It’s over two minutes after the conclusion of the inaugural Corn Belt 150 and Derek Kraus is still being chased around Knoxville Raceway.
First came Grant Enfinger, who delivered a retaliatory spin moments after the checkered flag for something that happened earlier the race. Before Kraus could right the ship and get his truck pointed in the right direction, in came Tyler Ankrum to impart another intentional strike for good measure.
… *Not happy* … pic.twitter.com/pIoFdxbuWh
Kraus was by no means the only target of disdain on Friday and race winner Austin Hill was arguably the only person to leave the Sprint Car Capital of the World happy about everything that had transpired over the previous three hours.
Defending Truck Series champion Sheldon Creed could only look up and laugh at his trashed No. 2 GMS Racing Silverado — one of over two dozen trucks to be involved in a series of crashes during the second half of the main event.
What else could he do but laugh?
“Honestly, it’s all so dumb,” Creed said. “They’re going to the NASCAR hauler because they wrecked (Kraus) after the race. You can’t even be mad when you get driven like that all night.”
More from Sheldon Creed who believes the Truck Series should be at Iowa Speedway.
He says drivers raced with no respect tonight and that “I guess Iowa, with its multiple lanes isn’t any good, which is why they’re going to screw up Atlanta.” pic.twitter.com/xyDw65sTrW
It took a record-tying four overtime finishes and 14 overall cautions to decide the penultimate race of the regular season. There was also a 14-car pileup on the first attempt at a green-white-checkered. It took just short of an hour to complete the final two laps.
The race was meant to be a showcase for NASCAR’s grittiest division at one of the most prestigious dirt venues in the world in advance of the seven-race championship showdown.
By every measure, the finish was an embarrassment.
“I think everyone from the dirt community is just going to sit there, point at us, and laugh,” Carson Hocevar said.
The first half of the event featured objectively good racing. There two distinct lanes, clean passes throughout the field, and competitive battles around the half-mile just outside of Des Moines, Iowa.
But 100 laps took its toll on the racing surface and the final 50 were conducted on a track that rubbered up and locked down, meaning there was only one way to make speed, around the bottom.
🟡: We just know a lot of trucks were involved in this #NASCAROvertime pileup. 🙃#CornBelt150 | @knoxvilleraces pic.twitter.com/EEC4w2TfOf
“I love dirt racing,” Creed said. “I though the heat races were good, I thought the first 30 laps of the feature was awesome, but I think for it to race better they maybe need to put the radiators in the back like our off-road trucks do so we can put moisture on the track.”
Without a choose rule, some drivers ended up on the perilous outside groove for restarts not by choice but fortune, and there was no respect whatsoever once the green flag dropped.
“When it just goes one lane like that, no one has respect for each other,” Creed said. “I don’t know how many times I moved myself back into the top-eight. I was just getting booted on restarts.
“A few guys did it to me good. (Todd Gilliland) gave it to me, pushed me out of the way, I’m like, ‘Alright, you can have it,’ but, (Kraus) drove into me like three different times and I finally moved up. (Austin Wayne Self) drove into me and I’m like, ‘Where you going? We’re running 6th and 8th We’re not going to go anywhere on the top.’
Even earlier in the race where the field ended up single-file, impatience and the inability to force a clean pass on the bottom due to a high birm meant that a pursuing driver would just push on a leading truck’s left rear until a fender rub cut a tire.
That’s what happened to Brett Moffitt, on older tires when Enfinger stayed so long on the left rear that it cut the inner liner and sent the No. 37 around.
While there was no respect to be seen, there was also a great deal of desperation on Friday night with Kraus and Chandler Smith racing to win their way into the playoffs facing increasingly unlikely odds. Desperate times made for desperate measures.
For Smith, it was a gutsy call by crew chief Danny Stockman to leave their No. 18 on a rubbered-up track on older tires because track position was a premium. It almost worked, too. For Kraus, it was a night full of aggressive decisions that left at least a dozen drivers mad at him.
