By Jeremiah Davis
NEWTON – When the M&Ms 200 finished Sunday at Iowa Speedway, Ross Chastain was spiking a watermelon in Victory Lane and Iowa native Brett Moffitt was seething on pit road after crossing the line second.
Approximately two hours later all that was upended with the first race-winner disqualification under NASCAR’s new post-race inspection policy.
Chastain’s No. 44 Niece Motorsports truck was deemed too low in the front following post-race inspection – “the 44 was low on the front, extremely low,” NASCAR Truck Series director Brad Moran said – and as a result the race win and $50,000 bonus from Gander Outdoors went to Moffitt for his first victory of the season.
“Obviously this is not the way I wanted to win it,” Moffitt said. “As a racecar driver I still know I got beat on track, which is frustrating.
“I still would rather take the checkered and be the first one to it, but I’ll take the win any way I can get it. It solidifies our playoff spot and $50,000.”
The first DQ under NASCAR’s policy change marks the first time a national series winner was disqualified since 1960. The only other time in the modern era that the driver who took the checkered flag wasn’t given the win was when Ricky Rudd got a time penalty for spinning Davey Allison at Sonoma in 1991.
Moffitt’s win was his first for GMS Racing in addition to being his first of the season, and also came officially without leading a single lap.
Moffitt had left the track and was on his way to the airport when he got the call to come back inside the track because there was an issue in tech for Chastain. His dad, Moffitt said, had already packed up the motorhome and was headed back to Grimes and had to pull over and turn around.
The swing of emotions was wild.
Right after the race, Moffitt was asked how it felt to come up so short at his home track.
“Pretty shitty,” he said, clearly seething.
Two hours later?
“I was already changed and drinking some beers, headed to the airport mad as hell,” Moffitt said. “I went from drinking my sorrows away to being happy. It’s frustrating losing when you know you have a truck capable of the win and finishing second is the most frustrating thing out there. I’d rather finish 10th than second.
“It’s a rollercoaster of emotions. I’ve been through that a lot in my career. Thankfully it worked out in my favor for once.”
NASCAR changed the penalty policy headed into this season in order to get rid of the “encumbered” wins that guys like Kevin Harvick and Joey Logano got in the last few years, where they kept the trophy and the credit in the record books but lost the points.
Those penalties always came on Tuesday when NASCAR had completed inspection at the R&D center. Moffitt acknowledged his view on today was biased because he came out on the good end, but ultimately liked the choice based on fans knowing the day of the race what the results truly were.
“For the integrity of the sport I think it’s the right thing to do,” Moffitt said. “Obviously I came out on the good end of it. If I was in Ross’ shoes I wouldn’t be too thrilled about it.”
Moran clarified that Niece Motorsports had multiple opportunities to roll the car onto the inspection platform but nothing changed.
“Teams are restricted on their ride heights in the front and rear of the vehicles,” Moran said. “They do have an opportunity to roll around, put fuel in the vehicle and air the tires and give them five to 10 minutes before we roll them back up on to check them a second time. Unfortunately, the 44 did not rise on the front at all.
“The height sticks have a warning yellows and reds and it was off of all that. It was extremely low.”
Niece Motorsports can appeal the decision, which would be an expedited appeal. Al Niece confirmed the team would appeal in a written statement Sunday.
“Our Niece Motorsports team works hard to ensure that our race trucks are within the confines of NASCAR’s rules,” said Al Niece, team owner, in a statement. “Both of our Chevrolets passed opening and pre-race inspections. We believe that the No. 44 truck sustained minor damage during the event, which left the truck too low following the race. We will appeal NASCAR’s decision. Regardless of the outcome, this team will be prepared to go to Gateway (Motorsports Park) and win again.”
Moffitt said he’s never won this way before, going all the way back to his karting days.
“I had an incident in karts where I finished second and the winner was over engine tolerance by a thousandth of an inch and they let it go,” Moffitt said. “So I’ve lost this way. But I’ve never won this way. I’ve never been the leader and been disqualified or been second and gotten the win, so it’s definitely different. A very small part of me feels bad. A very large part of me is very excited.”
So Moffitt takes the points, the money – with the chance for another bonus next week at Gateway Motorsports Park – and the relief of getting into the W column forward with him.
He also will get to race a Sprint Car at Knoxville Raceway now, too, thanks to a bet he made about winning the race with a personal sponsor in KCP Racing.
What a difference a few hours makes.
“I just got a Sprint Car ride,” Moffitt said after being reminded about his bet. “Those guys are gonna be bummed. They didn’t think it was going to happen. Thank you (for the reminder), that blew my mind. KCP has Ian Madsen’s team. They have a lot of the same partners we have, especially the Rasmussens and everything they’ve done for my career. In 2010 my racing career was over and they stepped up and backed me all the way through my (K&N) East years up til my deal with (Michael) Waltrip, and then again helped us out last year and this year. Without them I wouldn’t be here.
“I went to the owner of (Madsen’s) team and made a little bet. He was a little intoxicated at the time, but hopefully it stands up.”