By: Zach Catanzareti, Staff Writer
RICHMOND, Va. — After the regular season wrapped for the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Thursday night at Richmond Raceway, it was Tyler Ankrum and Todd Gilliland claiming the final two spots in the series championship playoffs.
With the two holding the ninth and 10th positions entering the 250-lapper, solid runs kept them in the positions until the checkered flag flew.
For Ankrum, the No. 26 GMS Racing Chevrolet snuck into the fifth position in the final __-lap run. Restarting with fresh tires, Ankrum found that was the saving grace in his ‘pitiful’ night.
“[That pit call] is pretty much what saved a pitiful night right there,” Ankrum said. “Thanks to my crew chief, Chad [Walter]. I just — I was having brake issues from the start of the race and this truck was not on point all night tonight.”
The fifth-place result was Ankrum’s third top five and seventh top 10 of 2020. Despite the strong end, the Californian isn’t pleased with the truck’s performance this season and hopes Thursday night will spell a turnaround for the playoffs.
“We got a lot of work to do,” he said. “If not, we have a short-lived playoff run. I have to thank everyone at GMS for all their hard work. We’ll keep on hammering.
“[We just have to] focus on winning. That’s the best way to carry onto to the next round. That’s what we have to focus on from here on out.”
It is now the second straight season Ankrum has advanced to the playoffs, doing so last year on account of his sole career victory at Kentucky in 2019.
For Gilliland, however, Thursday night saw a first-time playoff berth, as the third-year driver made the playoffs in his first season with Front Row Motorsports.
Sitting only 10 points to the good entering the night, Gilliland was thrilled to make the postseason despite managing only a 17th-place result in Richmond.
“If I was telling you I wasn’t nervous before today, I was lying,” Gilliland admitted. “I have confidence in my team. We were running — it’s crazy, I was fourth lining up on the last restart and I ended up getting lapped. This place is tough.”
Missing the playoffs in his first two years with Kyle Busch Motorsports, a new chapter in his career at Front Row gives him one of his highest personal racing achievements.
“It’s so cool to be a part of the playoffs,” he said. “My first time in three years. To me, that’s a big accomplishment.
“We’ll reset and go forward. I’ll try to put this one behind us and now we can reset. Work toward Bristol and take it race-by-race. That’s what it’s all about.”
— NASCAR Gander Trucks (@NASCAR_Trucks) September 11, 2020
— Front Row Motorsports (@Team_FRM) September 11, 2020