Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Bojangles’ Southern 500
The Place: Darlington Raceway
The Date: Sunday, September 2
The Time: 6 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 5 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 501.3 miles (367 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 100),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 200), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 367)
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200
The Place: Darlington Raceway
The Date: Saturday, September 1
The Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 3 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 200.8 miles (147 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 147)
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: World of Westgate 200
The Place: Las Vegas Motor Speedway
The Date: Friday, September 14
The Time: 9 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 8:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 201 miles (134 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 30),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 60), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 134)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Sitting Pretty For The Playoffs
The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series arrives at the famed Darlington Raceway this weekend following its final off-week of the season and there is an unmistakable Playoff push in the air for the Bojangles’ Southern 500 (Sunday, 6 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Seven-time winner Kevin Harvick, six-time winner and regular season points leader Kyle Busch, four-time winner Martin Truex Jr. and two-time winner Clint Bowyer – the series’ only repeat winners to date – have already secured a shot at the championship and enter the Playoffs considered the favorites.
However, there is a talented group of drivers filling out that top 16 championship-bound group equally as motivated and arguably, peaking at the right time. A win this weekend would booster their case. Race winners Kurt Busch, Austin Dillon, Joey Logano, and first-time trophy hoisters Chase Elliott and Erik Jones are Playoff-eligible by victories. And Ryan Blaney, Brad Keselowski and Kyle Larson have clinched their spots based on the points standings.
As of now, the four drivers who tentatively make up the remainder of the Playoff field still need to secure their positions inside the 16-driver Playoff field – Denny Hamlin, Aric Almirola, Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman, who holds a 79-point advantage on the field in the final Playoff transfer position.
Clinch Scenario Not Too Tough To Tame For Hamlin
Following the last Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway, three drivers locked up a spot in the Playoffs, despite a ‘zero’ in the wins column – Ryan Blaney, Kyle Larson and Brad Keselowski. The trio has scored enough points during the regular season to ensure that there is no way for them to fall out of the 16-driver grid.
That now makes 12 drivers who have locked up a spot in the 10-race Playoffs. We may see a few more added after Sunday’s race at Darlington, with Denny Hamlin the most likely candidate to add his name to the prestigious list.
Here are the clinch scenarios for Sunday’s race at the Track Too Tough to Tame:
– Denny Hamlin – If Hamlin scores 8 points, he will clinch a Playoff spot. If there is a repeat winner at Darlington, Hamlin would clinch regardless of points scored.
– Aric Almirola – If there is a repeat winner, Almirola would clinch with 25-points. He could also clinch with a new winner and help.
– Jimmie Johnson – Johnson could clinch with a repeat winner and help, or by winning the race.
– The following drivers can only guarantee a Playoff clinch by winning at Darlington: Alex Bowman, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Ryan Newman, Daniel Suarez, Paul Menard, William Byron, Jamie McMurray, Chris Buescher, AJ Allmendinger, David Ragan, Darrell Wallace Jr., Kasey Kahne, Michael McDowell and Ty Dillon.
– Matt DiBenedetto could clinch with a win but would need help clinching a top 30 spot.
Hamlin is a two-time winner and defending race champion at Darlington. With three Darlington trophies, Johnson is the winningest driver in Sunday night’s field
The "Big 3" At Darlington
All members of the current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series "Big 3" have previous wins at Darlington. And points leader Kyle Busch, driver of the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, ranks among the series’ top-three drivers at Darlington in five of the six key loop data statistical categories. His 598 passes there are best among the competition. In 13 starts, he has posted one win (2008) and three top fives and eight top 10s.
Seven-time 2018 winner Kevin Harvick, driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford, is second only to Denny Hamlin in top-five finishes at Darlington with five. And he’s on a streak of six top-10 finishes this summer, including victories at Michigan and New Hampshire in the last five weeks. Interestingly, his last win at the "Track Too Tough to Tame" came in his 2014 championship season.
