|PHOTO: GK Racing, @GKRacing95|
by Brock Beard
Clay Greenfield picked up the 4th last-place finish of his NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series career in Saturday’s Toyota 200 at the World Wide Technology Raceway (Gateway) when his #95 Backyard Blues Pools Toyota was involved in a wreck without completing any of the 162 laps.
The finish, which occurred in Greenfield’s 71st start, was his first of the season and first in a Truck Series race since October 13, 2018 at Talladega, 107 races ago. In the Truck Series’ last-place rankings, it was the 7th for the #95, the 51st for Toyota, and the 183rd from a crash. Across NASCAR’s top three series, it was the 28th for the #95, the 395th for Toyota, and the 1,334th from a crash.
When we last saw Greenfield, he arrived at Daytona with the Cook Racing Technologies team, ultimately giving the #84 Backyard Blues Toyota the 31st spot on the grid for the season opener. A crash left him 34th in the final running order in what became the second and final start for the organization. For Gateway, Greenfield and his wife Tandra had partnered with Jordan and Theresa Kiss, the owners of Backyard Blues, and used the first letters of their last names to form “GK Racing.” The number change to the #95 was intended to honor Sadler Brothers Racing, based in the same Nashville region as Backyard Blues. The team’s debut would come on Greenfield’s birthday on Saturday, June 3rd. The team’s hauler still bore the #84 from the team’s previous owner.
Gateway’s preliminary entry list of 38 trucks for 36 spots was quickly whittled down to 35 through the week. First to withdraw were G2G Racing’s #46 for Memphis Villareal, scrapped due to a series of costly accidents in recent weeks, followed by AM Racing’s #22, which had originally been entered for Josh Reaume. Reaume would ultimately return to his #33, taking the place of the originally entered #33. Last to withdraw was On Point Motorsports’ #30, whose scheduled driver Chris Hacker would slide over to Randy Young’s #02 Chevrolet, left open after Young parted ways with driver Kris Wright.
With the short entry list, Greenfield and his team were assured a starting spot along with the rest of the field. In practice, the #95 ranked 30th on speed, then qualifying took 31st with the final spot on speed – 127.169mph (35.386 seconds), 2.817 seconds off the pole.
Starting 35th and last was Rajah Caruth, who after a series of strong runs faced an uphill climb after his #24 Born Driven Chevrolet needed an engine change that kept him from turning a lap in qualifying. Also not qualifying was series veteran Matt Crafton, whose #88 Ideal Door / Menards Ford suffered multiple inspection failures. Both Caruth and Crafton incurred redundant tail-end penalties for Saturday’s race along with unapproved adjustments penalties for 4th-place Carson Hocevar in the #42 Worldwide Express Chevrolet and 32nd-place Josh Reaume in the #33 Driven Ford.
Ultimately, the lineup at the tail end of the field would be jumbled again by the green flag. Based on intervals, the 35th spot fell to Stephen Mallozzi in Reaume’s second truck, the #34 ARS Ford, which was slated to roll off 30th. Showing 3.999 seconds back of the leader, Mallozzi took the green just behind 34th-place Norm Benning, 3.902 back, who was on the grid for the first time since Bristol in his #6 MDIA / Circle B Diecast Chevrolet. Greenfield, originally 31st, was shown 33rd across the stripe, 3.473 seconds back of the lead and a half-second ahead of the duo of Benning and Mallozzi.
Coming off Turn 2, Caruth was climbing through the field when he rear-ended Bret Holmes’ #32 IBEW / Grindstaff Rub Co. Chevrolet, stoving in the nose of Caruth’s truck and sending Holmes’ truck spinning to the inside. The tail end of the field scattered, including Greenfield, who cut hard left – too hard – as he lost control and suffered right side damage to his #95. As both Holmes and Caruth continued, Greenfield tried to get a push, but his truck wouldn’t drive straight. “Well, that was fun,” Greenfield said soon after. The crew attending to him then dropped his window net, and Greenfield climbed out, done for the day. He immediately took over last place from Mallozzi, and by Lap 3 was sitting on the doorsill
Mallozzi had a frustrating afternoon of his own. Radio transmissions seemed to indicate his #34 was the same #22 he ran at Martinsville this past spring, where a dead battery forced a late-race jump that put him in last place. Mallozzi indicated he felt the same issue in practice, and this grew worse on Lap 29, when he stalled at pit exit and drew the caution flag. The crew traced the issue to the battery cable, which was swapped, allowing him to return to the race and finish 31st, 16 laps down. It was cold comfort for an effort Mallozzi helped fund by selling his Dodge Charger.
Between Greenfield and Mallozzi came 34th-place Dean Thompson, who just days after a strong race in Charlotte suffered another stroke of bad luck – this time a slipped belt that damaged the engine on his #5 Thompson Pipe Group Toyota after just 17 laps. Taking 33rd was Conner Jones, whose #66 TSport Ford slammed the Turn 2 wall after a tangle with Matt DiBenedetto. Completing the group was another ThorSport entry – this time Hailie Deegan’s #13 Ford Performance Ford – which suffered a hard crash of its own in Turn 3, hers after contact from Nick Sanchez.
After their involvement in the first-lap wreck, Rajah Caruth came home 15th, just one spot back of Bret Holmes in 14th. Not far ahead was Daniel Dye, who ran as high as 2nd and earned his first stage points in the #43 Liftedtrucksforsale.com Chevrolet. Only a slow pit stop in the final laps dropped him back in the running order, though he still rebounded from around 18th in the last stint.
*This was the second time in 2023 a Truck Series driver failed to complete the opening lap. The other time was at Circuit of the Americas on March 25th, when Ed Jones suffered damage from a flat tire on the Young’s Motorsports #20.
*This marked the first last-place finish for the #95 in a Truck Series race since September 18, 2010, hen J.C. Stout’s #95 Dodge had electrical issues after 2 laps around New Hampshire.
*This was the 395th last-place finish for Toyota across NASCAR’s top three series, breaking the tie with Dodge for third-most all-time.
THE BOTTOM FIVE
35) #95-Clay Greenfield / 0 laps / crash
34) #5-Dean Thompson / 20 laps / engine
33) #66-Conner Jones / 66 laps / crash
32) #13-Hailie Deegan / 86 laps / crash
31) #34-Stephen Mallozzi / 146 laps / running
2023 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) G2G Racing, Reaume Brothers Racing (3)
2nd) AM Racing, Young’s Motorsports (2)
3rd) GK Racing, Niece Motorsports, Roper Racing, TRICON Garage (1)
2023 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES MANUFACTURER'S CHAMPIONSHIP
1st) Ford (5)
2nd) Toyota (4)
3rd) Chevrolet (3)
2023 LASTCAR TRUCK SERIES DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIP