Chris Hacker picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 Presented By Westgate Resorts at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway when his #45 Charred Flags Chevrolet fell out with crash damage after 6 of 134 laps.
The finish came in Hacker’s 2nd series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the first under the Damaged Vehicle Policy (DVP), it was the 6th for the #45, and the 413th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 4th by DVP, the 40th for the #45, and the 1,806th for Chevrolet.
The 21-year-old Hacker is the latest of a series of Truck Series competitors who have championed the cause of medical conditions they have dealt with in their lives. Following Armani Williams, who was diagnosed with Autism, and both Todd Peck and Natalie Decker, who have fought arthritis, Hacker suffered nerve damage in his left arm from a Brachial Plexus injury. After years of surgery and therapy, Hacker has both raised money and lectured on the topic, and has used his racing career to bring further attention to the cause.
That racing career began at the age of eight in quarter midgets, and by 2020 earned him an ARCA Menards Series West ride with Andy Hillenburg’s Fast Track Racing Team at Phoenix. He finished 15th of the 27 starters, two laps down. Another one-off ARCA national series start came this past summer at Charlotte, where he ran 10th for Kevin Cram. A bid at the Truck Series, announced last August, had originally entered him in a second On Point Motorsports entry at Gateway. When metric qualifying kept that truck out of the race, Hacker jumped aboard Josh Reaume’s #34, and overcame initial mechanical issues to finish 27th.
Las Vegas would be Hacker’s first Truck Series start since the Gateway event, and this time would come in Al Niece’s #45 – an entry suddenly freed up after Brett Moffitt parted ways with the program earlier this year. Hacker brought backing from woodworking website Charred Flags, and the nickname “Hackerman” was on the roof rails of his Chevrolet. He’d line up 27th, again due to metric qualifying.
The preliminary entry list showed 38 trucks entered for 40 spots, but the list shrank to 37 after Dawson Cram didn’t bring his #41 Be Water Chevrolet to the track. Drawing the last spot was Alaska native Keith McGee, whose extraordinary path to CMI Motorsports’ #49 Dirty Goth Boi Ford involved a literal gamble with professional gambler Mikki Mase. The crew had a backup hood with the Dirty Goth logo set aside by the team’s hauler. Several fans of both McGee and XFINITY Series newcomer Matt Jaskol were on hand in a vacant pit stall to send off the #49.
McGee’s late driver swap with CMI team owner Ray Ciccarelli incurred him a redundant tail-end penalty along with 36th-place Dylan Lupton for unapproved adjustments on the #34 Marques General Engineering on the hood. McGee made one more pass down pit road by himself before the race started. When it did, there was a logjam around midway up the inside line, causing 19th-place Chase Purdy’s #23 BamaBuggies.com Chevrolet to drive into the back of the truck in front of him. Purdy continued on, but under the first caution would pit for a patch of tape on the left-front corner of his truck’s nose.
As the race went underway, McGee remained in last place with new 37th-place runner Bret Holmes in the #32 Southern States Bank Chevrolet. Holmes then reeled in 36th-place Jennifer Jo Cobb in the #10 Fastener Supply Company Ford, and Cobb then dropped back toward the approaching McGee. McGee was within striking distance of the #10 when the caution fell for an incident in Turn 4.
Hacker, who was still running near the tail end of the field, spun and backed into the Turn 4 wall, damaging the left-rear corner of his truck and buckling the rear deck. He managed to make it to pit road, where the six-minute “Crash Clock” began to count down. Under the ensuing first caution of the race, the team facilitated repairs, pushing the bent panels and taping them back in place. He returned to the track off the lead lap, but on Lap 9 was seen on camera running off the pace. Back on pit road on the 11th circuit, Hacker’s team was then informed by NASCAR that their “Crash Clock” had expired. The team pushed the #45 behind the wall on the Turn 1 side of pit road, then parked their truck next to their hauler, last in line. Hacker could not be reached for a quote, but his mother indicated he will next run in Martinsville.
A brutal wreck on Lap 71 ended up filling most of the Bottom Five. The incident started when Tyler Ankrum’s #26 Liuna Chevrolet broke loose in Turn 1. Chandler Smith, whose #18 Safelite Auto Glass Toyota was running the high lane, couldn’t avoid contact and skated down to the inside of the track, where Ankrum also collected Chase Purdy’s #23 and Hailie Deegan in the #1 Craftsman Ford. Meanwhile, Sheldon Creed had cut to the apron in his #2 LiftKits4Less.com Chevrolet, and collided with Smith at high speed, destroying both trucks and starting a fire under the hood of the #2. Creed, Smith, and Ankrum climbed from their vehicles and were checked and released from the infield care center.