Truex, the 2016 Darlington winner, has a streak of three top-10 finishes at the track. The driver of the No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Toyota has had three finishes of 14th or worse in the season’s last four races, but was running among the top-five when he was crashed out at the series’ last race, in Bristol, two weeks ago.
Stewart-Haas Racing Looks To Be All In
The Stewart-Haas Racing team looks to have a perfect team Playoff mark for the first-time since fielding a four-car stable. And it may be the only team Playoff sweep of the season. Three of the four SHR drivers have already qualified for the playoffs with victories. The veteran Harvick has seven wins, Bowyer has two and Kurt Busch picked up his first of the season at Bristol two weeks ago.
The newest addition to the driving stable, Aric Almirola, has looked prime for a trophy hoist, as well. He has three top-10 finishes in the last six races. His 10 top-10s on the season are already a career-high, with 12 races still remaining. And his 115 laps led is also already a career-high mark for the driver of the No. 10 SHR Ford.
For whatever reason, Denny Hamlin has had an instant, positive and productive connection with one of NASCAR’s notoriously toughest ovals – Darlington Raceway. The Joe Gibbs Racing driver is still looking for his first win of the season and as the defending winner of the Southern 500, this week’s venue may well be circled on his schedule.
Hamlin boasts the top driver rating (110.3 – well above the next statistical best of Kyle Busch at 105.1), the best average running position (7.8) and tops the list of fastest laps run (272) in this race. His average start is 9.417 – and he’s the only driver (who has made more than one start at the track) averaging better than 10th on the starting grid. His two pole positions ties Kurt Busch for most among the Playoff drivers.
And most importantly for the driver of the No. 11 JGR Toyota, Hamlin has 10 top-10 finishes in 12 career starts at Darlington, including seven top-fives and two wins.
Hamlin has won the Busch Pole position at two of the last venues on the 2018 schedule – Watkins Glen and Michigan, but he’s had only two top-10 finishes in the last seven races.
No driver entered this weekend has won more races (three) at Darlington than seven-time Monster Energy Series champion Jimmie Johnson. However, for the first time in his NASCAR Hall of Fame-bound career, Johnson is winless on the season as he arrives in South Carolina for Sunday’s race.
Johnson’s last race win here – in 2012 – was a historic 200th win for his Hendrick Motorsports team, and this weekend his No. 48 Chevrolet will have a "throwback" paint scheme honoring that special weekend.
And although Johnson is still looking for that first win of 2018, there is historical reason to believe it may be close. Of his 83 Monster Energy Series wins, Johnson has won 34 of them in the months of September (10), October (14) and November (10).
There has been progress this year, if still no trophy, yet. Johnson is coming off a top 10 at Bristol Motor Speedway in the last race – his eighth top 10 of the year. He’s looking for his first top 10 at Darlington since a third-place finish in 2014.
Throwback Look Back
While there are certain drivers who historically have faired well at Darlington, recent races have proven that the driver out front for most of the day may not win.
In the last six races, the driver who led the most laps has won only half the races – and that includes last year when Hamlin and 14th-place finisher Kyle Larson both led a race-high 124 laps.
Four of the last six races have featured at least 20 lead changes – including a high of 24 lead changes in Carl Edwards’ 2015 Southern 500 win. Edwards beat out Brad Keselowski in that race despite the fact Keselowski led a dominant 196 of the 367 laps.
Three times in the last six races a driver has led at least 200 laps and twice that driver did not win. Harvick led 214 laps in 2016 despite finishing runner-up to Truex; Harvick led 238 laps in winning the 2014 race and Kyle Busch led 265 laps in his sixth place run to Matt Kenseth in 2013.
Sunoco Rookie Race
The summer, of late, has been a bit of a tough run for the Monster Energy Series’ Sunoco rookies. Hendrick Motorsports driver William Byron still leads the rookie race over Richard Petty Motorsports driver Bubba Wallace, but both young drivers are hopeful to turn things around this week at Darlington.
