Moffitt Surges To Atlanta Truck Win As Kyle Busch Falters

Brett Moffitt celebrates in victory lane after scoring the win in Saturday night’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Active Pest Control 200 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Photo by Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

Kyle Busch had Saturday’s night NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Atlanta Motor Speedway all wrapped up.

And then the wheels came off – literally.

Kyle Busch led a race-high 67 laps and was cruising to victory before a disastrous pit stop with three laps to go where he left pit road without any lug nuts on the left-rear wheel, which promptly came off as soon as Busch cleared pit road.

Busch’s pit road gaffe handed the lead to Myatt Snider, who led the field to the green flag for the three-lap overtime session before Brett Moffitt stacked Snider and Johnny Sauter three-wide coming out of the frontstretch and powered to the lead, holding on through the final two laps for his second-career truck series victory.

Noah Gragson took second over Sauter, followed by Ben Rhodes and Matt Crafton.

Moffitt’s victory earned him and his team a shot at the Truck Series playoffs for the first time in the team’s history.

“This is unbelievable to even be in a race car at this point let alone in victory lane,” said Moffitt. “We had a really good truck all night and Kyle (Busch) spun his tires earlier and that put us back, but I knew the 13 (Myatt Snider) was a sitting duck (on the final restart) and I just wanted to get a good restart.

“It was crazy, we ended up at the perfect spot at the perfect time. I was wide open for two laps there and I knew once I got clear I would be able to be wide open and thankfully they got side-by-side behind us and that opened up the gap even more.

“Hopefully they got into a battle behind us and they did – it’s pretty surreal.

Moffitt’s victory was the first for Hattori Racing and team owner and former CART and IndyCar driver Shigeaki Hattori.

“That’s a hell of a way to start the year right there,” said Moffitt. “Shige (Hattori) has put all the right people in the right places and we don’t have the biggest shop and we don’t have the most trucks, but he’s made damn sure we have the right people all the way down to the pit crew and they did a great job all night too. I knew we would be successful, I just didn’t think it would be this early.”

It was probably the most unlikely victory anyone could have anticipated after Busch’s dominance in the second half of the race.

With less than five laps to go, Busch had extended his lead to over 2.4 seconds over Sauter and seemed well on his way to his fifth Atlanta truck series victory before Josh Reaume pounded the inside wall on the backstretch with three laps to go.

The ensuing caution brought the entire field to pit road for the final stops of the night, with many drivers expecting to take four tires.

The plan for Busch’s stop originally called for two-tires, but the crew called an audible and went for four tires. Busch, apparently unaware of the change, took off as soon as the right-side tires were changed, but the crew had already taken the lug nuts off the left-rear tire.

Snider restarted as the leader and took the green flag with Sauter on the outside and Moffitt running in third.

Just past the start/finish line, Moffitt shot to the inside, going three wide under Snider and Sauter and had them both cleared by the time the field came out of turn two.

Moffitt cruised from there, taking the checkered flag by 1.3 seconds over Gragson, who banged doors with Sauter over the final lap before edging him by inches at the line for second.

Gragson’s runner-up finish marked his fifth-career top-five finish, and his career-best Atlanta finish. It was a nice rebound after crashing out in the season opener a week prior.

“It was a green-white-checkered. Two laps. I basically had in my mind it’s time to yank the belts tight and get on the gas pedal and get there at the end. Try and get after it as much as I can,” said Gragson. “It was crazy. Just held the pedal down, and stab and steer type of deal, and hope for the best. Racing (Johnny) Sauter, I was pretty loose there on that last lap, barely edged him out. I am not sure how close it was but finished second so it’s better than third.”

Sauter, who won last’s week’s season-opening truck series race at Daytona, scored his second top-five finish of the season and retains the points lead by 31 points over Crafton.

“I just feel like I’m going to beat myself up on this,” Sauter said. “But sitting here watching the replay, I don’t feel like I could have done anything different. When you have a shot to win, you’ve got to capitalize on it, and I didn’t do that.”

Stewart Friesen, Snider, Jesse Little, Grant Enfinger and Austin Dillon made up the rest of the top 10 finishers. Kyle Busch was credited with finishing 21st.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Atlanta Motor Speedway – Hampton, GA
Active Pest Control 200 – February 24, 2018

1. (10) Brett Moffitt, Toyota, 134.
2. (3) Noah Gragson, Toyota, 134.
3. (9) Johnny Sauter, Chevrolet, 134.
4. (14) Ben Rhodes, Ford, 134.
5. (2) Matt Crafton, Ford, 134.
6. (7) Stewart Friesen, Chevrolet, 134.
7. (19) Myatt Snider #, Ford, 134.
8. (12) Jesse Little, Ford, 134.
9. (16) Grant Enfinger, Ford, 134.
10. (13) Austin Dillon(i), Chevrolet, 134.
11. (17) Parker Kligerman, Chevrolet, 134.
12. (11) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 134.
13. (4) Spencer Davis, Toyota, 134.
14. (6) Dalton Sargeant #, Chevrolet, 134.
15. (20) Austin Wayne Self, Chevrolet, 134.
16. (21) Korbin Forrister, Toyota, 134.
17. (15) Bo LeMastus #, Toyota, 134.
18. (18) Austin Hill, Chevrolet, 133.
19. (22) Justin Fontaine #, Chevrolet, 133.
20. (8) Cody Coughlin, Chevrolet, 133.
21. (1) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 133.
22. (5) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 132.
23. (29) Wendell Chavous, Chevrolet, 131.
24. (25) Jordan Anderson, Toyota, 129.
25. (27) Robby Lyons, Chevrolet, 128.
26. (30) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, 120.
27. (24) Josh Reaume, Chevrolet, Accident, 119.
28. (31) Clay Greenfield, Chevrolet, Too Slow, 116.
29. (28) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, Vibration, 108.
30. (23) Akinori Ogata, Chevrolet, Accident, 62.
31. (26) Joey Gase(i), Chevrolet, Electrical, 7.
32. (32) Scott Stenzel, Chevrolet, Electrical, 0.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 123.816 mph.

Time of Race: 01 Hrs, 40 Mins, 00 Secs. Margin of Victory: 1.326 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 5 for 24 laps.

Lead Changes: 9 among 6 drivers.

Lap Leaders: K. Busch(i) 0; N. Gragson 1-43; M. Crafton 44-50; J. Sauter 51-52; K. Busch(i) 53-83; J. Sauter 84-92; K. Busch(i) 93-128; M. Snider # 129-131; J. Sauter 132; B. Moffitt 133-134.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): K. Busch(i) 2 times for 67 laps; N. Gragson 1 time for 43 laps; J. Sauter 3 times for 12 laps; M. Crafton 1 time for 7 laps; M. Snider # 1 time for 3 laps; B. Moffitt 1 time for 2 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 18,88,4,16,97,41,21,98,52,51

Stage #2 Top Ten: 4,21,16,88,18,98,51,97,75,25

Top 10 in Points: 1. Johnny Sauter – 106 (1 Win); 2. Matt Crafton – 75; 3. Grant Enfinger – 73; 4. Noah Gragson – 67; 5. Brett Moffitt – 66 (1 Win); Ben Rhodes – 61; 7. Dalton Sargeant – 61; Spencer Davis – 60; 9. Joe Nemechek – 59; 10. Justin Haley – 55.


About Pete McCole