OBSERVATIONS: Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix Raceway

By: Ashley McCubbin

It seemed it was going to be anti-climatic road to crowning the first champion of the weekend, but then a late caution changed everything. Classic drama route that you’re just craving for in these moments, right?

Knowing that he did not have a chance at winning with his truck fading due to a loose condition, Sheldon Creed came down pit road putting on four fresh tires, while Brett Moffitt and Grant Enfinger led the field to the green flag. The result was a dramatic charge, and probably one of the best restarts of the entire season, as the youngster went from ninth to third in a lap in a five-wide move, taking the lead and eventually the win – more importantly, the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoor Truck Series Championship.

Creed’s aggressiveness has been credited against him on a lot of occasions, and got him in trouble when he moved to asphalt originally when his fair share of incidents in both ARCA and truck competition. While he has found a way to tone it down with consistency and smarts, it was that nature to credit back to his victory tonight. As his crew chief Jeff Stankiewicz said, “He’s a maniac on restarts.”

The title, though, is a perfect combination of a lot of hard work as he won four other events this year, and was part of the conversation for plenty of wins beyond that. Knowing he will return to the series in 2021 with GMS Racing, it’s just a matter of how many checkered flags can he add to the collection.

RELATED: Cole Cusumano’s thoughts on the late charge to the win

While Creed enjoyed the champagne shower, the mood was quite different on pit road and reasonably so. Moffitt had dominated prior to the yellow flag and leading the most laps, and was out to a four-second advantage prior to the yellow flag.

It was understandable that disappointment and frustration was set to come in his post-race interview, but it went beyond that in a couple ways. Ultimately, he threw his crew chief and team under the bus for their strategy all year long.

It is no secret this year was frustrating at times for the past series champion, with it taking till Race 20 of 23 for him to score his lone victory of 2020 as he watched his teammates celebrate multiple wins. There was plenty of chances he should have accomplished the feat before then, but it seemed a late-race caution or incident on-track took away the chance of that happening. Combined with not knowing whether he’ll be in the series next year with no deal as of yet, it has took it’s toll all together.

However, completely throwing everything away – is that the appearance you want to offer a team that may actual consider resigning you for next season, or another organization even at that? It’s not the approach I’d offer in a morale sense, even if it’s right out of the Kyle Busch playbook at times.

Beyond the highs and lows of the title battle, it was a strong race for the series with side-by-side action through the field as drivers tried to end their year on a high note. You weren’t left bored with something always to watch, but that’s typical Truck Series as they’ve done all year in putting on the best racing of all three series.

As we lead into the rest of the weekend, fresh rubber may prove to be critical – very critical actually if there’s a late caution if the difference between old to new remains at seven tenths of a second or greater. If the same occurrence happens in the next two days, there better be four tires ready to go in the pits because guaranteed the driver is making their way down to bolt those on.

The other thing may be the PJ1 traction compound that was laid down, as Creed mentioned it becoming “hard to pass when it comes in,” as evident by Moffitt and him being stuck beside each other for numerous laps despite his competition being faster on the lap board. While the Xfinity Series cars may be able to get away with it as they seem to slip and slide everywhere, it may make the challenge of Sunday for the Cup Series that much more difficult.

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