Nigel Kinrade Photography
GALLERY: Truck Playoffs Entering Talladega
A thrilling road course, followed by a race in Las Vegas Motor Speedway that reminded us to expect the unexpected has given the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series a dramatic playoff beginning. However, that was probably lost in the fact that they haven’t raced in a month.
Thankfully, they’re back in action this weekend and it’s only going to get more wild with a trip to Talladega Superspeedway. Pack racing ultimately gives anybody a chance in the field to win, as long as you’re in the right position at the end and have missed the wrecks. Did we mention this is an elimination event?
Before the tailgaters take to the high-banks this weekend, let’s recap where we stand entering the weekend.
Justin Haley – Advanced to Round of 6
By virtue of scoring the victory at CTMP, Justin Haley has locked himself into the second round of the playoffs. He has kept momentum on his side, backing it up with a third-place finish in Las Vegas.
Grant Enfinger – Advanced to Round of 6
After starting off the playoffs with a 17th-place finish and finding himself at the bottom of the grid, Grant Enfinger erased any worries of not making the next round by scoring the victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
He could keep momentum on his side as Talladega has worked out well for him, as it was the sight of his first career series victory in 2016, followed by a fourth last year.
Johnny Sauter (+40)
The regular season champion Johnny Sauter is using those points that he banked to his advantage already, as he has a virtual race’s worth of points gap over the cut-off line following a sixth and second to start off the playoffs.
That’s a good thing, as there may be some nerves entering Talladega as he has a pair of sevenths and 12th in his last three starts there, despite winning Daytona this year.
Noah Gragson (+23)
The playoffs haven’t started off well for Noah Gragson. He wrecked while battling for the lead with his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate at Todd Gilliland to finish eighth, followed by an 18th in Las Vegas after having a flat tire due to contact late in the event. As we’ve seen all season, he has the speed, but needs to figure out how to close the deal if they want to make magic happen.
To their benefit, Gragson is good at drafting having contended up front, placing 14th in his lone start on the superspeedway.
Brett Moffitt (+18)
Brett Moffit was considered an easy lock for the first round by critics as Hattori Racing Enterprises has been solid all year, despite lacking funding compared to their title mates. He showed speed on Sunday at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, scoring a third-place finish once the dust settled. However, running out of gas in Las Vegas while leading and finishing 11th shows based on the current rankings.
Notably, though, he has never ran a truck race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Matt Crafton (+7)
Matt Crafton may be in the middle of what he describes one of his worse seasons to date, but is currently in position to move to the next round virtue of a pair of fifth-place finishes. Perhaps in a time when youngsters are making mistakes, his poise will be the key to moving forward.
Shifting to Talladega, he hasn’t had the best of luck with only four top-10’s in 12 starts.
Ben Rhodes (-7)
Ben Rhodes has shown speed and ability to run up front, but the finishes under his belt lately aren’t helping his chances. At CTMP, he went for a late-race spin and ultimately crossed the finish line with a 14th-place finish. Now he finished fourth at Las Vegas, but without many bonus points entering the playoffs, the 14th is proving tough to overcome.
He should have high nerves at Talladega as he has crashed out both races previously ran there.
Stewart Friesen (-10)
Dubbed as the best driver to not win a race yet this season, Stewart Friesen could use a win to get himself into the next round of the playoffs. He may have overcome an early mistake in turn five at CTMP to finish seventh for the hometown fans, but placing 17th in Las Vegas after three separate spins has placed him at the bottom of the grid.
The Halmar Friesen Racing team has shown speed eveywhere, but nerves will be on alert at Talladega as he finished 17th in his first series start there last year, and crashed out early at Daytona in February.
All Photos Courtesy of Nigel Kinrade Photography
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