HAMPTON, Ga. — For the second year in a row at Atlanta Motor Speedway, late-race circumstances took Kyle Busch out of contention for a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win and opened the door for a thrilling finish.
And at the end of Saturday night’s Active Pest Control 200, it was Brett Moffitt and Hattori Racing Enterprises who capitalized on Busch’s misfortune to break into victory lane as surprise winners in just their second start together.
Busch was at the head of the field when Josh Reaume spun off turn two and collected Dalton Sargeant with six laps to go, drawing a caution and sending most of the lead pack down pit road for service as they attempted to outsmart the wily veteran, a four-time past winner at Atlanta.
But the final pit stop was disastrous for Busch, who first endured a slow change on the right front tire and then peeled away in an effort to save time, not knowing that the left rear tire changer had already pulled the lug nuts off the wheel.
Moments after Busch cleared pit road, the left rear tire came off his No. 4 Cessna Toyota, sending him plummeting out of contention after he led a race-high 67 laps and blowing the door wide open for the rest of the field.
The race went quickly into NASCAR Overtime and Myatt Snider — gambling on just two tires with his ThorSport Racing Ford — led the field back to green with 2016 champion Johnny Sauter flanking him to the outside.
Meanwhile, Moffitt restarted third and knew he had one shot to try and make something happen, so he ducked to the inside to make it three-wide for the lead entering turn one and powered ahead as Snider and Sauter fell back on the upper lanes.
The Iowa native never looked back after that despite three and four-wide racing in his mirror over the final lap and a half, racing to his second-career checkered flag by 1.326 seconds over Noah Gragson in the end.
“This is crazy; we ended up in the perfect spot at the perfect time,” said Moffitt, who gave team owner Shige Hattori his first win as an owner in 44 career series starts. “Without these tools and his support, I wouldn’t have been able to be up there, but we had a really good Tundra all night. We were just fighting (a lack of) track position for most of the race, but we were able to drive right by people. This is a hell of a night.”
“It’s unbelievable for me to even be in a race car at this point, let alone in victory lane. Kyle (Busch) spun his tires earlier and that put us back, but I knew the 13 (Snider) was a sitting duck (on the final restart) and I just wanted to get a good launch. I hoped they would get into a battle behind us, and they did – so it’s pretty surreal.”
Gragson moved through two rows of three-wide action in the final three miles to pick up a second-place finish, his best result since winning at Martinsville Speedway last October.
But the Las Vegas young gun wanted more in the final laps, believing his truck was capable of winning after he wired the first stage of Saturday’s race and beat his team owner at that juncture.
“We win as a team and we lose as a team, man,” said Gragson. “I thought we had a really good truck; it’s just disappointing from my end. … We finished second — which is a good points day — but we came here to win and I believe we had a truck that could have done that tonight.”
“I gave it my all and went from ninth to second in one corner there on that last restart. You can’t do much more than that. I need to get better on my part, and we’ll come back and get them next time.”
Daytona winner Johnny Sauter crossed the line third, ahead of ThorSport Racing teammates Ben Rhodes and Matt Crafton.
Snider faded to seventh after restarting on the front row for the final two-lap dash, while Busch was credited with 21st in the final rundown due to his misfortunes, falling one lap down to the leaders.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to action March 2 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Full race results can be viewed on the next page…