NASCAR Returns to Michigan International Speedway, Wild Finish in Truck Race Friday Evening

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Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, MI — August 7, 2020

After missing the June race weekend at Michigan International Speedway due to the pandemic, NASCAR is back racing at MIS in August. Unfortunately, without fans in attendance. The NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoor Truck Series runs the Henry Ford Health Systems 200 tonight at the track, with a big Cup Series doubleheader Saturday and Sunday.

Michigan International Speedway looks empty with the infield void of campers and the garage area only allowing essential race personnel / Lasco Press Photo

Lots of news this week prior to the racing weekend. It was announced, Michigan native Erik Jones will not be back with Joe Gibbs Racing next season. “I greatly appreciate the opportunity that JGR provided me with over the last four years and I wish the team nothing but success and good fortune,” Jones said in the team release. “JGR gave me a solid foundation from which to go out and compete at the highest level and I look forward to building on that in the years to come.”

Erik Jones / Lasco Press Photo

“We appreciate all Erik has done for Joe Gibbs Racing over the past several years,” team owner Joe Gibbs said. “He joined us as a teenager and has accomplished so much in his time here and we remain focused on the remainder of this season and earning him a spot in the playoffs.”

Jones now becomes the top free-agent during NASCAR’s Silly Season as dominoes fall into place for the 2021 campaign. He is considered a good possibility to replace Jimmie Johnson in the Hendrick Motorsports #48 when Johnson retires at year-end.

Brad Keselowski had been considered the #1 choice for Hendrick, but he took himself out of contention this week signing an extension with Team Penske.

The Lane Choice Rule Becomes Official

After a try-out in the NASCAR All-Star Race, the Choose Cone is now in play. NASCAR officials announced Thursday that all three national series will use a ‘choose rule’ for restarts except at road courses and the superspeedways of Daytona and Talladega. The procedure will be in place starting with Cup Series and Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series events scheduled this weekend at Michigan International Speedway.

At MIS the Choose Cone is in the fence and the decision point is just past the Start-Finish line. / Lasco Press Photo

New Starting Position Formula to Replace Blind Draws

NASCAR officials announced Thursday that starting lineups and pit-stall selection will be determined using a competition-based formula, eliminating the random-draw element from all three national series through the end of the season.

The changes are set to take effect for the NASCAR tripleheader weekend scheduled Aug. 15-16 at the Daytona International Speedway Road Course.

The formula will use three performance metrics, which will be weighted and averaged to determine the lineup and pit selection order:

Finishing position from the previous race (weighted 50%)
Ranking in team owner points standings (35%)
Fastest lap from the previous race (15%)

That’s going to take a calculator to come up with the correct answer.

Henry Ford Health Systems 200

This evening’s race is set to take the green flag at 6:14 pm with 100 laps around the 2-mile speedway making up the distance. Stages are 20/20/60 laps, Austin Hill won the event in 2019, he starts 5th tonight.

Chandler Smith and Brett Moffitt start on the front row and will lead the field to the green flag. A total of 39 trucks are set to run today’s race.

The start of Henry Ford Health Systems 200 at Michigan International Speedway / Lasco Press Photo

Brett Moffitt led after the start and then had to fight off challenges in two restarts for minor incidents back in the field. He held on for the stage win when a 3rd caution in the first 20 laps ended the stage under yellow.

Chandler Smith stayed out on the Stage ending caution and inherited the lead when Moffitt pitted. Moffitt returned to the track in 17th for the restart. Again, Smith could not hold the top spot as Raphael Lessard drove to the front down the backstretch. Lessard led only four laps before encountering trouble and Johnny Sauter drove by to take the lead, John Hunter Nemechek followed into 2nd.

After just 15 laps of Stage 2, Brett Moffitt had driven back to 2nd place and began closing on Sauter. He just ran out of laps as Sauter held on for the Stage win.

