Enfinger ends drought, kicks off truck season with a win at Daytona

Enfinger ends drought, kicks off truck season with a win  at Daytona
Dave Biro/DB3

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.—Grant Enfinger ended a 28-race losing streak with a win in the 2020 Gander Outdoors Truck Series season opener.

He led a race-high 41 laps in his No. 98 ThorSport Racing F150 to collect Ford’s 100th truck win. And picked up the 20th victory for Duke and Rhonda Thorson as the team celebrates its silver anniversary in the sport.

Enfinger led four times and held off Jordan Anderson by inches coming to the line in overtime for his third-career truck win and his first victory in the NextEra Energy 250 at Daytona International Speedway.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” Enfinger said. “It’s the 100th win for Ford in the series – unbelievable for them. God’s blessed us with a great opportunity to come out here and pull it off tonight.

“The biggest thing is we had a really good (truck) to do it with. I made a mistake there with about 20 to go and got hung up there in the sucker hole. I pulled up in front of Ben (Rhodes) too late and it was either going to wreck me or put me in the middle and that’s what happened."

Codie Rohrbaugh, Derek Kraus, Natalie Decker, Austin Hill, Johnny Sauter, Ross Chastain, Sheldon Creed and Jason White rounded out the top 10.

Kraus was the top finishing rookie while Decker’s first top-five finish was a first for a female in NASCAR’s top three touring divisions.

The fireworks flew early at Daytona. Entering Turn 1 on Lap 16, Todd Gilliland tagged the back of the Tate Fogleman, who turned  Austin Wayne Self into Ty Majeski and vaulted the No. 45 Chevy on its roof. Sparks erupted from Majeski’s truck as he slid to a stop in the middle of turn. NASCAR red-flagged the race for eight minutes as emergency crews removed the driver from the vehicle.

“That was nothing like I’ve ever experienced before,” Majeski said after he was cleared from the infield care center. “Just unfortunate for our night to end that early. We had a pretty fast Plan B Sales Niece Motorsports Chevy but that wreck was just a product of this (superspeedway) racing.

“It’s obviously not a good feeling. I’m not hurt, thankfully—just my pride. It’s all good, though. We’ll live to race another day and go get them next weekend.” 

The race returned to yellow with Herbst still in the lead. The trucks pitted and returned to green on Lap 20. Herbst held onto the point to win Stage 1. Antrum, Eckes, Moffitt, Sauter, Friesen, Hill, Enfinger, Lessard and Gilliland rounded out the top 10.

Enfinger remained on the track and assumed the lead on Lap 22. When the race returned to green on Lap 26, Creed passed Lessard for second bringing Rhodes and Ankrum along in the tow. Creed moved to the outside and takes the lead on Lap 34. Enfinger returned to the point on the next lap, but before the trucks completed another circuit, Friesen tapped the back of Codie Rohrbaugh’s truck and sent the No. 9 Chevy spinning out of Turn 4.

With an assist from Rhodes, Enfinger won Stage 2 with Antrum, Moffitt, Herbst, Lessard, Friesen, Sauter, Creed and Tanner Gray completing the top 10. The field pitted on Lap 42 with Rhodes rolling off pit road first followed by Hill, Friesen and Gilliland. Sauter’s team had an uncontrolled tire on pit road and dropped to 21st.

Rhodes led the field to green for the final stage on Lap 46. Hill dropped low and took the lead one lap later, but was challenged by Enfinger on the outside. By Lap 50, a 12-truck breakaway separated the lead pack from the field as a middle line formed out front—but quickly dissipated.

Enfinger regained the lead on Lap 56. Five circuits later, the top 16 trucks ran single file—but that didn’t stop Angela Ruch from getting sideways in Turn 3 and triggering a 12-car wreck. Fogelman’s truck erupted into flames but despite resembling a campfire on the apron, that didn’t stop Bryan Dauzal from plowing into the No. 02 truck.

Friesen assumed the lead followed by Enfinger, Lessard, Rhodes and Sauter when the race finally returned to green with 25 laps remaining. Enfinger shot to the lead, tried to block and slid down the sucker hole as Friesen, Lessard and Sauter held serve on the inside lane. With a push from Gilliland, Rhodes challenged on the outside to lead—but it was short-lived until Lessard bumped Friesen and the No. 52 got loose and dropped through the field with 17 to go.

Rhodes traded the lead with Creed on Lap 90 but gained control one lap later. Ankrum punted Lessard with seven laps to decide the contest. The Nos. 98 and 99 ThorSport trucks were battling for the lead through Turns 1 and 2 when Sauter, who was sandwiched between Herbst and Gilliland turned Rhodes and collected half of the field.

“It got to be about four or five laps to go and it was time to go," Enfinger said. "We were able to get up in the third groove and make some stuff happen and get the lead during that last big wreck.”

Enfinger led the remaining 22 trucks to overtime. Although Chastain pushed the No. 98 to the white flag, he pulled out entering Turn 1 and dropped to eighth. Anderson, who restarted sixth, pulled alongside the No. 98 Ford F150 and traded paint down the front stretch with Enfinger but had to settle for a career-best second, 0.010-seconds behind.

"I thought I set him up good," Anderson said. "We tried to follow Ross to push him and I know he got loose, and I got on Grant's bumper there coming off of 4 and got a good run. I'm like, man, this is like NASCAR Thunder 2003 all over again.  I'm like, I can do this, and I pushed him out of the way. I'm like, I thought we had it, but this is ‑‑ to try to put into words what this means for our team, I had to move some money around this winter just to get through to buy this truck, and we knew that we needed to bring the best truck we could, and this sport isn't easy and I love NASCAR, I love this sport. 

"This is what NASCAR is about, man, and to do this for every single one of my guys and everybody that's supported us from the biggest sponsor to the smallest sponsor. This is Daytona, we almost won...There are not many opportunities you get to run for the win at Daytona, God is good.”

Riley Herbst, who won the pole, finished 12th.

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