TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Tate Fogleman smashed his way to his first career NASCAR national series victory with an overtime win in the Truck Series race at Talladega Superspeedway, the opening of NASCAR's weekend playoff tripleheader.
Fogleman spun John Hunter Nemechek from the lead headed to the finish line Saturday on the second lap of a two-lap overtime shootout for his first victory in 46 career Truck Series starts. His Chevrolet wrecked its way across the finish line, and Fogleman went to the care center for the mandatory health check instead of victory lane.
“We’ve never finished a superspeedway race before so I really didn’t know what to do," Fogleman said. “I’ve tried laying back in other races and it never worked. So, we figured we’d stay aggressive, try to stay toward the front.”
It was just the second career top-10 for Fogleman, who is in his second season driving for Young's Motorsports. Saturday was the second career start at Talladega for the 21-year-old short track racer.
“I knew I just had to push as hard as I could,” Fogleman said. “I got the push from behind and stayed aggressive. I knew nobody was going to give me any room. I did all I could pushing and luckily the seas parted and luckily we came away with the win."
The race was the first of all three NASCAR national series at Talladega this weekend and opened a Saturday doubleheader with the Xfinity Series. The Cup Series was scheduled for Sunday — the weather called for rain — and all three races carried huge playoff implications.
For the Truck Series, all four spots in the championship-deciding finale were open before Talladega because a non-playoff driver won at Las Vegas last week.
All four spots are still open with one race left in this round, at Martinsville Speedway on Oct. 30, where the field of eight will be trimmed to four. A win by any of the eight playoff drivers earns an automatic berth into the championship finale.
Fogleman capped a frenzied two-lap overtime shootout and denied Nemechek an automatic berth into the championship. Tyler Hill finished a career-best second and was followed by Todd Gilliland as Nemechek dropped to fourth.
“That’s just how every race here for the past however many years has ended," Nemechek said. "I can’t be mad. As much as you want to be mad, you can’t be mad. It’s partly my fault. You take it with a grain of salt. I’m more mad at myself than anything for not staying higher to kind of stay away from him.”
And he dismissed a fuming Matt Crafton, calling the 45-year-old three-time series champion “an old man” when Crafton confronted him after the race. Crafton said he had issues with Nemechek in all three stages of the race.
“He’s smarter than that,” Crafton said. “I’m fine with getting hit going down the straightaway for stage points, but not coming off of the corner, but what comes around goes around sometimes.”
All drivers have fretted over Talladega because of the unpredictability of the pack racing on the 2.66-mile superspeedway. The Truck Series race had three cautions over the final 35 laps of regulation that collected 28 trucks — and that was before the multi-truck accident behind the leaders on the final lap of overtime.
“When we missed the first two big wrecks I had a feeling things were going in the right direction,” Fogleman said.
The race was stopped for a little over nine minutes with 35 laps remaining to clean up a 19-truck accident. A second six-truck race t argeted title contenders Carson Hocevar and Stewart Friesen, and the race ultimately wasn't great for any of the playoff drivers.
The four drivers below the cutline headed into Martinsville are Friesen, Chandler Smith, Hocevar and Zane Smith. All four were involved in crashes at Talladega.
Nemechek, Ben Rhodes, Crafton and Sheldon Creed are in the top four, with Creed up five points over Friesen.
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