Brooklyn, Mich. — Heading into the Corrigan Oil 200, Brett Moffitt’s three wins in the 2018 NASCAR Truck Series came after he seized the lead in the last 10 laps.
On Saturday, at Michigan International Speedway, the 26-year-old Iowan did it in the last 10 yards.
In an exhilarating race that featured lots of passing, 16 for the lead and nine drivers leading, Moffitt nipped a hard-pressed Johnny Sauter by a bumper and an abbreviated segment of fenders to take the checkered flag.
With a small crowd at MIS standing, cheering and shrieking, the margin of victory was .025 seconds, between the two top-ranked drivers in the playoff standings, before and after the race.
The trucks may race about 15 to 20 miles per hour slower than the Cup cars, but the Consumers Energy 400 Sunday will have a tough time living up to the pitched competitiveness of the Corrigan Oil 200.
“It was close,” said Moffitt, who has been busy in recent weeks raising money for tornado relief in his home state. “Good racing. Just glad we came out on top.”
“I wouldn’t say we had the most speed today, but we had a good-handling truck. That is what was key.”
With one more race at Bristol before the playoffs in the truck series, .025 seconds seemed massive to Moffitt.
“We have a lot of momentum going into the playoffs now,” he said. “We added some more playoff points today and that is a positive feeling.”
Moffitt led for five laps.
Sauter led for 16 and looked like a sitting duck on the last lap.
Rather than attempting to block, as Moffitt approached, Sauter tried to outrace him.
It cost him dearly.
“You know, I did everything I was doing for the last 10 or 12 laps, and I felt like I could carry my momentum,” said Sauter, who has five wins this season.
“Obviously, he’s got a built engine, so I think his power band is a little more forgiving and he gets a lot bigger pull down the back straightaway than some,” Sauter said.
He referred to work done on the internals of the engine — “building” — on Moffitt’s Toyota Tundra, to make it more powerful, perhaps including an alteration of the compression.
Sauter said he was clear of Moffitt coming out of Turn 2 and into Turn 3.
“I could watch him in the mirror,” he said. “And, I just felt better in the middle (of the track) and that I could keep my momentum up.
“I screwed up!” Sauter nearly shouted in the media center at MIS after a bitter interview on FS1 along pit road just after the race. “No ifs, ands or buts about it. I should have run the bottom. But, I feel like maybe he would have scooted to the top.
“So, yeah, a sitting duck, kind of, for sure. I mean, you just know he’s planning a run. You just don’t know when.”
Sauter, the truck series 2016 champion and 2009 rookie of the year, said he was angry with himself, especially because his crew worked hard to make a lot of changes to his Chevrolet Silverado for the weekend.
Sauter started seventh and Moffitt 21st.
Moffitt won his fifth race in 28 career starts. His fourth win of the season was his eighth top-10 finish.
It was his second win, and second top-10 finish at MIS. Sauter now has four top-10 finishes in 10 races at MIS.
It was his 12th top-10 of the season.
John Hunter Nemechek finished third, his first top-10 in four races at MIS.
In the truck playoff standings, Ben Rhodes, Noah Gragson and Justin Haley are third, fourth and fifth, after Sauter and Moffitt.
Rhodes Gragson and Haley all have one win.
Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen and Matt Crafton are all in playoff position, with Myatt Snider, Cody Coughlin Dalton Sargeant and Todd Gilliland all within striking distance.
In the Saturday's highly competitive race, Gragson, Crafton, Enfinger, Friesen and Gilliland all held the lead for junctures ranging from eight to 18 laps in addition to Moffitt and Sauter.
It was the sort of nip-and-tuck racing among the top competitors in a series, of which all of motor sport would like to produce more.
Sauter said it frequently occurs in the truck series.
“Yeah, I mean, I hear from fans all across the country that the truck series puts on the best show,” Sauter said. “And, I agree with them. Today’s race was pretty exciting.
“The traffic was unbelievable. You could try to time your runs and get a run on a guy and think you have enough momentum, and next thing you know you lost four spots. So, you just had to time your passes perfectly.”
Consumers Energy 400
When: 2:30 Sunday
Where: Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn, Mich.
Support race: Trucks, Corrigan Oil 200, 1 p.m. Saturday