BOWMANVILLE, Ontario -- Chad Hackenbracht said he'd be smiling for days after the first international race for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. It's with good reason, after he scored an opportunistic, personal-best second-place finish in just his third career start.
In the immediate aftermath of the slam-bang finish, though, it was hard for Hackenbracht to say exactly how he felt.
"Good ... I think," Hackenbracht said with a wry smile on pit road Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. "I can't tell through the chaos."
The 21-year-old Ohio native was behind the two main frays, among the top four drivers, that boiled over in front of him on the final lap of the Chevrolet Silverado 250. By the time the front-runners got to the road course's 10th and final turn, three of the four were in the tire barrier, leaving Hackenbracht to slip through and follow race winner Chase Elliott to the checkered flag.
It would be easy to dismiss the runner-up finish as a mere gift, but Hackenbracht stayed within the top 10 most of the day, used a sound race strategy from his No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports team and steadily improved into the top five as the day went on.
"I feel like we had one of the best trucks all day long," Hackenbracht said. "Kyle Busch Motorsports, they're the best team out here, I believe. Just trying to do the best I can with these four starts I've got with them this year. Can't thank everybody enough. We did a little different strategy, almost the same as everybody else, but we were a little better on pit road, better through a couple corners on the track. Just overall, a fantastic day."
Hackenbracht's final truck start of the season is scheduled Sept. 28 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and he has three more NASCAR Nationwide Series events planned with the Mark Smith-owned TriStar Motorsport team, bringing his season total to seven in that series. It's all part of the growth, aided greatly by his team owner and mentor, as he tries to firm up his 2014 racing schedule.
"Whenever I have questions, he doesn't hesitate to sit down and talk," Hackenbracht said of Busch, who notched his fourth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win of the season later Sunday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. "We talked for 40 minutes one day, just all about aero, where you need to position your truck. He's an awesome teacher, knows everything about anything. It's amazing to have him as an owner and a coach if I need him."
As proof that the learning process is beginning to take, Hackenbracht's smartest move of the day may have been letting Max Papis overtake him after the race's final restart, based on the realization that the aggressive Italian was faster and the hunch that he'd wreck with one of his rivals in the late stages. The latter prediction came to pass, allowing Hackenbracht to share the podium for the first time in a NASCAR national series.
The reward for Busch was twofold -- a top-three finish for one of his teams and the bonus of his young driver bringing back a mostly damage-free truck at the end of an intense day.
"I didn't really have to root and gouge much, but no, it was a great day," Hackenbracht said. "It comes back in one piece for the most part, maybe a little torn up on the fenders, but overall a great day, especially considering how crazy we get on these restarts in the truck series."
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