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The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is just two races away from beginning its playoffs, and nine races away from the end of the season.
While the championship battle is obviously the most talked about competition within a season, there’s another battle that happens every year that doesn’t get as much attention until the end-of-season awards banquet: The Rookie of the Year battle.
In the Truck Series, especially with nine races left, it is crunch time for the rookies. Despite not being an entirely deep rookie field this year, they are still running pretty close to each other in points, which should make for an interesting battle down the stretch.
First, there are Niece Motorsports teammates, Lawless Alan and Dean Thompson. Each of them has made select starts in the Truck Series in the past, but they both joined Niece Motorsports for the full 2022 season.
Jack Wood jumped ship from the ARCA Menards Series to the Truck Series, driving GMS Racing’s No. 24 for the full season. Then there’s Blaine Perkins, who has made select starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and is the only full-timer to have failed to qualify for a race (Martinsville Speedway).
Alan currently leads the ROTY standings. However, there is one driver who could throw a whole wrench in the full-time drivers’ dreams of being Rookie of the Year: Corey Heim.
Heim is part of Kyle Busch Motorsports’ rotation in the No. 51 truck and is currently scheduled to drive it the rest of the season after Busch and Buddy Kofoid shared the ride up to this point. And because of this, he has a rare opportunity ahead of himself: He could win the Rookie of the Year title, despite not competing the entire season.
Heim has already proven himself to be deserving of a full-time ride with KBM, as he has won twice already this season, at Atlanta Motor Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway. However, outside of a seventh-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway, Heim has failed to crack the top 20 in every other start this season.
Despite this, he has a chance to take the rookie point lead from Alan, the current leader. So how is this possible?
Well, it’s worth restating that the rookie class of 2022 is not that deep. Aside from Heim, none of the rookies have a top 10. The highest finish of any of the rookies came from Alan and Thompson, who both have a best finish of 11th, respectively.
Each of the rookie contenders are either mid-pack drivers or compete in mid-pack equipment.
Perkins is all but out of the running, as the DNQ at Martinsville set him behind. He is 83 points behind Alan and needs a lot of help to get back in the running. And despite being 20 points behind, Wood has seemingly had bad luck in every race, either crashing or incurring penalties week in and week out.
But Heim, despite not competing in seven races, is just eight points behind Alan due to his performance in the No. 51. The way the other rookies are running, if Heim can even consistently finish in the top 15 for the rest of the season, he could win Rookie of the Year.
Now some people are probably thinking that it isn’t fair for a guy who hasn’t run the whole season to come in and win the title (shades of 2015 with Heim’s owner). But this rookie battle is based on points alone right now. Heim is not eligible for the playoffs despite his two wins because he hasn’t competed in all the races this season. In fact, every rookie driver is currently not playoff-eligible, even if they win, except for Alan – in the Truck Series, only the top 20 are eligible should they win a race.
Right now, Heim is the favorite to win ROTY. It may not seem right because of his position of not competing full-time, but he’s just playing by the rules. The question is, can he get a little more consistent to stay the favorite? Or can Alan and Thompson, Heim’s two closest competitors, find more speed to continue to compete with Heim as we head down the stretch of the Truck Series season?
About the author
Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. He co-authors Only Yesterday (Wednesdays) and Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the site's primary Truck Series reporter and writer, and contributes to SRX coverage, too. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is currently pursuing his master of journalism at Temple University. He is a theatre actor and fight choreographer-in-training outside of Frontstretch. He is a loyal fan of the Cincinnati Reds and Carolina Panthers, still hopeful for a championship at some point in his lifetime.
You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.
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