The Final Stage

After Stage ending pit stops, Todd Gilliland beat Brett Moffitt off pit road. They lined up on the outside using the choose rule, allowing Austin Hill to start from the front row on the bottom instead of behind the leaders.

Hill drove to the lead proving the new line-up rule can have a significant impact on the restart of a race. Caution waved quickly, so they line up and do it again. It’s interesting to see the restart strategies employed. Another quick caution brought out the yellow on Lap 58, this caution will take the race to a point where most trucks will be able to complete the race on a full tank of Sunoco Racing Fuel.

With 50 laps to go a big wreck sent trucks spinning across the front stretch.

The Finish

With 35 laps to go, the three Ford F-150’s of John Hunter Nemechek, Grant Enfinger, and Johnny Sauter made up the Top 3 as they pulled away from the pack. The trio swapped the lead around but they were still able to maintain some distance on those trucks chasing them. Until the caution came out again on Lap 71 for a spin by Austin Wayne Self off Turn 2.

The same three led back to the restart. However, this time they were not able to break away from the field. Enfinger and Sauter managed to open a little space between Sheldon Creed in 3rd place. But, when Sauter tried to pass for the lead he lost the handle off Turn 2 and hit the outside wall.

The restart came with 11 laps to go and Enfinger in the lead. But, they could not complete a lap before Ray Ciccarelli spun off Turn 2. Line them up and do it again.

The laps continued to wind down as the race went green with just 6 laps to go. Enfinger still in the lead took the top lane followed by Sheldon Creed. Nemechek moved up to the front row by opting to start on the inside.

Enfinger pulled away down the backstretch, then coming across the start-finish Tyler Hill spun into the tri-oval grass bringing out the yellow again. Assuring the race will end with a green-white-checkered overtime.

Enfinger, Creed, Nemechek, and Austin Hill will be the top 4 heading to the choose cone. Nemechek took the bottom lane and lined up beside Enfinger. They raced side-by-side down the backstretch and into Turn 3. The caution waved again as Brennan Poole, Jeb Burton, and Matt Crafton got together before the leaders could get back to take the white flag. NASCAR displayed the red flag to clean up some oil on the track from the accident.

Overtime Number 2

With darkness coming fast, the track crew worked to clean up Turns 3 & 4. With most of the track covered in shadows, the trucks lined up for overtime number 2 after a 10-minute red flag delay.

Enfinger and Nemechek will start on the front row. With a push from Hill, Enfinger edged out front. Hill then dropped to the middle lane in his attempt to pass for the lead. Enfinger drove Hill low on the track in an attempt to block they made contact and Enfinger spun out in front of Hill and Nemechek. The loss of momentum cost both of those drivers a shot at the win.

No caution, they keep racing. Christian Eckes took the lead but did not defend it well. Zane Smith passed him with a run on the low side and went on to score his first NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoor Truck Series victory.

Results of the Henry Ford Health Systems 200

1. Zane Smith
2. Christian Eckes
3. Tanner Gray
4. Tyler Ankrum
5. Todd Gilliland
6. Brett Moffitt
7. Raphael Lessard
8. Derek Kraus
9. Parker Kligerman
10. David Gravel
11. Ben Rhodes
12. Austin Hill
13. Tate Fogleman
14. Dawson Cram
15. Ty Majeski
16. Johnny Sauter
17. Josh Reaume
18. Codie Rohrbaugh
19. Ryan Truex
20. Clay Greenfield
21. Tyler Hill
22. Jesse Iwuji
23. Matt Crafton
24. Cory Roper
25. John Hunter Nemechek
26. Tim Viens
27. Spencer Boyd
28. Jennifer Jo Cobb
29. Trey Hutchens III
30. Sheldon Creed
31. Norm Benning
32. Jordan Anderson
33. Grant Enfinger
34. Ray Ciccarelli
35. Brennan Poole
36. Jeb Burton
37. Austin Wayne Self
38. Chandler Smith
39. Stewart Friesen