Race Weekend Central

Tracking the Trucks: One Final Look At The Playoff Squeeze

In a Nutshell: Johnny Sauter was the fastest truck on Friday evening, and he was rewarded for it. He led 28 laps on the evening in his No. 21 Chevrolet Silverado en route to his second victory of the 2017 season in the TheHouse.com 225 from Chicagoland Speedway. Ben Rhodes clinched the eighth and final playoff spot on a tiebreaker with Ryan Truex. Chase Briscoe followed Sauter across the finish line in second, with Christopher Bell, Truex and Grant Enfinger rounding out the top five. Rhodes came home in sixth, followed by John Hunter Nemechek, Noah Gragson, Kaz Grala and Myatt Snider.

Who Should Have Won: Sauter had the quickest truck throughout the entirety of the event. He led 28 laps on the evening, and they just happened to be the final 28. His truck came on strong toward the middle of stage two, and as most cars were falling back late in a run, he was the one that was coming on strong. Hit pit crew was stout all evening long, he wasn’t afraid to put the bumper to a truck or two and bullied his way to Victory Lane.

Race Rundown

Rhodes gets in on Tiebreaker

The numbers will show Ben Rhodes and Ryan Truex being tied for the final playoff spot when the checkered flag flew. But by virtue of a tiebreaker, Rhodes is in, and Truex is out.

The tiebreaker goes back to the Pocono Raceway event earlier this season, where Rhodes finished second ahead of Truex in third by only a quarter of a second.

On lap 39, Rhodes’ No. 27 team was penalized for an uncontrolled tire during their pit stop and was sent to the back of the field. But Rhodes was a man on a mission and wound up making his way back up to the front. He gained enough spots to surpass Truex for the final playoff spot.

But then, on lap 108, he came back down pit road for a second time in as many laps due to the team not being able to repair damage that he suffered after making contact with Matt Crafton on a restart prior. One would think that would be the nail in the coffin for his playoff chances.

But it wasn’t. His sixth-place finish was good enough to barley put him into the postseason by the skin of his teeth.

“Man I still can’t believe it,” Rhodes said to FS1 on pit road post-race. “They gave me the hat and I was like ‘are you sure this is ours?’ They said we were tied and we got the tiebreaker. I can’t believe it. The truck all night, we struggled ever since we unloaded here. This has definitely been our worst performance overall, and it couldn’t have came at a worse week to do it, but I’m glad were in. And overall everything worked out for us. But a couple pit road penalties, it’s a truck that we struggled with all night.”

Quick Hits

  • Johnny Sauter is getting hot at the right time. He’s only finished outside the top 10 three times this season, and has amassed nine top fives to date. This win came six races after his previous victory in 2017 at Kentucky. Oh, and if you don’t remember, he’s the defending series champion.

  • Chase Briscoe continues to impress in his rookie season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. This second-place finish came in his first trip to the 1.5-mile tri-oval-oval in Joliet and also marked his 11th top 10 and sixth top five of the season.
  • Christopher Bell has won the regular season points championship. He gets an extra 15 playoff points throughout the entirety of the postseason for his No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports team and is the No. 1 seed entering the playoffs.

  • Ben Rhodes earned his ninth top-10 finish of the season and clinched his spot in the 2017 NCWTS playoffs in the process. He is still yet to visit the winner’s circle in 43 starts in the Truck Series.

Truck Rookie Report
2017 Rookie of the Year Candidates
No. 13 Cody Coughlin
No. 18 Noah Gragson
No. 19 Austin Cindric
No. 24 Justin Haley
No. 29 Chase Briscoe
No. 33 Kaz Grala
No. 49 Wendell Chavous
No. 52 Stewart Friesen
No. 98 Grant Enfinger

Number of rookies in the race: Eight (8)

Number of rookies to finish in the top 10: Four (4); Chase Briscoe in second, Grant Enfinger in fifth, Noah Gragson in eighth and Kaz Grala in ninth.

Rookie of the Race: Chase Briscoe, No. 29 Ford F-150 for Brad Keselowski Racing

Points Update: The field has been dwindled down to eight, as the regular season has concluded and the playoffs are upon us. Bell is the leader over Sauter by 15, Nemechek and Crafton by 26, Briscoe by 31, Cindric and Rhodes by 33 and Grala by 35.

Playoffs Update: The 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series are now officially set. Christopher Bell, Johnny Sauter, John Hunter Nemechek, Matt Crafton, Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric, Ben Rhodes and Kaz Grala will be competing for the championship for the next seven races.


“I’m at a point in my career where, not to sound arrogant or ignorant, but you mess with the bull, you get the horns, so to speak. And I’m at a different point, you know. If someone wants to go toe to toe, I don’t care. Let’s go, that’s how I feel. And if Ben Rhodes wants a piece of it, let’s go.” – Johnny Sauter, race winner

“I’m just surprised that we’re here. Now we gotta re-focus and get a lot stronger for the playoffs because a lot of these guys have proven that they belong here. We got to get a little bit stronger because tonight was not one of our best nights.” – Ben Rhodes, sixth-place finisher

“I had a feeling it would come down to this, it’s been so close this whole year. And it’s tough because if you go back and look at times we’ve had things happen out of our control. If that wouldn’t have happened we wouldn’t be here, but a lot of guys can say that. So we’ll just keep plugging along. If we keep running top five like this, we’re eventually going to get a win.” – Ryan Truex, fourth-place finisher

Up Next: The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the UNOH 175, the first race of the NCWTS playoffs. Coverage for the event can be found on Saturday, September 23 at 1 p.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.

About the author

Davey is in his fifth season with Frontstretch and currently serves as a multimedia editor and reporter. He authors the "NASCAR Mailbox" column, spearheads the site's video content and hosts the Frontstretch Podcast weekly. He's covered the K&N Pro Series and ARCA extensively for NASCAR.com and currently serves as an associate producer for SiriusXM NASCAR Radio and production assistant for NBC Sports Washington. Follow him on Twitter @DaveyCenter.

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