July 8, 2023
By Reid Spencer
NASCAR Wire Service
Corey Heim started on the pole and finished with his second victory of the year in Saturday’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 150 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
What happened between the green flag and checkered flag was pure chaos.
In a race that started in a deluge and ended in bright sunshine, cars were spinning like tops on a skittles board and landing in gravel traps that required tow trucks to pull them to freedom.
Teammates collided at the front of the field, and frequent contact between trucks produced 10 cautions for 23 of the 67 laps and stretched the race from a projected 2 hours 17 minutes to nearly four hours.
But in the end, the best truck won. Heim powered his No. 11 TRICON Garage Toyota past Ty Majeski on Lap 42 and held the top spot for the final 26 laps to claim his first-ever road course victory at the 2.258-mile, 13-turn circuit.
Heim beat reigning series champion Zane Smith to the finish line by .947 seconds, as Smith had to settle for the runner-up spot for the second straight year.
“It’s just unbelievable,” Heim said. “We came here with high expectations. I felt like I did a good job last year of staying up front, but I put in the work to go from being a third-place truck to a winning truck…
“This thing was good ever since we unloaded. I felt like we were the fastest truck in practice, qualified on the pole, of course, and came here and won the race. It’s just awesome. Hats off to everybody.”
Smith had to start from rear of the field after his team made repairs to the transmission in his No. 38 Ford. He sustained minor damage to the truck while charging forward through heavy traffic.
“Yeah, brutal to finish second here again,” Smith said. “Such a fun road course. Our (truck) lacked turn, especially on the right-handers, all day long and struggled in first gear. Some things to improve on, but I just felt like we needed a little bit more.
“I don’t know how much our damage here was slowing us down, but those things happen when you start in the back. Frustrating to finish second again, but our road course program has been outstanding.”
Winless drivers immediately above and below the Playoff bubble remained closely bunched, with Stewart Friesen finishing fourth, Matt Crafton sixth, Matt DiBenedetto eighth and Nick Sanchez ninth.
Two races remain before the Truck Series Playoff field is set at Richmond.
Ben Rhodes won the first stage, and ThorSport Racing teammate Majeski took the second, but their two Fords collided and slid off-course on Lap 43 while running second and third behind Heim. Rhodes recovered to finish fifth, and Majeski salvaged a seventh-place result.
Christian Eckes, a two-time winner this year, ran a solid race an came home third behind Smith.