Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks
This weekend, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series descends on World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway for one of the six races remaining to set this year’s playoff field. Currently, five drivers are locked into the playoffs by virtue of victories this season.
Zane Smith holds a series-leading three wins, while John Hunter Nemechek, Ben Rhodes, Chandler Smith and Stewart Friesen each have one apiece.
That’s where the certainty ends. Ty Majeski sits solidly at sixth in the standings with a nearly 100-point cushion over Tanner Gray, who’s currently the first driver outside the top 10. Barring five more winners over the next six races, he and Christian Eckes, who sits just two points behind Majeski, will likely point their way into the playoffs with little issue.
The same can be said for Carson Hocevar, who’s currently seventh in the standings and has a 63-point cushion over Gray. And with the way he’s been running, it’s going to take a pretty tough string of bad luck to keep him from having a shot to race for the championship.
Meanwhile, Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton, currently sit ninth and 10th, respectively, and are also likely safe, barring winners outside the top 10. The pair have combined to lead a dismal 21 laps in 10 races and are probably in the most danger out of anyone not locked into the playoffs with a win.
Both drivers are clearly capable of turning their seasons around with a strong run at Gateway, along with a few others who stand out as those to watch this weekend.
It’s impossible to look at any race in the Truck Series right now and not consider Hocevar as a contender. After all, he’s come so close to his first career win multiple times this season, only to have those hopes dashed with just a handful of laps remaining. He’s led at least one lap in five of the last six races including a pair of career-high efforts at Bristol Motor Speedway dirt and Charlotte Motor Speedway (55 and 57 laps, respectively).
Interestingly enough, Hocevar has also matched his 2021 top five total of three in that same stretch with a pair of runner-up finishes at Bristol dirt and Darlington Raceway. Most recently, a strong battle with Ryan Preece on a late-race restart ended in Hocevar getting loose and taking Preece with him. Hocevar ended up 16th when the checkered flag flew, while Preece was 11th, his first finish outside the top 10 in the part-time schedule he’s running this season.
While I can sympathize with Preece and how upset he was about having his hopes for a win dashed too, it might have done him well to put the shoe on the other foot before he openly criticized Hocevar as strongly as he did. You’re not going to convince me that any other racer would have driven that final restart any differently. It’s a first career win on the line and Hocevar was going after it … checkers or wreckers.
With all of that said, it’s only a matter of time before Hocevar finally breaks through. Week after week he’s right there, mixing it up with the leaders. And as the third-year driver continues to prove he can race with some of the best in the series, he will find his way to victory lane soon.
I’m bound to get a lot of flack for this choice especially since Hailie Deegan has finished on the lead lap in just five of 10 races this season. And in four of those other races? She didn’t even finish. Last weekend at Charlotte, Deegan did run the race to completion but ended up 27th, three laps down, after a flat tire forced an unscheduled pit stop.
But hear me out here. When the Truck Series raced at WWT Raceway last season, Deegan finished a career-best seventh. It remains as her only top-10 finish to date in the series, and it also serves as a place where she can walk into the race weekend with a little more confidence.
Sure, this season hasn’t gone at all according to plan for the No. 1 team, but you have to consider that there have been several incidents not of Deegan’s making that she’s been caught up in. And last week at Charlotte? It’s hard to fault her for a bad rear end seal that forced Deegan to miss qualifying and start at the rear of the field. And to add insult to injury, the flat tire didn’t help matters either.
All of that is not to say that this weekend will serve as the turning point for Deegan’s season. But what is possible is a strong run and finish where she can gain a little confidence and understand that she can finish well if she can just stay out of trouble.
While he has yet to find victory lane in his Truck Series career, Majeski has been stringing together some strong races in recent weeks. He has three top fives in the last four races and has failed to complete just seven laps all season (30th at Circuit of the Americas).
While I’m not quite sure the No. 66 team is yet ready to make a strong charge on victory lane, Majeski’s consistency this season is something worth paying attention to. With an average finish of 10.6 and only two results outside the top 15, it’s clear the full-time schedule was warranted for Majeski.
But with that said, it’s not at all unrealistic to think he will be in the mix this weekend at Gateway. After all, Majeski finished ninth at the track in 2020, and that was while running a part-time schedule. This time around, he’s had the entire season to gel with his crew and ensure he’s comfortable in the truck.
- The 2022 iteration of the Triple Truck Challenge begins this weekend. Unlike in years past, the three races included in “The Trip” will not run consecutively. It begins with WWT and skips two races (Sonoma Raceway and Knoxville Raceway) before resuming at Nashville Superspeedway (June 24). Following an off week, the third and final race will run at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 9.
- As of press time, there are 39 trucks on the entry list for 36 spots this weekend. G2G Racing, which was listed on the preliminary entry list, has withdrawn its No. 47 entry. Among those on the entry list are Mason Maggio and Rajah Caruth, both of whom will attempt to make their Truck Series debuts this weekend at Gateway. Additionally, Justin Carroll and Jake Garcia, both of whom failed to qualify at Martinsville Speedway earlier this season, will also attempt to make the field.
- Ben Rhodes has been tapped by Kaulig Racing to fill in for the organization’s NASCAR Cup Series entry piloted by AJ Allmendinger this weekend. Allmendinger is scheduled to run the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Portland International Raceway Saturday, so Rhodes will practice and qualify the No. 16 Chevrolet in his place. Allmendinger will return to WWT to run the Cup race on Sunday.
I’m looking forward to this cool opportunity! Thanks for thinking of me @KauligRacing. It’s an honor to fill in for @AJDinger even if it’s just for practice and qualifying! 👊 https://t.co/HdGbHLyGnW
— Ben Rhodes (@benrhodes) June 1, 2022
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Deegan got that top 10 based on attrition, not driving her way up through the field. The best any of her fans can hope for consistently is maybe a 15th on a good day. If she really does go to Xfinity next year, she’ll likely run 30th every week, and then her fans will blame the equipment like they do this year(while preece is contending for wins and Tanner Gray has been around the Playoff cut line all year in the same equipment)
Xfinity !!! Maybe she needs to get way byand win something in trucks before getting in the way of racers in Xfinity. Oh that’s right, it’s about money not talent.
I like Deegan, but she doesn’t cut it on asphalt. She’s a good dirt racer, maybe should concentrate on that discipline of racing instead. Ford isn’t going to keep throwing its money away.
Deegan is 2nd from last place in the standings for drivers that have driven in all races. Her name shouldn’t even be brought up in legitimate Nascar journalism, let alone an xfinity ride.