Nigel Kinrade Photography
GALLERY: NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series Playoff Picture Entering Martinsville
After a small break, the stars of the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series are ready to get back after it this weekend at Martinsville Speedway for the second race in the Round of 6. While normally Talladega Superspeedway has been notorious for flipping the standings on it’s lid, five of the competitors managed to get out of there with a top-eight finish.
Now it’s a matter of seeing who can negotiate through the tight confines of Martinsville Speedway this weekend.
1. Brett Moffitt +45
Battling up front all day, combined with a pair of runner-up finishes in the first two stages, paid off for Brett Moffitt en route to finishing fourth. Combined with his four victories and four prior stage wins, he sits fairly comfortably at the top of the standings. As long as he is steady through the next two weeks with a couple more solid runs, he will have a shot at the championship.
He has scored three top-five’s in four starts with no finishes worse than sixth at Martinsville, while winning in his lone start at ISM Raceway.
2. Stewart Friesen +22
Stewart Friesen ran up front at Talladega all day, including a win in the second stage to secure 10 previous points, en route to a fifth-place finish.
This gives him a sizable gap compared to the rest entering the weekend, but nothing to be comfortable about. You just need one of the drivers behind him in points to score a victory, perhaps two of those competitors, and he’s down to the cut line and only inside the bracket by a small margin. Needless to say, performance is still a must out of the Canadian, best case scenario a victory, if he wants to keep his championship hopes alive.
He enters Martinsville Speedway coming off a track-best performance in April where he placed fifth after winning the pole. For ISM Raceway, though, after finishing 18th in his first trip to the desert, he has finished sixth and fifth in the races since.
3. Austin Hill +12
Austin Hill may be regretting not scoring any points in the second stage at Talladega Superspeedway if he keeps inching closer to the playoff cut-off line. However, he still did not make out too badly, scoring a sixth-place finish. Just like Friesen, performance is still a must because there’s no way that you count a gap this small anywhere near safe.
He has only posted a pair of top-10’s in eight starts at Martinsville, with a track-best ninth in 2018. It doesn’t get better at ISM Raceway, as he has failed to take the checkered flag in his previous two starts due to brake failure (2017) and engine failure (2018).
4. Matt Crafton +1
Known for a conservative style at the restrictor plate tracks, Matt Crafton survived the chaos to score an eighth-place finish. However a lack of stage points, combined with just three bonus entering the round, have the veteran just barely inside the Championship 4 right now.
Crafton’s performance this season has just been average compared to his past years in the series, with him barely sneaking his way through each round of the playoffs thus far. If he wants to assert himself in the conversation for the championship, a victory would certainly help conversation – and erase any worries over a lone point.
Crafton has won twice at Martinsville, with eight top-10’s in his last 11 starts. He also has 11 top-10’s in 18 races at ISM Raceway, but those haven’t come in his two most recent appearances.
5. Tyler Ankrum -1
Tyler Ankrum continue to put together solid numbers, scoring a solid seventh-place finish at Talladega. Now sitting below the cut-line, the rookie is going to need to make a big splash in the next two weeks if he wants to stay in the hunt.
He has finished 18th and 19th in his previous two appearances at Martinsville, and placed sixth in his first and only trip to ISM Raceway.
6. Ross Chastain -2
Ross Chastain was the lone playoff driver to not finish within the top-10, wounding up 22nd after being involved in an incident. He is used to having his back up against the all, fighting the odds to secure a spot in the playoffs despite starting off behind in points compared to his fellow drivers. It would shock nobody to see him score his fourth win of 2019 to get into the Championship 4.
He has finished in the top-10 in his last two starts at Martinsville, including a track-best fourth in April. The good vibes continue to ISM Raceway, as despite running into ignition issues in his first trip to the desert in 2012, he came back a year later to finish second after winning the pole.
All Images Courtesy of Nigel Kinrade Photography
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