Kaz Grala won a wild season-opening Camping World Truck Series race Friday night at Daytona International Speedway punctuated by a huge wreck on the final lap.
Matt Crafton ended up going airborne and upside down after the incident on the final lap, as he went for the win himself. Crafton instead ended up at the center of the most frightening accident on a night full of them, but he was able to walk under his own power to the ambulance that took him to the infield care center, where he was evaluated and released.
It was an eventful night, capped by Grala’s first career win after he earlier had become the youngest pole winner in series history.
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Somehow, he drove through the madness at the end unscathed to claim the win.
“There wasn’t any way I was going to lift,” Grala said. “I was just going to go low and cross my fingers and close my eyes a little bit. Luckily, it worked out for me. I can’t believe it. This is just so surreal.”
Austin Wayne Self ended up claiming second, with Chase Briscoe, John Hunter Nemechek and his father, veteran NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek, rounding out the top five.
The last-lap accident took out many of the top trucks on the night, including defending series champion Johnny Sauter and Crafton, a two-time series champion.
Earlier, Sauter had dominated most of the race and avoided trouble by staying out front.
The same could not be said for most others in the 32-truck field. As Sauter took the Stage 1 win and the bonus points that went along with it, a crazy wreck — the second of the young night that would be full of many — occurred behind him.
This time, for the second year in a row, the No. 4 truck of Christopher Bell went airborne as a result.
The No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet of Spencer Gallagher triggered the accident by getting into the back of the No. 7 Toyota of Brett Moffitt, who then clipped Bell’s truck and sent it into a wild, flying spin that took all four wheels off the ground.
Amazingly, Bell not only landed safely but continued on in the race. He was in 17th when the race resumed.
Bell’s No. 4 truck remained on the lead lap until he got loose with 29 laps to go and ended up wrecking again, ending the night for Korbin Forrister and the No. 5 truck in the process — as Forrister took a hit from Bell and went sliding through the grass in the infield, tearing up the bottom of his machine.
It didn’t take long for all heck to break loose just one lap into the race.
Shortly after the field crossed the start-finish line to signal the end of Lap 1 and the start of Lap 2, the No. 29 Ford of Chase Briscoe hooked the rear end of the No. 18 Toyota of Noah Gragson, setting off a chain reaction that ended up collecting a total of 17 trucks in a wild wreck.
“I was running seventh or eighth at the time and felt like I just got popped from behind by the 29 going through (Turns) 1 and 2. … I had a good time out there for the lap that I got,” Gragson, an 18-year-old driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports, told FOX Sports.
Sauter, meanwhile, won the first two stages of three that make up the new race format in the Truck Series, with the stages divided up into 20, 20 and a final run of 60 laps for the race win at Daytona.
But after John Hunter Nemechek spun to bring out a caution and set up the final restart with three laps to go, Crafton eventually surged in front of Sauter and they were battling for the lead when the biggest, wildest wreck of a night full of them occurred.