Sunday at Iowa Speedway: A truck too low gets Moffitt from second to first

NEWTON — Brett Moffitt was ‘“about five” beers into his post-race disappointment, on his way to the airport to leave Iowa Speedway and a second-place finish behind.

Then he got the call to come back to the track.

And it wasn’t long until Moffitt found out that he had gone from runner-up to winner.

There was a disappointment, Moffitt said, that he didn’t take the checkered flag first in Sunday’s NASCAR Truck Series race at Iowa Speedway.

Ross Chastain did that, and for about 90 minutes or so after the race, after Chastain had smashed a watermelon to celebrate in Victory Lane and realized he was on the cusp of getting into the series playoffs, he was the winner.

But Chastain’s Niece Motorsports Chevrolet was low in post-race inspection — “extremely low,” said Truck Series director Brad Moran — and Chastain was disqualified.

It was a cranky day at the .875-mile oval, and Moffitt was steamed for those same 90 minutes that Chastain was embracing.

The driver from nearby Grimes was mad, expressing in early post-race interviews that a.) he finished second and b.) finished second to Chastain because c.) he really wasn’t a big fan of Chastain.

“Obviously I was very disappointed,” Moffitt said. “Anyone down in the (media) bullpen heard that and probably put it out already.”

But when he walked into the track’s media center with one beer in his hand and another in his pocket, Moffitt couldn’t fight the smile.

“It’s a big change in emotions,” Moffitt said. “And obviously, this isn’t the way I want to win. As a race car driver, I still know I got beat on track, which is frustrating. I still would rather take the checkered and be the first one to it.

“But I’ll take the win any way I can get it.”

Moffitt, who won this race last season, gets the $50,000 prize for winning in the Triple Truck Challenge, the series-within-the-series that could get him $100,000 more if he wins next week at Gateway Motorsports Park.

But it also will get him into the Truck Series playoffs, which gives him a chance to defend his title from last season.

“It’s all good,” Moffitt said.

Chastain, who just declared for Truck Series points earlier this month, needed a win and a top-20 points finish at the end of the regular season to get into the playoffs. He had completed, he thought, a maximum-points day — three stage wins, the race victory, and most laps led. He thought he was only 14 points out of 20th.

Instead, he left with just five points with a 32nd-place finish, and needing something big to happen in the next few weeks to have a chance.

Moffitt was the winner, despite not leading a lap the entire day.

“I was halfway to the airport,” Moffitt said. “I was already changed in the motor home, drinking some beers. Headed to the airport, mad as hell.

“Then the team called me, and said, ‘Head back this way.’”

Trucks are restricted on their ride heights at the front and rear of their vehicles.

“Unfortunately, the 44 was low on the front,” Moran said. “Extremely low.”

Moran said Chastain’s truck failed the first inspection, and a second try.

“They do get an opportunity to roll around,” Moran said. “They put fuel in the vehicle, they air the tires. Give them at least 5-10 minutes, check them a second time. And unfortunately, the 44 did not rise on the front, at all.”

“For the integrity of the sport, it’s the right thing to do,” Moffitt said. “Obviously I came out on the good end of it. If I was in Ross’ shoes, I wouldn’t be too thrilled about it. It is what it is, and we finally got a win we needed.

“And we’ll move on.”

Chastain’s team owner, Al Niece, said in a statement that the team would appeal the decision.

“We believe the No. 44 Truck sustained minor damage during the event, which left the truck too low following the race,” Niece said.

It was a day when everybody seemed angry, and Moffitt’s post-race steam was only a small part of it.

Johnny Sauter and Austin Hill lit the fuse to the day with their tangles midway through the race.

Sauter, with a bump, knocked Hill out of the way in a pass for position so Hill responded with a similar bump. That sent Sauter into the wall, and into a rage.

Sauter chased Hill during the caution period, spinning him and then trying to push him into the wall. Sauter’s truck came out the worst in terms of damage, but his day was declared done by NASCAR.

Sauter refused comment after leaving the infield care center. Hill, who finished 13th, knew what he had to say.

“That’s how that guy races,” Hill said. “He thinks he doesn’t do wrong, and everybody’s out to get him, but that’s not the case. I try to race everybody as clean as I can. These restarts are crazy, and you’re trying to get position because clean air is key.

“I think it’s pretty classless under caution to take someone out like that. He could have tried to do it under green-flag conditions, or something like that. He tore up a pretty good truck. There were no scratches on it to that point.”

Chastain’s apparent win, then, was quite feel-goody. He was going to give the $50,000 back to his team, cash for an effort desperate for funding.

“We’ve got more trucks to build and more stuff to buy,” Chastain said. “I’m living my dream, and I want to reward them for it.”

Soon, the win was gone, the money was gone, and Chastain’s playoff hopes had gone from within-the-grasp to needing-a-whole-lot-of-help.

Moffitt’s day had done a complete change.

“I went from drinking my sorrows away to being happy,” he said. “It’s frustrating losing when you know you have a truck capable of a win. That’s the most frustrating thing out there. “Second is, just like, you’re so close. If you’re in the top three, you know you have a truck capable of winning. It’s how the race plays out.”

This one played out long after the day had seemingly ended.

“Everything was just smooth and calm,” Moffitt said of his race. “We were just having a good day.”

It only got better.

Moffitt remembered a time in his younger racing days, when he finished second in a similar situation.

“I had an incident in karts, when I finished second and the (winner) was over engine tolerance by, like, a thousandth of an inch, and they let it go,” Moffitt said. “So I’ve lost this way. But I’ve never won this way. It’s definitely different.

“A part of me, a very small part of me, feels bad. But a very large part of me is very excited.”

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