Byron, 20, is ranked 21st in the Monster Energy Series points standings. He qualified an impressive fifth at Bristol – his first ever top-five Cup start – but finished 23rd. The driver of the No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet had back-to-back top-10 finishes at Pocono (sixth) and Watkins Glen (eighth) but has finished 36th at Michigan and then 23rd at Bristol since. In his only NASCAR Xfinity Series start at Darlington in 2017, he finished fifth.
"I love Darlington,” Byron said. "I went there as a kid to watch the race a few times. As a driver, it’s just a fun track to get around. It’s really challenging – you have to run against the wall on both ends of the racetrack, which is very demanding on the equipment and mentally on the driver.
"I really enjoy it and we had a pretty good run there last year (in the NASCAR Xfinity Series), so I’m looking forward to it."
Wallace, 24, the driver for the No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Chevrolet, is 26th in the Monster Energy Series standings and hoping to rebound from a tough luck incident at Bristol when he was collected in a crash only three laps into the race. He has had DNFs in two of the last four races this summer. His Xfinity Series finishes at Darlington are 14th and 17th.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Playoffs Approach: Only Three Races Remain In The Regular Season
The NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs are approaching quickly, leaving little time for drivers to lock themselves into the postseason. Just three races remain before the series crowns the regular season champion and awards the winning driver an additional 15 Playoff points. Justin Allgaier’s win at Road America last weekend vaulted him into the series championship standings lead by five points over second-place Christopher Bell and 12-points over third-place Elliott Sadler. Below is a look at each Playoff-eligible driver and their current Playoff status as the NASCAR Xfinity Series heads to Darlington Raceway for the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 on Saturday, September 1 at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Sitting Pretty In ‘Clinch-ville’:
So far this season, six drivers have clinched a spot in the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs – Justin Allgaier (four wins), Christopher Bell (four wins), Tyler Reddick (one win), Elliott Sadler (third in points), Cole Custer (fourth in points) and Daniel Hemric (fifth in points). These next three races are great opportunities for these drivers who have clinched already to pad their Playoff point totals. All six currently have Playoff points, led by Christopher Bell with 24; followed by Allgaier (19), Reddick (six), Sadler (four), Hemric (three) and Custer (one).
Can Clinch On Points:
Heading into Darlington this weekend only one driver has the opportunity to clinch on points, Joe Gibbs Racing’s Brandon Jones. The youngster from Atlanta, Georgia, can clinch with 52 points and a new winner. If there is a repeat winner, he can also clinch if he scores 39 points. Jones could also clinch a Playoff spot with a win.
Jones and the No. 19 JGR team sit sixth in the series standings after making 23 starts this season, posting two top fives, 10 top 10s and an average finish of 14.2. He also has one Playoff point from a stage win.
Keep an eye out for Jones this weekend as he looks to get his first series win. If he accomplishes the feat, he will become the fourth driver in series history to get their first career win at Darlington, joining Geoff Bodine (1982), Neil Bonnett (1983) and Ron Bouchard (1984). Jones has made two series starts at Darlington, recording one top 10 and an average finish of 16.0.
Needs A Win To Clinch:
The next five drivers in the championship standings are currently in position to make the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs, but due to the points being so tight they can’t clinch their Playoff spot on points alone this weekend at Darlington. They could lock themselves into the postseason with a win.
Kaulig Racing’s Ryan Truex sits eighth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series standings following Road America, 176 points ahead of 13th-place Michael Annett (the first standings position outside the Playoffs). Truex has made 23 starts this season, putting together one top five, nine top 10s and an average finish of 13.4. This weekend at Darlington will be Truex’s second career start at the historic facility. His first series start at Darlington was back in 2011 with Pastrana Waltrip Racing; when he started 14th and finished 25th.
Richard Childress Racing’s Matt Tifft is coming off his best performance of the season at Road America, where he started on the pole and finished second. Now the Ohio native is ninth in the series standings with a cushion of 172-points over 13th place Michael Annett. In 23 starts this season, Tifft has posted four top fives, 11 top 10s and an average finish of 13.7. Tifft made his series track debut at Darlington last season, but it didn’t go as planned. At the time driving for Joe Gibbs Racing, Tifft started 14th and finished 40th due to an incident on Lap 1. Look for Tifft to want to rebound from last season’s performance and build on his momentum from last week as the Playoffs approach.
