By Cole Cusumano
The last time the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series was in action, Grant Enfinger stunned the competition by winning the playoff opener at Lucas Oil Raceway after a lackluster regular season which he called somewhere between “unsatisfactory and disappointing.”
Still, seven top-10s through 16 races was enough for the 37-year-old to qualify for the postseason as the nine-seed. Following a herculean effort in Indiana snapping a 38-race winless stretch, Enfinger put the series on notice as a championship contender for GMS Racing.
“It’s definitely huge just having that consistent and unbelievable effort behind us all year,” Enfinger told NEWS FROM THE PITS. “I’ve raced for a long time and this is the most effort I’ve ever had behind any season of anything I’ve raced. We’ve got all the resources and tools we need and now the playoffs are starting, so now it’s time to get to business.”
Expectations were sky-high for Enfinger, who joined the Truck Series powerhouse after a less than stellar 2021 campaign. In the year prior, he put up career-best numbers and even made an appearance in the Championship 4, so there was never any doubt in his ability to return to form.
Now in the midst of his 10th season in the NCWTS, Enfinger holds himself to a higher standard being a veteran of the sport, and especially competing for a team with a winning pedigree. Since the current playoff format was introduced in 2016, GMS Racing has made it to the Championship 4 every year and won two titles in that time.
Serving as the only representation for the organization in the playoffs, Enfinger understands what’s at stake and relishes pressure. Having made the postseason three times in his career, the 37-year-old is prepared to apply past experiences with his secret weapon: a reunion with crew chief Jeff Hensley.
“We’ve got that experience together and then GMS Racing as a whole has won championships and been in this position a lot,” Enfinger said. “There’s always pressure on us [teams], but obviously it gets amplified in the playoffs and you have to know what to do with it,” Enfinger said. “I feel like we’re in a good position, because we do have that experience, we have a good mindset going in.”
The driver-crew chief pairing shockingly split after four years and a season that ended with four wins and a Championship 4 run. After establishing a successful rapport spawning six victories and 61 top-10s in 90 starts, Hensley went onto work with Chase Purdy in 2021 and Matt Crafton for a bulk of 2022.
Hensley was with Enfinger for his three prior postseason runs, so it only made sense for the combination to be reunited once again in what the driver of the No. 23 believes could be his best opportunity yet.
Since joining forces once again in week-15 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, the pair already found victory lane and you get the sense Enfinger is just getting started. The scary thing for the field is the Alabama-born driver didn’t even have IRP circled on his calendar – that track would be Richmond Raceway coming up on August 13.
“Richmond is a place I would be excited about anyway, but definitely even more so with a brand-new truck,” Enfinger said. “Richmond’s a place myself and Jeff Hensley won at a couple years ago. It’s a track that really fits my driving style well, so I’m definitely looking forward to that.”
In two Truck Series starts at Richmond, Enfinger hasn’t placed lower than eighth with a win in 2020 and 89 laps led between both starts.
Only time will tell if the No. 23 team led by Hensley can keep the momentum rolling, but appears as if Enfigner and GMS are not to be overlooked after already locking into the Round of 8 after just three starts together this season. It makes you wonder the potential for their fourth playoff campaign together and why they ever split in the first place.
“As much as you can be with a high profile organization like GMS Racing, I think we’re kind of flying under the radar,” Enfingere said. “I’m fine with that. Now it’s time to implement all that we learned and execute. This is what separates everybody and I feel like we have the opportunity to legitimately take on the championship this year.”