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The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to action at Kansas Speedway this weekend after 6,000 years off. Alright, so it was only three off weekends, but in the middle of the playoffs, that feels like forever.
Heading into an elimination weekend to make the Round of 8, Grant Enfinger and Chandler Smith can rest easy as the duo has locked themselves into the next round of the playoffs via wins at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park and Richmond Raceway, respectively.
Carson Hocevar and Christian Eckes find themselves below the cut line, though it’s a very tight margin as the pair sits three and six points behind eighth-place driver Matt Crafton, respectively. Both drivers remain winless this season with a combined three stage wins, and they can easily change the complexion of the playoff field with a well-timed victory this weekend.
Both Hocevar and Eckes have been in the playoffs before, but neither one has made it to the Championship 4. Hocevar was eliminated in the Round of 8 last season and Eckes didn’t make it out of the Round of 10 in 2020.
After starting their playoffs out with finishes outside the top 15, Hocevar and Eckes both followed up with top-10 results at Richmond. But the pair have very different histories at Kansas Speedway.
For Hocevar, Kansas hasn’t been a very strong track with an average finish of 19th, including a 15th earlier this year. Meanwhile, the opposite can be said for Eckes, who has three top fives and four top 10s in five starts at the mile-and-a-half track, including a fifth-place run earlier this season.
With that said, assuming Hocevar or Eckes wins this weekend, that opens up the talk of clinching scenarios for the remaining five positions. Zane Smith and John Hunter Nemechek can easily put themselves into the Round of 8 simply by scoring 13 and 16 points, respectively, regardless who wins the race itself. Smith already has three wins this season, one of which came in the series’ first visit to Kansas, and while he hasn’t won at Kansas yet, Nemechek has run some incredibly strong mile-and-a-half races over the last two seasons.
Of course we can’t forget a driver like Ty Majeski, who’s quietly put together a strong season and has put himself in position to move through this first round of the playoffs, despite being shut out of victory lane so far in his career.
Other than Zane Smith and Nemechek, none of the rest of the playoff field can clinch their spots in the Round of 8 within the first two stages (assuming there’s a winner from Hocevar or Eckes). There’s always the possibility that a non-playoff driver steals the spotlight and it comes down to points at the very end.
This weekend marks just the second time Kansas has been in the playoffs and the first time it’s an elimination race. And while a mile-and-a-half track doesn’t scream exciting, the addition of playoff elimination certainly makes it one worth watching.
- Despite his part-time status, Corey Heim has a stronghold on the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings by nearly 100 points over Lawless Alan. Two wins (Atlanta Motor Speedway and World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway), five top fives and six top 10s have see Heim take top rookie honors in five of the 11 races he’s run this season.
- There are 38 trucks on the entry list for 36 positions at Kansas. Brett Moffitt returns to AM Racing to pilot the No. 22 in place of Austin Wayne Self, while Ryan Preece will make his final scheduled start with David Gilliland Racing. Parker Kligerman returns to the field for the first time since his victory at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and Tate Fogleman is entered in a second truck for Rackley WAR.
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