After visiting the heartland this past weekend in Kansas, the NASCAR Truck Series heads to Charlotte Motor Speedway, home for most of the teams, in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Digital Ally 250 presented another exciting race last week at Kansas Speedway with fan favorite Ross Chastain winning the event last Friday night. Chastain took the lead with three to go and never looked back to earn his first Truck Series win and quite possibly, Chastain’s biggest win of his career.
While Chastain’s win was certainly popular, one thing that caught the eye of racing fans was that the entry list was noticeably smaller. Just 28 Trucks were entered in the race, one of the smallest fields in the Truck Series season thus far. Only 11 trucks finished on the lead lap for the Digital Ally 250.
This week, however, the Truck Series preliminary entry list is quite large with 37 trucks entered so far and it sees the return of the all-time wins leader Kyle Busch who is slated for his final Truck Series race of the season.
While Busch will be making his 150th Truck Series start, some will be making one of their limited start of the season.
Some of these include Camden Murphy in the No. 8 Nemco Motorsports Truck and Trey Hutchens who will try to make his first Truck start since 2017 at Iowa where he finished 16th. After announcing the team would be cutting back their races due to sponsorship, Cory Roper returns to the track with his No. 04 Roper Racing team. Anthony Alfredo will pilot the No. 15 DGR-Crosley machine as Chad Finley Racing returns to the track with Chad Finley behind the wheel in the No. 42. Stefan Parsons will carry a UNC Charlotte Tribute and will try to make the field in the No. 49 truck owned by Ray Ciccarelli, Timmy Hill will be in the No. 56, Timothy Peters returns in the No. 92 Ricky Benton truck and Jesse Little will compete in the No. 97.
Update- It was announced Wednesday that the No. 1 Truck team of Mark Beaver has withdrawn from the race. Bayley Currey was originally slated to be behind the wheel.
With that in mind, here’s a look at who might pull into victory lane Friday night in the annual running of the North Carolina Education Lottery 200.
- Kyle Busch – Surprise, surprise. It’s hard to count out the all-time wins leader of the Truck Series who is looking to go five for five. The last time someone went five straight in the Truck Series was NASCAR Hall Of Famer Ron Hornaday who accomplished the feat in 2009. Hornaday won at Milwaukee, Memphis, Kentucky, IRP and Nashville. However, those were five consecutive races in a row. So despite the fact that Busch may win on Friday night, Hornaday’s record of five straight wins will remain intact should Busch win. Nonetheless, Busch’s stats at Charlotte in the Truck Series are impressive. He has won seven times in 12 starts which is 58.3 percent of the time. Busch has won every time he has entered a Truck Series race at Charlotte. But the last time he won was two years ago in 2017. However, the Charlotte track has been kind to the polarizing driver who won in his first time out in 2005. The lowest Busch has ever finished was 11th in 2007. Other than that, it’s a win or second place for the KBM owner. His average finish is 2.7 with 662 laps led along with 10 top fives and 11 top-10 finishes. When he won in 2017, Busch led 90 laps of the scheduled 134-lap race. It’s hard to imagine counting Busch out of having a shot at the win.
- Ben Rhodes – After falling short of the win last week at Kansas and finishing second, Rhodes and the No. 99 Carolina Nut Company Ford F-150 will look to carry their momentum to Charlotte Motor Speedway in hopes of a win this Friday night at the 1.5-mile track. He has just three starts here, all in a ThorSport truck with a best finish coming in last year’s race, where Rhodes finished fifth after starting seventh. His other finishes include an eighth in 2017 and 17th in his first time out in 2016. Rhodes has been strong this season with three top fives and five top-10s with 46 laps led. He has been winless well over a year and he is hungry to get back to victory lane soon.
- Ross Chastain – Chastain has been riding high since his famous victory last week in Kansas. He’ll be looking to carry that momentum over this coming week. But, Chastain only has three starts at Charlotte, his last coming two years ago in 2017 where he finished 19th. The only top-10 finish Chastain received was way back in 2013 driving for Brad Keselowski Racing entry and finishing ninth. In that race, he started seventh and led three laps. That’s the only race he has finished on the lead lap. Chastain also came here in 2012 for his first start and wound up 35th. However, Chastain and the No. 45 Niece Motorsports team have been a strong contender this year finishing in the top-10 in all the races he has entered before winning at Kansas last week. At 1.5-mile tracks thus far, Chastain has finished sixth at Atlanta, 10th at Las Vegas, seventh at Texas and of course, the win last week at Kansas. Look for Chastain and the No. 45 Niece Motorsports team to continue their race winning high this week at Charlotte.
