Corey Heim roars to Craftsman Truck Series win in overtime at COTA

Corey Heim roars to Craftsman Truck Series win in overtime at COTA

An afternoon of impressive restarts ultimately handed Corey Heim the winning finish in the XPEL 225 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at the famed Circuit of The Americas (COTA) road course in Austin, Texas on Saturday afternoon.

Heim dominated the race — his No. 11 TRICON Garage Toyota leading a race-best 31 of the 46 laps and prevailing in an overtime finish to convincingly win his first race of 2024 and sixth of his career — by 1.625 seconds over his teammate Taylor Gray.

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ThorSport Racing‘s Ty Majeski, Spire Motorsports‘ Connor Zilisch and NASCAR Cup Series regular Ross Chastain in a Niece Motorsports Chevy rounded out the top five.

“Just prepared so hard for this race,” said Heim, who also won Stage 2. “I came into this race last year and struggled really. Finished sixth with a penalty and just all over the place. To put together a solid race like this is just so special and really just shows you how good our trucks are back at the shop.”

Heim has finished sixth or better in all five races this season.

“Just great consistency and that was the name of the game last year to make it as far as we did,” he said, smiling. “Didn’t have the result at the end [of 2023] but I think this year we can make it back and prove we‘re champions. Super excited for the rest of the year, we‘re really just getting started and I think our best tracks are in front of us, so really can‘t wait.”

Heim‘s performance Saturday on the 20-turn, 3.41-mile road course was the afternoon standard, but there was plenty of good racing behind him. There were 14 lead changes among eight drivers, but no one other than Heim led double-digit laps.

Jack Hawksworth, a sports car and IndyCar driver making his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series start, proved himself a talent to be reckoned with. He ran top five most of the day and led a lap. He finished sixth.

Reigning series champ Ben Rhodes, Christian Eckes, Dean Thompson and Tanner Gray rounded out the top 10.

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The 17-year-old phenom Zilisch, a Trackhouse Racing signee, started from pole position in his first start in one of NASCAR‘s national divisions. Leading the field, he went into the first corner hard, however, relinquishing the lead to Heim immediately. After a pit stop for tires and a motivational reminder from his veteran crew chief Brian Pattie, he returned with vengeance. He and his Spire Motorsports No. 7 team never gave up, getting him back on the lead lap and then in contention late in the race.

Zilisch was running in fourth place with less than five laps to go in regulation but was given a pass-through penalty for cutting the course. Fortunately, it came just as a caution flew and it only cost the teenager two positions. He opted to pit for gas during the ensuing yellow flag and was able to climb back to that impressive top-five finish in his first race.

Nick Sanchez won Stage 1 but dropped back after a Stage 2 penalty for cutting the course in the esses and a spin in close-quarters racing with Jake Garcia on Lap 21. After another spin in Turn 1 in overtime, he finished 20th in Rev Racing’s No. 2 Chevrolet.

The race was forced to four extra laps after a late caution when the rear-end housing broke off the No. 04 Roper Racing Chevrolet driven by Marco Andretti. The event was briefly red-flagged for clean-up, and Andretti finished 31st in his first Truck Series start of the year. Post-race, competition officials announced that the rear-end housing and truck arms would travel to the NASCAR Research & Development Center for further evaluation.

The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series returns to competition April 5 with the Long John Silver‘s 200 at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Heim is the defending winner.

Notes: Post-race inspection in the Craftsman Truck Series garage was completed without major issue, confirming Heim as the race winner at COTA. The No. 7 Spire truck of Zilisch was found with one unsecured lug nut in a post-race check, which should result in a crew chief fine in next week’s penalty report. Two drivers — ThorSport’s Matt Crafton and Niece Motorsports’ Matt Mills — were assessed 30-second penalties post-race for short-cutting the course in the final laps. … Heim moved up one spot in the standings into the Truck Series points lead. He is 10 points ahead of Majeski after five of 23 races this year.

Contributing: Staff reports