Saturday, July 9, 2022

TRUCKS: The G2G saga continues at Mid-Ohio, where Mason Filippi scores historic last-place finish

PHOTO: @BrandonKCarl

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Mason Filippi picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 150 at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course when his #46 Toyota fell out with engine trouble after 9 of 67 laps.

The finish came in Filippi’s series debut. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 8th for the #46, the 46th for Toyota, and the 139th from engine issues. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 45th for the #46, the 378th for Toyota, and the 1,123rd from engine problems.

With the last-place finish, Filippi became the ninth consecutive driver to score his first career Truck Series last-place finish. This ties a series record from the first nine Truck Series points races ever run in 1995: John Borneman at Phoenix, Stan Fox at Tucson, Sammy Swindell at Saugus, Dave Ashley at Mesa Marin, Mike Hulrbert at Portland, T.J. Clark at Evergreen, Ron Esau at I-70, Frank Davis at Louisville, and John Nemechek at Bristol. Esau ended the streak on July 1, 1995 at the Milwaukee Mile. Filippi was one of 15 drivers who started Saturday’s race in position to extend the streak.

Three of the previous eight last-place finishes have come with G2G Racing’s #46, which has continued to struggle through the summer. On May 27, Brennan Poole’s ride in the team’s Toyota ended after 38 laps when the driveshaft came apart entering Turn 1. Two weeks later came the debacle at Sonoma, where Filippi was originally set to make his Truck Series debut following a 25th-place run for DGM Racing’s XFINITY team in Portland. According to the driver, the truck wasn’t ready to race competitively, so he climbed out. Stefan Parsons drove in Filippi’s place, only for an oil cooler to fail in the opening laps, leaving them last again. Next came Chase Janes’ debut in Nashville, a race he wasn’t even set to start when mechanical issues kept him from turning a lap in qualifying. These same issues made Janes miss the start, and when he finally hit the track on Lap 33, the truck shut down again, ending his day.

Filippi would run for G2G again in Saturday’s road course return at Mid-Ohio, where he would drive the exact same #46 that had trouble in Sonoma. With 36 drivers entered for as many spots in a stand-alone weekend at the track for the Truck Series, no drivers or teams would be sent home after qualifying. This was particularly well-timed as weather played a factor on Saturday. 

During a practice session deemed “moist,” so wet tires were not used, Filippi’s truck spent the least amount of time on track of anyone. He completed just a single lap that was a full 11.968 seconds off the fastest speed and more than five seconds off the next-slowest truck. That truck was the #43 COMPKART Toyota of Stephen Mallozzi, who was preparing for his series debut in the same truck Jade Buford ran in Sonoma. According to Mallozzi, Filippi’s truck was leaking oil during his lap. Mallozzi’s #43 hit the oil coming off the right-hander at Turn 9, sending him sliding into a tire barrier with the driver’s side. Mallozzi was frustrated, but uninjured, and the crew managed to repair his truck with tape.

Rain picked up in qualifying, requiring the wet weather tires. Multiple trucks slid off the course, including Chandler Smith, whose Toyota had to be pulled out of a gravel pit, and the final round was ultimately scrubbed. When it was over, Mallozzi took the 36th and final starting spot while Filippi managed to climb to 24th with a lap of 2 minutes, 7.614 seconds (63.698mph). 

On race day, three teams were sent to the back for unapproved adjustments: 14th-place Austin Wayne Self in the #22 AM Technical Solutions Chevrolet, 23rd-place Derek Kraus in the #19 NAPA AutoCare Chevrolet, and 33rd-place Kris Wright in the #44 F.N.B. Corporation Chevrolet. Not falling to the rear was Grant Enfinger, who broke the transmission on his #23 Champion Power Equipment Chevrolet during Saturday’s practice session. When the green flag dropped, intervals indicated Wright was already up to 30th place with Self 33rd and Kraus 35th. Stephen Mallozzi’s repaired #43 didn’t show an interval for a couple seconds, finally showing a gap of 7.921 seconds behind the leader to Kraus’ 5.716, a gap of 2.657 seconds.

