The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series kicked-off its Round of 6 this past Saturday afternoon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, thus setting off a four-race stretch to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Five of the six drivers all placed in the top 10.
The first of the five was Matt Crafton. Crafton started second and finished second after leading 102 laps and winning the first stage. He lost the lead on the final restart to eventual race winner, Noah Gragson, who passed him on the outside after the restart. Crafton now sits third -15.
Johnny Sauter finishing third shouldn’t be a surprise in the truck series, especially at Martinsville where his team was the defending race winner. He started the race out strong by qualifying fourth. In Stage 1, he placed second. Stage 2 was basically flip-flopped as Sauter won it and Crafton finished second. Sauter would challenge for the win multiple times but settled for third. He is only three points behind in the playoff standings.
“We had a good day, just didn’t execute when we needed to,” Sauter said. “It’s unfortunate, but we had a fast ISM Connect Chevy. Joe did a good job; all the guys at GMS did a great job. We had a fast truck on that first run but that adjustment we made just wasn’t the right one I guess. Nonetheless, I still think track position is king. You get out in clean air and it’s dominant. I feel like anymore, everyone runs the same speed, so when you give up seven spots it’s pretty tough to overcome. But with that being said I’ve made plenty of mistakes myself, it happens, I can’t be mad about it. Despite it all, it was a good points day and we’re just getting started in what I believe is the part of the schedule that really plays into our strengths.”
Next up on the list is a driver who has been dominant all year long and in the Round of 8, Christopher Bell. He had somewhat of a decent showing by finishing eighth after getting spun earlier in the race on lap 123, bringing out the fourth caution. The Norman, Oklahoma driver scored another top 10 finish and is currently leading the playoff standings.
“I don’t know, our JBL Tundra was really, really strong throughout the second stage,” Bell said. ” I don’t know, other than that second stage we struggled to get going, but I’m not really sure what happened getting into (turn) three there. I thought I left Matt (Crafton) enough room, but overall it was not the day we wanted, but we were able to salvage a good finish out of it and got some stage points in the second stage. We’ll move on to Texas (Motor Speedway) and hopefully be a lot better than we were today.”
The Las Vegas winner, Ben Rhodes, scored his 12th top 10 finish of the year and is fourth in the standings, -34 points. He is certainly not out of it yet, but will most likely have to get a few more stage wins and a victory to get to Homestead. Rhodes had a solid showing of ninth after starting third, but it was earned the hard way.
“Yeah, we survived, but just barely,” Rhodes said. ” I didn’t survive in the position that I wanted to survive in. I wish we were a little bit further up. The whole race was a little bit frustrating. We had a top-five truck, I felt like. We ran up there the whole day. I feel like we made a bad call on pit strategy because we came in, and everybody else stayed out. Then that just put us in the back, and we just got knocked into the wall – bounced around like a pinball. All-in-all, our Safelite Tundra was fast, we just didn’t get back up through the field like we wanted to, and we saw that with a lot of trucks today. I feel like maybe we missed it on pit strategy, just a little bit. We probably could have had a little bit better day, but overall still an okay day for points. Just always wish it could be a little better.”
Austin Cindric rounds out the five playoff contenders having a decent showing at Martinsville. The Columbus, Ohio driver earned his 13th top 10 finish of the year by finishing 10th. He now sits fifth, -45 from first. Cindric placed seventh in Stage 1, did not finish in the top 10 in Stage 2 but came home in the top 10.
“It was a solid finish by our Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford F-150 team and we moved up one spot in the championship standings,” Cindric said. “I’m happy with it. We have a pretty clean truck, all things considered. I think we got the most out of it today and we need to keep having races like this.”
The Camping World Truck Series heads to the mid-west this Friday night at Texas Motor Speedway for the JAGS Metals 350.