NASCAR's young star Hailie Deegan missed out on her first top ten in the Truck Series due an unlucky sequence of cautions, but could still finish P13, equalling her best result of the season so far.
One week after NASCAR's first ever race at COTA, the world's most popular stock car championship headed to Charlotte - home of the traditional Coca Cola 600 on Memorial Day. Camping World Truck Series was also back on track, as the drivers and teams of NASCAR's third division made their 10th start of the season for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 event.
Coming from a 14th place finish at Austin's Circuit of the Americas, Hailie Deegan returned to the track where entered the series' rookie test last April. At Charlotte Motor Speedway, Deegan also completed her fifth start on a mile-and-half oval in her Truck Series career so far.
After a difficult weekend last time out, championship veteran Jennifer Jo Cobb retuned back behind the wheel of the #10 Chevrolet truck, in what was a busy Friday schedule that included practice, qualifying and race - all in a single day of running.
Jo Cobb was 37th on the grid, while Deegan started off with a strong pace and qualified her #1 Ford F-150 truck in 12th position.
The first part of race saw one dominator: GMS Racing's Sheldon Creed, who led without issues throughout the green-flag run. Half-way through the stage, Hailie Deegan moved up inside the top ten and, after a really consistent stage, she was tenth across the line.
COTA's round winner Todd Gilliland and series' protagonist John Hunter Nemechek were just behind the leader Sheldon Creed.
After his initial strong run, though, Creed dropped several positions in the second stage and allowed Zane Smith to take the control of the pack. In stage 2, Smith would battle with Austin Hill before the action was neutralized by a couple of cautions. Nevertheless, his chances were crushed when he received a penalty for a crewman's error and dropped out from the leading positions.
Deegan was running in eleventh place when the last caution came out. The 19-year old lady from California made good use of the break and anticipated the pit stop - thus finishing the second stage just outside the top ten, but then rejoining the field in ninth for the final race segment.
A caution on lap 104, though, shattered Deegan's top ten hopes: Johnny Sauter caused the yellow flag just as the David Gilliland Racing driver of the #1 truck was in for her scheduled green-flag pit stop. As a consequence, Deegan - together with some other drivers on the same strategy - dropped one lap down.
Nemechek charged throught the field with a powerful third stage and took the lead at the final restart. He would not allow any of his rivals to challenge him for the leadership, following a perfect run in the final 10 laps. Having restarted 13th after the final caution, Deegan ended the race in that same position - equalling her best result of the season so far, previously clinched at the Kansas Speedway's round.
"Not a bad day for the #1 team!" - she wrote. "Finished P13 and ran top 10 some of the race. Feeling more comfortable every time I hit the track. We’re going in the right direction!", commented Deegan after the race. After a couple of tough races towards the beginning of the season, in fact, Deegan has been showing constant imrpovements and has been running consistently close to the top 10 lately.
The North Carolina Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte marked the third victory of the season for John Hunter Nemechek - who had previously hit the wall in practice and thus had just a handful of laps under his belt in the session. Behind him, it was Niece Motorsport's driver Carson Hocevar in second and Ben Rhodes in third.
Jennifer Jo Cobb was 34th at the second stage, but was then out of the race for a suspension issue.
The next NASCAR Camping World Truck Series round will be contested at Texas Motor Speedway on June 12th for the SpeedyCash.com 220 event.