Saturday, September 10, 2022

TRUCKS: Timely mid-race driver change and untimely engine issue leave Brett Moffitt last in Kansas

ALL PHOTOS: @DnfRacers

by Brock Beard Editor-in-Chief

Brett Moffitt picked up the 1st last-place finish of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career in Friday’s Kansas Lottery 200 at the Kansas Speedway when his #22 Concrete Supply / Destiny Homes Chevrolet fell out with engine problems after 73 of 134 laps.

The finish came in Moffitt’s 92nd series start. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 6th for the #22, the 140th from engine issues, and the 426th for Chevrolet. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 42nd for the #22, 1,127th from an engine, and the 1,858th for Chevrolet.

The 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Champion, Moffitt made the move to GMS Racing the following year and made the Championship Four the next two seasons in a row. But both times, he fell just short of claiming a second title, including a brutal late-race restart in the 2020 race at Phoenix. Driving a “throwback” scheme in honor of the soon to be retiring Jimmie Johnson, Moffitt led 78 laps and was still out front with two laps to go when Dawson Cram’s spin forced the race into overtime. Sheldon Creed, Moffitt’s teammate, came away with the title.

The 2020 season coincided with Moffitt joining upstart Our Motorsports on the XFINITY Series side, earning a Top Five and seven Top Tens despite running just 29 of the 33 races. The next year, when an attempted move to Niece Motorsports’ Truck team led to a mutual decision to part ways, Moffitt committed his entire focus to Our’s #02 team, ranking 21st in points with another Top Five and ten Top Tens. But this season, that ride has also fallen through – he finished 16th in his last start with the team at Indianapolis, and coming into Kansas had not made a XFINITY start since.

For Kansas, Moffitt would pull double-duty, and in each case take the place of drivers who had run each series nearly full-time. His XFINITY return would be with SS-Green Light Racing, taking the place of Joe Graf, Jr. in the #07 Ford. On the Truck Series side, he’d replace Austin Wayne Self in AM Racing’s #22 Chevrolet. Moffitt brought with him sponsors Concrete Supply and Destiny Homes, which had backed several of his previous rides in both series. Moffitt’s only previous Truck Series start this season came at Knoxville, where he finished 32nd with the same team. 

In practice, Moffitt ranked 24th of 38 entrants, then improved slightly to 20th in qualifying with a lap of 170.541mph (31.664 seconds). The two drivers who failed to qualify – Tate Fogleman in the #26 Dickies, Realtree, Camospace Chevrolet, and Trey Hutchens III in the #14 Quality Roof Seamers Chevrolet - both ran faster than three other entrants who qualified: 34th-plce Spencer Boyd in the #12 Probuilt Pool & Patio Chevrolet, and the Reaume Brothers Racing duo of 35th-place Armani Williams in the #43 Hedgehog Health Chevrolet and Mason Maggio in the #33 Professional Ag Services Toyota. This was a change from the preliminary entry list, which had Reaume himself in the #33 and Maggio in the #43, putting Williams into only the third race of his Truck career.

On the night of the race, Maggio, Williams, and Moffitt were three of the four drivers who incurred tail-end penalties for unapproved adjustments, joined by Brennan Poole in G2G Racing’s #46 Macc Door Systems Toyota. Much like Sonoma, the G2G team was working under the hood of their truck during impound. According to Colby Evans, who caught a picture of the team working, there was fluid on the truck’s right-rear.

Armani Williams pulls the #43 behind the wall---

When the race started, Maggio’s #33 – running last year’s Toyota model – was last across the stripe, though he made quick work of teammate Williams in the #43. So began a difficult evening for Williams. On Lap 4, his #43 was already 3 seconds back of 35th-place Maggio, 5.737 back on Lap 7, and 7389 on Lap 10. Two circuits later, his was the first to be lapped by then-leader Ty Majeski coming off Turn 4. By Lap 23, Williams was on his way to losing a second lap to the leaders, and was warned by his crew to pick up his speed. “You’re on the line, gotta go,” they said. “Keep digging.” Complicating the matter was a radio issue, one which required extra attention from the team just before the field rolled away. Williams’ radio had heavy static, and Josh Reaume suggested he speak slower and for the future get a noise-canceling microphone. With four to go in Stage 1, the leaders split Williams at the stripe, putting him a second lap behind.

