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Enfinger Returns to Victory Lane In Style

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 15 2020

Grant Enfinger picked up a big, much-needed victory in Friday night’s NASCAR Truck Series race. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – When Grant Enfinger arrived at Daytona International Speedway this month he hadn’t won a NASCAR Gander RV Outdoors Truck Series race since 2018. Jordan Anderson had never won one.

That all changed Friday night in a furious, door-slamming finish in the NextEra Energy 250. At the checkered flag, Enfinger edged Anderson by a hundredth of a second to claim his third career victory and the 100th for Ford in NASCAR’s truck series.

 “This race team needed this,” crew chief Jeff Hensley said immediately after the race. “We were so consistent last year, and just could not win a race for whatever reason. We kind of changed our philosophy on what we did as far as stage points and different things and racing to be in position to win.” 

For Enfinger, the victory provided a feeling of “relief.”

 “We did come so close last year, and we were a good enough team to win, we just honestly didn’t get the job done,” said Enfinger, who hadn’t won since September 2018 at Las Vegas. “I feel like that hurt us a little bit going into the playoffs. So now that we were able to do this early, I guess we don’t have any excuses.” 

The overtime dash to the finish was set up by a 14-truck incident with two laps remaining in the scheduled 100-lap event. However, before that crash Enfinger, who won Stage 2, had gotten caught in the middle of a three abreast run in the final stage and fallen back in the field. 

 “I felt like I, in a sense, gave our chances of the race away at that point,” Enfinger said. “I was teeter-tottering on trying to block both lanes. Then I saw Ben (Rhodes) coming really fast, and I went up too late to block him. Then I came back down and Stewart (Friesen) was there, so I got caught in the sucker hole and went back to 10th, 12th, 14th, somewhere in there.

“I felt like there was going to be a wreck in there, so I was able to position myself on the bottom. Just had a gut feeling some bad stuff was going to happen, and then the laps kept clicking off. We should have wrecked a few times. There was some bad stuff going on, but everybody was able to keep it under control,”

At least until there were two laps to go and the 14-truck melee occurred just as Enfinger maneuvered himself back into the lead. 

 “You just really never know when or where the wreck is going to happen,” Enfinger said. “That’s why I did what I did, but we had the good track position coming out of the pits and the cautions fell where we needed them to.”

It was the final lap, however, that emblazoned itself in truck series history.

“Ross (Chastain) was pushing me really hard there,” Enfinger recalled. “I knew he was going to try something, and I knew he had a really good truck. I saw when he was coming, and I chased him up the hill in (turns) one and two, able to hold him off, then go back to the bottom. I think that’s where Jordan got in line.

“I knew he (Anderson) was holding back a little bit, and when he got to our right rear … he was able to stall me out, get all the way up the hill. I was able to follow him, hit him a little bit, stalled him out.”

Enfinger admitted he hit Anderson “pretty good” as they raced to the checkered flag, “but probably really square in the door, just enough to slow his momentum down.”

“I was just relying on (spotter) Chris Lambert for that information on where he was because as soon as he got to my right rear and stalled me out he went straight to the wall, which is what he’s supposed to do,” Enfinger continued. “I was able to chase him up, slow him down just enough and then get off of him after I had stalled his momentum.”

Anderson thought he had set up Enfinger for the final dash. 

“We tried to follow Ross to push him and I know he got loose,” Anderson said. “I got on Grant’s bumper there coming off of (turn) 4 and got a good run. I pushed him out of the way. I thought we had it.” 

Even though Anderson had to settle for second, the South Carolina driver was ecstatic at being able to race for a win at the historic 2.5-mile track.

I’m almost speechless for words!” said an excited Anderson, who shook the hands of Enfinger, Hensley and ThorSport general manager David Pepper in the infield media center. 

  “I came here in 2015 and emptied my bank account to try to come down here and run. I had to move some money around this winter just to get through to buy this truck. We knew that we needed to bring the best truck we could.”

  The 28-year-old Anderson wasn’t the only competitor who produced his best-career finish in the truck series season opener. Natalie Decker avoided three multi-truck crashes to record her best career performance. The 22-year-old driver’s fifth-place finish was the best-ever for a woman in the truck series.

“We had such a good team effort and plan and we all stuck to it. That’s what got me that good finish,” Decker said. 

  Ty Majeski, Tate Fogleman and Bryan Dauzat escaped serious injury in their frightening crashes. 

Majeski’s occurred on lap 16 when he overturned in the trioval after being hit by Austin Wayne Self. The impact sent Majeski’s Chevrolet sliding several hundred feet on its roof before it stopped upside down in the first turn. The race was stopped for 7 minutes 59 seconds while emergency personnel turned the truck back onto its wheels. Majeski then climbed from the truck and walked to the ambulance.

Fogleman’s Chevrolet burst into flames when he was involved in the 12-truck pileup that occurred on lap 66. He was nearly stopped on the second-turn apron when Dauzat’s Chevrolet slammed into the rear of Fogleman. Both drivers were evaluated and released from the infield care center.

 

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, February 15 2020
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