Driving the No. 60 for Roush Fenway Racing this weekend, Austin Cindric is currently 10th in the Xfinity Series championship standings, 86-points Ahead of 13th. Cindric has mad 23 starts this season posting three top fives, seven top 10s and an average finish of 17.5. This weekend will be Cindric’s series track debut at Darlington Raceway.
Cindric’s Roush Fenway Racing teammate Ryan Reed is looking to make the Playoffs for the third consecutive season and heads to Darlington this weekend 11th in the series championship standings, 73 points ahead of 13th-place Michael Annett. Reed has made four starts at Darlington in his Xfinity Series career with an average finish of 16.0.
On The Hot Seat:
The 12th and final position in the Xfinity Playoffs is currently occupied by driver Ross Chastain, and with three races left in the regular season his position is officially the proverbial ‘Hot Seat.’ While the chances of Chastain’s 49-point cushion in the championship standings disappearing between he and 13th place Michael Annett are slim, it can still happen. But what should have Chastain most filled with worry is the chance for a new winner, which could potentially bounce Chastain out of the postseason. He is just 24 points behind Cindric, and a jump up in the standings would give him a little more security in the event that a new winner were to join the postseason picture. In 23 starts this season, Reed has two top fives, eight top 10s and an average finish of 16.1.
In 2018, the NASCAR Xfinity Series has seen 12 different winners through the first 23 races, three of which were championship contenders (Bell, Allgaier and Reddick).
Chastain has made 23 starts this season, posting one top five, six top 10s and an average finish of 16.2. The ‘Lady in Black’ has been relatively good to Chastain, he has three series starts at Darlington, posting one top 10 and an average finish of 17.7.
Outside Looking In:
The next three drivers, while not mathematically disqualified from getting in on points, it will most likely take a lot for them to close in on 12th-place Ross Chastain with just three races remaining in the regular season. The best course of action for the drivers outside the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs cutoff is to win.
Of any of the drivers outside the Playoffs looking in, JR Motorsport’s Michael Annett has the best shot of getting in on points with 49-points separating him from 12th place. Annett has made 23 starts this season, recording one top 10 and an average finish of 17.7. In five series starts at Darlington, he has an average finish of 20.4.
Jeremy Clements is currently 14th in the series championship standings, 107 points behind 12th-place Chastain. The South Carolina native has made 23 starts this season, putting together one top 10 and an average finish of 20.3. Clements has made seven series starts at his home track, Darlington, positing one top-10 finish (eighth in 2016) and an average finish of 22.7.
Ryan Sieg is 16th in the driver standings following Road America, 120 points behind 12th-place Ross Chastain. In 23 starts this season, Sieg has tallied one top 10 and an average finish of 20.4. He has made four series start at Darlington in his career with an average finish of 22.8.
Chip Ganassi Racing Taps Ross Chastain For The No. 42
Rising star Ross Chastain has spent the majority of the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series season driving for JD Motorsports in the No. 4 Chevrolet, but this weekend the 25-year-old from Alva, Florida, will get his chance at piloting the Chip Ganassi Racing No. 42 Chevrolet with crew chief Mike Shiplett. Chastain is scheduled to run in the No. 42 for the final three regular season races at Darlington, Las Vegas and Richmond.
"This opportunity with DC Solar and Chip Ganassi Racing is unbelievable," said Chastain. "I want to recognize Johnny Davis for all that he has done for my career and express how proud I am of our performance this year."
Chastain is currently in 12th in series standings, the final transfer spot into the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs. Chastain has made 23 starts this season and has one top five, six top 10s and an average finish of 16.2.
Looking to this weekend, Chastain has made three series starts at Darlington and has one top 10 and an average finish of 17.7.
