Darrell “Bubba” Wallace Jr. claimed his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win of the season tonight at Gateway Motorsports Park after holding off German Quiroga in a three-lap dash to the checkered flag.
The thrilling finish was set up by an incident that took place shortly after a restart with eight laps to go.
Wallace and Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Erik Jones fought for the lead, only to have Quiroga get involved and take second from Wallace.
One turn later, Jones bobbled and slid high but Quiroga appeared not to lift and wound up spinning Jones off the track into an inside wall.
Several of Jones’ crew members ran down to Quiroga’s pit box to briefly confront members of his team face-to-face before the final restart. Wallace and Quiroga banged doors down the backstretch on the restart lap but Wallace grabbed the lead for good in Turn 3.
“It was wild – such a bummer for Erik, man,” Wallace told Fox Sports. “I thought it was out of our hands until that caution with him, but he and him were so fast…We got in a little trouble in the first pit stop but a little adversity never hurts anybody.”
As for Jones, he believed that Quiroga just flat-out dumped him.
“I got a little free but – right in the left-rear, he just turned us around,” Jones said. “I don’t know what to do about that.”
Quiroga explained that he tried to move left and give Jones enough room to collect himself after getting loose.
“But he was already sideways…I just kept on driving straight, trying not to hit him,” he said.
Wallace led the first 62 laps of the race, but during the stop that he alluded to in Victory Lane, the left-rear tire was not put on properly. When Wallace tried to go, the tire came loose.
That forced his crew to re-jack the left side of his truck up and get the tire on again. While that was going on, Gray Gaulding was crawling to the pits after apparently running out of gas.
Gaulding ultimately came to a stop near pit entrance, forcing a caution. After multiple Trucks chose to pit, Matt Crafton rose to the lead for the restart at Lap 72, while Wallace took it in 12th.
While Wallace made his way back among the leaders, Crafton and John Hunter Nemechek put on a great game of cat-and-mouse for the lead.
Crafton re-claimed it on Lap 122, but just one lap later, the defending NCWTS champion suddenly veered right and crashed hard into the Turn 4 wall after a reported tire failure.
That handed the lead to Jones (who had taken second from Nemechek) going into yellow-flag pit stops. But Jones fell back to third in the race off pit road behind Nemechek and Wallace.
Wallace briefly took the lead from Nemechek after the restart with 27 laps to go but the two battled side-by-side in Turn 3 before Jones made it three-wide coming off of Turn 4.
When that settled down, Wallace and Jones had taken first and second while Nemechek was left to try and fight off Quiroga and Timothy Peters for third.
Nemechek held his own with the two Red Horse Racing drivers, but with 14 to go, he slowed down the back stretch and then spun in Turn 3 after a tire went down on him.