Sanchez charges late to win at Charlotte Motor Speedway

motorsport25 May 2024 04:55| © Reuters
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Nick Sanchez © Getty Images

Nick Sanchez showed what an opportunist can do when the right moment presents itself.

Taking advantage of fresh tires and a quick pit stop, Sanchez charged from the 10th position on a restart with nine laps left in Friday night's North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., and held off Corey Heim to win his second NASCAR Truck Series race of the season – and of his career.

Sanchez crossed the finish line 0.507 seconds ahead of Heim, who fell just short after two snafus on pit relegated him to the runner-up position – temporarily. Sanchez collects a $50 000 bonus as the winner of the first Triple Truck Challenge event of the season.

After the race, Heim's troubles multiplied when inspectors found three lug nuts not safe and secure on his No 11 Toyota, resulting in a disqualification that promoted Stewart Friesen to the runner-up position.

"It's awesome – my No 2 Gainbridge Chevrolet," said Sanchez, who qualified 16th for the 11th Truck Series race of the season. "What can I say more about this (Rev Racing) team? We started off bad. It didn't affect us. We went to work. We put ourselves in position when it mattered most.

"This is for Chris Showalter, my car chief. Birthday today, 700th truck start. This is for him, and it's great to get No 2."

Remarkably, Showalter has been a part of the series for every race since its inception in 1995.

Sanchez led only the final nine laps. Heim led 72 before the penalty and Christian Eckes 37.

After dominating the first two stages of the race, Heim dropped to 27th under caution for Matt Crafton's collision with the outside wall on Lap 79 when the jack malfunctioned and failed to lift his No 11 Toyota.

Heim roared through the field to fifth before Chase Purdy slammed the Turn 2 wall to cause the fifth caution. Like Sanchez, Heim pitted for fresh tires, but a problem with the lug nuts on the right rear wheel cost him valuable time – and ultimately cost him dearly with the disqualification.

Grant Enfinger was credited with third, followed by Matt Mills, Ben Rhodes and Jake Garcia.

Eckes, who entered the race as the series leader, started from the rear after contact from Kaden Honeycutt's Chevrolet during practice damaged his No 19 Chevy and prevented him from making a qualifying run.

That was just the start of Eckes' problems. Alternator issues kept him on pit road for extended stops during the stage breaks and relegated him to starting spots of 28th and 27th for the second and final stages, respectively.

But Eckes recovered to take the lead after staying out for a restart on Lap 88, and he was still in front – albeit close on fuel – when the caution for Purdy's accident slowed the field. Eschewing a pit stop for new tires under the final caution, Eckes slipped to 10th at the finish.

Honeycutt, who won Stage 1 after Heim's penalty and finished third in Stage 2, also went to the rear after leaving his pit stall during the second stage break with a fuel dump can still attached to the input valve of his truck.

Despite the setback, Honeycutt had enough speed in his Chevrolet to recover to seventh at the finish. Connor Mosack, Dean Thompson and Eckes completed the top 10.

NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Race – North Carolina Education Lottery 200

Charlotte Motor Speedway

1. (16) Nick Sanchez, Chevrolet, 134.

2. (12) Stewart Friesen, Toyota, 134.

3. (17) Grant Enfinger, Chevrolet, 134.

4. (15) Matt Mills, Chevrolet, 134.

5. (13) Ben Rhodes, Ford, 134.

6. (18) Jake Garcia, Ford, 134.

7. (9) Kaden Honeycutt, Chevrolet, 134.

8. (7) Connor Mosack, Chevrolet, 134.

9. (11) Dean Thompson, Toyota, 134.

10. (35) Christian Eckes, Chevrolet, 134.

11. (25) Conner Jones #, Ford, 134.

12. (14) Taylor Gray, Toyota, 134.

13. (6) Chase Purdy, Chevrolet, 134.

14. (27) Bret Holmes, Chevrolet, 134.

15. (19) Brett Moffitt, Toyota, 134.

16. (4) Rajah Caruth, Chevrolet, 134.

17. (1) Tanner Gray, Toyota, 134.

18. (29) Mason Massey, Chevrolet, 134.

19. (36) Daniel Dye, Chevrolet, 134.

20. (30) Spencer Boyd, Chevrolet, 134.

21. (8) Jack Wood, Chevrolet, 134.

22. (26) Timmy Hill, Toyota, 134.

23. (3) Ty Majeski, Ford, 134.

24. (20) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 134.

25. (23) Stefan Parsons, Chevrolet, 134.

26. (10) Bayley Currey, Chevrolet, 134.

27. (24) Mason Maggio, Ford, 134.

28. (5) Layne Riggs #, Ford, 133.

29. (28) Memphis Villarreal, Chevrolet, 131.

30. (21) Lawless Alan, Ford, Brakes, 120.

31. (22) Matt Crafton, Ford, 119.

32. (34) Tyler Ankrum, Chevrolet, Accident, 67.

33. (32) Thad Moffitt #, Chevrolet, Accident, 65.

34. (33) Keith McGee, Ford, Accident, 65.

35. (31) Jeffrey Earnhardt, Toyota, Accident, 65.

36. (2) Corey Heim, Toyota, 134.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 114.132 mph.

Time of Race: 1 Hrs, 45 Mins, 40 Secs. Margin of Victory: 0.507 Seconds.

Caution Flags: 5 for 31 laps.

Lead Changes: 8 among 5 drivers.

Lap Leaders: T. Gray 1-3; C. Heim 4-33; T. Gray 34-41; C. Heim 42-83; C. Purdy 84-87; C. Eckes 88-107; C. Purdy 108; C. Eckes 109-125; N. Sanchez 126-134.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Corey Heim 2 times for 72 laps; Christian Eckes 2 times for 37 laps; Tanner Gray 2 times for 11 laps; Nick Sanchez 1 time for 9 laps; Chase Purdy 2 times for 5 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 45,15,71,98,38,77,5,99,7,41

Stage #2 Top Ten: 15,77,45,5,98,38,7,2,43,17