Race Weekend Central

Truckin’ Thursdays: Trucks Have Something to Prove at Vegas

The 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is officially off and running. Zane Smith began his championship defense in strong fashion, winning his second straight race at Daytona International Speedway.

But the Daytona race was… lackluster, to say the least. Daytona is never usually an indicator of how the season will go for drivers, as anyone can win if they’re running at the end. But Daytona also gives drivers a chance to mesh with their new teams, crew chiefs, and spotters, so they can enter Las Vegas Motor Speedway with chemistry to get their season going and officially see what they have.

But Daytona was an event that saw more laps run under caution than under green flag conditions. The longest green-flag run was just 11 laps, as either a multi-truck crash or rain halted the race, and the latter caused the race to be called with just 79 laps of the scheduled 100 completed.

See also
Tracking the Trucks: Rain-Shortened, Crash-Filled Race Gives Zane Smith Second Straight Daytona Win

This had to have put a damper (the pun was kind of intended) on drivers’ spirits. Hell, it did for us as race fans, as we waited three months for NASCAR to return just to get an incredibly choppy race. Sure, the rain wasn’t NASCAR’s fault, as the rain was so light that it didn’t even show up on radar, but the drivers certainly weren’t too pleased at the pace of the race. Or the finish for that matter, as Christian Eckes even said that if Smith “Mickey Mouses his way into this, I’m gonna be so mad.”

Sure, Eckes and Smith are good friends, but there was no doubt Eckes had a fast truck that night, as he had won stage one with his new team, McAnally-Hilgemann Racing, replacing Derek Kraus in the No. 19. Eckes ended up third when the race was called. Despite his friendship with Smith, he still can’t be too happy and was probably left wondering what could have been.

In fact, Daytona left one driver happy, and the rest were probably wishing they could finish the race. But even bigger, drivers in new places such as Eckes, Nick Sanchez and Corey Heim were unable to gel with their new teams enough to be in a comfortable position when Las Vegas comes around next week.

In a way, Vegas feels like the official start to the Truck Series season because of how little overall track time they got at Daytona. While Smith’s win wasn’t a complete shock and doesn’t “shake up” the playoff picture like other winners in the past might have, the drivers will now get the chance to prove themselves in the series. We’ll get to see how well Rajah Caruth can run in the Truck Series, or how Hailie Deegan can do with her new team, ThorSport Racing. Daytona just didn’t give us those opportunities – even if they had, Deegan and Caruth both crashed out of the race early, before the race was called, so they were unable to prove themselves anyway.

Either way, we’ll find out what these guys and gals really have come next Friday night (March 1) at 9 p.m. ET, when the Truck Series takes to the 1.5-mile track out west at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

See also
Eyes on Xfinity: Gray Gaulding Talks Early Career, Daytona & More

Truckin’ Tidbits

  • Zane Smith officially passed 1000 career laps led in the Truck Series at Daytona, after ending the 2022 season with 999 career laps led. He led 17 laps en route to his win, making his total 1016 heading into Vegas.
  • Cory Roper was suspended on Thursday for violating NASCAR’s substance abuse policy. His team’s driver, Kaden Honeycutt, failed to qualify his No. 04 into the show at Daytona. You can read more about it here.
  • The Truck Series race at North Wilkesboro Speedway will officially be named the Tyson 250. Tyson was the most recent sponsor of the NASCAR Cup Series race at North Wilkesboro (the Tyson Holly Farms 400) before the series left in 1996.

About the author

Frontstretch.com

Anthony Damcott joined Frontstretch in March 2022. Currently, he is an editor and co-authors Fire on Fridays (Fridays); he is also the primary Truck Series reporter/writer. A proud West Virginia Wesleyan College alum from Akron, Ohio, Anthony is now a grad student. He is a theatre actor and fight-choreographer-in-training in his free time. 

You can keep up with Anthony by following @AnthonyDamcott on Twitter.

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