KANSAS CITY, Kan. (AP) — Brett Moffitt wasn't about to finish second again — not with a spot in the NASCAR Truck Series finale on the line.
So when Zane Smith tried to pass him with three laps to go, Moffitt moved down ever so slightly and sent his teammate into a spin along the backstretch. Then, the 28-year-old from Iowa held off a field full of playoff contenders, winning a two-lap shootout to the checkered flag at Kansas Speedway on Saturday.
“A bad block by me,” Moffitt said. “He got around me in lapped traffic, then I just put it on the line to run him back down. We got there and I tried to throw a block and we're racing for everything right now. I apologize for that.”
Moffitt got a big push from another teammate, Sheldon Creed, on the final restart and then beat the winner of the first two stages to the finish line. It was Moffitt's first win of the season after a maddening four runner-up finishes.
It couldn't have come at a better time, either. It was the first of three Truck races that will trim the playoff field from eight to four for the finale, and the victory means that Moffitt won't have to worry about qualifying the next two events.
Austin Hill finished third with Grant Enfinger fourth and Chandler Smith fifth.
“We were so good and then we just didn't keep up with it and got really loose there," Creed said. “Man, I'm happy I could push my teammate to the lead there and have a shot at the win.”
Smith wound up finishing 11th and is the last driver above the cut line. Enfinger is seven points back after his top-five run, while Matt Crafton is next after finishing eight. Ben Rhodes and Tyler Ankrum are the last two in the standings.
Moffitt, who was second in the July race at Kansas, had the lead with 10 to go when Smith went around him. Moffitt began riding the wall and quickly closed the gap, then passed Smith as the GMS Racing pair hit the start-finish line.
Smith got a run on Mofitt down the back stretch but got too close to the No. 23 Chevrolet, and the 21-year-old Smith came oh-so close to saving his own truck as he slid down the entire back stretch.
“I'm really not going to say much about it because I'll probably get into trouble, but that felt like it was ours,” Smith said. “I mean, it just seemed like he darted down and I don't know if it was — damn, I don't know if you'd qualify that as a save, but it was a big moment from my seat.”
Hailie Deegan had one of the best days of her bright young career, driving from the penultimate row to a 16th-place finish in her national series debut with DGR-Crosley. That run came after Ford Performance announced that the 19-year-old from Temecula, California, would move up from the ARCA series to the Truck Series full time next season.
“I think my goal was just to finish the race,” Deegan said. “It's crazy compared to ARCA racing how intense this is, how competitive it is. It's a lot tougher racing, but I think we had a successful day.”
It was a much more forgettable day for two playoff contenders.
Ankrum was running 12th after the first stage when Raphael Lessard's truck snapped around midway through Turns 3 and 4, putting the GMS Racing driver into the outside wall. Ankrum's truck caught fire before coming to rest on the apron.
He already was eighth of eight drivers remaining in the playoffs, which means Ankrum likely needs to win one of the next two rounds at Martinsville or Texas to advance to the championship race at Phoenix.
“It was a hard l ick. Just bad luck,” said Ankrum, who had tire trouble in the July double-header opener at Kansas and then wrecked with his teammate Moffitt in the second race. “Raphael was out of control almost the entire race.”
Rhodes already was dropping backward with a woefully loose truck, but he sustained some damage that forced him to make multiple stops. On one of them, his team was penalized for having too many people over the wall, forcing Rhodes — who started on the front row — to sit in his pit stall for two laps before he was allowed to continue. He finished 20th.