The No. 42 Chip Ganassi Racing team led by crew chief Mike Shiplett is the perfect opportunity for Chastain to help make his final push into the Playoffs. The No. 42 team, in 23 starts this season, has taken home four wins (Bristol, Las Vegas, Daytona and Chicago), eight top fives and 13 top 10s.
Four Titans Vying for Regular Season Championship
The top four drivers in the standings vying for the NASCAR Xfinity Series regular season championship are all within 13 points of each other as the series rolls into Darlington Raceway for the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 on Saturday, September 1 at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. The intensity has ratcheted up with only three races left in the regular season. Below is a look at the four drivers in contention for the regular season title heading into Darlington:
JR Motorsport’s Justin Allgaier (No. 7 Chevrolet Camaro SS)
– Current NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings leader with 845 points.
– In 23 starts he has posted four wins (Dover-1, Iowa-2, Mid-Ohio and Road America), 13 top fives and 18 top 10s.
– His average finish this season is a 9.3.
– His season-to-date driver rating is 109.1, series-best.
– Has made seven series starts at Darlington, posting two top fives, four top 10s and an average finish of 9.7.
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Christopher Bell (No. 20 Toyota Camry)
– Currently second in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings with 840 points; five back from the standings lead.
– In 23 starts he has posted four wins (Richmond-1, Kentucky, New Hampshire and Iowa), 13 top fives and 14 top 10s.
– His average finish this season is a 10.1.
– His season-to-date driver rating is 106.2, second-best.
– This weekend will be Bell’s series track debut at Darlington Raceway.
JR Motorsport’s Elliott Sadler (No. 1 Chevrolet Camaro SS)
– Currently third in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings with 833 points; 12 back from the standings lead.
– In 23 starts he has posted 11 top fives and 19 top 10s.
– His average finish this season is a 7.7.
– His season-to-date driver rating is 102.4, fourth-best.
– Has made 14 series starts at Darlington, posting one win (2016), five top fives, six top 10s and an average finish of 15.9.
Stewart-Haas Racing’s Cole Custer (No. 00 Ford Mustang)
– Currently fourth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series driver standings with 832 points; 13 back from the standings lead.
– In 23 starts he has posted nine top fives and 19 top 10s.
– His average finish this season is an 8.8.
– His season-to-date driver rating is 103.2, third-best.
– Made series track debut last season at Darlington, starting fourth and finishing ninth.
Monstering Around: Hamlin, Harvick, Keselowski Entered In Xfinity Race At Darlington
Three drivers in the thick of the hunt to make the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs – Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick and Brad Keselowski – have all decided some extra track time couldn’t hurt as NASCAR heads to Darlington Raceway for an action-packed ‘Throwback Weekend’ that starts on Saturday, Sept. 1 with the Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200 at 3:30 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
No one has dominated Darlington Raceway in the NASCAR Xfinity Series like Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin has over the last 12 races, winning five of them, including last season’s event (2006, 2007, 2010, 2015 and 2017). Tack on Tony Stewart’s win in 2008, Kyle Busch’s win in 2011, and Joey Logano’s win in 2012, and JGR has gobbled up eight of the last 12 series Victory Lane celebrations at Darlington. Hamlin will look to add a sixth win to his resume and etch his name one win closer to series Darlington wins leader Mark Martin and his eight victories. Hamlin has made 10 series starts at Darlington, recording five wins, eight top five, 10 top 10s and an average finish of 2.6. What’s even more impressive is he has won all five Darlington races from the pole and he hasn’t finished worse than second in his last eight starts at 1.366-mile speedway.
Biagi-DenBeste Racing welcomes back Kevin Harvick this weekend in the No. 98 Ford Mustang with crew chief Richard Boswell II. This will be Harvick’s fifth start of the season for the team. Harvick’s previous four starts have garnered a win (Atlanta), two top fives and three top 10s. His average finish this season is a 7.5. Harvick has made 15 series starts at Darlington with three top fives, nine top 10s and an average finish of 12.2. He posted his series career-best finish at Darlington last season (third).