Under the Stage 1 ending caution, Reaume asked for an update on how the #43 was handling. With some difficulty, Williams relayed his truck was tight, particularly off Turn 4, and that the tight condition grew worse longer in the run. Reporting a 239-degree water temperature, Williams made his stop on Lap 35, and was warned not to rev the truck up as he stopped. On Lap 36, he also climbed past Maggio into 35th, a spot he retained even as the crew had him fall to the rear for the restart.

But by Lap 52, Williams was black-flagged for not maintaining minimum speed, and his crew had to shout “Pit!” twice before he came in. “You’ve gotta tell me what your truck is doing,” said Reaume. “Are you loose or are you tight?” As Williams retook last from Maggio during the lengthy stop for adjustments, the caution came out on Lap 55 for Bayley Currey’s near-spin in the #44 Niece Chevrolet. Williams returned to the track during the yellow, only to be told by NASCAR that he’d be parked for failing to meet minimum speed. But Reaume was able to talk with NASCAR officials about swapping in as driver, and was soon running to the hauler to change. The team hoped to bring Williams in after the caution, but NASCAR told him to pull into the garage immediately, which was done – although Williams had difficulty pulling into the correct garage entrance and at least once had to back up. If Williams had taken the green to start Stage 3, he would’ve been parked, done for the day. But by pulling in earlier, the driver change was allowed.

---and Josh Reaume returns to the track in the same truck!

On Lap 65, Reaume was strapped into the #43 and re-fired the engine. He returned to the track just as the caution fell for another miraculous save, this time Kaden Honeycutt reeling in the #30 Friends of Jaclyn Toyota from a near-spin down the backstretch. Reaume returned to the track as Honeycutt pitted, and discussed with his team about which set of tires to run. “I hope they’re patient with me,” said Reaume of NASCAR. On Lap 71, the team relayed from NASCAR “The official says if you keep doing it like that, you’ll be good.” 

Moffitt didn’t enter the last-place battle again until Lap 74, when coming off Turn 4 his truck erupted in smoke, then flame, trailing fluid from his failing engine. He stopped on the apron past the stripe and climbed out, done for the day. It was the latest in a this season's series of fires resulting in last-place finishes on the Truck Series side, joining Hailie Deegan at Atlanta, Dean Thompson at Martinsville, and Spencer Boyd at IRP.  

This caution allowed Reaume to order several changes to his truck, which felt like it was “on top of the race track.” Among the changes were a packer pulled from the left-front, dropping four turns from the track bar, which then changed to “a round-and-a-half out of both rears” and “two blues out of the left-front.” Reaume also called for a drink, saying “It’s like hot chocolate in here.” The crew laughed, saying “Driver, you’ve only run three laps,” to Reaume’s response, “I ate pizza for breakfast. I didn’t think I was getting in a truck tonight.” Reaume also thanked NASCAR for allowing his team to continue with him behind the wheel. “Tell that NASCAR official that’s standing down there thank you for working with us,” he said on Lap 80.

On Lap 86, Reaume’s work paid off, and the #43 passed Moffitt’s retired #22 for 35th place. He’d ultimately climb no further, logging just 13 more laps before he pulled into the garage on Lap 103, still listed as “too slow.” Both were the race’s only retirees as Poole, Boyd, and Maggio completed the Bottom Five. Boyd also spent a brief stay in the garage on Lap 99, but was listed as finishing under power.

Moffitt had a much better day in Saturday’s rain-shortened XFINITY race, battling amongst the Top 10, then rebounding from contact with the wall to finish 10th.

*This marked the first last-place finish for the #22 in a Truck Series race at Kansas.
*Moffitt is now just one Cup Series last-place finish from completing the LASTCAR Triple Crown.

36) #22-Brett Moffitt / 73 laps / engine
35) #43-Armani Williams / 86 laps / too slow
34) #46-Brennan Poole / 123 laps / running
33) #12-Spencer Boyd / 124 laps / running
32) #33-Mason Maggio / 126 laps / running

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

1st) Chevrolet (10)
2nd) Toyota (6)
3rd) Ford (3)


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