By Seth Eggert, Associate Editor
A top-10 finish in Saturday’s CRC Brakleen 150 was a return to form for TRICON Garage’s Dean Thompson after failing to finish in the past three NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races.
Before the Truck race at Pocono Raceway, the last time that Thompson took the checkered flag was when he finished third at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Since then, the Anaheim, Calif. native has encountered engine problems and was swept up in accidents.
The start of the weekend appeared to be a continuation of those struggles as the second-year Truck Series driver limped around in qualifying. By race time, the 21-year-old surged forward from 33rd on the grid. That pushed crew chief Derek Smith to move the No. 5 Thompson Pipe Group Toyota Tundra TRD Pro to ‘Plan B.’
That alternative strategy put Thompson inside the top-10 on the final restart of the 150-mile race. He battled with Christian Eckes and Ty Majeski, who were on a similar strategy, and Ben Rhodes for position. Majeski broke away from his competitors to clinch a NASCAR Playoffs berth at ‘The Tricky Triangle.’ Thompson, meanwhile, fell into line between Eckes and Rhodes, taking the checkered flag in eighth.
“The ARCA race was okay, the Truck race was really, really good,” Thompson admitted. “The boys put together an absolute rocket ship. We were working through strategy thinking maybe we will pit this lap to get some track position, but no, we drove that truck all the way to top-15 pretty quickly, so we went to ‘Plan B.’
“The truck was great, our pit strategy was great. We were right with Kyle Busch, the winner, so super thankful, super happy to have TRICON Garage behind me. Super thankful for Thompson Pipe Group, Assured Partners and Toyota.”
Prior to the Truck race, Thompson competed in the postponed ARCA Menards Series Sunset Hill Shooting Range 150 at Pocono to get additional seat time. It was the fourth race weekend this season that he pulled double duty. His Venturini Motorsports Toyota Camry contended until contact on a late-race restart left him fourth.
“In ARCA, I feel like we had a great car, probably one of the best, but the track cooled down and it just made it tough,” Thompson explained. “It really hurt our car when it cooled down. I think Jesse (Love) was just a better car overall. Fought like heck to stick with him but made too many mistakes on our end. Didn’t have any favors. Finished where we could, got what we could out of the car.”
The eighth-place finish in the Truck race was Thompson’s third career top-10 finish. The fourth-place finish in ARCA was his third career top-five in the stockcar series.
The top-10 finish moved Thompson up from 22nd to 21st in points. 190-points below the cutline with one race left before the start of the NASCAR Playoffs in the Truck Series, only a victory can guarantee the TRICON driver a playoff berth.
Next for Thompson and and TRICON Garage in the Truck Series is the Worldwide Express 250 at Richmond Raceway. He has one previous start at the 0.75-mile track. Mechanical problems limited him to a 35th-place finish at ‘The Action Track.’
The Worldwide Express 250 at Richmond is scheduled for Saturday, July 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1. The race will also be broadcast on the Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio, channel 90.