NASCAR National Series News & Notes – Bristol Motor Speedway

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series
Next Race: UNOH 200 presented by Ohio Logistics
The Place: Bristol Motor Speedway
The Date: Thursday, August 15
The Time: 8:30 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 8 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 100.6 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 55),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 110), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)
2018 Winner: Johnny Sauter

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series

We’re talkin’ ‘bout Playoffs

Thursday’s UNOH 200 (8:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) marks the start of the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs and eight drivers – Brett Moffitt, Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen, Austin Hill, Ross Chastain, Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter and Tyler Ankrum – will battle it out over the next seven races for the series title.

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Moffitt enters the postseason as the top seed, carrying 22 Playoff points following two wins (Iowa, Chicago) and two stage wins. Regular season champion Enfinger trails just slightly with 19 Playoff points – four from stage wins and the remainder as the bonus earned by finishing atop the points standings after Michigan.

Friesen (Eldora), Hill (Daytona, Michigan), Chastain (Gateway, Pocono – Playoff-eligible wins; Kansas – prior to declaring for Gander Trucks points), Sauter (Dover) and Ankrum (Kentucky) all made their way to the postseason with wins.

ThorSport Racing teammates Enfinger and Crafton, who finished first and third in the regular season points, respectively, raced their way in on consistent finishes throughout the season.

Bristol Motor Speedway, Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Las Vegas Motor Speedway make up the trio of tracks in the opening Round of 8 in the Playoffs. Two drivers will be eliminated from title contention following Las Vegas, and the Round of 6 will consist of Talladega Superspeedway, Martinsville Speedway and ISM Raceway. That will narrow the field down to the Championship 4 who will race for all the marbles at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

Click here for a complete look at the 2019 statistics and Gander Trucks Playoff history of each of the eight drivers.

Looking back on Gander Trucks Playoff history

The 2019 edition of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs will be the fourth season using the elimination-style, three-round system to determine a champion.

Johnny Sauter won the initial showdown in Miami in 2016, holding off Matt Crafton, Christopher Bell and Timothy Peters to claim the crown. Bell turned the tables the next year, bettering Sauter, Crafton and Austin Cindric for the title.

And last year, Brett Moffitt won the race and the championship with Hattori Racing Enterprises, defeating Sauter, Justin Haley and Noah Gragson in South Florida.

Sauter is the only driver who has made it to the Championship 4 in each season of the elimination-style Playoff system. Crafton and Bell have each been there twice.

Austin Hill, Ross Chastain and Tyler Ankrum are all making their Gander Trucks Playoffs debuts this week. Moffitt, Stewart Friesen and Grant Enfinger each have one previous postseason appearance (last year). Sauter and Crafton lead the field, having qualified for the Playoffs in each year of the current format’s existence.

This year’s Playoffs features three previous series champions, as in addition to Sauter and Moffitt who won under the current format, Crafton captured back-to-back titles in 2013 and 2014, prior to the introduction of the elimination-style Playoff grid.

Prior performances at Bristol

Only one of the 2019 Gander Truck Playoff drivers has visited Victory Lane at this weekend’s venue – Bristol Motor Speedway – and he did it just a year ago. Johnny Sauter enters “The Last Great Colosseum” as the defending winner and hopes to repeat to guarantee his spot in the Round of 6.

And only one of the Playoff drivers has yet to race at Bristol – Sunoco Rookie of the Year Tyler Ankrum.

Matt Crafton leads the group with 16 starts (five more than Sauter’s 11) at Bristol. He has four top fives and 10 top 10s, with a pair of runner-up finishes (2009, 2017). Sauter has the win, five top-five and seven top-10 finishes.

Of the rest of the contenders, the most appearances any driver has at Bristol is three – by Ross Chastain, Stewart Friesen and Austin Hill.

Chastain’s starts are spread out a bit – he raced there in 2012 and 2013, posting his best Bristol finish of third in that second start. He was 12th in last year’s race. Meanwhile, Friesen had rough outings with results of 22nd or worse in his first two starts – but finished second to Sauter last season.

Hill is the lone Playoff contender with Bristol experience who has not tallied a top 10 at the track. In his three starts, his average finish is 20.7.

Brett Moffitt and Grant Enfinger each have two races under their belts at Bristol – and each has a top-five finish. Enfinger was fourth and 10th in his two starts while Moffitt finished second (2016) and 18th (last year).

The teams behind the contenders

ThorSport Racing leads the garage with three drivers contending for a championship in the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs. And they are the only team with more than one driver qualified for the postseason.

In all, six different teams are fielding Playoff drivers – and all six teams won at least one race during the regular season.

Although ThorSport Racing’s Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton secured their Playoff berths on points without a win, their teammate Johnny Sauter visited Victory Lane at Dover earlier this year.

