MADISON, Ill. — Pole winner Corey Heim lost the lead on Lap 18 of Saturday’s Toyota 200 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway.
He didn’t regain it until the first lap of overtime, when front-runner Christian Eckes spun his tires on a restart on Lap 164.
But that was enough for Heim to score his second NASCAR Camping World Truck Series victory of the season in a part-time role in the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota. Heim also collected an extra $50,000 in prize money in the kickoff race of the Triple Truck Challenge initiative.
Eckes was leading comfortably with just over two laps left in regulation when Tanner Gray spun in Turn 3 to cause the 10th caution of the race. Eckes chose the outside lane for the overtime restart, with second-place Derek Kraus lining up behind him.
That opened the bottom row for Heim, who lined up to the inside of Eckes and surged into the lead when Eckes’ No. 98 Toyota failed to launch.
After taking the white flag, Heim got the win when a four-car wreck in Turn 2 brought out the 11th caution and froze the field. Carson Hocevar’s No. 42 Chevrolet spun through Turns 1 and 2 and was slammed by the No. 5 entry of Tyler Hill. Hocevar was helped to the ambulance on a stretcher but gave a thumbs-up signal to the crowd after exiting his truck. NASCAR officials said Hocevar was transported to a local hospital for further evaluation.
“I can’t believe I got the bottom right there — that’s unbelievable,” said Heim, who picked up his second career win in his 12th start in the series. “A great push from my teammate Chandler Smith right there…”
Smith finished third behind Heim and Eckes after leading twice for 40 laps. Stewart Friesen came home fourth, followed by former series champion Johnny Sauter who scored his second straight top-five finish in his third start of the year.
It took a succession of bizarre circumstances to give Heim the window of opportunity he needed. On Lap 54, pre-race favorite John Hunter Nemechek, who entered the race as the series leader, spun in Turn 4 while trying an aggressive inside move on Friesen.
With his Toyota damaged beyond repair, Nemechek dropped out of the race and finished 35th.
“That was on me,” Nemechek said. “I put myself in a vulnerable spot.”
Eight laps after Nemechek’s wreck, Grant Enfinger spun while battling Chandler Smith for the lead, and both trucks slid sideways in tandem, with Enfinger suffering the bulk of the damage.
During a two-lap shootout at the end of Stage 2, Friesen, who had been running consistently in the top five, suffered a flat tire after contact from Hailie Deegan’s Ford and expressed his displeasure by crowding Deegan toward the apron.
On Lap 102, three-time 2022 winner Zane Smith fell off the pace with a flat tire after contact from Carson Hocevar’s Chevrolet. He recovered to finish ninth.
That left Eckes, Kraus and Heim to battle for the lead late in the race. Eckes passed Kraus for the top spot on Lap 154 of a scheduled 160 and appeared bound for victory until the overtime scrambled the finishing order.
“It’s really frustrating,” Eckes said. “The last three weeks, we should have won, but we didn’t. So we’ll go back to the drawing board and try to figure something out.”
Matt DiBenedetto ran sixth, followed by Kraus, Ben Rhodes, Zane Smith and Chase Purdy. Rajah Caruth finished 11th in his series debut. Rhodes regained the series lead by 17 points over Chandler Smith.
Toyota’s sweep of the top five was its sixth in Truck Series history. The first such sweep occurred at Gateway in 2006.
A total of three teenage drivers made their Truck Series debuts – Caruth, Mason Maggio (27th) and Jake Garcia (29th). Caruth ran as high as fifth, but a pit-road speeding penalty and a wall scrape with 34 laps left cost him track position.
The Camping World Truck Series’ next race is the DoorDash 250, scheduled next Saturday (7:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM) at Sonoma Raceway.
Note: Post-race inspection was completed without issue, confirming Heim as the official winner. The No. 13 truck of Sauter had one missing lug nut.
Contributing: Staff reports