Stewart Friesen wins at Phoenix to advance to Truck championship race

Jerry Bonkowski

Stewart Friesen held off a late challenge by Brandon Jones to not only win Friday night’s NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series race at ISM Raceway, but also to lock himself into next week’s championship race at Miami.

Friesen will be joined in the championship race by defending Truck Series champion Brett Moffitt, Ross Chastain and Matt Crafton.

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Austin Hill, who started tonight’s Lucas Oil 150 from the pole, and Tyler Ankrum both failed to advance to Miami.

For Friesen, the win was a vindication of sorts. He was penalized by NASCAR for jumping the start at the beginning of the race, being sent to the back of the field as a result.

But the Canadian driver was a man on a mission and was not to be denied, earning his second career Truck Series win (the other win was earlier this year at Eldora).

“What a race car,” Friesen told FS1. “We were able to pass them all clean. … It’s awesome (to be in the championship round). It’s what we’ve been geared up for all year long. We just didn’t get a lot of breaks. We lost races about every which way you could lose them and thought it was another one tonight.

“This one’s for everybody. We can all celebrate this one together tomorrow and then it’s game on (at Miami). We’ve got a bad-ass piece for next week, too.”

Chandler Smith finished third in Friday’s race, followed by Ben Rhodes, Grant Enfinger, Crafton, Harrison Burton, Johnny Sauter, Chastain and Moffitt.

“We had a bad day, we’ll move on, we’ll go to Homestead where I’ll feel a hell of a lot better,” Moffitt told FS1.

Click here for race results.

Click here for updated standings.

Stage 1 winner: Ben Rhodes (third stage win of season)

Stage 2 winner: Brandon Jones (fourth stage win of season)

Who else had a good race: Crafton began the race below the playoff cutline, but stuck to the gameplan and now he’s Miami-bound. “We did exactly what we had to do,” Crafton told FS1. “We had nothing to lose and a lot to gain. We fought really hard each and every stage. We didn’t want to stage race, but we had to and at the end of the day, that’s what got us in (to the championship race).”

Who had a bad race: After starting from the pole, Austin Hill finished an unlucky 13th, low enough to knock him below the playoff cutline and to see Crafton move past him for the final championship race spot. “We just didn’t perform tonight and didn’t execute like we were supposed to,” Hill told FS1. “We just weren’t good enough when it mattered.”

Notable: After mechanical issues forced him to miss qualifying and to start the race at the back of the field, Harrison Burton came back strongly to finish seventh. … Chastain is a Florida native and is looking forward to going to his home track to race for the championship, telling FS1: “I am excited. This is incredible. … We’re going to Homestead. It’s an absolute dream come true.

What’s next: The 2019 Truck Series season all comes down to one race next Friday: the season finale and the championship-deciding race at Miami.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

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