Lots of activity today from Homestead-Miami Speedway. All 3 of NASCAR’s premier series hit the track for practice. The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series started things off with early practice session this morning. They qualified this afternoon and will race tonight.
Grant Enfinger(98) won the pole with a speed of 169.348 mph. Stewart Friesen(52) starts on the front row beside Enfinger.
The Championship 4 contenders Noah Gragson(18), Justin Haley(24), Brett Moffitt(16), and Johnny Sauter(21) qualified 3rd through 6th respectively.
The NASCAR Xfinity Series practiced twice. They qualify shortly after Noon tomorrow and race at 3:30 Saturday afternoon.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Qualifying
All eyes were on the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers as they practiced this afternoon. They were on track just prior to the Truck Series qualifying. A rare night-time qualifying session sets the field for Sunday’s Ford EcoBoost 400. With 2 rounds of eliminations and a final round run for the pole.
Thirty-eight of the 39 cars entered took qualifying laps. Ross Chastain(15-C) failed to make it to the track. Kyle Busch(18-C) posted the fastest speed at 174.644 mph. Fellow Championship 4 contenders Joey Logano(22-C) and Martin Truex Jr.(78-C) ran 2nd and 3rd fastest. The missing piece? Kevin Harvick(4-C) could only manage the 16th fastest time. Almost 2 seconds slower than Kyle Busch.
Clint Bowyer(14-C) 171.827 mph, good enough for the 26th fastest speed. But, not good enough to make it out of Round 1.
Michigan’s own Erik Jones(20-C) put up the fastest lap of Round 2 at 174.036 mph. Followed again by the Playoff trio of Truex, Kyle Busch, and Logano. Harvick found some more speed and ran 8th fastest at 173.177 mph. Kyle Larson(42-C), one of the pre-race favorites, just squeaked into the Pole Qualifying round placing 12th. The first driver out? Alex Bowman(88-C) who ran .006 slower than Larson’s time.
Chase Elliott(9-C), Ryan Blaney(12-C), and Jimmie Johnson(48-C) were the notables not advancing to the final round.
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Pole Qualifying
Denny Hamlin(11-C) put together a perfect lap to win the Pole with a speed of 173.863 mph. His teammate Kyle Busch will sit beside him on the front row just .043 seconds slower. Truex starts 3rd, Logano 5th, and Harvick was the slowest of the Playoff contenders. He will start 12th.
Brad Keselowski(22-C) starts 4th, Kurt Busch(41-C) 6th, and Jones 7th.
The pole winner has the first choice of the pit stall they will use in the race. The last space on pit road is the premier spot for ease of exit and the ability to apply full power to the timing line. In a decision that he owned up to personally, team owner Joe Gibbs instructed Hamlin to leave that space open for Kyle Busch to choose with his 2nd place selection. Team orders in NASCAR, interesting and controversial.
Starting Grid for the 2018 Ford EcoBoost 400
|3||78||Martin Truex Jr.||31.117||173.539|
|9||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||31.322||172.403|
Championship 4 Contenders
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series EcoBoost 200
Grant Enfinger(98) drove off into the lead from the pole position. Stewart Friesen(52) quickly fell behind 3 of the Championship contenders. Noah Gragson(18), Brett Moffitt(16), and Justin Haley(24) held down the 2nd through 4th positions.
Enfinger built a 2-second lead quickly. Before Moffitt began cutting into Enfinger’s advantage. The pole winner held on to win Stage 1 leading all 30 laps in the opening segment. Gragson finished 2nd, Moffitt 3rd, Haley 6th, and Sauter 13th.
Matt Crafton(88) took the lead out of the pits from the Stage ending caution. He spun the tires on the drop of the green flag and Gragson sprinted into turn 1 with the lead. Two laps later Crafton moved back into the top spot. That lead only lasted 1 lap as Moffitt took his turn at the front of the pack. Gragson slipped into 2nd, with Enfinger 3rd, followed by Crafton 4th, and Haley in 5th.
Moffitt won Stage 3 over Gragson by a little over one second. Stage-ending pit stops will dictate who starts the 74 laps of the Final Stage from the front row. Both crews perform flawlessly and the running order stays the same as they exit pit road. Moffitt and Gragson, 2 of the title contenders line up side-by-side on the front row for the sprint to the finish.
Racing For The Title
Gragson powered into the lead on the restart, swapping spots with Moffitt. Should the race continue accident caution free the final pit stop will be made under green.
Moffitt repeatedly drove to the bumper of Gragson. Getting side-by-side in the corners on several laps. Moffitt, the 26-year-old driver kept the pressure on the 20-year-old youngster Gragson. Even edging ahead down the backstretch on lap 84. But, Gragson had the answer to every challenge maintaining the lead.
Like two prize fighters standing in the middle of the ring throwing knockout punches. Gragson and Moffit continue to trade blows. Finally, Moffitt took the lead on Lap 99.
Green Flag Pit Stops
Gragson pitted on Lap 101, Moffitt followed suit on Lap 102. As pit stops cycled through Moffitt returned to the lead on Lap 106. Gragson trailed by 3.5 seconds in 3rd place. The pole sitter, Enfinger, sat between the two Championship contenders. Haley ran 1/2 a lap back in 8th. Sauter was 3/4’s of a lap down, mired in 13th place.
With 15 laps to go, Moffitt’s lead sat at 4 seconds. Without a caution, the Hattori Racing Enterprises driver will cruise to his 1st NASCAR Truck Championship. For the second year in a row, the Championship race for the Truck Series went caution free. Moffit’s win was a huge boost for the single-car team that struggled with finances throughout the season.
Shigeaki Hattori is the 15th different owner Champion in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The first from Japan. The team posted 6 series wins this year, 2 in the playoffs. The team fought sponsorship issues all year, even considering not making some starts. A Championship will hopefully cure those ills.