OBSERVATIONS: PPG 400 at Texas Motor Speedway
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series normally thrills with their intermediate events, but Friday night’s PPG 400 at Texas Motor Speedway was missing something. Just ask the crowd.
The crowd (lack thereof ) tonight at TMS breaks my heart. We would get 45,000 on a Friday night for a NCWTS truck race ten years ago. I doubt they have 4,500 tonight. So very sad 😪 pic.twitter.com/jAIXu8LuOe
— Ray Dunlap (@XRayDunlap) June 9, 2018
While this was an event to normally look forward, this isn’t the case anymore.
Although a few drivers were able to make their way forward – namely just Stewart Friesen – without using much strategy, track position was superior throughout the night and ultimately helped decide the winner, even if one of the fastest trucks won. The chaotic racing that we have grown used to in the series was missing as passes were difficult to make, with trucks getting aero loose underneath each other.
Ultimately, Johnny Sauter got to visit victory lane once again as he pulled the strategy call at the end of the event and his team was solid off pit road to give him the track position. Friesen didn’t make it easy for him, though, as he came within inches of his first career win. Based on the past couple of weeks, don’t expect him to miss out much longer.
Initially on the night it appeared that Kyle Busch Motorsports was going to come out on top as Todd Gilliland appeared to have the fastest truck through the first two stages – despite missing out on leading at the end of each. In both situations when a late caution came out, crew chief Marcus Richmond elected to bring Gilliland down pit road so he could stay out when the checkered waved, allowing for track position.
Looking back on the night, you could say it cost them valuable points – but does that matter in his situation? Due to being under the age of 18, Gilliland missed four races to start the season. Now NASCAR has granted him a playoff waiver, but he needs to win a race to make the post season. Richmond’s strategy was focused on that, trying to put his young driver in the best position at the right time. Unfortunately, fading back a bit did not allow him to recover as Gilliland finished sixth.
The other concern on the night surrounded slower trucks in the field, as there’s no questioning the speed difference between the front runners and the back markers. It almost becomes a safety concern and you have to wonder if NASCAR should increase the minimum speed. We almost saw a wreck in getting around Norm Benning, and we saw a wreck when Dalton Sargeant and Myatt Snider got behind Jennifer Jo Cobb. Although, if we’re being honest, Sargeant could’ve shown some more patience.
We have seen small teams improve over time – that’s why we give them a chance when they’re starting out. Just ask Jordan Anderson. He has continued to get stronger and was running just outside of the top-10 most of the night before problems struck late in the going. Certainly a heartbreaker for sure.
The next race for the trucks is at Iowa Speedway alongside the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Heading back to a smaller track, hopefully we find the magic that was missing on Friday night.
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