When the white flag flew for the Chevrolet Silverado 250 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, Justin Haley found himself sitting third, at least two seconds back of the leader. But when the checkered flag flew, he was the first to cross the finish line and take the trophy north of the border.
Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates Todd Gilliland and Noah Gragson were racing for the lead on the final lap when the two made contact on the final turn—a finish that’s becoming proverbial in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in Canada.
Gragson got to the inside of Gilliland going into the corner, but ran out of room, hitting Gilliland’s No. 4 truck and causing both drivers to spin. Haley was able to cleanly pass the two spinning Toyotas to take his second win of the season, and advance to the second round of the Truck Series playoffs.
While Haley celebrated, Gragson and Gilliland finished ninth and 11th.
When asked by NASCAR on FOX pit reporter Alan Cavanna after the race if he was expecting the contact, Gilliland uttered a simple “yes.”
“Should’ve never let him get to me,” he said. “Should’ve just let him get to the inside and let him wreck himself, I don’t know. He’s done that to me on like five or six road courses. It sucks. We had the fastest truck and we didn’t win again. I’m gonna have to talk to him for sure.
“I’d go fight him right now, but I can’t. I just need to get my emotions in check and go talk to him, I guess. But I’m extremely mad.”
Gragson, who won the first two stages and knew a win could have advanced him further in the playoffs, as it did Haley, was apologetic and take the brunt of the blame for the contact.
“That one’s on me. Racing for the win. That’s my teammate. I apologize to Todd [Gilliland], apologize to the [No.] 4 team, apologize to everyone at Kyle Busch Motorsports,” Gragson said.
The win for Haley marked his second of the year and his career after winning at Gateway Motorsport Park earlier in the season.
“That was amazing,” Haley said in victory lane. “I knew going in there Gragson was probably gonna do something [that’s] not the smartest and that would line us up pretty good … I saw it coming and knew we were in the catbird seat.”
John Hunter Nemechek, who himself was involved in one of the several controversial finishes at the Bowmanville race track in 2016, finished second.
Completing the top-five were Brett Moffitt, Timothy Peters and Matt Crafton.
Johnny Sauter finished sixth after having late-race contact with Ben Rhodes. Sauter spun Rhodes’ No. 41 in the closing laps, and Rhodes wound up back in 14th after leading six laps early in the race.
Stewart Friesen, Austin Hill, Gragson and Alex Tagliani rounded out the top-10. Tagliani rebounded from his own late-race spin to be 10th in his only planned start of the season.
Half of the Canadian contingent in Friesen and Tagliani came away with top-10 finishes. The other two Canadians, D.J. Kennington and Jason White, finished 12th and 23rd, respectively.
As the series goes to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the second playoff race in a few weeks time, Haley is locked into Round 2. Sauter, Moffitt, Gragson, Crafton and Friesen hold the top-six spots while Rhodes and Grant Enfinger are on the outside looking in.