NEWTON, Iowa — Brett Moffitt shed his race suit. He simmered silently in street clothes, sipped on a beer, and stewed over what seemed to be a missed opportunity at his home state track.
Then strange, but welcomed news arrived — and that brew tasted somewhat sweet rather than extremely bitter.
Ross Chastain’s No. 44 truck, which he apparently wheeled to a much-needed victory, had failed post-race inspection because of being too low in the front. Chastain and his team are appealing the penalty in an expedited process.
Suddenly, a sense of second-place dejection transformed into mild celebration, as Moffitt repeated as the official race winner of Sunday’s NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series M&M’s 200 race at Iowa Speedway.
“Obviously I was very disappointed,” said Moffitt, the defending series champ who grew up in nearby Grimes, Iowa.
“It’s a big change of emotions — and obviously this is not the way I want to win it. As a driver, I still know I got beat on the track, which is frustrating. But back in the beginning of the year when NASCAR implemented this new system, it was to clear up the Tuesday disqualifications and the encumbered wins and let the fans know and everybody else know who actually won the race. I’d still rather take the checkered and be the first one to it, but I’ll take a win any way I can get it.”
Ben Rhodes took second and Harrison Burton, Grant Enfinger and Stewart Friesen completed the top five.
Moffitt’s win cemented his spot in the series playoffs. It also earned his team $50,000 for winning the second stage of the Triple Truck Challenge, while giving him a sunny Father’s Day ending on what had seemed to be a deeply disappointing afternoon.
“I was halfway to the airport,” Moffitt said. “I was already changed in the motor home drinking some beers and headed to the airport and mad as hell. I didn’t know and then the team called me and said, ‘Head back this way.’ So obviously there was an issue, but I think for the integrity of the sport, it’s the right thing to do. Obviously I came out on the good end of it. Obviously if I were in Ross’s shoes, I probably wouldn’t be too thrilled about it, but it is what it is.”
That’s an odd, unexpected victory — and a sweeping change of emotions for the driver of the No. 24 Destiny Homes Smart Series Chevrolet.
“I went from drinking my sorrows away to being happy,” Moffitt quipped.
Chastain had dominated the final 141 laps. He declared for Xfinity Series points earlier this season, but shifted to chasing the Truck Series playoffs this month and was giddy about doing the “hard part” — winning a race — as accruing enough points to be in the top-20 would almost certainly happen.
But instead of being one step closer to qualifying for the playoffs, he lost ground and finished last.
“Basically we have a procedure and rules in place, trucks are restricted on their ride heights, the front and the rear of the vehicles,” said NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Managing Director Brad Moran, who spoke to media to explain the decision.
“Unfortunately the 44 (truck) was low on the front — extremely low. We have a process of what happens at that point. They do get an opportunity to roll around. They put fuel in the vehicle. They put air the tires.”
Then, Moran added, officials wait at least 5-10 minutes to inspect the car again, but that re-inspection failed to help Chastain’s team. “Unfortunately, the 44 did not rise on the front at all,” Moran said.
The jaw-dropping post-race development was preceded by a dramatic on-track clash. Austin Hill took exception to contact from Johnny Sauter and responded with a push to Sauter, which sent his No. 13 into the wall.
Sauter did not pit. Instead, as Hill wheeled his No. 16 ARCO National Construction Toyota back around the track, Sauter retaliated, using his No. 13 Tenda Products Ford to spin out Hill.
The incident ended Sauter’s day. Hill recovered to claim 13th. The shared animosity is likely to simmer long past this weekend.
“If he wants to come talk to me about it he can,” Hill said after the race. “But there won’t be nice words.”
Moffitt wasn’t muttering “nice words” after the race, either, until his phone buzzed and he smiled as the surprise winner.
“It’s a rollercoaster of emotions,” Moffitt said. “I’ve been through that a lot in my career and thankfully it worked out in my favor for once.”