by Brock Beard
Tyler Carpenter picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s Clean Harbors 150 at the Knoxville Raceway when his #41 Aggressive Chevrolet fell out with a broken driveshaft after 65 of 150 laps.
The finish came in Carpenter’s series debut. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 3rd for the #41, the 6th from driveshaft issues, and the 423rd for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 28th from a driveshaft, the 58th for the #41, and the 1,844th for Chevrolet.
Last December, Niece Motorsports announced a “Win and You’re In” program where the winner of the Gateway Dirt Nationals would earn a ride with the Truck Series team in this year’s Knoxville event. The checkers fell to Carpenter, his second-straight victory in the event, though his driving style and outspoken victory lane interview rubbed some the wrong way. "I went and earned my ass a truck ride and y'all are gonna have to watch it!" he said. The 31-year-old native of Parkersburg, West Virginia would be sponsored by graphic design firm Aggressive - his same backer from Gateway - and Rich Mar Florist in the same #41 entry run part-time this year by the Cup Series’ breakout star Ross Chastain.
Carpenter began the weekend 17th in opening practice, then 30th in the second session. This secured him 6th on the grid for Heat Race #3. That race saw him climb as high as 2nd to Hailie Deegan on the very first lap. He then made some daring slides through the corners to try and hold off Buddy Kofoid and Ben Rhodes. Ultimately, both would make their way past, and Carpenter came home 4th. When the passing points were totaled, this placed him 14th on the 36-truck grid for the main event.
The four 15-lap heats – the first pair with 10 trucks, and the last two with 9 - were run without serious incident.
In Heat Race #1, Brayton Laster started last in Reaume Brothers Racing’s #33 PatrickFabrication.com Chevrolet. By Lap 6, he’d passed Norm Benning, whose #6 Circle B Diecast Chevrolet had the names of several well-wishers on the rear decklid of his black machine. A tight condition caused Benning to fall 1.749 seconds back of Laster by Lap 9. With two laps to go, race leader John Hunter Nemechek caught Benning through Turns 3 and 4 and put him a lap down on his way to victory. Benning ended up the first of two drivers who failed to qualify for the main event.
In Heat Race #2, Bryson Mitchell rolled off 10th in G2G Racing’s #46 Sparks Energy Toyota 0.354 second behind his brother Braden Mitchell in the #53 Twisted Chevrolet for upstart team Sparks Motorsports. Bryson finally caught older brother Braden by Lap 11, the pair just 0.030 second apart at the stripe before Braden took over last place. Two laps later, Braden dropped Jack Wood to last in the #24 chevyliners.com Chevrolet. While Wood ended up last, 12.177 seconds back of the leader and 0.463 behind the Mitchell brothers, Braden’s new #53 entry wound up joining Benning as the second DNQ of the night.
Heat Race #3 saw Canadian dirt tracker Dylan Westbrook roll off 9th in the #3 Townline Variety Chevrolet for Jordan Anderson Racing. Ahead of Westbrook was Matt DiBenedetto, whose #25 Rackley Roofing / WAR Shocks Chevrolet soon caught and passed Spencer Boyd in the #12 Freedom Warranty Chevrolet. This put Boyd in Westbrook’s sights, dropping the #12 to last on Lap 4. From there, Boyd gradually lost touch with Westbrook. The 0.767 second gap on Lap 6 grew to 3.380 seconds by the checkered flag.
The grid for Heat Race #4 was rounded out by Lawless Alan in the #45 AUTOParkIt Chevrolet. On the initial start, Blaine Perkins slipped to 8th place in the #9 Raceline Chevrolet, but Alan wasn’t able to complete a pass. Instead, on Lap 6, Alan slipped during an incident off camera and was suddenly 11.064 behind the #9. Alan inched his way closer to Perkins, drawing within 9.741 seconds of Perkins’ Chevrolet, but the deficit grew again in the final laps to 12.978 at the checkered flag.
Jack Wood, who finished last in Heat Race #2, secured the 36th and final starting spot behind Boyd, last in Heat Race #3, and 34th-place Alan, last in Heat Race #4. Boyd and Wood missed driver introductions, each incurring redundant tail-end penalties that kept them in the final two starting spots.
As the race started, Wood pulled ahead of Boyd based on intervals – the #24 crossed the stripe 5.025 seconds back of the leader to Boyd’s 5.208. On Lap 3, Boyd passed the #43 Spry Chevrolet of Devon Rouse, who held the spot until Lap 5, when Rouse edged teammate Brayton Laster at the stripe by 0.040 second. The two had just received the caution flag, which came out for 2022 LASTCAR Truck Series leader Dean Thompson, whose #40 Worldwide Express Chevrolet spun after a hit from Christian Eckes in Turn 1. Thompson lost a left-rear tire as he came to pit road, then stalled his smoking truck a moment later, dropping him a lap down to the leaders. Thompson thus took over last place on Lap 7 and returned to the track as the only driver one lap down.
