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The Top Truckers at Pocono Raceway
Top Storylines of the Race
- Kaden Honeycutt made his first start of the season for Niece Motorsports after jumping around from team-to-team throughout the Craftsman Truck Series season. He told Frontstretch that he will be behind the wheel of the team’s part-time No. 44 for a few more races this season.
- Tanner Gray’s race (and perhaps his playoff hopes) ended early on lap 4, when he spun off of turn 1 and slammed the inside wall hard. Aside from stage cautions, this was the only caution for an incident until lap 47, when polesitter Sanchez got loose under fellow rookie Jake Garcia, causing the latter to smack the turn 1 wall. Garcia was noticeably frustrated with Sanchez when he climbed out of his truck, throwing his hands up in frustration as the No. 2 drove back by the accident scene.
- Carson Hocevar made a bold three-wide move that didn’t work on the second-to-last restart and ignited a big crash that collected Smith, who swept the stages, as well as playoff hopeful Stewart Friesen, among several others.
- The caution for the big one turned into a red flag. Despite this, the entire 150-mile race clocked in at a whopping 83 minutes.
- Busch’s win is the 100th career win for his self-owned team Kyle Busch Motorsports. Busch was also responsible for the team’s 99th career win earlier this season at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, his home track.
The Winning Move
Heim looked poised to hold off Busch’s No. 51 until the two late cautions came out late, giving Busch another chance on the final restart with five laps to go. Nearly every lap, Busch would take a peek under Heim in turn 2, but would not make the move until the last lap.
Instead of snaking to break the draft like most drivers do (specifically in the Indianapolis 500 in IndyCar), Heim held his line and allowed Busch to use the draft to close up on the No. 11 again heading into the tunnel turn. This time, Busch sailed it into the corner, used Heim up just the tiniest bit, and sailed off into the sunset.
The former Kyle Busch Motorsports driver was denied the opportunity to go back-to-back in the Truck Series after winning the last race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. It’s the third straight race he has led the most laps, but only has one win to show for it.
One race remains before the playoffs start, and seven drivers are locked in – six winners plus Ty Majeski, who mathematically locked himself in at Pocono despite not having a win. Smith’s late crash allowed Heim to open up his points lead to 42, which means he could theoretically clinch the regular season championship after stage 2 of the regular season finale.
But the last three spots are up for grabs, and the objective is a lot clearer for almost everyone. Matt DiBenedetto grabbed another quiet top 10, increasing his gap on the cutline. The No. 25 now has a 31-point cushion heading into the final race of the regular season.
Behind DiBenedetto is Sanchez, whose late-race crash didn’t do him any favors. He sits 21 points above the cutline, and can easily make the playoffs with as much as an above-average run in the regular season finale. Matt Crafton continues to hold the 10th and final playoff spot, but by just nine points over Friesen.
Friesen, Tanner Gray, and Chase Purdy are the only drivers at this point who could theoretically point their way in. Gray and Purdy, however, need to get stage points in order for that to be possible, otherwise, after stage 2 it becomes a must-win scenario. 14th-place Tyler Ankrum and back must win the race if they want to make the playoffs.
Barring an upset, the playoff race seems to be down to four drivers vying for three spots. Who will be the odd one out? We’ll have to tune in next time to find out.
Best career finish alert! The younger Gray, Taylor, finished a stellar third behind Busch and teammate Heim, earning him Rookie of the Race. If he can improve on that just a little bit in the regular season finale, we might be looking at an upset playoff contender.
No. 02 – Stefan Parsons (28th)
No. 2 – Nick Sanchez (19th)
No. 17 – Taylor Gray (third)
No. 22 – Stephen Mallozzi (24th)
No. 24 – Rajah Caruth (16th)
No. 32 – Bret Holmes (29th)
No. 35 – Jake Garcia (35th)
No. 43 – Daniel Dye (17th)
One Thought About This Race
Is the Truck race at Pocono too short?
The Truck race and the ARCA Menards Series race, which ran at the break of dawn Saturday morning after a Friday night rainout, are the exact same distance – 150 miles, 60 laps. The Truck race also clocked in at less than 90 minutes.
The race went by really fast, and I believe the Truckers are capable of going a longer distance – hell, they already do, going as many as 250 miles in a given race.
The Xfinity Series race is only 225 miles, and that series is also capable of running a longer distance at Pocono. Maybe NASCAR should consider leaving the ARCA race as is, bumping the Truck race up to 225 miles, and the Xfinity race up to 250 miles.
Part of progressing through the racing ranks to race on Sundays is preparing for longer races. Part of the disparity as to why fewer drivers go through the Truck Series and jump straight to Xfinity is the similarities the main ARCA division has with the Truck Series.
The truck schedule is just three races longer than ARCA’s, and some race distances, evidently are the same length. Bumping up the length of certain races, especially for tough tracks like Pocono, will give drivers more for a reason to take their time moving up, and compete in the Truck Series instead of jumping all the way up to Xfinity.
Plus, if the Truck race at Pocono only takes less than 90 minutes, why not bump up the length of the races of both the Truck and Xfinity Series? If NASCAR continues the doubleheader between the two, it gives Pocono fans more on-track racing.
Paint Scheme of the Race
The teal of the Gunma Toyopet Toyota Tundra shined amidst Bell’s fourth-place finish.
What They’re Saying
Kyle Busch on the win and 100th for Kyle Busch Motorsports:
Corey Heim keeping it short on his second-place finish:
Tanner Gray on his early exit:
Jake Garcia not happy with incident with Nick Sanchez:
Taylor Gray elated about his third-place finish:
Parker Kligerman was not happy with Carson Hocevar about the contact that triggered the big one:
Where to Next?
The last race of the Craftsman Truck Series regular season takes place at the 0.75-mile Richmond Raceway. Chandler Smith won last year’s event.
The Worldwide Express 250 at Richmond Raceway will take place on Saturday, July 29 at 7:30 p.m. ET. FOX Sports 1 will handle broadcasting duties.
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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