Brett Moffitt turned an unlikely NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship bid into a Cinderella championship hoist Friday night at Homestead-Miami Speedway, earning his Hattori Racing Enterprises team its first ever NASCAR title with a resounding victory at the track.
It’s the same track where team owner Shigeaki Hattori won as a driver 20 years ago competing in an Indy Lights Series race. The NASCAR title is the first ever for the popular Japanese owner and stands as a huge achievement for a team that has only 10 full-time employees, led by veteran crew chief Scott Zipadelli.
The Moffitt-Zipadelli combination scored the first six wins in team history this season but none was more important than Friday night’s at Homestead – Moffitt’s first time competing in a truck race at the 1.5-mile track.
“Those were longest 12 laps of my life,” Moffitt said of the final laps of the race, grinning widely in his Movember mustache.
“This is the first race we’ve been up front for most of it.”
That’s certainly true. Of his six victories, Moffitt won one race leading the final two laps (Atlanta). Twice (at Michigan and Chicago) he led only the final lap en route to victory. And it only made his effort and the team’s determination more inspiring. At one point – even with the Playoff-qualifying early season victory — the team nearly had to park the truck, needing sponsorship to carry on.
FR8Auctions.com came on board to literally sustain the Hattori effort this summer — appearing on Moffitt’s Chicago-winning No. 16 Toyota — and the team was able to continue its championship quest. Only 2016 champ Johnny Sauter – also a championship finalist Friday – won as many races as Moffitt this season.
In the last four races of the 2018 championship Playoffs, Moffitt – a member of NASCAR’s inaugural “NASCAR Next” class in 2011 — finished runner-up (Martinsville), third place (Texas) and won back-to-back at Phoenix’s ISM Raceway and then Homestead-Miami.
“I don’t think everyone understands, we have nine or 10 employees working seven days a week working till midnight more times than not,” Moffitt said of the team’s effort. “It’s a testament to them. I’m fortunate to drive the truck but it’s an honor to drive for them.”
“It’s kind of amazing really and it feels good,” he said. “Going into this race, everyone asks “Are you nervous?” Nope. We’re not even supposed to be here . We exceeded all the expectations of our peers and competitors.
“Saying that, we had all the confidence we could do it. And we did it with people not stuff and big budgets. We did it with people and heart. I’ve had to kick em’ out of the shop at 1 in the morning. They’d be there at 5:30 in the morning and they’d leave at midnight.
“It’s been an amazing journey and taught us a lot about ourselves and what you can do it if you focus on the right things. Brett did an amazing job all season driving the truck and working for Shigeaki is a pleasure.”
In all, Moffitt led 59 of the 134 laps in the No. 16 AISIN Group Toyota Tundra including the final 28 laps. He beat Grant Enfinger to the checkered flag by 2.0-seconds. Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Noah Gragson finished third – next highest for a championship contender. Other championship eligible drivers, GMS teammates Justin Haley and Sauter finished eighth and 12th, respectively.
“We’re a small team but everybody did a great job,” Hattori said. “I’m so happy.”