Column By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – MARTINSVILLE, VA – It was 11:15 on a rainy Friday morning, and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoff driver Noah Gragson was already on his second hot dog when he took questions from reporters at Martinsville Speedway.
“The first one was mustard and slaw,” Gragson said of the Martinsville dog. “I don’t like chili, but I got chili on the second one, and it’s not bad. It’s got a little beef jerky taste to it, so it’s not bad.”
The hotdogs may be a consistent amenity at the .526-mile short track, but the racing surface at NASCAR’s oldest Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series facility is variable and fickle.
“I feel like this race track itself is different every time you come here,” said Gragson, who is third in the Playoff standings, 11 points ahead of fifth place, with the field set to be narrowed to the top four three races hence at Phoenix. “You can come with the same setup for 10 years and you’re going to run differently every single time. It’s just the way the track takes rubber.
“I feel like the weather and the temperature outside plays a big part in that.”
With persistent rain forcing cancellation of all track activity on Friday, Gragson was resigned to qualifying on Saturday morning with no practice.
“I’m coming back with a different setup than what we had in the springtime here, so not getting any practice, you can’t really lean on past success here,” said Gragson, who picked up his first victory in the series at last year’s Playoff race at Martinsville. “Just been trying to work hard with my crew chief, Rudy Fugle.
“He and I sat down. We had ice cream a couple days ago for about an hour and just talked about this weekend and what we needed to do about this round in the playoffs and then Martinsville and just coming here with a different setup. It’s going to be challenging.”
IT’S BACK TO PLAYOFF BEAST MODE FOR GRANT ENFINGER
After a welcome breather at his home track, Talladega Superspeedway, the intensity of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs returns for Grant Enfinger in Saturday’s Texas Road House 200 at Martinsville (1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Enfinger earned a relatively stress-free trip to Talladega with an impressive victory at Las Vegas in the second race of the Round of 8. That win guaranteed him a spot in the Round of 6, but entering Saturday’s race at NASCAR’s shortest track, Enfinger is four points ahead of Justin Haley in fourth, with the Playoff set to be cut to four drivers two weeks later at Phoenix.
“Talladega was kind of an anomaly for us,” Enfinger told the NASCAR Wire Service on Saturday morning at Martinsville. “We’ve kind of had the same mind-set all year long, to be aggressive but also be smart. We still need stage points, everything we can get. Every position matters. That’s the mind-set this weekend.
“Obviously, it was a huge load off to get that win and to automatically advance through the last round, but now everything’s the same (after the points reset). It would be really nice to do that again this weekend, and I feel like we’ve got a truck that can do it. We’ve had really good Ford Performance F-150s the last couple months here. It seems like we’ve really elevated.”
AFTER TALLADEGA NAIL-BITER, BRETT MOFFITT IS UPBEAT ABOUT TITLE CHANCES
Despite being a four-time winner in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series this season, Brett Moffitt had a close call in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Round of 8 elimination race at Talladega.
After sustaining early damage, he finished 17th and advanced to the Round of 6 by eight points. But after the points reset, Moffitt enters Saturday’s race at Martinsville back in second place in the standings with a 13-point cushion over fifth place – not to mention considerable optimism about his prospects of advancing to the Championship 4 race at Homestead.
“Yeah, for sure,” Moffitt said. “We ran decent here in the spring. This round in general is just three better race tracks for us. I think for most of the field, you know the road course and Talladega all in one round had everyone nervous and everyone aggressive at Vegas.
“I think everyone’s going to be a little bit smarter here, and we can go back to our past success this season and try to rely on that to get through to Homestead and hopefully fight for a championship.”