Grant Enfinger and GMS Racing have one last race together. They can go out on top as Craftsman Truck Series champions on Friday evening at Phoenix Raceway.
Enfinger is in the second year of his second stint with GMS Racing. The team took a chance on the Alabama native in 2015, slotting him into its ARCA Menards Series entry and winning the championship. He‘s scored other monumental personal milestones with GMS, including his first truck win in 2016 while running a partial schedule. The team has achieved a tremendous amount of success as well since opening its truck shop full time in 2014, with 45 victories and the 2016 championship with Johnny Sauter.
After the playoffs began at Indianapolis Raceway Park in August, GMS announced it was ceasing operations at the conclusion of the 2023 season. Enfinger was in the midst of a championship push when the announcement was made, and he won the series‘ next race at the Milwaukee Mile. Executives Maury Gallagher and Mike Beam will focus on its Cup Series efforts, as Legacy Motor Club transitions to the Toyota pipeline over the offseason with drivers Erik Jones and John Hunter Nemechek.
“During the past nine years, GMS Racing has become one of the top teams in the Truck and ARCA Series garage,” Gallagher said in an August statement. “The people that made this happen have been the hard-working men and women at GMS Racing and GMS Fabrication. Every employee, new and old at GMS has always strived to be the very best.”
Enfinger and the No. 23 team, led by crew chief Jeff Hensley, powered on despite the background noise. His Milwaukee win locked him into the Round of 8. It took until the waning laps in the final Round of 8 race at Homestead that Enfinger knew he‘d be battling for a championship at Phoenix. It‘s his second Championship 4 appearance in the last four years.
“There‘s a lot of reasons why we want this; everyone here wants this championship,” Enfinger said on Thursday at the Championship 4 Media Day. “I think we‘ve got a little bit of extra desire and drive. We‘re going to do what got us here. If we operate at our best, we can beat these other three at their best.”
Enfinger has three wins this season, tied for the second most in the series. He dominated the three races that he won — Kansas, Gateway and Milwaukee — and his 232 laps led are the second highest he‘s led in a single season (2019).
On Friday evening at Phoenix, Enfinger will have to be better than series-wins leader Carson Hocevar, regular season champion Corey Heim and former series champion Ben Rhodes. He completely believes the team is capable.
“Over the course of this year, we haven‘t always executed to our standards,” Enfinger said. “We‘ve had a couple of races where we‘ve had good enough trucks where we couldn‘t be beat, but even in those races we‘ve had mistakes on our end. We haven‘t been flawless in our execution and I think we have to tomorrow night.
“We have to have the best truck. I don‘t think you‘re going to take a top-five truck, a top-10 truck and beat these guys. The championship is between us four, but I feel like you‘re going to have to win the race to win this championship. I don‘t look at a clear favorite right here. If we‘re at our best, I think we beat those guys.”
Sizing up the competition, Enfinger believes Hocevar has had similar speed to the No. 23 team, but hasn‘t always executed. Heim, he believes, has maximized most races, having a streak of 15 straight top 10s entering the final event. Rhodes has the experience, as this is his third consecutive Championship 4 battle.
“I don‘t look at us as being favorites, but if we‘re at our best, I think we beat those guys,” Enfinger said.
Either way, it will be Enfinger‘s final race with GMS before he departs for a new venture. He‘s going to soak in and cherish the weekend with the No. 23 team, recording four victories with the team over the last two seasons.
Having the ability to win a championship in the team‘s final race is important for Enfinger.
“It‘s more than just me, but I have a lot of personal reasons as to why I want to deliver this championship back home [Friday] night,” Enfinger said. “It means a lot to a lot of people. It‘s bittersweet and sad to see a premier organization going away in any series, but it‘s been a long time racing in the Truck Series, nine years is a long time. Put a lot into it and hopefully we can send everyone out on the right foot tomorrow night.”
In six Phoenix starts, Enfinger has a trio of top-10 efforts.