Photo by Nigel Kinrade Photography
Although Sheldon Creed dominated most of the World of Westgate 200, Austin Hill finds a way to the front and wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in the second race of the Round of 10 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series Playoffs.
“I just had to get aggressive,” Hill shared during his post-race Zoom media interview. “I had to run my race and run perfect laps protecting my line. We had to use all the tools and resources to get the job done.”
It was Hill’s second win of the season, as he became the first driver to lock himself into the Round of 8. The Truck series has one more race at Talladega Superspeedway before the cutoff.
“It’s definitely a big weight off my chest going into Talladega next weekend and not having to worry,” continued a relieved Hill after knowing he would advance into the next round, no matter what happens in their next race. “We are there to win the race and still going into it being aggressive. As soon as you change everything that’s when trouble can happen.”
Creed led 89 laps and won the first two stages, but fell short of what would have been a series-high fourth win and finished in the second position by 0.546 seconds. Creed still took home the most points from Friday night’s race, collecting 55 in total from the event.
“Just frustrated, the best truck I’ve ever had,” Creed said. “We’re all racing hard; this is the playoffs. I think I showed my hand too early.”
Rookie series driver Tanner Gray finished in third and was the highest non-Playoff driver to finish in the Vegas race. With some pit strategy and adjustments on the truck, he went from a top-10 finish to a solid podium result with his No. 15 DGR-Crosley Ford Performance F-150.
“I hope so,” said Gray after he was asked about his chances of nearing a potential victory. “I’d like to think we could. It’s just a matter of closing these things out, and I feel like if we had a caution there at the end, we had a chance to win.”
More non-Playoff drivers completed the top-five results with Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith in fourth and fifth respectively. Rest of the top-10 positions were held by Playoff contenders: Grant Enfinger, Zane Smith, Christian Eckes, Matt Crafton and Tyler Ankrum. Todd Gilliland and Brett Moffitt both finished in the top half of the field.
One Playoff driver did have serious issues throughout the race: Ben Rhodes. His No. 99 ThorSport Racing Tenda Heal Ford showed signs of leaking oil during the competition caution back on Lap 10, and never seemed to recover since then. He spun on Lap 85, involving Friesen and making contact with the inside wall to bring out the fourth caution of the race. He finished 23rd, two laps down and now sits below the cutoff line with one race remaining in the Round of 10.
— NASCAR Gander Trucks (@NASCAR_Trucks) September 26, 2020
Ben Rhodes goes around and backs it into the wall at Las Vegas! pic.twitter.com/PK2oYw2ihg
— FOX: NASCAR (@NASCARONFOX) September 26, 2020
Natalie Decker did not start the race because she was not medically cleared by NASCAR or the infield care center to compete. Since her truck passed inspection and was gridded on pit road, she was credited with a last place finish. During the completion of the second stage, she was released by the infield care center, but no further word on her condition nor the medical specifics were released.
The NASCAR Truck Series will compete next at Talladega to determine who will advance into the next round of their Playoffs on Saturday, October 3 (1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).