CLERMONT, Ind.-Ty Majeski’s timing was impeccable.
Winless this season before Friday night’s TSport 200 at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, Majseki put an old-fashioned beating on the rest of the field in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Playoff opener.
The driver of the No. 98 ThorSport Racing Ford cemented a spot in the Round of 8 in dominating fashion, leading 179 of 200 laps, sweeping the first two stages of the race and beating pole winner and runner-up Christian Eckes to the finish line by 3.422 seconds.
That was the smallest margin Majeski held at the end of any stage. He held a 3.904-second advantage over eventual eighth-place finisher Corey Heim at the finish of Stage 1. He was up by six seconds over Heim before the second stage ended under caution for Chris Hacker’s spin on the backstretch.
Clearly, the short-track ace was in his element at the 0.686-mile speedway.
“I’m proud of the effort, but this is just the start of our playoff run,” said Majeski, who failed to win with the fastest truck two weekends ago at Richmond.
In that race, Majeski sped on pit road, and his team failed to cover a late green-flag pit stop by race winner Carson Hocevar. In contrast, the effort of the entire No. 98 team was impeccable on Friday night.
“Mistakes really cost us (at Richmond),” Majeski said. “We learned from those. Obviously, tonight we were in a really similar situation, and we were able to execute on all fronts. The pit crew was great, (crew chief) Joe (Shear Jr.) made great calls, and I felt like I executed pretty good on the restarts.
“We put it all together as a race team tonight, and I’m pretty proud of that.”
Hocevar came home fourth behind non-playoff driver Layne Riggs. Reigning series champion Zane Smith was fifth after starting from the rear of the field because of unapproved adjustments to his No. 38 Ford.
William Sawalich was a career-best sixth in his fourth Truck Series start, followed by fellow non-playoff driver Rajah Caruth. Heim, in eighth, was penalized for too many men over the wall late in the race. Three-time series champion Matt Crafton and Matt DiBenedetto completed the top 10.
The race also was a triumph for another driver who never led a lap and finished 19th in the first car one lap down. Shane van Gisbergen, who took the NASCAR world by storm by winning the Chicago Street Race in his only Cup start, avoided all trouble and got plenty of seat time in his first trip around an oval.
“It was awesome,” said the New Zealander. “With 10 to go, I finally dropped off the lead lap. “I had a ball. It was awesome racing with people, a lot of fun… I’m living the dream, it was really cool, and everyone was respectful. It was awesome.”
MORE: Truck Series standings
Heim, the regular-season champion, retained the series lead by three points over Majeski.
After the next two races-at the Milwaukee Mile (Aug. 27) and Kansas Speedway (Sept. 8)-the playoff field will be cut from 10 drivers to eight. The two drivers currently below the cut line are Crafton and DiBenedetto, who trail eighth-place Nick Sanchez by two points and three points, respectively.
Note: Post-race technical inspection concluded without issue in the Craftsman Truck Series garage, confirming Majeski as the winner.