It’s been a reckless season for the Truck Series with 4 of the first 14 races running over 40 percent of the laps behind the pace car. Those were Daytona, Daytona Road Course, Darlington and Knoxville. There were three others that featured over 30 percent of the races under caution. Those races were Las Vegas, Bristol Dirt and Richmond.
Donny Schatz, the 10-time World of Outlaws champion making his NASCAR debut in the event was flabbergasted at what he experienced during the race.
“A lot of stuff got tore up and I don’t know if that’s normal or not around here, but it sure seems like it based on what I heard in the infield care center,” Schatz said.
While appreciative of the opportunity to partake in the NASCAR experience, Schatz isn’t in a hurry to come back to the discipline.
“I don’t know that it’s something I want to do all the time,” he added.
That sentiment was shared by Dirt Late Model ace Kyle Strickler, who also made his NASCAR debut on Friday in a Knoxville one-off.
“The total lack of respect for other drivers and other drivers’ equipment last night absolutely blew my mind,” Strickler said. “I think all the spoiled ass rich punk kids should be in the shop first thing on Monday morning so they can fix all this shit they tore up.
“Maybe then they’ll think twice about blasting people out of the way when they realize how much it takes to make it to the race track every weekend.”
The full-timers don’t exactly disagree with Schatz and Strickler either.
“Even on pavement there’s no respect here,” Hocevar said. “Everyone is 110 percent for themselves and it only gets worse throughout the year.”
“I guess that’s what the fans like, the crashing and old Bristol,” regular season champion John Hunter Nemechek said.
When asked if he had any solutions, especially for the dirt tracks, Nemechek shrugged with an irreverent grin.
“I’m not a dirt guy,” Nemechek said.
At a certain point, Creed simply had to go with the flow as it were and play the game that everyone else was playing. He knows that his criticisms could have come across as hypocritical, but he said everyone had to match that intensity or get run over on Friday night.
“I had to be that person back, a few times,” Creed said. “I don’t like racing like that. It’s just dumb. Not that we shouldn’t be here. I think there’s a better way to do it. I think Eldora raced really good. You could run the top, do slide jobs. The bottom was an option.
“But here, you’re just fighting for the bottom and it didn’t race good. And, I think we should go to Iowa Speedway. That place races so good, you can run all over it. Apparently, they don’t like that cause we’re going to ruin Atlanta (Motor Speedway) too.”
There have been countless suggestions to improve the NASCAR dirt track product. For Knoxville, longer heats and a shorter feature with a halftime break to rework the track could be an option.
It doesn’t seem as though knocking out the windshield to allow a wetter racing surface at the start of the feature is viable enough to pursue either.
So yes, again, the only person to leave Iowa in good spirits was Hill. He left with the trophy, a large check for Hattori Racing Enterprises and momentum towards the playoffs as he seeks his first championship and second for the team.
The defending regular season champion hadn’t won a race this season. He has been top-five consistently throughout the year and is third in the championship, but the Scott Zippadelli led team couldn’t break through until Friday night … on dirt.
“I’m not even a dirt guy,” Hill said. “It’s crazy. Like you said, we’ve had speed and sometimes you start to overthink things or put pressure on yourself and get away from what you’re already doing well.
“So Scott and I had a talk on the way to the track this week, and it wasn’t anything harsh, but just making sure that we’re on the same page. We wanted to make sure there wasn’t any pressure or frustration over how the regular season played out.”
The pressure came off the moment Hill completed his first practice run on Thursday.’
“We run five laps and Scott asks me, ‘how is the truck’ and I’m like, ‘I have no idea what I’m doing! So that kind of set the tone, no pressure, we didn’t touch the truck all week and the track just came to us.
“I tried running the top earlier in the race and had no idea what I was doing then either. The track took rubber and I kind of went hammer down and drove it in straighter and it felt more like Bristol or Martinsville. That worked for us really well. I just can’t believe we won on dirt.”
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