Story By: REID SPENCER / NASCAR – HOMESTEAD, FL – Brett Moffitt, a kid with a moustache reminiscent of Leo DiCaprio-yet already a journeyman driver at age 26-is the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion after a decisive victory in Friday night’s Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
In a race that featured a minimum two cautions, both for planned stage breaks, Moffitt drove away from the rest of the field after taking the lead from fellow Championship 4 contender Noah Gragson on Lap 99 of 134.
Moffitt finished 2.000 seconds ahead of pole winner Grant Enfinger, who passed Gragson for the runner-up spot during a cycle of green-flag pit stops at the 103-lap mark. Gragson ran third, 5.006 seconds back.
GMS Racing teammates Justin Haley and Johnny Sauter didn’t factor into the title battle. Haley ran eighth, and Sauter, trying for a second series championship, battled a loose handling condition all race long and finished 12th, the last driver on the lead lap.
Driving for underfunded Hattori Racing Enterprises, owned by former driver Shigeaki Hattori of Japan, Moffitt picked up his sixth victory of the season (and second straight) and the seventh of his career. More than 20 years ago, Hattori won the first of his two Indy Lights races at Homestead after leading 64 of 67 laps in a Lola/Buick.
“That was the longest 20-30 laps of my life,” Moffitt said of the final run to the checkered flag. “Man, I was just glad we could get to the white flag without a caution and clean sailing. We had a great truck all day.
“It’s unreal. We all know the story by now. We didn’t know if we were going to race this whole year. I didn’t if I would have the opportunity to run for a championship, even after we got our first win. Everyone pulled together hard here.
“We’ve had so many partners who came in at clutch moments and got us to the race track.”
Hattori fought sponsorship issues throughout the season, and Moffitt has yet to announce a deal for next season, but that didn’t deter the driver of the No. 16 Toyota from battling Gragson from a restart on Lap 68 until he finally prevailed on Lap 99-after two concerted runs at his rival for the title.
“I just got my tires a little too hot the first time I got next to him, and I probably didn’t commit enough to the move,” said Moffitt, who competed in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series before landing the ride with HRE. “I kind of let them cool down and ran the top trying to get some momentum.
“He was kind of backing up, and we could still run the bottom really well, which is kind of unusual for Homestead.”
Moffitt lost the lead briefly but gained three seconds on Gragson in the championship battle when the drivers came to pit road for their final stops, Gragson on Lap 101 and Moffitt one circuit later. After returning to the point on Lap 106, Moffitt wasn’t challenged the rest of the way.
Sauter’s performance was surprising, too, in that his team never hit a workable setup.
“It was awful,” admitted Sauter, who couldn’t find the form that carried him to Victory Lane six times this year. “Just no grip. We laid an egg tonight. When you suck that bad, you just go home and ask yourself, ‘What the hell happened?'”
Stewart Friesen finished fourth and Sheldon Creed fifth. Matt Crafton, John Hunter Nemechek, Haley, Jesse Little and Ben Rhodes completed the top 10.
Myatt Snider, who finished 14th, claimed Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors for the series.