GMS Racing (Brett Moffitt – two wins), Halmar Friesen Racing (Stewart Friesen – one win), Hattori Racing Enterprises (Austin Hill – two wins), Niece Motorsports (Ross Chastain – two Playoff-eligible wins, three overall) and DGR-Crosley (Tyler Ankrum – one win) make up the balance of the teams fielding Playoff contenders.

Tyler Ankrum locks up Sunoco Rookie of the Year title early

Heading into last weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway, Harrison Burton had a 56-point lead over Sheldon Creed in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings (506 to 450). Tyler Dippel was third with 337 points while Tyler Ankrum had 322 points in fourth.

But that all changed at the drop of the checkered flag in the Irish Hills.

As luck would have it for Ankrum, he is the only Sunoco Rookie contender who qualified for the Playoffs, therefore he has already clinched the Sunoco Rookie of the Year title with seven races to go.

This is due to the points reset that happened at the beginning of the Playoffs, guaranteeing Ankrum would finish the season with no less than 2000 points.

Potential Bristol spoilers come in form of part-time entries

A pair of young rising stars and two seasoned veterans make up a quartet of drivers to watch as they attempt to play the role of spoiler this weekend to the Playoff drivers’ postseason hopes and dreams.

Seventeen-year old ARCA Menards Series standout Chandler Smith heads to the half-mile oval to make his third NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series start of the season. In two races so far with Kyle Busch Motorsports, he has recorded a pole (in his debut at Iowa) and two top-10 finishes (eighth at Iowa, fourth at Gateway). He’ll be behind the wheel of the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota on Thursday night.

And he’s shown that he has the coordinates to Victory Lane plugged into his GPS in ARCA – in only 18 starts over the past two seasons, he’s collected six race trophies, including four of the last six races he’s entered. (His participation has been limited by age at the larger tracks.) He has also recorded eight poles, including in the first four races he entered.

Also making is his series debut at Thunder Valley will be Raphael Lessard, as the 18-year-old Quebec, Canada, native will be starting his fourth Gander Trucks race. He made his debut at Martinsville with KBM, finishing 14th, and then ran a second race with the outfit at Dover, recording an 11th-place result. His third start came with DGR-Crosley at Iowa, where he notched his first top 10, placing ninth.

He will return to Kyle Busch Motorsports equipment this week, piloting the No. 46 entry for the team.

Parker Kligerman will be making his second series start this season and 78th overall in a truck, driving the No. 75 Henderson Motorsports Chevrolet this weekend. Kligerman has a pair of wins in the Gander Trucks and brings a pretty successful track record into Bristol. In five starts, he’s posted an average finish of 8.8, highlighted by a runner-up finish in 2012. Additionally, he finished fourth in this race last season.

And Timothy Peters will be racing for the fourth time this season in the Gander Trucks. A veteran with 246 series races and 11 wins under his belt, he’ll be driving the No. 92 Ricky Benton Racing Enterprises Ford.

Peters has climbed up into Victory Lane at “The Last Great Colosseum,” having taken the win in 2012. He has a total of three top-five and five top-10 finishes in 12 starts at Bristol, following up his win with a runner-up result in 2013.

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Etc.

Manufacturer standings: At the conclusion of the regular season, Toyota holds a 19-point lead over Chevrolet in the manufacturer standings (600 – 581). Ford is third with 533 points. Toyota also leads in wins this season, totaling nine victories. Chevrolet has visited Victory Lane six times while Ford has one win.

Owner’s championship outlook: Of the eight trucks contending for the 2019 Gander Trucks driver’s championship, seven are also entered in the fight for the owner’s title. The only outlier is the No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota – without a win on the season, they were replaced by the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota entry, which scored a post-season qualifying win at Texas Motor Speedway with Greg Biffle in June. That truck will be piloted by Chandler Smith this weekend.

Parade Laps: Insights into the driver in this week’s media breakouts

Four drivers from the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series – Hattori Racing Enterprises’ Austin Hill, ThorSport Racing’s Johnny Sauter, DGR-Crosley’s Tyler Ankrum and Niece Motorsports Ross Chastain – will be participating in this week’s media rotations at Bristol Motor Speedway leading into the UNOH 200 presented by Ohio Logistics on Thursday night at 8:30 p.m. ET on FS1, PRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Gander Trucks media rotations are scheduled for Thursday, August 15 from 1-1:15 p.m. ET in Media Center Deadline Room.

Austin Hill (No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota Tundra)

Birthdate: April 21, 1994

Driver’s Age: 25

Hometown: Winston, Georgia

Hobbies: Hunting, spending time with family and boating

Crew Chief: Scott Zipadelli

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

2019 marks Hill’s second full-time season in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Trucks Series.
He made his Truck Series debut in 2014 at Martinsville, finishing 26th.
Finished 11th in 2018 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship points, his first full season.
2019 Season Highlights:

Enters the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs as the fourth seed, 10 points behind the Playoff standings leader Brett Moffitt and two points behind of third place Stewart Friesen.
This is his first career Gander Trucks Playoff appearance.
Through 16 races this season, Hill has put up two wins (Daytona, Michigan), four top fives, eight top 10s and two poles (Chicago, Pocono).
Has yet to win a stage this season but has accumulated 12 Playoff points.
Has led 121 of 2,059 laps completed (5.8%)
2019 average starting position, 8.9 and average finishing position, 14.2.
Bristol Motor Speedway Performance:

Has made three starts at Bristol Motor Speedway posting a best finish of 19th in 2016
Has an average start of 21.0 and an average finish of 20.7.

Johnny Sauter (No. 13 ThorSport Racing Ford F-150)

Birthdate: May 1, 1978

Driver’s Age: 41

Hometown: Necedah, Wisconsin

Hobbies: Late-model racing, family activities, hockey

Crew Chief: Joe Shear Jr.

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

In 2018, he made the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Championship 4 for the third consecutive season; posted a career-high six wins on the season.
Finished second in 2017 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs, amassing a then career-high four wins along the way.
In 2016, he won the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship.
In 2009, he won the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award.
2019 Season Highlights:

Enters the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs as the seventh seed, 13 points behind the Playoff standings leader Brett Moffitt and two points behind of sixth place Matt Crafton.
This is Sauter’s fourth consecutive career Gander Trucks Playoff appearance.
Through 15 races this season, Sauter has posted one win (Dover), three top fives, and seven top 10s – *Sauter only competed in 15 of the 16 scheduled races due to being suspended for one race (Charlotte).
Has won three stages and accumulated nine Playoff points.
Has led 76 of 2,060 laps completed (3.6%).
2019 average starting position, 7.4 and average finishing position, 7.2.
Bristol Motor Speedway Performance:

Has made 11 series starts at Bristol Motor Speedway posting one win (2018), five top fives and seven top 10s. Has also led 65 laps.
Average start, 11.6 and average finish, 8.8.

Ross Chastain (No. 45 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet Silverado)

Birthdate: December 4, 1992

Driver’s Age: 26

Hometown: Alva, Florida

Hobbies: Farming watermelons

Crew Chief: Phil Gould

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

Chastain has raced part-time over nine seasons competing in 75 series races, recording three wins (Kansas, Gateway, Pocono – all in 2019), eight top-five and 22 top-10 finishes.
In 2012, he ran his only full-time season in the Gander Trucks. He tallied a top five and four top 10s.
2019 Season Highlights:

Enters the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs as the fifth seed, 10 points behind the Playoff standings leader Brett Moffitt and two points behind of third place Stewart Friesen. Hill and Chastain are tied in the points, but currently Hill owns the tiebreaker (highest finishes).
This is Chastain’s first career Gander Trucks Playoff appearance.
Through 16 this season, Chastain has posted three wins (Kansas, Gateway, Pocono), six top fives, 13 top 10s and a pole (Michigan).
Has won three stages and accumulated 12 Playoff points.
Has led 305 of 2,334 laps completed (13.1%)
2019 average starting position, 12.1 and average finishing position, 9.2.
Bristol Motor Speedway Performance:

Has made three series starts at Bristol posting one top-five finish.
Has an average start of 19.7 and average finish of 11.3.

Tyler Ankrum (No. 17 DGR-Crosley Toyota Tundra)

Birthdate: March 6, 2001

Driver’s Age: 18

Hometown: San Bernardino, California

Crew Chief: Kevin Manion

NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Career Highlights:

Clinched the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors by becoming the only rookie to make the Playoffs.
Due to age restrictions, Ankrum missed the first three races of the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series season before turning 18-years old in March.
Made NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series debut on Oct. 27, 2018 at Martinsville Speedway driving for DGR-Crosley; he started 19th and finished 18th.
2019 Season Highlights:

Enters the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs as the eighth and final seed, 17 points behind the Playoff standings leader Brett Moffitt and four points behind of seventh place Johnny Sauter.
Ankrum has clinched the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series for 2018 because he is the only rookie this season to make the Playoffs.
Through the first 16 races of the season Ankrum has only competed in 13 of the events due to being too young to compete at the beginning of the season. In his 13 starts he has posted one win (Kentucky), three top fives and six top 10s.
Has yet to win a stage in 2019 but he has accumulated five Playoff points.
Has led 52 of 1,678 laps completed (3.1%)
2019 average starting position, 12.4 and average finishing position, 14.3.
Bristol Motor Speedway Performance:

He will make his first series start at Bristol Motor Speedway this weekend.

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