It was complete domination for Grant Enfinger in Sunday’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Clean Harbors 175 at The Milwaukee Mile. On the same week that his GMS Racing team announced that they would cease operations at season’s end, Enfinger swept Stages 1 and 2 and went on to score the race win.
There were people who questioned the effort that would come from the GMS Racing team with the end being near for the program. Enfinger emphatically answered those questions with his stout performance on Sunday.
“Yeah, I don’t want to hear anybody asking me if we’re going to lay down again,” Enfinger stated with a fiery tone. “Jeff Hensley has been focused the whole year. There’s been distractions going on all year long. If anything, this adds clarity. None of these guys, including me, has a job next year. I feel like we proved we deserve one.”
While the box score will show it was an easy prance to victory lane for Enfinger, who started from the pole, late-race pit strategy made it anything but easy.
Carson Hocevar led a group of drivers that opted to stay out on a late caution with 41 laps to go. Enfinger would restart back in eighth on fresh tires. When the restart came out, Enfinger gobbled up the competition, that is until he reached Hocevar’s back bumper.
Enfinger began to apply pressure to Hocevar with 20 laps to go, but the driver of the No. 42 Niece Motorsport Chevrolet Silverado was able to hold Enfinger at bay for a bit. But after some back-and-forth battling with 18 laps to go, Enfinger would finally take the lead with 17 laps remaining.
Hocevar would remain in close quarters for a few laps, but in the end, Enfinger was simply too strong. The driver of the No. 23 truck would score his 10th-career NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory by more than a second and a half over Hocevar. This marks the third win of the 2023 campaign for Enfinger.
At the end of the day, Enfinger has complete trust in his crew chief Jeff Hensley, and he never doubted the strategy call at the end of the race.
“Jeff, he believes in me when I tell him what I need. And I believe in him and the calls he makes,” Enfinger said of the path to victory. “We had a winning truck, today.”
With the win, Enfinger has advanced to the Round of 8 of the Playoffs.
Playoff drivers made up the entire top-five finishing positions on the day as Christian Eckes, Corey Heim, and Matt Crafton slotted in behind the top-two finishers.
With his fourth place finish, Heim also locked his spot into the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Playoffs Round of 8.
“It’s a good deal. The Playoff points really paid off,” Heim said. “It really just shows our consistency throughout the season getting stage points, and the Playoff bonus. I’m super proud of TRICON Garage, Safelite, Toyota Racing for everything they do for me, and huge thank you to them as well.
”It makes Kansas a lot easier. I thought Kansas was the perfect cut off race for me anyway, because I love that track and I feel like I’m really good there, so it allows us to go and chase a win, and I wish now Kansas was in the next round, I guess.”
Chase Purdy would be the highest non-Playoff contender in the finishing order in sixth.
Behind Purdy was Ty Majeski, and what a roller-coaster day it was for the 29-year-old ThorSport Racing driver. On Sunday, Majeski’s truck was flagged in pre-race inspection. After NASCAR confiscated one tire from the truck, NASCAR ruled that Majeski would start from the rear of the field, and he would have to serve a pass-through penalty after the start of the race.
After Majeski served his penalty on Lap 2, he was scored in 36th place and was a half lap behind the leader Enfinger.
The first caution of the day on Lap 10 for a crash involving Josh Bilicki allowed Majeski to close back in on the field.
By Lap 24, Majeski was inside the top-20. He broke into the top-15 by lap 29. And it appeared as he moved into 11th by the end of the opening Stage that he was on his path to the front of the field.
Then, disaster struck for Majeski and the No. 98 pit crew on the pit stop between Stages 1 and 2. The No. 98 truck fell off of the jack, and the team would lose a ton of time, and track position to get their service done. When Majeski pulled from pit road, he had lost 11 spots and was now back in 22nd.
The racer would put his head down and go back to work, and Majeski on Lap 89 of the 175-lap event, Majeski would finally work his way inside the top-10. Majeski would incredibly finish Stage 2 in the eighth position, and it looked like he would finally have a chance to contend for the win.
However, when the final Stage began, the No. 98 truck didn’t look as dominant. It appeared that the team perhaps made an errant adjustment, and Majeski would scratch and claw to finish the day in seventh.
It was a solid effort for Majeski, but now he and his team will await NASCAR’s decision next week on penalties stemming from their issues in pre-race inspection. Majeski, who won the Playoffs-opener at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, is locked into the next round of the Playoffs.
Derek Kraus, Jake Garcia, and Bayley Currey rounded out the top-10 finishers in the race.
Four Playoff contenders finished outside the top-10.
Zane Smith was the highest of them in 12th. The defending series champion salvaged a decent finish on a frustrating day, where his No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford F-150 was out to lunch for the majority of the race.
Ben Rhodes, another Playoff contender, would compete well for the majority of the day, but faded down the stretch to finish 16th. Likewise, Nick Sanchez ran an incredible race all day long, but with 35 laps remaining Sanchez was sent spinning into the outside wall after contact from Heim. Sanchez would finish on the lead lap in 24th.
Matt DiBenedetto would be the lowest-finishing Playoff contender on the day. The driver of the No. 25 Rackley WAR Chevrolet Silverado struggled mightily all race long at Milwaukee, and limped home to a 27th-place finish. DiBenedetto was two laps off the pace of the race winner Enfinger.
It was a disastrous day for DiBenedetto, who started the day already outside of the Playoffs cutline. He’ll likely need a massive performance at Kansas Speedway, the cutoff race of the Round of 10, if he wants to advance to the next round of the Playoffs.