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Underdog Brett Moffitt Wins 2018 Truck Series Championship

Underdog Brett Moffitt Wins 2018 Truck Series Championship
NASCARMedia

NASCAR

Underdog Driver & Team Win Truck Series Title with Brett Moffitt, Hattori Racing

Coming into the Truck Series season finale at Homestead, many overlooked the title chances of Brett Moffitt. This was due to the underdog status of the Iowa driver, as well as his small Hattori Racing Enterprises team. The 16 truck led 59 laps en route to winning the championship in upset fashion.

Winners and Losers in Qualifying

Prior to the green flag, qualifying saw a mix of star drivers excelling or struggling. Non-Playoff contenders Grant Enfinger and Stewart Friesen were on the front row. Behind them were all 4 title contenders in succession, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, Brett Moffitt, and Johnny Sauter.

On the flip side, 2-time champion Matt Crafton would qualify 22nd. This was due to a new engine package the 88 tried for the weekend. This was a detriment for qualifying, but not the race, as the 88 was a strong winning contender.

Calm Opening Stage, Tight Battle Between Championship Leaders

Up front for the opening Stage, it was all Grant Enfinger, leading the first 33 laps. Behind him however, the championship drama was high in this opening run. Title contenders were racing 3-wide at the initial start. Justin Haley jumped to 2nd at the start, but Noah Gragson would pass him just a few laps later. In the closing laps of Stage 1, title underdog Brett Moffitt would close in on Gragson. In spite of this, Noah would hold on to the championship lead.

Multiple Race and Championship Leaders in Stage 2

The night’s second stage started off with Playoff contender Noah Gragson leading, as he gained the lead on pit road. However, underdog Brett Moffitt would take over the race lead on lap 40. Moffitt would hold the lead for several laps, as he had a great truck on the longer run. Moffitt would hang on to win Stage 2, despite the stages being irrelevant for the 4 contenders.

Both stages would mark the only caution flags for Friday’s 200 mile race. Under the caution following Stage 2, Noah Gragson would once again inherit the lead on pit road. The final 67 laps would be run under green, and Gragson would lead the first 32 circuits. During this stint, Moffitt was the faster truck, but Gragson was able to hold him off lap after lap. The 16 would not pass the 18 for the lead until lap 99. Moffitt only held the lead here for 3 laps, until his final pit stop on lap 101. Gragson would also make his last pit stop on this same lap.

Strategy Leads to Big Advantage for the Win

5 laps later, Moffittt would retake the lead for the final time, with a significant advantage over Gragson. Failing to pit prior to Moffitt may have been the deciding blow in this championship for Gragson. At the finish, Brett Moffitt’s 16 Toyota was the first to the checkers. Noah Gragson’s 18 would finish 3rd, over 5 seconds behind Moffitt.

The top 10 finishers from the Truck Series season finale at Homestead had only 3 of the 4 title contenders. Behind Moffitt was Grant Enfinger, then Gragson, Stewart Friesen, Sheldon Creed, Matt Crafton, John Hunter Nemechek, Justin Haley, Jesse Little, and Ben Rhodes. The lone title contender not in the top 10 was title favorite Johnny Sauter. After starting 6th and struggling much of the night, Sauter finished a disappointing 12th.

Brett Moffitt is only the second champion in Truck Series history to win the last race and the title. The first driver to achieve this feat was Jack Sprague in 1999. Sprague was also the most recent NASCAR champion with a mustache, until Moffitt and his Playoff facial hair.

Tight Rookie Battle Comes Down to the Wire

The battle for Rookie of the Year in the Truck Series was a tightly contested match between Myatt Snider and Todd Gilliland. Coming into Homestead, Snider held a 22 point lead over Gilliland. By finishing 1 spot behind Gilliland in 14th, Snider clinched ROTY honors by 21 points.

Homestead marked the 6th win of 2018 for Brett Moffitt and the underdog Hattori Racing Enterprises. This team, led by crew chief Scott Zipadelli, truly was a case of David beating Goliath. The 16 team has a total of 10 full time employees, while other teams have dozens of crew members. The fact that such a small team was able to string together a season consistent enough to win a championship is a big story line for the Truck Series. For at least 1 year, the little team delivered on the biggest stage in the Truck Series.

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