Race Weekend Central

Truckin’ Thursdays: Bubble Drivers to Watch as Playoffs Near

Just two races remain before the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series begins its 2023 edition of the playoffs.

Three drivers as of late have shown winning speed but haven’t been able to capitalize for one reason or another. While pointing their way in still seems feasible, it’s likely these drivers need a win to make the playoffs.

Tanner Gray

While Gray arguably stole the show at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course with his 67-lap war with the gravel traps, the 20th-place finish he earned because of that was not ideal to his points situation.

Gray sits 24 points behind the 10th-place cut line, currently occupied by Matt Crafton. Gray is on track to have his best season yet since joining the Truck Series, but unlike TRICON Garage teammate Corey Heim, the No. 15 team hasn’t quite found the speed necessary to find the lead.

Gray has shown he’s capable of running well inside the top 10, but hasn’t been able to find it since his third-place finish at Darlington Raceway. Gray and Co. could be one to watch to steal a playoff spot, but he needs to find consistent speed first.

Tyler Ankrum

Ankrum is fresh off of two straight top 10s, but it might be too little too late as he sits 76 points behind Crafton. Ankrum’s ARCA Menards Series win at Mid-Ohio gave him momentum into the Truck race and looked to be in position to perhaps steal the win, but faded to 10th.

Ankrum could use his momentum to make a late run, but he is in must-win territory. He hasn’t been the most consistent driver this season but has persevered. The team proved in the ARCA race at Mid-Ohio that it has the chemistry to win – it just needs to translate to Truck Series success.

Jake Garcia

After a strong start to his rookie season, Garcia has not been a factor for the top 10 save for back-to-back 10th-place finishes at World Wide Technology Raceway and Nashville Superspeedway.

He sits 77 points behind Crafton, and regardless of whether or not he makes the playoffs, he’s had a marvelous rookie season. However, it’s hard to count him out at this point. If he races the season-opener at Daytona International Speedway, he’s much closer to the playoff bubble than 77.

Garcia, Ankrum, and Gray all have a path to the playoffs, but they just need a lot to go right to do so.

With the 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle of Pocono Raceway and the 0.75-mile short track of Richmond Raceway closing out the regular season, it’s anyone’s game still.

About the author

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. 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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