Michigan native Brad Keselowski will be back in the No. 22 Team Penske Ford Mustang this weekend with crew chief Brian Wilson. Keselowski has made four series starts this season, posting two wins (Phoenix, Charlotte), three top fives, four top 10s and an average finish of 3.5. Keselowski hasn’t made a Xfinity Series start at Darlington since 2012. He has six series Darlington starts to his credit, posting just one top five and two top 10s.
In addition to Hamlin, Harvick and Keselowski, Monster Energy Series drivers Chase Elliott and Ty Dillon and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver Cody Ware also entered in this weekend’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race.
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Throwback Weekend: Darlington Raceway will once again be holding the ‘Throwback Weekend’ for drivers and teams to pay homage to famous drivers and paint schemes of the past. This season the ‘Throwback’ theme is Seven Decades of Racing, and while the Monster Energy Series holds most of the spotlight in this special occasion, the NASCAR Xfinity Series teams wanted to get in on the action too. Check out a gallery of the cars from both series with throwback schemes this weekend on NASCAR.com.
NASCAR Xfinity Series In South Carolina: The state of South Carolina has been the host of 72 NASCAR Xfinity Series races among three tracks – Darlington Raceway (57 races) in Florence, Rambi Race Track (13 races) in Myrtle Beach and Greenville-Pickens Speedway (two races) in Greenville. The very first NASCAR Xfinity Series race held in the state of South Carolina was on April 3, 1982, at Darlington Raceway and was won by Geoff Bodine driving a Pontiac for car owner Frank Plessinger.
South Carolina Drivers In The Xfinity Series: A total of 136 drivers with their home state recorded as South Carolina have made at least one NASCAR national series start. Of the 136 drivers, only 28 have competed in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, led by Jason Keller (from Greenville) with 520 series starts – second-most behind Kenny Wallace (527) all-time. Of the 28 South Carolinian drivers, only five have won in the NASCAR Xfinity Series – Larry Pearson from Spartanburg (15 wins), Jason Keller from Greenville (10 wins), Butch Lindley from Greenville (six wins), Jeremy Clements from Spartanburg (one win) and NASCAR Hall of Famer David Pearson from Spartanburg (one win). Two drivers from South Carolina have been inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame – David Pearson and Cale Yarborough. Jeremy Clements is the only South Carolina native competing in this weekend’s Sport Clips Haircuts VFW 200.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Road Course Success for Justin Haley
It was an intense finish at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on Sunday, August 26 for the first race of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs, and Justin Haley was in the right place at the right time.
Haley led only two laps during the Chevrolet Silverado 250 but it was one of those two laps that gave him his second victory of the season and has locked him into the Round of 6 in the hunt for the championship.
He became the sixth different driver to win at the track in as many races. This also marked GMS Racing’s first win at the road course.
Although Todd Gilliland did not make the Playoffs, towards the end of the race, it looked like he was going to finally grab his first career win.
Gilliland took the lead on Lap 54 from Johnny Sauter and was racing confidently until a caution late in the race set up a NASCAR Overtime battle with his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate Noah Gragson. Gilliland was holding on until Gragson dove to pass him in the final turn, spinning them both.
The Playoff standings for the Round of 8 got a bit shaken up after the road course race. Matt Crafton moved to fifth place from his start in eighth. Grant Enfinger moved from fifth to eighth due to some mistakes on pit road.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is heading into a two-weekend break until the Word of Westgate 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway on Friday, September 14 (9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
From Las Vegas to Talladega, Whose Got What?
Looking ahead, the next two races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs are at Las Vegas Motor Speedway followed by Talladega Superspeedway.
There are only two drivers in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series that have the ability to become a multi-race winner at the Las Vegas track and they are both Playoff drivers.
Johnny Sauter won at the track in 2009 and Ben Rhodes won in 2017. No other driver has ever won at the 1.5-mile track. Sauter’s win at Las Vegas also marked the first of his career.
If Sauter or Rhodes take home the win, they will join Mike Skinner and Jack Sprague for the most wins at the track.
The same goes for Talladega Superspeedway. Only two active Truck Series drivers have ever won at the track and they are both Playoff drivers.
Grant Enfinger won in 2016 at the superspeedway and Sauter won in 2013. If one of them wins at Talladega during the third race of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, they would not only secure their spot in the Round of 6, but they would also join Kyle Busch, Todd Bodine and Parker Kligerman in the record book for the most wins at Talladega in the series.
So, let’s break it down driver-by-driver:
Johnny Sauter has 10 starts at Las Vegas with one win, five top fives and seven top-10 finishes. That one win was the first of his career, so Las Vegas is already special to Sauter. At Talladega, Sauter has nine starts with one win, three top fives and five top 10s.
Brett Moffitt has only one start under his belt at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with one top five and one top 10. Moffitt’s first start was earlier this season, where he stared in the sixth position and ended up finishing in third. Moffitt has never visited Talladega Superspeedway in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career. However, we have seen Moffitt win at tracks that he was not necessarily in the running to win. Could it happen again at Talladega?
Noah Gragson has visited Las Vegas twice in his career, but has not finished in the top 10 in either of them. His first start was in 2017 where he started 13th and finished in the same place. Earlier this year, Gragson started in the top five but finished 12th. As the Truck Series heads to Talladega Superspeedway following the race at Las Vegas, Gragson will make only his second career start there. His first start was last season where he started in the top 10 but finished 14th.
Justin Haley also has two starts at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Unfortunately, Haley didn’t finish in either race due to an engine issue in 2017 and a crash earlier this year. Like Gragson, Haley has visited Talladega once in his career. He started fourth last year and finished 16th.
Matt Crafton has 18 starts in his career at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He has not yet won at the track, but he does have six top fives, 10 top 10s and one pole. Crafton also has the most top 10s of any driver at the track. He is currently tied with Ron Hornaday Jr. At Talladega, Crafton has 12 starts, the most of any driver, with one top five and four top 10s. As a driver who has a lot of experience at these tracks, he can use that to his advantage.
Stewart Friesen has started at Las Vegas three times in his career. In 2016, he finished 19th and in 2017 he finished 23rd due to a crash. However, earlier this season, Friesen started in second place and finished fifth. Friesen is another driver that will head to Talladega Superspeedway for only the second time of his career. His first start was last year in third place, but he ended up finishing 17th.
Ben Rhodes has three starts, one win, one top five and two top 10s at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas track. Earlier this season, Rhodes started in 15th and made his way into the top 10, finishing seventh. His win at Las Vegas in 2017 also marked the first of his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career. At Talladega, Rhodes has two starts but unfortunately didn’t finish either race due to crashes. Hopefully the third time’s the charm for Rhodes.
Grant Enfinger will head to Las Vegas for the fifth time of his career. He has one top five and three top-10 finishes under his belt. His best finish was earlier this season where he started eighth and finished fourth. Talladega Superspeedway is a good track for Enfinger, as he got his first and only career win at the track in 2016. Last year, Enfinger started 13th and finished fourth.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.
Owners Standings: GMS Racing’s No. 21 has kept them in the owner standings lead for the entire season so far. They currently have 2,081 points with five wins. Hattori Racing Enterprises is sitting in second place with the No. 16, seven points behind GMS Racing. They have four wins. Kyle Busch Motorsports’ No. 18 takes third place in the owners battle right now, 11 points behind the leader with one win. GMS Racing also takes fourth in the standings with the No. 24. They are 19 points behind with two wins. And, to round out the top five, NEMCO Motorsports’ No. 8 is also 19 points behind the leader with one win.
OEM Battle: Chevrolet has been in the manufacturer standings lead for pretty much the entire season. They lead with 627 points and eight wins total. Toyota is only 17 points behind them with seven wins. Ford, however, is 63 points behind the standings leader with only two wins.
— NASCAR —