|PHOTO: FS1, Screenshot by David PeQueen|
The finish, which came in Stenzel’s 13th series start, was his second in a row, giving him an early lead in the 2018 LASTCAR Truck Series Championship. In the LASTCAR Truck Series rankings, it’s the 17th for truck #63, the 346th for Chevrolet, and the 32nd by reason of electrical issue. Among the top three series, it’s the 34th for the #63, the 1,579th for Chevrolet, and the 111th by reason of an electrical issue.
After his early exit at Atlanta, Stenzel moved to MB Motorsports’ #63 in Vegas, continuing the business partnership between D.J. Copp and MB’s owner Mike Mittler. The white Chevrolet wouldn’t carry any sponsorship, but would be listed with Mittler as the owner and “Copp Racing” in the sponsor’s position.
Stenzel didn’t participate in Thursday’s opening practice session, then ran 27th of 30 trucks in Happy Hour. He earned the 29th spot in qualifying with a lap of 149.072mph (36.224 seconds). This was actually the second-slowest lap turned in the session, besting Norm Benning’s lap of 142.646mph (37.856 seconds). Not turning laps in qualifying would be 31st-place starter B.J. McLeod, a late driver announcement for Beaver Motorsports in the #50 Motorsports Safety Group Chevrolet, and last-place starter Mike Senica.
Over the offseason, Mike Senica had made several tweets indicating he had attracted a number of sponsors, and would return to drive Norm Benning’s second truck, the #57. A source close to the team has indicated this is not the case, that Benning was not made aware of such a deal, and the #57 has yet to be entered this season.
Regardless, Senica has since tweeted that he had a new uniform and helmet. Both made their trackside debut at Las Vegas’ Neon Garage, where Senica had picked up a ride in Jennifer Jo Cobb’s #0 Chevrolet. The truck would carry hood and quarter-panel logos for Betty Lou’s, a brand which Senica mentioned over the offseason, as well as P3 Power Products, which backed him late last year.
At Vegas, Senica had been one of the slowest drivers in practice, his best of 11 laps clocking in at just 135.590mph (39.826 seconds), nearly ten full seconds slower than session leader Johnny Sauter. B.J. McLeod was even slower in the Beaver #50, running just 130.668mph (41.326 seconds), another second and a half off Senica’s speed.
On the night of the race, as Senica followed the rest of the field off pit road, Stenzel pulled to the left and stopped his #63 parallel to the opening to the garage entrance, causing at least one crew member to run up to the truck. Stenzel managed to join the race for the green flag, at which point he’d been moved up a handful of positions. Senica had incurred one of three unapproved adjustments penalties, joined by McLeod’s #50, Matt Crafton’s #88 Black Label Bacon / Menards Ford, and the #25 Performance Plus Motor Oil Chevrolet of Dalton Sargeant. Also sent to the rear was 28th-place starter Tommy Regan, a late entry in TJL Motorsports’ #1 Chevrolet, due to a tire change.
This was, admittedly, a challenging last-place battle to follow as multiple drivers lost laps in rapid succession. When the race started, Senica held down 32nd, 3.925 seconds back at the stripe. Just three laps into the race, he was already more than 18 seconds back, and was lapped so quickly that it didn’t register on NASCAR’s online leaderboard. On Lap 4, Tommy Regan took last, and he was lapped the next time by entering Turn 1. The next time by, Senica lost a second lap as the field roared by to his outside, the FS1 cameras showing the entire field move up the track.
By the time Senica appeared on camera, Scott Stenzel had pulled into the garage. Stenzel didn’t take last right away as both Senica and Regan continued to lose laps, perhaps from extended stops on pit road. On Lap 12, Regan, Stenzel, and Senica were all more than five laps down. Both Regan and Senica were still rolling on Lap 16, but Stenzel wasn’t. Stenzel quickly tied, then passed the number of laps down Regan was to the leaders, taking last. On Lap 17, Stenzel was 11 laps behind, 3 behind Regan and five behind Senica.
31st ended up going to Joe Nemechek, who ran on the lead lap for most of the early laps until he pulled into the garage around the 24th circuit. Nemechek’s #87 Fleetwing Corporation Chevrolet fell slowly down the rankings among the other lapped trucks. On the 28th circuit, Nemechek was behind the wall while Senica lost his 7th circuit and Regan his 9th. Senica exited after he turned 28 laps of his own, but Regan managed to finish the race under power, 22 laps behind, in 27th.
Rounding out the Bottom Five behind Stenzel, Nemechek, and Senica were 29th-place Matt Crafton, who encountered a surprising brake issue that sent him behind the wall in the opening stages. 28th fell to Justin Haley, who avoided serious damage after a Lap 73 spin, but was unable to return in his #24 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet.
Norm Benning ended up 26th on Friday, parked by NASCAR after he and second-place runner Brett Moffitt made contact as Moffitt passed Benning to his outside in Turn 1 while tracking race leader Kyle Busch. Moffitt was recovering from another such instance earlier in that stage when he passed to the inside of 19th-place finisher Michel Disdier, locking fenders with his #20 Richard Orlinski Chevrolet as he passed to Disdier’s inside. Moffitt recovered once more to finish 3rd behind Busch and Johnny Sauter.
*This marked the second-consecutive last-place finish for truck #63 at Las Vegas, following Todd Peck’s run last fall, and the first for the number in a Truck Series race since Chris Windom’s early engine failure at Martinsville later that month.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
32) #63-Scott Stenzel / 5 laps / electrical
31) #87-Joe Nemechek / 23 laps / vibration
30) #0-Mike Senica / 28 laps / electrical
29) #88-Matt Crafton / 40 laps / brakes
28) #24-Justin Haley / 75 laps / crash
2018 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Beaver Motorsports, Copp Motorsports, MB Motorsports (1)
2018 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (3)
2018 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP