Athenian Motorsports' John Wes Townley played the odds in Sin City and was rewarded by being shown the way to victory lane for the first time in 87 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Saturday night, as he was able to succeed where others fail by stretching his fuel to allow him to coast across the finish line almost four seconds clear of the rest of the field after 146 laps.
Full NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race results from Las Vegas.
Earlier in the day, reigning series champion Matt Crafton swept both rounds of qualifying to take pole with a lap of 30.613s (176.396mph) at the 1.5-mile speedway, clinching his second pole of the year and his ninth in a total of 356 starts by 0.111s ahead of Townley.
When the race went green, Crafton was able to retain the lead initially but Townley found a way past just before the first caution of the night on lap 14 when Austin Theriault made contact with his Brad Keselowski Racing team mate Tyler Reddick in turn 4. That sent Theriault into a hard head-on impact against an unprotected part of the outside wall, and there was clearly concern for the driver as he was helped from the car. Although he initially stood and was described as alert and communicating, Theriault was soon placed on a stretcher and subsequently airlifted for evaluation and treatment at nearby University Hospital.
Townley won the race off pit road to lead Cameron Hayley and Red Horse Racing's Timothy Peters back to the green flag, only the second race that the 25-year-old has led a race in his Truck career. Peters managed to get ahead during a caution for SS-Green Light Racing's Korbin Forrister dropping fluid on the backstretch and there was another caution on lap 48 when John Hunter Nemechek (SWM-NEMCO Motorsports) got into the back of Johnny Sauter (ThorSport Racing) in turn 2.
Crafton was able to take the lead at the next restart on lap 53, and his ThorSport Racing's team mate Hayley took over at the front on lap 69 and soon pulled out a three second lead by the time a round of green flag pit stops began, Hayley himself surrendering the lead and coming in on lap 95 briefly handing control of the race to Reddick who was off-sync.
Once all the stops had cycled through it was Crafton in charge from Townley, Hayley, Christopher Bell (GMS Racing) and Erik Jones (Kyle Busch Motorsports), but with no further cautions materialising everyone was now on a knife-edge when it came to fuel conservation. Although he built up a nice cushion at the front, Crafton was unable to make the distance and was forced to make a splash-and-dash stop with four laps remaining as did all the other leading contenders - save one.
Townley was being schooled in the fine art of running at three-quarters throttle by his spotter Terry Cook for the final minutes of the race, and even so he reported himself to be out of gas before the finish. Somehow he was able to keep it coasting for long enough to make it to the finish line and clinch his maiden NASCAR national-level victory.
"I would have run out of gas if it hadn't been for Terry," Townley said. "I took care of this thing tonight and it took care of me. This is amazing, awesome."
Peters proved the best of the rest picking up second from his team mate Ben Kennedy, while Nemechek rebounded from his early contact with Sauter to pick up fourth from GMS Racing's Brandon Jones and NTS Motorsports' Daniel Hemric. Being forced off-sync on pit strategy ended up turning out well for Reddick who was able to take advantage of the fuel drams of those around him to get back on the lead lap and claim seventh place ahead of Crafton, Erik Jones and Cameron Hayley rounding out the top ten.
Saturday's race also saw X-Games star Travis Pastrana return to NASCAR for the first time since he raced in the Xfinity Series finale at Homestead-Miami in 2013. Competing for NTS Motorsports, Pastrana finished two laps off the lead in 16th place by the chequered flag.
In the championship standings, Crafton closes the gap to current points leader Erik Jones to just four points, with Reddick also still well in the running just 12 points further back with five races still remaining on the schedule starting with the Fred's 250 at Talladega Superspeedway on October 4.
Full race results, plus qualifying and practice speeds and updated Camping World Truck Series championship standings.
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