|PHOTO: Christian Koelle|
The finish, which occurred in Greenfield’s 42nd series start, was his first of the season and his first in the series in over six years, dating back to September 28, 2012 at Las Vegas, 137 races ago. In the Truck Series last-place rankings, it was the 3rd for the #68, the 14th for suspension issues, and the 362nd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 26th for the #68, the 38th for the suspension, and the 1,630th for Chevrolet.
Talladega marked just the sixth attempt of the season for Greenfield and his family’s #68 team. The year began with a career-best 3rd-place starting spot at Daytona, a night that ended with a late-race crash in Turn 4 that left him a disappointing 22nd. Following a 28th-place run for TJL Racing, Greenfield was supposed to bring his team back to Charlotte, but they withdrew. He finished 20th the next time out at Texas, 21st at Kentucky, then ran 20th in the Bristol night race, only to be incurred a penalty for dropping ballast on the race track.
Through it all, the AMVETS veterans’ organization continued its support of Greenfield’s #68 team, and invited him to the group’s national convention in August, where he was awarded a lifetime membership. Greenfield’s patriotic-themed Chevrolet carried the message “Please Stand,” referencing the group’s stance on the ongoing “Take A Knee” protests. Greenfield’s own tie with the NFL is his wife Tandra, a former cheerleader for the Tennessee Titans who he married in 2015.
This newest backing from AMVETS came after several small businesses supported his team, including Clutch Defense, Titan Paint Sprayers, and 1-800-Pavement, the latter tied to Greenfield’s part-time work in the paving industry. The black pavement scheme gained its most attention in the final laps of the 2013 Last Chance Qualifier at Eldora, where his RAM raced door-to-door with Norm Benning’s Chevrolet for the final transfer spot. Greenfield looked to do much better at Talladega, where he’d earned a career-best 8th just last fall.
Greenfield was one of 36 drivers entered to attempt Saturday’s 32-truck field. After not running a lap in opening practice, he ranked 17th of 26 drivers in Happy Hour, then ran 18th in qualifying with a lap of 178.271mph (53.716 seconds). Fastest of the four drivers to miss the show was defending last-placer Norm Benning in the #6 H&H Transport Chevrolet. Joining him were Joey Gase in the #83 PFK Foundation / Sparks Energy, Inc. Chevrolet, Ray Ciccarelli in the #0 CMI Installations Chevrolet, and Jamie Mosley, slowest overall in Premium Motorsports’ #15 VIP Racing Experience Chevrolet.
Starting 32nd and last on Saturday was Wendell Chavous, who announced on Monday that Talladega would be his 50th and final series start so he could spend more time with his family and his business. Following the DNQ of his teammate Mosley in the #15, Chavous’ #49 SobrietyNation Chevrolet put up a time of just 173.507mph (55.191 seconds), ranking him last of the five drivers needing Owner Points to make the show.
Prior to the green, Chavous would be joined by no less than seven drivers sent to the rear for pre-race penalties. Five were sent there due to unapproved adjustments: 5th-place Johnny Sauter (#21 ISM Connect Chevrolet), 10th-place Austin Hill (#02 Young’s Building Systems / Randco Chevrolet), 11th-place Stewart Friesen (#52 We Build America Chevrolet), 20th-place Parker Kligerman (#75 Food Country USA Chevrolet), and 31st-place John Hunter Nemechek (#8 Fleetwing Corporation Chevrolet). In addition, 25th-place Scott Lagasse, Jr. (#30 Strutmasters.com Toyota) was sent to the back for an engine change, 28th-place Myatt Snider (#13 RideTV Ford) for a tire change, and FS1 reported 16th-place Justin Haley went to the back because NASCAR didn’t like where the cooling devices were located on his #24 Fraternal Order of Eagles Chevrolet.
Greenfield, meanwhile, dropped back in the early laps, and appeared to be among the six trucks who fell back of the lead pack in a single-file group by Lap 3. On Lap 11, he had completely lost touch with the trucks around him, and went a lap down as the field roared by to his high side in Turn 1. By the time the race restarted after Stage 2, Greenfield was behind the wall, done for the day with suspension issues. Chris Knight tweeted that he had come down pit road with smoke trailing from his Chevrolet.
Intense, but surprisingly clean racing kept the Bottom Five open for much of the race. 31st ended up with Las Vegas last-placer Tanner Thorson, who also suffered suspension issues on the #12 K&L Ready Mix / Nyloxin Chevrolet following a flat left-rear tire that sent him spinning down the backstretch. Joe Nemechek qualified a strong 7th in the #87 Fleetwing Corporation Chevrolet and led his first two laps of the season before a vibration eliminated him at the 50-lap mark. Rounding out the group were two of the drivers eliminated in the day’s biggest accident on Lap 59. After he was collected in the Turn 4 pileup, Parker Kligerman’s #75 careened down the banking and crossed the nose of Bo LeMastus’ #54 Fred’s / Crosley Brands Toyota. Kligerman then struck the inside wall nearly head-on. After crews came to the scene, Kligerman climbed out and lay on his back for a moment before he walked away, apparently without serious injury.