4. Todd Gilliland – Gilliland has made strides toward a turn around for the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports team after finishing third last weekend in Kansas. Gilliland has one start here at Charlotte coming in 2018 where he finished 10th. However, if you ask him, he would probably tell you that he should have finished higher. Gilliland was involved in an incident on Lap 119 that ultimately cost him a better finishing position. Looking at the loop data, the No. 4 KBM team ran as high as third, ran sixth mid-race and finished eighth, and fourth in both stages in last year’s race. To note, Gilliland will use chassis KBM-057 which has had one outing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway earlier this year with Gilliland behind the wheel. He started 13th and finished seventh. The Sherrills Ford, North Carolina native turned 19-years-old this week and what a birthday present it would be if Gilliland could get the No. 4 truck to victory lane Friday night.
5. Brett Moffitt – Moffitt has two starts at Charlotte Motor Speedway with a best finish of fourth in last year’s race after starting in the sixth position and leading 28 laps. He even won Stage 1 and finished third in Stage 2. His other start came with the Red Horse Racing team in 2017, where Moffitt finished 18th after starting seventh.
Who To Watch:
1. Johnny Sauter – Sauter is the defending race winner but is coming off a poor finish at Kansas after a mechanical issue. He has three top fives and five top-10 finishes. Don’t be surprised, however, if Sauter and the ThorSport team race their way into victory lane Friday night.
2. Matt Crafton – Charlotte could be the place Crafton breaks his long winless streak. He has the most active starts of any driver with 16 and even has two wins with the last coming in 2016 and his first in 2008. Crafton has six top fives and 12 top-10 finishes.
3. Timothy Peters – Peters returns to the Truck Series piloting the No. 92 Ricky Benton Racing machine. It will be his first Truck start since Las Vegas driving for Al Niece where Peters finish 12th. He has 12 starts with a best finish of fifth (twice, 2014 and his last outing in 2017.) The Providence, North Carolina native has 58 laps led and three DNFs with an average finish of 17.7.
The Truck Series has competed here since 2003 and has seen 16 races since then. Kyle Busch has the most wins here with seven coming in 2005, 2006, 2010, 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2017. Ted Musgrave was the first winner in 2003. Since then the names of Dennis Setzer, Ron Hornaday, Crafton, Justin Lofton, Kasey Kahne and Sauter have all visited victory lane. To note, Crafton scored his very first Truck Series win here in 2008. Since then, he has won 14 races and has amassed two championships.
Thrilling Finish – The track has seen a number of thrilling finishes including the race in 2015 when Kasey Kahne barely edged out Erik Jones by half a second for the win. It is most likely one of the most underrated finishes in recent Truck Series history.
The Toyota-Chevy show – There has been a trend growing since 2009, where it is either a Chevy or Toyota going to victory lane. Toyota currently leads the way with six manufacturer victories while Chevy only has four.
Qualifying is important at Charlotte Motor Speedway where the winner has come inside the top-10 13 times with the pole sitter winning three times in 2010, 2014 and 2018. The lowest a race winner has come from was 20th in 2006 set by none other than Kyle Busch. The most recent to ever come from a low starting spot was Matt Crafton in 2016 where he started 17th.
It will be an all-day show once again for the Gander Outdoors Truck Series. There will be two Truck Series practice sessions with the first at 9:05 a.m. ET and the final practice at 10:35 a.m. ET. Both sessions will be live streamed at nascar.com. Qualifying for the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 is scheduled for 4:35 p.m. ET live on Fox Sports 1.
The North Carolina Education Lottery 200 will be broken up into three stages of 40/80/134 laps. Fox Sports 1 and MRN Radio will broadcast the action with the green flag flying shortly after at 8:30 p.m. ET.
This will be the last Truck Series race before the series goes on a short hiatus. The next time they’re on track will be at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday, June 7.