By Dustin Albino

Nick Sanchez is a proven commodity in qualifying for Craftsman Truck Series races. For the third time his season, he led the field to the green flag for Friday’s Rackley Roofing 200 at Nashville Superspeedway.

Sanchez led the opening 35 laps from the pole before Rajah Caruth got by for the lead. Sanchez threw a slide job on the next lap to regain the lead. Zane Smith passed the No. 2 truck late to score the stage win.

During the second stage, Sanchez dropped outside the top 10. When a caution flew with 10 laps to go for Stewart Friesen spinning off Turn 4 and collecting Christian Eckes, Danny Stockman Jr. called the No. 2 Chevrolet to pit road for four fresh tires.

That made Sanchez feel like Superman on a three-lap dash to the finish. He restarted 12th, and after one lap, gained nine positions to third.

Third is where Sanchez finished, his best finish on a non-superspeedway in his brief — 13 starts — Truck Series career.

“Coming off pit road, I thought we had a bad stop but a lot of people took two [tires] in front of me,” Sanchez said following he race. “When they told me that, it was a big confidence boost. Saw what Zane did last year on the outside, so tried to replicate that.”

With how quickly Sanchez moved to third, and was side-by-side for Smith at the checkered flag for second, he knew he had an advantage being on four fresh tires. But came up just short.

“Just needed a couple more,” Sanchez said.

Hocevar didn’t realize Sanchez jumped to third in the finishing order. He recalls pulling the same strategy on a late restart last year at Nashville, also finishing third.

“Knew somebody would probably be coming on tires, but I doubted anybody could get to second because clean air is that important,” Hocevar stated. “I had clean air last year and could only get to third.”

With his first top-five effort since March at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Sanchez leaped two spots in the championship standings to 10th. He holds a six-point advantage on Stewart Friesen and Tanner Gray for the final playoff spot with three races remaining in the regular season.

“Just being in, mentally, is good,” Sanchez said. “Just got to work on grinding and, at the end of day, trying to win and not try to rely on points.

“I‘ve always tried to put points aside and treat every race like its own season. Race aggressive, race hard and the goal is to win. Just got to keep that mindset.”

The Truck Series has a week off before visiting Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Saturday, July 8. Events at Pocono Raceway (July 22) and Richmond Raceway (July 29) close out the regular season.

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