The wreck that collected Kligerman and LeMastus was triggered by one of a number of intriguing underdog storylines. Plate-race specialist Chris Fontaine fielded a chassis called “Freak,” a truck built for Bobby Hamilton Motorsports’ Dodge effort in 1998. The full pedigree of the truck is discussed in this article by racing-reference.info writer NASCARMAN at this link. On Saturday, Fontaine had worked his way up to 2nd, pushing Grant Enfinger to lthe lead with 38 laps to go. Moments later, Fontaine crossed the nose of a closing Justin Haley, sending him spinning down, then back up the track. While the driver was uninjured, there was little left of “Freak” as the #47 Glenden Enterprises Toyota was towed to the infield, 24th at the finish.
When we last heard of Jim Rosenblum’s team FDNY Racing, the team had reportedly shut down permanently after driver Bryan Duzat failed to qualify for this year’s season opener at Daytona. But when the preliminary entry list for Talladega was posted, Dauzat and the #28 FDNY / O.B. Builders Chevrolet were right there. This time around, the driver made the cut, squeezing his way into the 27th and final spot set on speed by a half-second over Norm Benning. In the race, Dauzat flirted with the 20th spot, then jumped to 6th after the big wreck and 5th with 20 laps to go. After slipping back to 13th in the final laps, Dauzat climbed back up to 8th by the finish – the first-ever top-ten finish for team owner Rosenblum after 35 years in NASCAR.
After starting 22nd, owner-driver Jennifer Jo Cobb ran up to the 6th spot on Lap 29, firmly defending her spot in a single-file draft. Her #10 Osage Contractors / Driven2Honor.org Chevrolet then climbed up to the front row to start the final stage, only to be moved to the middle lane and out of the lead draft. She then worked her way up to the 11th spot at the finish, closing out the day with three laps led during the yellow for the big wreck. These were the first laps Cobb led since Chicagoland, and the first time she’d ever led multiple laps in a Truck Series race.
Austin Hill came to Talladega with a career-best 8th two months ago in Mosport and six top-ten finishes, and though he’d finished 10th three times before Saturday, Talladega’s was a career run. Hill led two laps early, then found himself out front for the start of Stage 2, where he led another six circuits. Third on the restart for the final stage, Hill was black flagged for passing Cobb below the yellow line, and lost a lap with 18 to go. He then earned the Lucky Dog when Todd Gilliland wrecked off Turn 4 with six laps to go, and just like that, the #02 was back battling into the Top 5 – only to be ensnared in the last-lap tangle after race winner Timothy Peters dumped Noah Gragson. Teammate Max Tullman in the #20 YurPal.com Chevrolet finished one spot in front of Hill, his first top-ten finish in just his third series start, and his first run better than 23rd.
Driving through the smoke in a #3 Rusty’s Off Road Toyota without the manufacturer’s crest on the dislodged grille of his machine, fan favorite Jordan Anderson was all smiles with a 7th-place finish, backing up his 9th-place run in this year’s Daytona opener with a new career-best. Anderson had made just one Talladega start in the series before – three years ago, when he ran 19th for Mike Harmon, who dropped charges brought against Anderson earlier this month relating to one of his race trucks.
Robby Lyons earned a ride in Josh Reaume's #33 Sunwest Construction Chevrolet and worked his way into contention in the final laps. Making his first Truck Series start since his release from Premium Motorsports, Lyons made a bid for a top-ten finish before he ended up 14th, his best run since a 13th in this year's Daytona race and the best-ever for Reaume's young team.
To cap it off, Wendell Chavous closed out his Truck Series career in style. Running 7th just moments before Gragson wrecked, he climbed into the 5th position at the moment of caution, then pulled alongside race winner Timothy Peters as both took the checkered flag. NASCAR.com’s leaderboard even showed Chavous across the stripe first, though the official results would later be set by the scoring loops. Prior to Saturday, Chavous’ best finish had been 12th, which came both at Daytona and Texas earlier this year. It was also the first top-five finish for Jay Robinson’s Truck Series team in 112 combined starts dating back to 2015.
*This marked the first last-place run for the #68 in Truck Series competition since Greenfield’s first last-place run at Charlotte on May 18, 2012, when his #68 @ClayGreenfield RAM fell out with power steering issues after 6 laps of the North Carolina Education Lottery 200. The number had never trailed a Truck race at Talladega.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
32) #68-Clay Greenfield / 47 laps / suspension
31) #12-Tanner Thorson / 48 laps / suspension
30) #87-Joe Nemechek / 50 laps / vibration / led 2 laps
29) #54-Bo LeMastus / 58 laps / crash / led 1 lap
28) #75-Parker Kligerman / 58 laps / crash
2018 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) MB Motorsports (6)
2nd) Beaver Motorsports, Copp Motorsports (3)
3rd) NEMCO Motorsports (2)
4th) Clay Greenfield Motorsports, Mike Harmon Racing, Norm Benning Racing, TJL Racing, Young’s Motorsports (1)
2018 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (19)
2018 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP