NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series… Hold On For An Exciting Talladega Race

After a week to regroup and go over strategy, the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series competitors head to the unpredictable Talladega Superspeedway for the Love’s RV Stop 250 (Saturday, September 30 at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, and SiriusXM Radio).

The 2.66-mile superspeedway has hosted 17 CRAFTSMAN Truck Series races since its inaugural CRAFTSMAN Truck Series event on October 7, 2006 – a race won by Mark Martin driving the No. 6 Roush Racing (now known as RFK) Ford.

Notably, there have been 12 different race winners and 15 different pole winners. Timothy Peters leads the series with three wins at the superspeedway in Alabama. Peters also holds the series-most top-five finishes with five and is tied with veteran Matt Crafton with six top-10 finishes each.

Talladega has participated in the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoffs since its inception in 2016. The 2023 season marks the third time the superspeedway has hosted the fifth race in the Playoffs (2021, 2022, and 2023). This is the third different spot that Talladega has resided on the Playoff schedule. In 2016, 2017, 2018, the track played host to the third Playoff race. In 2019, it moved to host the fourth race, but moved back to the first-round elimination race in 2020.

All seven previous Playoff races at Talladega have been won by non-Playoff drivers.

NCTS Playoff Race Winners at Talladega (2016-2022)  
Date Race Winner Season Race No.
Saturday, October 22, 2016 Grant Enfinger 2016 19
Saturday October 14, 2017 Parker Kligerman 2017 19
Saturday October 13, 2018 Timothy Peters 2018 19
Saturday, October 12, 2019 Spencer Boyd 2019 20
Saturday, October 3, 2020 Raphael Lessard 2020 19
Saturday, October 2, 2021 Tate Fogleman 2021 20
Saturday, October 1, 2022 Matt DiBenedetto 2022 21

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With 40 entries for 36 spots in the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race this weekend, qualifying will be extremely important – not to mention, there will be no practice for the competitors. Among the entries this weekend, there are eight drivers who hope to make their track debut at Talladega Superspeedway – Rajah Caruth, Jake Drew, Daniel Dye, Jake Garcia, Taylor Gray, Nick Sanchez, Greg Van Alst, and Ryan Vargas.

Several NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers will also be attempting to dip their toes in the water at Talladega. Two-time Talladega NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series winner Parker Kligerman will be piloting the No. 75 Henderson Motorsport Chevrolet. The current Xfinity Series Playoff driver has made 116 CRAFTSMAN Truck Series starts with three wins, 23 top-five finishes, and 52 top- 10 finishes.

Front Row Motorsports will be fielding a second truck to join 2022 CRAFTSMAN Truck Series champion Zane Smith. Twelve-time winner and the 2018 CRAFTSMAN Truck Series champion Brett Moffitt will get behind the wheel of the No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford. Moffitt heads to Talladega with three previous CRAFTSMAN Truck Series starts at the track. He has one top-five and two top-10 finishes at the superspeedway. His best finish is fourth.

TRICON Garage co-owner David Gilliland plans to get behind the wheel of the No. 1 TRICON Garage Toyota this weekend. In his CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Talladega debut, Gilliland was the pole sitter and finished third. The 47-year-old has made 21 starts in the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series with three top-five finishes and six top-10 finishes.

Jennifer Jo Cobb, a role model for women in motorsports, hopes to take on the steep banking of Talladega behind the wheel of the No.10 Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing Chevrolet. The Kansas City, Kansas native holds several CRAFTSMAN Truck Series competition records, including the highest-finishing female driver in overall season points and most starts by a female driver in the series. In 11 starts at Talladega, Cobb has never finished in the top-10. Her best finish at the track is 11th (2018).

The competitors will kick off their fifth Playoff weekend with qualifying at 9:30 a.m. ET on Saturday, September 30 on FS2.

NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series

Next Race: Love’s RV Stop 250

The Place: Talladega Superspeedway

The Date: Saturday, September 30

The Time: 1 p.m. ET

The Purse: $779,790

TV: FS1, 12 p.m. ET

Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR (Channel 90)

Distance: 250.04 miles (94 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 20),

Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 40), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 94)

NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoff Outlook
Following Bristol Motor Speedway – Sept. 14, 2023
Rank Driver Starts Points Race Wins Playoff Pts + /- Cutoff
1 Corey Heim (P) 19 3,080 3 35 In On Win
2 Christian Eckes (P) 20 3,079 3 26 29
3 Carson Hocevar (P) 20 3,068 3 18 22
4 Grant Enfinger (P) 20 3,064 3 24 14
5 Zane Smith (P) 20 3,050 2 22 -14
6 Ben Rhodes (P) 20 3,045 1 13 -19
7 Nick Sanchez # (P) 20 3,042 0 6 -22
8 Ty Majeski (P) 20 3,042 0 16 -22

Playoff Clinch Scenarios: Three spots left for Championship 4 Round

With one race down in the Round of 8 and one ticket claimed for the Championship 4, here is a look at the clinch scenarios for the 8-driver field:

Already Clinched

The following driver has clinched a spot in the four-driver field of the next round: Corey Heim.

Can Clinch Via Points

If there is a repeat winner or a win by a driver who cannot advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being 56 points above the 3rd winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from among Christian Eckes or Carson Hocevar.

  • Christian Eckes: Could only clinch with help
  • Carson Hocevar: Could only clinch with help

If there is a new winner from Grant Enfinger or another winless driver lower in the standings but still eligible to advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being 56 points above the 2nd winless driver in the standings.

  • Christian Eckes: Could only clinch with help

Can Clinch Via Win

The following drivers would clinch on their win alone: Christian Eckes, Carson Hocevar, Grant Enfinger, Zane Smith, Ben Rhodes, Nicholas Sanchez, Ty Majeski

Playoff Bubble: Smith, Rhodes, Sanchez, Majeski outside Championship 4 cutline

Following the Round of 8 opener at Bristol Motor Speedway, Corey Heim was the first to punch his ticket to the Championship 4 Round at Phoenix Raceway. With just two races left in the Round of 8, the competitors are starting to feel the heat. As Talladega looms closer, the drivers sitting below the cutline are Zane Smith, Ben Rhodes, Nick Sanchez, and Ty Majeski.

Driver of the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Chevrolet, Zane Smith, has gone on to the title round the last three years. Last season, the reigning CRAFTSMAN Truck Series champion advanced to the Championship 4 Round by scoring two runner-up finishes in the Round of 8, in addition to a 17th-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway. Smith has experienced both highs and lows this postseason – finishing fifth at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, 12th at the Milwaukee Mile, fifth at Kansas Speedway, and 24th at Bristol Motor Speedway two weeks ago. Although the 24-year-old has previous experience managing these Playoff rounds, the looming uncertainty of superspeedway racing certainly doesn’t add much comfort.

Ty Majeski completely dominated the Round of 8 last season, winning both Bristol and Homestead – besting Zane Smith both times. The Seymour, Wisconsin native is currently 22-points back from the final transfer spot currently being held by Grant Enfinger. Although the deficit is significant, Majeski and the No. 98 ThorSport Racing Ford team will need to maximize the next 6 stages. The 29-year-old burst into the Playoffs with momentum after leading 168 laps at Richmond in the regular season finale before finishing second. Majeski completely dominated the field at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park taking the checkered flag after leading 179 of 200 laps. But following Indianapolis, the No. 98 team has lost some steam – finishing seventh in Milwaukee, 18th at Kansas, and 19th in Bristol.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Nick Sanchez is also sitting back -22 points from that final transfer position. Although the rookie will be making his Talladega debut in the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series, Sanchez won at the superspeedway in the ARCA Menards Series last year and finished third in 2021. Like the two competitors previously, the driver of the No. 2 Rev Racing Chevrolet has seen some of the lows that postseason has to offer – finishing 11th at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, 24th at Milwaukee, eighth at Kansas, and ninth at Bristol. The 22-year-old heads to Talladega still aiming for his first victory of his CRAFTSMAN Truck Series career.

Ben Rhodes scraped his way into the Round of 8 by five points. The 2021 CRAFTSMAN Truck Series champion heads to Talladega ranked sixth in the Playoff standings -16 points from the fourth and final spot in the championship round. In seven starts at Talladega, the Louisville, Kentucky native has an average finish of 13.4. Last year, the driver of the No. 99 ThorSport Racing Ford managed a second-place finish at the superspeedway. Unfortunately for the 26-year-old, the Playoffs haven’t been off to the best start – finishing 16th at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, 16th at Milwaukee, 25th at Kansas, and seventh at Bristol. Like his competitors, his previous experience in the Playoff rounds doesn’t add much comfort heading into Talladega.

NCTS Playoffs Contender’s Career Performances at Talladega Superspeedway

Rank Driver Races Poles Wins Top Fives Top 10s DNFs Average Finish  
 
1 Corey Heim 1 0 0 0 0 1 26.0  
2 Christian Eckes 2 0 0 1 1 1 11.5  
3 Carson Hocevar 2 0 0 0 0 1 26.5  
4 Grant Enfinger 9 0 1 2 3 2 14.6  
5 Zane Smith 3 0 0 0 0 2 27.7  
6 Ben Rhodes 7 1 0 2 2 2 13.4  
7 Nick Sanchez # 0 0 0 0 0 0 0.0  
8 Ty Majeski 1 0 0 0 0 0 23.0  

NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series, Etc.

Spire Motorsports acquires Kyle Busch Motorsports and Rowdy Manufacturing – Kyle Busch, the winningest driver in CRAFTSMAN Truck Series history and owner of Kyle Busch Motorsports (KBM) announced this week that he has sold KBM and Rowdy Manufacturing to Spire Motorsports. Included in the sale are the assets of Busch’s NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series team and the assets of Rowdy Manufacturing’s chassis building operation and CNC machine shop along with the 77,000-square-foot facility that houses both operations.

KBM holds the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series records for most career wins (100) and most wins in a single season (14 in 2014). In addition to having produced two championship-winning drivers: Erik Jones (2015) and Christopher Bell (2017), the organization has collected a series-record seven owner’s championships.

“I’m at a different point in my life now than I was back in 2010,” Busch said. “My family has grown; my Cup Series team changed this year and our son’s racing schedule has become as demanding as my own. It’s important to me to be able to spend more time with my family and my No. 8 team at Richard Childress Racing. It’ll be hard to walk away from the amazing facility that we’ve built. I’ll miss walking the shop floor talking with our employees, hosting our fan days in the lobby, and spending countless hours there ensuring its success. However, I know at this point in my life and in my career that this is the correct decision.”

Chandler Smith to drive No. 25 Rackley W.A.R. Chevrolet at Talladega – Following Bristol, Rackley W.A.R. announced that a new driver will get behind the wheel of the No. 25 Rackley W.A.R. Chevrolet for the remainder of the season. Chandler Smith, who is currently racing for a championship and Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, will make his first CRAFTSMAN Truck Series start of the season this weekend.

In 61 career CRAFTSMAN Truck Series starts, the 20-year-old has boasted five wins, 23 top-fives and 24 top- 10 finishes. Smith made the Playoffs during both of his full-time seasons and finished a career-best third in the championship standings in 2022. Rackley W.A.R.’s No. 25 Chevrolet is the defending winner at Talladega as Matt DiBenedetto snagged the victory when an overtime attempt ended the race under caution.

The team, in its third year as a full-time CRAFTSMAN Truck Series team, made history this season becoming the first Tennessee-based CRAFTSMAN Truck Series to make a run for the Playoffs. The team was eliminated from the Round of 10 at Kansas Speedway.

“I’m super-grateful for Rackley W.A.R. giving me the opportunity to run their truck this weekend at Talladega,” Smith said. “Being able to represent Rackley Roofing, W.A.R. Shocks, and this entire organization is extremely cool. I’m definitely proud of and looking forward to the opportunity.”

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