The race restarted, and leader Carson Hocevar in the #42 Worldwide Express Chevrolet – this time without a relief driver on standby – began to put other drivers a lap down. Hoecevar had damaged the underside of the nose of his truck on the infield berm after contact from Chandler Smith hooked him in Turn 3 during his heat. The first truck he caught was Brayton Laster’s #33 on Lap 18, which put Thompson out of Lucky Dog contention. The Bottom Five was lapped by the 27th circuit, and Thompson found himself trapped in heavy lead-lap traffic as he went down a second lap. The next caution fell on Lap 32, where Tanner Gray’s #15 Ford Performance Ford spun off the nose of Buddy Kofoid’s #51 Mobil 1 Toyota. A moment later, Spencer Boyd’s #12 locked the brakes, cut left, and banged doors with Gray’s #15, causing noticeable damage to Boyd’s right-rear. Repairs to Boyd’s truck caused him to take last from Thompson on Lap 34, ultimately returning to the track four laps down.
Also down in the order at this point was Ben Rhodes, whose #99 Toyota had been spraying water violently from the overflow due to an overheating issue. Rhodes lost two laps, putting him 34th on the same lap as Thompson. Soon after, Bryson Mitchell’s night took a turn for the worse. After a spirited run through the pack, a mechanical issue sent his #46 Toyota behind the wall for three laps of repairs. He returned to the track by Lap 37 a full three laps down, splitting the now 34th-place Thompson from the still last-place Boyd. The caution forced a one-lap sprint to the end of Stage 1 that was won by Hocevar with Boyd still holding down last, four laps down.
Stage 2 began on Lap 41, and soon Jessica Friesen worked her way to the 20th spot in the #62 Halmar International Toyota. But coming through Turns 3 and 4, possible contact from Kris Wright’s #44 F.N.B. Corporation Chevrolet turned her hard to the left into the muddy berm, sending her truck into a single barrel roll. The caution fell with Friesen’s truck stranded on the berm, but with remarkably little visible damage. After protesting NASCAR’s decision to lift her hood and tow her off the berm, she slowly lost laps to the field and dropped to last place on Lap 63, six laps down to the leaders. While appearing at first to be done for the day, both the FS1 television broadcast and MRN radio call completely missed Friesen’s spin, and it was only through a couple fans in attendance and a couple photographers that the incident was brought to light. For perhaps this reason, Friesen’s crew was able to perform repairs in an attempt to get her back on the track.
On the restart, disaster struck Carson Hocevar, who had led every lap since he passed polesitter Derek Kraus on the initial break. Coming off Turn 4, the engine let go, and he stopped in Turn 1, done for the night. It was during this same caution that Tyler Carpenter was already in the garage area, the driveshaft dragging beneath his #41. By a single lap, Carpenter would rank just beneath Hocevar. And when Jessica Friesen’s crew completed repairs, she passed the two Niece Motorsport trucks around Lap 82. The single lap between Carpenter and Hocevar would thus decide the last-place battle, handing it to Carpenter’s #41. Jessica Friesen would turn just ten more laps after passing Hocevar before brake issues ultimately ended her night. Bryson Mitchell’s lapped #46 fell out with throttle issues after he slowed on the frontstretch on Lap 114. Rounding out the Bottom Five was Brett Moffitt, whose #22 Concrete Supply / Destiny Homes Chevrolet was black flagged for jumping a late-race restart, then suffered crash damage after he ramped onto two wheels on the frontstetch.
*Carpenter is the seventh consecutive first-time last-place finisher in the Truck Series, just two away from tying the all-time series record of nine - the series’ first nine races in 1995. The 1997 season also had two streaks of eight first-timers each.
*This was the first last-place finish for the #41 in a Truck Series race since August 20, 2008, when Tayler Malsam’s #41 ThunderBoats.org Dodge crashed after 53 laps at Bristol.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #41 in a NASCAR points-paying dirt track race since September 28, 1958, when Whitey Norman’s 1957 Chrysler lost the engine on the opening lap of a 110-lap race at the Orange Speedway in Hillsborough, North Carolina. Joe Eubanks won the race where only he and runner-up Doug Cox finished on the lead lap.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
36) #41-Tyler Carpenter / 65 laps / driveshaft
35) #42-Carson Hocevar / 66 laps / engine / led 65 laps / won stage 1
34) #62-Jessica Friesen / 76 laps / brakes
33) #46-Bryson Mitchell / 110 laps / throttle
32) #22-Brett Moffitt / 124 laps / crash
2022 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Niece Motorsports (3)
1st) David Gilliland Racing, G2G Racing, Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
2nd) AM Racing, Front Row Motorsports, McAnally-Hilgemann Racing, Young’s Motorsports (1)
2022 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Ford, Toyota (3)
2022 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP