Race Weekend Central

Truckin’ Thursdays: Meet the 2023 Playoff Field, Part II

The playoffs are drawing closer for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.

This Friday (Aug. 11), the 2023 playoffs kick off at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park in Brownsburg, Indiana, after a much needed off week to regroup. Playoff contender Grant Enfinger is the defending winner.

Last week, this column broke down Nos. 1-5 in playoff seeding. This week will focus on the second half of the field, seeded Nos. 6-10, to fully prepare you for the chaos that will be the 2023 Truck Series playoffs.

No. 6: Ty Majeski

Points: 2014
Wins: 0
Best points finish: 4th (2022)

Majeski enters the 2023 playoff race with a legitimate shot at the championship despite having no wins on the season. But it hasn’t been for lack of trying, though. Majeski and his ThorSport Racing No. 98 team have brought fast trucks almost every week but haven’t been able to put together a complete race – mostly at the fault of Majeski himself.

After starting out the season with six top 10s in the first seven races, Majeski began a worrying habit of failing to finish. A tangle with Rajah Caruth at Kansas Speedway ruined his day, then backed it up with a finish outside the top 30 at Darlington Raceway.

He then crashed out going for the lead at World Wide Technology Raceway and finished 31st the very next race at Nashville Superspeedway. After dominating Richmond Raceway, he fell on the wrong pit strategy and was passed for the win with less than five laps to go.

At one point a contender for the regular season championship, Majeski can’t seem to get out of his own way, leading to just a sixth-place seeding in the championship standings to start the playoffs. Majeski can’t have those mistakes, or he might be facing an early exit from the playoffs after nearly winning the championship last year before a late-race spin.

See also
Greg Van Alst Running Remainder of Season with Young's

No. 7: Ben Rhodes

Points: 2013
Wins: 1
Best points finish: Champion (2021)

A quiet but solid regular season leads Rhodes back to the playoffs for the seventh straight season. After coming up one spot short of being a back-to-back champion in 2022, Rhodes looks to continue his impressive playoff resume with another championship in 2023. He has one win to his credit at Charlotte Motor Speedway, making an extra $50,000 courtesy of the Triple Truck Challenge.

While Rhodes hasn’t been the most consistent driver this season, his one strength is his lack of DNFs on the year – he has just one after getting caught up in a crash at North Wilkesboro Speedway. He has never finished outside the top 20 this season aside from that one race. While consistency could be a cause for concern entering the playoffs, if he can continue to finish races, it’s possible he can take advantage of other drivers’ potential misfortunes to advance in the playoffs and make a run at a second championship.

No. 8: Nick Sanchez

Points: 2005
Wins: 0
Best points finish: N/A – Rookie

By being the only rookie to make the playoffs, Sanchez is guaranteed to be the highest finishing rookie and has clinched Rookie of the Year with seven races left in the season. But the No. 2 team is looking for more. After a solid rookie campaign, Sanchez looks to take it to the veterans and win the championship and rookie of the year in the same season.

After coming oh-so-close to winning some races earlier this season (namely Atlanta Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway), Sanchez has shown he is capable of running up front. He has an insane four poles already this season and has finished in the top 10 in five of his last six races.

His rookie season has been likened to that of Carson Hocevar – it’s not if he’s going to win, but when, and what better time to pick up career win number one than when you’re fighting for a championship? Majeski did it last year and he almost won it all.

That and Sanchez’s confidence could propel the rookie into the Championship 4.

No. 9: Matt DiBenedetto

Points: 2002
Wins: 0
Best points finish: 13th (2022)

After a rocky first season with Rackley WAR in 2022, an upset win at Talladega Superspeedway seemed to put wind in the sails of both DiBenedetto and the entire No. 25 team, and they rode that momentum into 2023. No wins so far, but he’s had a dramatic increase in finishing position. After just seven top-10 finishes in 2022, DiBenedetto now has nine, including six straight finishes inside the top 10, with his best finish being third at North Wilkesboro.

DiBenedetto told Frontstretch at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course that Rackley WAR has grown to the point where “we’re missing that next little tier of speed” that teams such as ThorSport Racing and Kyle Busch Motorsports have. He echoed that sentiment after Richmond Raceway, telling reporters that he feels like he and his team can make a legitimate run at the playoffs.

While this could very much be a possibility, the goose egg in the win column likely needs to change if he wants a shot. With a return to Talladega coming up, DiBenedetto has perhaps his best shot to add win number two – but he needs to stay alive in the playoffs for that opportunity.

See also
Only Yesterday: Remembering Jules Bianchi

No. 10: Matt Crafton

Points: 2002
Wins: 0
Best points finish: Champion – Three times (2013, 2014, 2019)

Crafton and the No. 88’s “Never Say Die” attitude gave ThorSport a third truck in the playoffs. However, aside from winning stage two at Atlanta, Crafton has surprisingly run mid-pack for most of the season, with only six top 10s the entire season.

While Crafton may not be call himself a championship contender, just making the playoffs feels like a win. Speaking of, Crafton hasn’t found victory lane since Kansas in 2020, and would love nothing more than to do what Enfinger did last year: win the playoff opener and suddenly be labeled a legitimate threat to the championship.

Another thing to consider is Crafton’s age. At 47-years old, his career might be coming to a close soon. Making the playoffs shows that Crafton still has the drive and performance to compete, but having not won a race since 2020, Crafton would want nothing more than to get another win and have an actual chance to become a four-time champion. And if that happens, who knows what Crafton will do heading into 2024.

Race No. 1 of the Round of 10, the TSport 200 at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, will take place on Friday, Aug. 11 at 9 p.m. ET, with FOX Sports 1 carrying the broadcast.

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.

Sign up for the Frontstretch Newsletter

A daily email update (Monday through Friday) providing racing news, commentary, features, and information from Frontstretch.com
We hate spam. Your email address will not be sold or shared with anyone else.

Share via