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Brett Moffitt on major roll heading into Las Vegas truck race

Two of the eight NASCAR Truck Series playoff drivers will be eliminated after Friday’s World of Westgate 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

But regardless of how hot it might be when the green flag falls or what occurs on the track, Brett Moffitt won’t be sweating it.

Moffitt has won the first two playoff races of 2019. All it would have taken was one victory to gain an automatic berth into the second round in pursuit of his second straight series championship.

“It took awhile to get here, but before it was like we were missing a little bit everywhere and now we’re hitting on all cylinders,’’ the driver of the No. 24 GMS Chevrolet said after cruising to a win at scenic Canadian Motor Sports Park on Aug. 25.

The road course in Durham, Ontario, is known for tight competition and wild finishes, but Moffitt made it look easy, pulling away for a 5.2-second victory over former IndyCar driver Alex Tagliani.

Combined with his win in the playoff opener at Bristol, Tennessee, Moffitt has won the last four postseason races. He edged Las Vegan Noah Gragson for the 2018 championship while driving for Shigeaki Hattori, another former IndyCar competitor.

Following the leader

Moffitt, who also won two regular-season races to give him a series-high four victories in 2019, leads second-place Ross Chastain by a comfortable 28 points heading into Las Vegas. He hopes to provide GMS — a team headed by Las Vegas businessman Maury Gallagher — with its second series championship in four years.

Veteran Johnny Sauter, winner of 24 career truck races and the 2016 series title for GMS before switching to ThorSport Racing, is two points below the cutoff line for the second round. Only eight points separate positions three through seven.

“I think you go into Las Vegas with a must-win mentality, and that’s what I’m going to do,” Sauter said after finishing sixth in Canada and 11th at Bristol.

But the crowd favorite is still likely to be Chastain, a watermelon farmer from Florida and three-race winner in trucks this year who dominated last fall’s Xfinity Series race on the LVMS oval before smashing a watermelon in Victory Lane.

Chastain disclosed he was not paid for driving in the race, but thought it would provide an opportunity for additional drives with Chip Ganassi’s highly regarded team. He signed for a 2019 full-time Xfinity ride with Ganassi only to lose it when primary sponsor DC Solar — title sponsor of last fall’s Xfinity race in Las Vegas — was raided by the FBI.

Contact Ron Kantowski at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow @ronkantowski on Twitter.

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