TRE — Grant Enfinger left Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park all alone, for a good reason. In the July 29 playoff opener at LOIRP, Enfinger won and became the second driver to advance to the second round of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs.
Enfinger earned five playoff points for his first win of the season, which snapped a 38-race winless streak, dating back to October 2020.
“The fact that our Chevy was just good all night, we had raced contending speed, which is something that we’ve lacked for the most part of this year, it felt good to just have an opportunity,” Enfinger said. “So I’m definitely very, very thankful that it worked out. Even if it hadn’t, I would’ve still left IRP with a smile and still been excited about going to Richmond.”
The race was a breakthrough for Enfinger and GMS Racing, a team he returned to this season after starts in 2016 that included his first NCWTS win at Talladega. The deep ties have prevailed as the team’s strong effort is finally starting to show up.
“Man, they have treated me like gold this year. There has been more effort behind me than I’ve ever had behind any racecar in my entire career,” Enfinger remarked. “So the effort is there, the support from Chevrolet is there. Quite honestly, we just hadn’t gotten the results until IRP. Hopefully, this is something that we can maintain through the playoffs and kind of make up for the lack of performance honestly.”
At IRP, Enfinger led 10 or more laps in a race – 13 at IRP – for the third time this season. He also contended for his first stage win of the season, in Stage Two, before he won the overall race.
Before IRP, Enfinger had just two playoff points, the ninth-most of any playoff driver. After the IRP win, he stood at seven, the sixth-most of any driver.
Going into the following races, Enfinger and crew chief Jeff Hensley stood with an opportunity to take some more chances.
“If we got a 50/50 shot of winning a stage but maybe we [would] finish 15th in the stage, he [crew chief Jeff Hensley] can make that call to try to get that one playoff point. That could be the difference,” Enfinger explained. “Also for winning the race, maybe it’d be a fuel mileage race, a tire race, maybe we got the best truck… or an eighth-place truck. If he wants to make a gutsy decision with the tires, it could win us the race, we could finish one lap down. Now he can kind of open the playbook a little bit.”
Enfinger and crew chief Jeff Hensley worked with each other at Thorsport during Enfinger’s first four NCWTS seasons. Together, they won five races but split in 2021 when Hensley joined GMS.
“We’ve always had a good relationship off the track. When he wasn’t my crew chief last year, we’d talk every week or two and, a lot of times, it wasn’t even about racing, but we’d always stay in contact with each other,” Enfinger said. “I couldn’t ask for a better situation when he did become my crew chief [because] it’s not like we’re starting over – it’s more like we didn’t really finish.”
Enfinger and Hensley reunited at Mid-Ohio, just two races before the playoff opener at IRP.
“He knows what’s on my mind a lot of times before I say it. I know the good triggers and the bad triggers to press with him, he’s got the same with me. I feel like we both pretty much know how to get the best out of each other,” Enfinger discussed. “When he came back over here, it wasn’t a very big transition. He deployed right back in here. He has been at GMS before, so there wasn’t that lull you have when you have a crew chief change.”
Richmond and Kansas will close out the first round. Enfinger won at Richmond in 2020 and holds the fourth-best average finish (7.0) at Kansas of all playoff drivers.
Bristol, Talladega and Homestead-Miami make up the second round when Enfinger and seven others will vie to advance to the championship race at Phoenix.
Enfinger won at Talladega in 2016 and holds the second-best average finish at Bristol (5.4) among playoff drivers. However, some different factors are playing into his believed chances of winning in the second round and winning the championship.
“I think Bristol is a great opportunity for us. GMS Racing has an incredible track record. Homestead is kind of the opposite, it hasn’t been the best for GMS, but me and Hensley have had some success there,” Enfinger said. “If we can make it to Phoenix, I think that’s a place that has been really good for GMS in the past and we will have the same tires that were on at IRP, the same tires will be on at Richmond. [At Phoenix,] It’s not to say that it would be our championship to lose by any means, but I think we’d have had as good an opportunity as anybody if we can get there.”