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NASCAR Truck Series at Phoenix finale: Creed steals home and the championship

NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway
• Overtime restart pays off for Creed; Moffitt loses out on old tires

Phoenix, AZ, Nov 6/20 (GRW): Given NASCAR’s winner-take-all championship formula, it all came down to the final restart in overtime. Sheldon Creed benefitted from taking on fresh tires with just two racing laps to go while Brett Moffitt, who had led the previous 80 laps of the 150-lap race and who had a solid three-second lead over Grant Enfinger, stayed out.

On the restart, Moffitt’s old tires failed him while Creed came slashing up thought the field, having started back in seventh place, taking the lead almost into the first turn. After that he cruised around in the lead for the final lap-and-a-half to take the checker and the Truck Series championship.

Prior to that final restart, the race had been going all Moffitt’s way. He took the lead on lap 75, half-way through the second Stage and he was in command from that point on. He won the second Stage (although, in this finale race, there seems to be little value in winning the preliminary Stages) and, except for a single lap during these pit stops – an artifact of the pit stall placement – Moffitt stayed in the lead until the final restart under overtime.

Creed had come to the front of the pack and he was chasing Moffitt going into the final Stage and through the third caution. After that restart on lap 113, Grant Enfinger, who had pitted for fresh tires during this yellow, emerged as a contender and he caught and passed Creed for second place. Despite having fresher tires than Moffitt, he was not able to close up on him and Moffitt slowly built a bigger and bigger lead making it look like he had the race win in the bag.

Then another caution came on lap 149, sending the race into overtime. This produced a dilemma for Moffitt’s crew chief. Should he bring his driver in for fresh tires and give up track position in hope that, on these fresh tires, he could catch up and regain the lead or should he stay out and hope that he could hold off any contenders who might have gotten new tires?

Moffitt stayed out, as did Enfinger. Many of the others, starting with Creed, pitted and gave up track position. As it turned out, the decision to pit paid off for Creed. On the restart both Moffitt and Enfinger failed to launch well and they were overwhelmed by a storm of those who were on new tires. Creed, turned left, way down on the apron (a legal move here), and charged forward into the lead. And, after that, it was all over.

Afterwards, Moffitt sounded disappointed and bitter about having lost the championship this way. “No, I mean, just out there on old tires. Longest run, most laps on a set of tires we had all night. You stay out like a sitting duck. It just is what it is. I have nothing to say really.

“Everybody comes down pit road, there's not enough cars to block the new tire. Race strategy has been a downfall of us all year, for sure. We've thrown away multiple wins because of it. It's frustrating to lose a championship because of it.”

Perhaps Moffitt should not have been quite so harsh in his complaint about his crew chief’s decision. These were new design of tires for this race and, with no practice sessions there was little or no opportunity to learn their characteristics – something that might have been part of the decision to pit or not. In addition, in these late-race cautions, one never can know how many trucks will stay out and how many will pit. It seemed that any hope of figuring this out by monitoring the other teams’ radio failed in the confusion as teams got ready to pit – or not to pit.

Moffitt already knew that he had no deal with the GMS team – or any other team – for next year and he must have been hoping that winning both the regular season championship and the season-end championship would be a springboard to him getting a good new deal for next year. Surely, having lost out on the finale championship in this way should not disqualify him for consideration as one of the best – if not the best – drivers in this series this year.

PHOTO NGROTS Creed Champagne 110620Sheldon Creed, the new 2020 NGROTS champion sprays the champagne (Jared C. Tilton/Getty Images)

Of course, Creed was overjoyed to have won the championship. “Just incredible we were able to do it. I had a lot of confidence coming into today. Man, I was just frustrated watching the No. 23 drive away from us. I was just so free. We tightened it up every stop. I don't know, just be free in, free on exit. I was getting frustrated watching him drive away from us. I settled in there, this is what we have. We have next year to try again.

“To get a chance like that on a restart and execute is just incredible that we got it done.

“What was that word you used? Asterisk?”

Zane Smith, who had also pitted for fresh tires, was second, Chandler Smith was third, Christian Eckes was fourth, and Rapheal Lessard was fifth. Stewart Friesen, last year’s winner at Phoenix, was sixth. Of these, only Chandler Smith had not taken on new tires in this last caution. Moffitt
ended up back in tenth while Enfinger finished in 13th place.

• Click HERE for the results of the Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix.
• Click HERE for the final points standings in the NASCAR Truck Series.

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