Taking advantage of a late caution, Grant Enfinger passed local favorite Austin Hill on the final lap to win the NASCAR Truck Series race in overtime Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
In front of empty grandstands, Hill appeared to be cruising to his first win of the year, building a 4 1/2-second lead after several miscues ruined Kyle Busch’s chances of winning for the sixth time in 12 truck races in Atlanta.
Suddenly, everything changed. Cup star Chase Elliott lost control on worn-out tires coming off turn 2 with three laps to go, sending all the leaders to the pits for tires and setting up a green-white-checkered finish.
Hill was out front when the green flag waved, but Enfinger got a good run on the leader on the next-to-last lap, costing him some speed.
Then, after taking the white flag, Enfinger slid by on the outside to take the lead for good going through turns 1 and 2. He claimed his second victory of the interrupted season, having also won at Daytona in the February opener.
“We didn’t lead too many laps, but we led the ones that mattered,” Enfinger said.
The race fell right into his wheelhouse after Elliott’s spin.
“We didn’t have the best truck on the long runs, but we had the best truck on the short runs,” said Enfinger, who led just seven of 136 laps.
It was a heartbreaking result for Hill, who is from Winston, Georgia, a tiny town west of Atlanta and about 55 miles from a speedway where he first raced as an 8-year-old on the quarter-mile track.
“I wanted to win here so bad,” Hill said. “To get a win would have been really special.”
The two-lap sprint to the finish was an unfortunate break he couldn’t overcome, though he did place in the top 10 for the fourth straight time this season.
“All day on the restarts, it took our truck about five to seven laps to get going,” Hill said. “There at the end on that white-flag lap in turn one, we drove in deeper than we had all day. … It got tight and I had to lift a little bit. I’ll take the blame on that for not getting the win. We had a dominating truck.”
So did Busch, who won the first two stages and seemed like to add to his collection of Atlanta victories.
But it all fell apart when he was penalized twice for speeding on pit road and slammed the outside wall after getting squeezed by the slower truck of Jordan Anderson.
Busch, who led a race-high 37 laps, wound up 22nd.
Pole-sitter Christian Eckes took third, followed by Todd Gilliland and Zane Smith.
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