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CHRISTIE: Spastic NASCAR Truck Series Championship Race Embarrassing to Industry

“That was the worst fucking race I’ve ever fucking seen.”

That was one of the poignant quotes overheard among crew members in the garage area following Friday night’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway. And while it pains me to say this; I can’t disagree.

Not only can I not, but the rest of the media corps can’t disagree. The other NASCAR National Series competitors who watched the race on television can’t disagree. And a good portion of the fanbase can’t either.

Friday night’s demolition derby, which was run under the facade of being a championship race was an absolute embarrassment for the sport, and it seemed around every corner of the event was another glaring issue.

Let’s start with the on-track product.

Listen, I love a good old-fashioned wonky race from time to time, but Friday night’s race wasn’t wonky. It was a pure example of racecraft going completely out the window, and the end result was a quadruple overtime race, which tacked on 29 additional laps to the race’s overall distance. And if we’re being honest, NASCAR kept the yellow flag in their pocket on a hard crash by Tyler Ankrum with two laps to go. If NASCAR calls that caution, who knows… we could still be racing.

The race, which was originally scheduled to be 150 miles, featured a total of 12 cautions. In the end, 43 percent of the race was run under the yellow flag. And again, if cautions happen just because guys accidentally step over the line, that’s one thing. But we were seeing guys just dumping their competitors down the stretch.

No disrespect intended at all to the ARCA Menards Series West drivers and teams, but when a NASCAR National Series race is part of a double-header race day with the ARCA West Series, the ARCA West race should not be the one that comes out looking like the more respectful event.

But that’s what occurred on Friday.

The dumping in the Truck race began on Lap 56, when Nick Leitz made contact with Marco Andretti, which sent Andretti crashing into Chris Hacker. The end result was a hard crash for Hacker, who hit driver’s side first into the outside wall.

It was the first, of many, senseless crashes over the course of the event.

On Lap 101, Conner Jones seemingly decided he was done racing for the night, and that he wanted to take Jake Drew with him.

20 Laps later, championship contender Carson Hocevar spun out fellow championship contender Corey Heim, who was leading the championship battle at the time.

Video: Corey Heim Turned By Fellow Title Contender Carson Hocevar Late at Phoenix

This crash drew the ire of NASCAR Cup Series competitors Tyler Reddick and Denny Hamlin on X.

Reddick shot off a post that said, “That dumbass will never learn.”

Moments later, Hamlin reposted Reddick’s post from his account.

It was at this point, that the race really started to feel like it was getting out of hand, but it only got worse as the race plodded along.

10 laps later, Stefan Parsons was flat-out dumped by Bayley Currey, and after the crash, which also collected Daniel Dye, Currey admitted that he felt he had been used up by Parsons all race long, and he meant to initiate contact. Unfortunately, Currey went too far with it.

“I had been used up by him all night long, it felt like. He turned down into my right rear on that restart. I just kept getting used up,” Currey said. “Did I get into the back of him? Yeah. Did I mean to get into the back of him? Yeah. Did I mean to get into the back of him that hard? No. It just sucks to end it that way.”

The lack of respect continued, as Heim would exact revenge on Hocevar on Lap 147.

Video: Corey Heim Exacts Revenge on Carson Hocevar; Sets Up Overtime at Phoenix

Now, to be fair, Heim claimed on the team radio that a broken part on his truck caused him to crash into the driver who had ruined his shot at a championship just a few minutes earlier. If a part did indeed break, it’s a hell of a coincidence that it happened at that exact time that Hocevar was attempting to get by him.

But after the race, Heim’s story changed a little as he said the incident that looked like retaliation was the result of no side force on his truck.

“It wasn’t retaliation. I had no side force, he put it on my door, and I wrecked,” Heim told FOX Sports.

Whether you believe that reasoning or not, if Heim did ultimately retaliate, the choice to retaliate likely changed the outcome of the championship race between Grant Enfinger and Ben Rhodes, as Enfinger held the advantage prior to this caution.

On the following restart, Enfinger got bottled up in a battle with Rhodes and Christian Eckes, which caused him to lose momentum, and a ton of track position. This caused Enfinger, who had dropped to ninth, to change strategy and hit pit road for fresh tires in an effort to try to get back to Rhodes.

In the end, two more multi-truck cautions down the stretch gave him a shot, but Enfinger’s rally stalled one position shy, and Rhodes scored the championship with a fifth-place run. But regardless of who won the championship, we were all losers on Friday night, and the industry let its opinion be known on the matter.

Denny Hamlin posted on X saying races like Friday night are what makes it hard to take motorsports in the United States seriously.

“This is what happens when there’s no rules, no officiating. You get a product like this,” Hamlin posted. “‘The show’ has taken over US Motorsports and why it’s hard to take seriously.”

Former NASCAR Xfinity Series champion Jeff Green posted, “No No respect in any racing these days I guess when your paying your way it doesn’t matter if u tear u shit up every week!”

Kelly Crandall, a two-time National Motorsports Press Association Writer of the Year, felt that nobody should have been crowned champion after what transpired in Friday night’s race.

“You’ve got to be shitting me. No one deserves a trophy after this,” Crandall posted. “Just go home.”

Jeff Gluck of The Athletic was one of the very, very many who simply called the race embarrassing.

“This may truly be one of the most embarrassing races in NASCAR history,” Gluck posted.

The antics on the track over the course of the race were certainly embarrassing. And many of the incidents throughout the event had a very egregious feel to them.

But the race, as a whole, felt tainted.

The race was inexplicably set for a 10:00 PM ET start time, which, even for a West Coast race, seems aggressively late. Once the race went on the air, it was apparent that the FS1 announce team was not in attendance, yet again, and instead called the race from the Charlotte studios.

While it’s understandable to a certain extent to want to save money by not flying an announce team to the West Coast, the on-air broadcast usually suffers when the announce team isn’t at the actual race track.

To make matters worse, the Phoenix Raceway GEICO Restart Zone wasn’t even painted in the correct position on the track.

According to a report from Bob Pockrass of Fox Sports, NASCAR noticed the incorrect placement of the restart zone and had a meeting with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series teams about whether they wanted the sanctioning body to move the restart zone back to the place it was supposed to be. The Truck Series teams opted to keep the zone where it was.

According to Pockrass, the zone will move to the correct location for the remainder of the race weekend.

You just can’t make this kind of stuff up.

Classless racing, and gaffes all around made Friday night’s NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Championship Race one of the most embarrassing events in NASCAR history. Hopefully, the rest of Championship Week at Phoenix Raceway can provide a bit more professionalism, and we can quickly put this race in the rearview mirror.

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