HAMPTON, Ga. – Although there is the oft-said saying that “nobody remembers who finished second,” it will be hard to forget that Nick Sanchez of Miami did so in Saturday’s eventful Fr8 208 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
After two tough outings at Daytona and Las Vegas, the 2022 ARCA Menards Series champion and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series rookie candidate entered the third round of the season looking for some kind of solace.
The 21-year-old racer had a tall task starting 20th in the field, a precarious position around the hybrid-like intermediate track about 28 miles south of its namesake city. Despite placing 22nd in Stage 1, the Rev Racing driver worked his way up to 10th place in Stage 2.
While the NASCAR loop data highlights a somewhat middling 15th place average running position, the young stock car talent persevered and drove his way to the front of the pack like a veteran.
At one point, Sanchez was involved in a breathtaking moment with Corey Heim on a Lap 85 frontstretch crash. As the field prepared for the restart, Sanchez’s No. 2 Gainbridge Chevrolet Silverado was not up to full speed when Heim rammed into the back of the former’s truck.
From there, Sanchez worked his way back into contention despite five cautions slowing the final 52 laps. With a steady but methodical approach in the final moments of the nearly 211-mile race, Sanchez appeared to be in position to capture his first career Truck win.
In fact, Sanchez took the lead from Ben Rhodes, the 2021 Truck champion, on Lap 130. A Turn 3 incident for Carson Hocevar, Lawless Alan and Matt Crafton on Lap 124 bunched up the field in the final and only Overtime restart of the race.
Regardless of Sanchez’s gallant drive and rally to the front, Christian Eckes and his No. 19 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet Silverado took the checkered flag by way of a Lap 135 pass for the lead.
Naturally, Sanchez mulled over his first taste of battling for a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory.
P2 in Atlanta. Would’ve done some things different if I could redo the final lap. Proud of my team for battling with me. Let’s continue to push✌️ pic.twitter.com/G0eRLqXBaU
— Nicholas Sanchez (@Nicksanchez080) March 19, 2023
Unlike the first two rounds of the season, Sanchez can hit the reset button while preparing for his next chance to vie for a Truck victory with Saturday’s XPEL 225 at the Circuit of the Americas (1:30 p.m. ET on FS1 and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Notably, the Truck Series presses onward with four consecutive races in a row, a busy stretch for drivers and teams with opportunities for drivers like Sanchez to make some noise before a two week reprieve in late-April.
May 4, 2023 at 5:49 am
“What an incredible performance by Sanchez in the Atlanta truck race! The way he battled his way through the pack and came within inches of victory was nothing short of awe-inspiring. It’s clear that he and his team put in the hard work and dedication to get to this level, and it’s paying off big time. I can’t wait to see what Sanchez and his team will achieve in the rest of the season. Keep up the great work!
Next time champ.