got stage points and ran about fifth all day – finished fourth – and that’s exactly what we need to get to Phoenix. Couldn’t steal another one from the No. 98, but runs like that will achieve our goal.”
Playoff contender Zane Smith rounded out the top five.
Another part-time driver with an impressive result William Sawalich in sixth. The 16-year-old full-time ARCA driver competed in that series at the track just before the Truck race, finishing fourth there. He followed it up with a career-best Truck Series result and his third top-ten in four starts.
“The ARCA race – I really learned a lot from that,” Sawalich said. “It was a little hotter, a little slicker. Once it cooled off, the track definitely picked up grip – especially front grip. We fired off a little tight in stage one, but we fixed it.”
“We had a really fast pit stop – I think we picked up five spots, so I was really happy with that. TRICON Garage gave me a really fast SoundGear Toyota Tundra TRD Pro,” he concluded.
The Playoff leaderboard takes center stage with just two races to go in the Truck Series Round of 10 before two drivers are eliminated. Majeski is locked in with a win, while Corey Heim follows with 47 points to the good of the cutline, followed by Christian Eckes at +39, Carson Hocevar at +35, Zane Smith at +29, Grant Enfinger at +24, Ben Rhodes at +4, and Nick Sanchez at +2.
On the chopping block after IRP are Matt Crafton and Matt DiBenedetto by two and three points respectively. Both drivers finished in the top ten.
Corey Heim, who finished eighth, is in very comfortable position.
“I don’t think it was a bad effort overall,” he summed up his result. “Obviously, we want to win – but we are points racing to try to get to Phoenix. We did just that today.”
“Hopefully, we extended our lead a little bit and head to Milwaukee, which is going to be tough for us as a team, but proud of TRICON Garage and Toyota Racing for their efforts, he added. But “the 98 was just by far the best. We have a little bit of work to do, but I think we have some good tracks coming up for us.”
The race featured five cautions, three of which were for cause. The final fifty lap stint was run under green, though, enabling plenty of on-track comers-and-goers late into the race.
Unable to back up a strong run in the SRX series at Eldora on Thursday night, Hailie Deegan spun after contact with the No. 04 truck of Landon Lewis with 57 laps to go and hits the wall hard, forcing her to retire to the garage and taking her out of the race.
Deegan and Lewis were also involved in an earlier incident along with Matt DiBenedetto that brought out the first caution.
“We were battling, trying to get back from the mishap we had earlier in the race,” Deegan said after leaving the infield care center. “It was actually with the No. 04. He caught my nose, and I was at the bottom right there. It sent us both up the track. Then he came back, and spun us out.
“It sucks that happened,” she added. “I guess it is what it is. I don’t know what we could have done differently there at the end. I don’t think there is anything we really could have done.”
The hardest hit of the night was for Tanner Gray, who ploughed into the side of Spencer Boyd while trying to swerve and avoid after Boyd spun on the backstretch. Gray exited his car safely under his own power after the hard hit.
The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series returns for the second of three races in the Round of 10 in the Playoffs for the Clean Harbors 175 at the Milwaukee Mile in Wisconsin on Sunday, August 27th at 4 pm ET.
NASCAR Crafstman Truck Series Race – TSport 200
Indianapolis Raceway Park at Lucas Oil Raceway
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