E.A. Sports Today

Knocking it out

Journeyman Timothy Peters wins Fr8Auctions 250 truck race on last-lap move; Kurt Busch wins pole for Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500

Race winner Timothy Peters (25) puts his truck right on the rear bumper of Justin Haley during Saturday’s Fr8Auctions 250 at Talladega Superspeedway. On the cover, Peters celebrates in Victory Lane. (Photos by Jonathan Fordham/East Alabama Sports Today)

By East Alabama Sports Today

TALLADEGA – Driving in his last guaranteed race of the year, Thomas Peters wanted to knock it out of the park.

He did just that – and the race leader at the time to open the door for his win along the way.

Peters won the Fr8Auctions 250 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race in another typical Talladega Superspeedway way Saturday when he nudged Noah Gragson out of the way on the final lap to gain the lead.

It was the only lap the 38-year-old journeyman from Virginia led, but it allowed him to become the first three-time winner in the series at the track. It was his 11th career win (and GMS Racing’s 21st). He also won at Talladega in 2014 and 2015.

Timothy Peters admires the heavy winner’s trophy he’s about to lift in Victory Lane. (Photo by Jonathan Fordham/East Alabama Sports Today)

Gragson had the lead at the white flag and was trying to hold on to the finish with Peters and Justin Haley lined up behind coming out of Turn 2. Gragson moved over to block on the backstretch, but Peters tapped his right rear bumper and sent him careening up into the wall.

NASCAR threw up the caution freezing the field with Peters in the lead and declared the winner.

“You kind of can’t let up on that last lap; I hope everyone’s OK,” Peters said. “I hate to cause that but we were going for the win. This is my last ride.

“Obviously Noah was going for it. Was it a block? At that point it didn’t matter; I wasn’t going to lift. I hated the outcome what it was, but it feels good crossing that finish line knowing that we won the race.”

Team owner Maury Gallagher, who offered Peters a three-race truck deal back in the spring, said Peters has been a “great addition” to advancing the team’s success. The team thought their driver had such good odds to win Saturday race, one of the crew put a $100 on him and happily collected.

Timothy Peters crosses the finish line to win the Fr8Auctions 250 and become the winningest truck series driver at Talladega Superspeedway. (Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

“It was a great investment … to give Timothy a call,” Gallagher said. “It’s good to see an old pro – well, let’s not say old, a pro – like Timothy do well.”

Peters stumbled a bit as he excitedly exited the truck, but when he took the checkered from the flag man along the fence he walked a few steps down the banking and swung it like a batter hitting a home run.

“At the end of the day you don’t know when you’re next shot’s going to come; it’s a tough business,” Peters said. “It goes back to that phone call I got to go to Canada and team up with these guys.

“My job was made easy today. I have a decent track record here and knowing GMS has been strong on the super speedway and to cross that start-finish line that we won the race, it doesn’t get any more emotional than that for me.”

Twice in the final six laps the leader wrecked. Before the incident that opened the door for Peters to win, Grant Enfinger spun from the lead after getting tapped by David Gilliland on lap 88. That put Justin Haley in the lead and set the stage for the dramatic finish.

“We were just trying to put ourselves in position there,” Haley said. “The 51 (Enfinger) was pushing me up there, I thought we were going to get ourselves in a good position, but the 25 turned the 18 and that’s what happened.

“It really didn’t matter to us, we were already locked in (to advancing).”

Actually, those were nothing like the wreck that wrecked the field. “The Big One” came on Lap 59, collected 10 trucks, including several playoff drivers, and brought out the red flag for 11 minutes, 42 seconds.

The race wrapped up the first playoff round for the truck series, reducing the field of championship contenders to six — Haley, Enfinger, Gragson, Brett Moffitt and former series champions Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter.

Kurt Busch on Sunday pole;
SHR drivers start first four

Kurt Busch led a Stewart-Haas Racing onslaught in qualifying for Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. The top four positions will all be SHR drivers, in the pivotal NASCAR Playoff race.

Kurt Busch sits on the pole for Sunday’s 1000Bulbs.com 500. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Getty Images)

Maybe that’s the ticket to changing the team’s fortunes here and challenge the recent dominance of the Penske cars, who have of late been had the fast track to Victory Lane.
Since its inception in 2009, SHR has won 49 races, 43 poles and a pair of Cup championships, but it has never had a winner at Talladega. Kevin Harvick and Clint Bowyer have won a combined three times here, but all while driving for Richard Childress.

“I think it’s our turn,” Bowyer said.

Busch, who was second to Joey Logano in the spring race, is 0-for-25 on race day here and Saturday’s fast run of 195.804 marked the first pole of his career at the two fastest tracks on the NASCAR schedule – Talladega and Daytona. He has one win at Daytona.

“I’ve been working at this for almost 20 years to get a restrictor plate pole and now I have one,” said Busch. “I’m really happy about this one. This is a huge bucket list item for me and I have everyone at Stewart-Haas to thank.”

Bowyer, Harvick and Aric Almirola pulled into the next three spots, with Chase Elliott qualifying fifth.

Busch called the team’s front two-row sweep “awesome” and “a great way to celebrate a 10th anniversary.”

“With Stewart-Haas 1-2-3-4 today at a restrictor plate race in the playoffs, this really sets the tone,” he said. “We’ve got six races to go, we’ve done a good job on the 41 to finish with two top fives in a row. It’s here; it’s now. This is the playoffs and we want to win this thing. Today’s a big feather in the cap, a pat on the back and now we have to execute tomorrow in the race.”

The benefit of starting up front at Talladega is debatable. Only four past 1000Bulbs.com pole sitters have gone on to win the race: Dave Marcis (1976), Bill Elliott (1987), Dale Earnhardt (1990) and Sterling Marlin (1995). That statistic underscores the track’s renowned unpredictability – and its “wild card” reputation.

“More than any other place we go you have to be focused at Talladega because it’s 500 miles of mind games,” Bowyer said. “It’s all about making good, quick decisions by all of the team – the guys in the pits, my spotter and me in the race car. If we can do that, we will be in a great position to get another Talladega win and hopefully advance in the playoffs.”

Twelve drivers remain in championship contention, a group that includes all of Saturday’s top-five qualifiers. For those 12, a victory Sunday will result in automatic advancement to the next round, although Elliott has already advanced via a victory last week.

The race is set to start at 1 p.m.

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