Todd Gilliland won the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra 225 at Circuit of the Americas. Gilliland also won stage one and led eight of 41 laps. The race stayed clean despite a wet track, with no cautions for incident, but that certainly didn’t mean there wasn’t intrigue.
Gilliland Steals Stage One with Last-Lap Pass
Kaz Grala, competing for Young’s Motorsports, absolutely dominated stage one, with Sheldon Creed close behind. However, neither took the stage victory. Creed pitted with three laps remaining in the stage, allowing him to stay out under the ensuing caution. Grala, however, started to lose pace, allowing Gilliland, who spent much of the stage in third position, to reel Grala in from over six seconds back, grabbing the lead on the last lap of the stage after a brilliant battle.
Creed Flexes His Muscles
Stage two began with Sheldon Creed out front as conditions deteriorated and visibility decreased. Pitting before the end of stage one paid off for Creed, teammate Zane Smith, and Grant Enfinger, who ran 1-2-3 early on in stage two. However, as the stage neared its halfway point, Kaz Grala, Tyler Ankrum, and Sam Mayer, who all pitted under the stage one caution, began to charge through the field. While Smith and Enfinger dropped through the field, Creed enjoyed a lead that exceeded six seconds at times. To compound the issues for Zane Smith, he had a left-rear tire go flat in turn one, and was forced to limp around the entire length of the track with no help from a caution.
Strategy Shakeup Awards Rhodes Stage Two Win
As stage two wound down, pit stops began again. This time most of the frontrunners pitted, including Sam Mayer, Grant Enfinger, Kaz Grala, Tyler Ankrum, and even leader Sheldon Creed. Gilliland also pitted, a move that would work in his favor. This handed the top two positions in the stage to Thorsport teammates Ben Rhodes and Matt Crafton, followed by Derek Kraus. Despite making pit stops, Creed, Ankrum, Grala, and Mayer all finished top ten in the stage.
Gilliland Outduels Ankrum at COTA
When the green flag flew, it was those that pitted shortly before the end of stage two that found themselves back up front, with Creed, Grala, and Ankrum making up the top three. Through that same strategy, Todd Gilliland recovered from his penalty to find himself also in the top five. Through the final stage, Parker Kligerman, Derek Kraus, Tanner Gray, and Stewart Friesen all found themselves facing backwards, but each continued with minimal damage. With ten laps to go, Ankrum grabbed the lead from teammate Creed after an intense battle. However, stage one winner Gilliland got by Creed for second position and reeled in leader Ankrum as the two pulled away from the rest of the field.
As the race entered its final laps, the two young drivers swapped the lead several times in an incredible battle, but it would be Todd Gilliland prevailing, securing the position for good with six laps remaining. As Gilliland approached the line to take the white flag, Timmy Hill and Chandler Smith both found themselves stopped, but the caution did not come out and Gilliland took the checkered flag the next time by.
Stage 1 Points Scorers: Todd Gilliland, Kaz Grala, Tyler Ankrum, Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes, Sam Mayer, Stewart Friesen, John Hunter Nemechek, Sheldon Creed, Timmy Hill
Stage 2 Points Scorers: Ben Rhodes, Matt Crafton, Derek Kraus, Sheldon Creed, Tyler Ankrum, Kaz Grala, Bayley Currey, Sam Mayer, Todd Gilliland, Camden Murphy
Final Stage Top 10: Todd Gilliland, Kaz Grala, Tyler Ankrum, Grant Enfinger, Sheldon Creed, Sam Mayer, Carson Hocevar, Zane Smith, Austin Hill, Ben Rhodes