Race Weekend Central

Uneventful Cut Line Drama Sets Truck Series Playoffs

RICHMOND, Va. – Despite the late-stage craziness brought on by multiple strategies, the night was a relatively quiet for the three drivers that entered the night above the cut line to make the 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series playoffs.

Coming into the Richmond race, Matt DiBenedetto was up 31 points, Nick Sanchez was up 21 points, and Matt Crafton was nine points to the good.

“Im just proud we made this thing into the playoffs,” DiBenedetto said post-race. “We have a lot to be proud of. We had a lot to overcome. … We had to do it the hard way and climb back up through a lot of hard work and perseverance.”

DiBenedetto makes his first Truck playoffs, He gained notoriety for failing to make the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series playoffs but is having a much improved second season in the Truck Series.

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He qualified 10th and earned a stage point by finishing 10th in the first stage, then 17th in the second stage and ultimately finished 17th. With Stewart Friesen’s struggles and the points buffer he had built up before Saturday, he could comfortably make the playoffs in 2023.

Rookie Sanchez made the postseason in his maiden year in the Truck Series. He qualified 14th and worked his way up to ninth by the second stage to earn two stage points. Sanchez finished eighth to clinch a spot in the postseason.

“My expectation was to try to make the playoffs,” said Sanchez. “That’s my team’s goal. You always want a shot at a championship, and to not be in contention, it would had sucked.”

Crafton, who was in the most danger of not making the playoffs due to being only nine points above Friesen, put together a veteran performance to continue his streak of having never missed the postseason in the Truck Series. Crafton, who has struggled in qualifying this season with an average starting position of 18.5, qualified eighth and did what he needed to make playoffs

“We earned it today,” he said. “We did everything to give it away throughout the year…we blew all of our feet off, and luckily, we got to where we are today and had a shot.”

Crafton earned 10 stage points, fifth in stage one and eighth in stage two, to go along with a seventh-place finish to give him the perfect weekend needed to give him a chance to win his fourth Truck title.

How do each of these drivers think they will fare?

All three have positive outlooks as they head to the postseason.

“We are really hitting our stride,” DiBenedetto said. “That’s the best time to hit our stride coming into the most important part of the year.”

DiBenedetto said he thinks he will need to win to advance and did win the playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway despite not being in the playoffs last year.

“I have a runway to where I want to be at the end of the year in Phoenix and the final four. So now just have to go and accomplish that,” Sanchez said.

“I’m really looking forward to the rest of the races,” Crafton said. “We go to a lot of racetracks where you have to use two feet.” This [No.] 88 has been good when have some tire fall off and actually drive them.”

As it stands now, Sanchez sits above the cut line, three points better than DiBenedetto and Crafton, as they head to the first race of the playoffs at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park in two weeks.

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