Over the next few laps, Mallozzi continued to lose ground to the rest of the field. On Lap 2, he was 21.82 seconds back of the leader and 8.233 behind new 35th-place runner Spencer Boyd in the #12 Crowe Equipment Chevrolet. On Lap 3, the gap from Mallozzi to Boyd increased to 12.163 seconds, then 17.150 on Lap 4 and 21.068 on Lap 5. That time by, Filippi had slipped back to the 32nd spot, and was 2.663 behind Kris Wright. The next time by, Filippi slipped another three spots to 35th behind Boyd, and was now 23.646 seconds ahead of the trailing Mallozzi. 

But Filippi’s engine now sounded rough, and the truck was now off the pace. According to the driver, a wire against the headers shorted out, and the truck started to lose power around Lap 2. The brake issues from practice had also returned. By Lap 8, Filippi had slowed to a crawl and pulled off the track on a run-off lane halfway around the track. While away from the racing line, NASCAR still threw the caution, at which point Filippi re-fired the engine and returned to the track. At this point, there also appeared to be some damage to his driver's side door. By the time the yellow fell, Filippi had gone a lap down, and promptly took last from Mallozzi. He made at least one stop under the caution and returned to the track for the Lap 11 restart, though now two laps down.

Just one lap after the race restarted, Filippi’s truck fell off the pace again, and the leaders caught him as he coasted into Turn 8. Filippi pulled to driver’s left out of the racing line, losing a third lap in the process, and just managed to complete his ninth lap of the race on his return to pit road. By Lap 16, Filippi was behind the wall. According to a source, Filippi’s crew addressed a possible fuel pump issue, but also believe the truck was running low on oil. Around Lap 24, NASCAR confirmed Filippi was out of the race due to engine issues. 

Also declared out with Filippi was newcomer Trey Burke III, who made his NASCAR national touring series debut in Randy Young’s #20 Randco Industries Chevrolet. By Lap 17, Burke had twice driven off course into the gravel traps. Both times, he managed to return to the track under his own power, but coming off pit road on Lap 17, he stalled at the entrance to Turn 1, drawing the caution flag. After crews checked on the truck, it was pushed behind the wall, and ultimately retired from the race with rear gear issues.

Japanese racer Kenko Miura, making his NASCAR national series debut in Josh Reaume’s primary entry, the #33 24 Needs 24 Toyota, didn’t restart Stage 2 with the rest of the field. After 25 laps of repairs, he returned to the track and in the closing stages of the event climbed past Connor Mosack, whose #32 Nic Tailor Chevrolet lost the brakes after 37 laps. Rounding out the Bottom Five, still five laps ahead of Miura, was Dylan Lupton, whose #7 Lupton Excavation, Inc. Chevrolet backed into a wall in the final 20 laps.

Finishing a strong 7th was Kaz Grala, a frequent contender on the road courses, who earned his first top-ten finish since last year’s runner-up finish at COTA by taking 7th in Randy Young’s #02 Ruedebusch Development Chevrolet. His last three Top Tens in the Truck Series have all come on road courses. Two spots behind came Colby Howard, who earned his first career Top Ten in 20 career Truck Series starts by taking 9th in his #91 Gates Hydraulics Chevrolet. Howard’s previous best finish was earlier this year at Kansas, where he took 11th. And Stephen Mallozzi, who took the green flag with open track behind the entire field, recovered to take 22nd – the last truck on the lead lap – in his first ever NASCAR start.

But the star of the show was race winner Parker Kligerman, who earned his second Truck Series victory for longtime NASCAR team owner Charlie Henderson. In his 106th Truck Series start, but only the 80th for Henderson, Kligerman’s #75 Food Country USA / Tide Chevrolet led three times for 56 of the race’s 67 laps and ultimately held off a furious charge from Zane Smith. It was as emotional a victory for Kligerman, who believed his racing career was over just months earlier, and for the Henderson team, which has been active in NASCAR’s top three series since at least 1982 – 40 years ago.

36) #46-Mason Filippi / 9 laps / engine
35) #20-Trey Burke III / 16 laps / rear gear
34) #32-Connor Mosack / 37 laps / brakes
33) #33-Kenko Miura / 42 laps / running
32) #7-Dylan Lupton / 47 laps / crash

1st) G2G Racing (4)
2nd) Niece Motorsports (3)
3rd) David Gilliland Racing, Reaume Brothers Racing (2)
4th) AM Racing, Front Row Motorsports, McAnally-Hilgemann Racing, Young’s Motorsports (1)

1st) Chevrolet (7)
2nd) Toyota (5)
3rd) Ford (3)


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