Rounding out the Bottom Five was John Hunter Nemechek, whose metric qualifying pole mirrored his pre-race standing as the presumptive favorite. Nemechek’s #4 Berry’s Bullets Toyota started sputtering with an electrical issue, and would lose multiple laps in the process, finishing 49 laps down, but under power. Another three trucks ahead of him failed to finish, including McGee, who was flagged off the track for not maintaining minimum speed.
|Tyler Hill rolls his battered truck to pit road after the race.|
Tyler Hill Frustrated With Last-Lap Wreck
The race, which saw Christian Eckes score his first career series win, ended under caution following a last-lap crash. The wreck totaled the unsponsored #56 Chevrolet of Tyler Hill, which happened to be the last 1.5-mile truck in the Hill Motorsports’ stable. While no other 1.5-mile tracks remain in 2021, Hill was less than pleased with how his race ended.
“We were just racing hard for nothing way back in the pack and I think it was the #02 - I believe it was Kris Wright - just felt like a hero on the last lap racing for God knows what probably 18th and just decided he wanted to destroy us on last lap. So this is so unfortunate - this is the last mile-and-a-half truck that we had. At least we don't have any more mile-and-a-halves to go to but just completely wipes us out for the year. And I guess we start start building new trucks for next year.”
I also asked Tyler about the race up to that point.
“We had a great truck - we just unfortunately with our budget we didn't have a set of tires there at the end to put on and we had some trucks that shouldn't have been around us driving up through the field. They get coming on you so fast with tires that they think they can just do anything and unfortunately some drivers just don't have the experience to handle that. It winds up killing some guys that can't be killing trucks and and it's just not a whole lot more you can do about it really. Part of it.”
I have reached out to Young’s Motorsports for a comment from Wright on the incident.
Bret Holmes Earns Career-Best 11th
Further up the standings, Bret Holmes had continued his climb through the field from 35th on the grid to finish in 11th – his best-ever finish as a driver by a full 16 spots. I caught up with Holmes after the race:
“Yeah, I mean for me at least,” said Holmes. “Our team has ran a little bit better when Sam (Mayer) raced with us earlier in the year. But yeah, we really needed that. We've had a bad stretch of races here as far as just execution and luck goes all around. And it's been a tough summer for us really so I'm glad. It's been a while. . .I was one off from a Top Ten - I was hoping I could at least get a Top Ten, but I'm satisfied with today's race with how everything's been going for sure.”
I asked how the race played out for him with all the hard crashes throughout:
“I mean it's just on restarts, it's so hard on lane choice, and you make one wrong decision, you can lose five spots just like that. So I feel like I made two wrong decisions on choosing the inside as far as a few laps after the restarts go. So the more races in these trucks, then the better I'll be that instinct or decision making so I'll get better at that and we'll continue to improve for sure. Without practice, our notebook's starting off in the race, so it's been it's been tough but we're getting there.”
Finally, I asked Holmes on his plans for 2022.
“Yeah, plans are still kind of coming together. They're just kind of now starting to talk. . .just kind of more dependent on sponsorship, what we can do so. I definitely feel like we'll be in Trucks for sure, Trucks in some capacity. And then maybe ARCA - I'm not sure about that - but we'll see.”
*This marked the first Truck Series last-place finish for the #45 since June 12th of this year, when Ross Chastain was disqualified for an illegal throttle body. All six of the last-place finishes for the #45 in Truck Series history have come with different drivers – Rich Bickle (1999), Tommy Regan (2014), Ty Majeski (2020), Trevor Bayne (2020), and Chastain (2021).
*Early exits from the Truck Series race at Las Vegas are extremely common – so common, in fact, that the six laps Hacker completed are the fourth-most in the 29 races of the track’s Truck Series history. Conor Daly set the record high with 68 laps this past spring.
*There have now been 19 different last-place finishers in as many Truck Series races in 2021 with just three races to go.
*The DVP has now been the official last-place finish reason for at least one Cup, XFINITY, and Truck Series race (four total as of this writing).
THE BOTTOM FIVE
37) #45-Chris Hacker / 6 laps / dvp
36) #2-Sheldon Creed / 70 laps / crash
35) #18-Chandler Smith / 70 laps / crash
34) #26-Tyler Ankrum / 70 laps / crash
33) #4-John Hunter Nemechek / 85 laps / running
2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Niece Motorsports (6)
2nd) GMS Racing (3)
3rd) Rackley-W.A.R., Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
4th) CMI Motorsports, Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, Kyle Busch Motorsports, Norm Benning Racing, Roper Racing, Young’s Motorsports (1)
2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (14)
2nd) Toyota (3)
3rd) Ford (2)
2021 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP