After well over a month off, the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series gets back on track this Saturday afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway to begin the Round of Six where should a playoff driver win, they’ll be locked in into the Championship Four at Homestead-Miami Speedway. However, if a Playoff driver doesn’t have a good run there, it will definitely hurt their chances going forward in hopes of making that final round and competing for a championship.
Looking back at the previous race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, well over a month ago at Vegas, which was the final race of the first round in the playoffs. Playoff driver Austin Hill was able to win and advanced to the next round. While Hill found himself victorious, other drivers were left frustrated, including the ThorSport Racing group.
All three of ThorSport’s Playoff drivers (Grant Enfinger, Johnny Sauter, and Matt Crafton) were out of the race early due to engine failures. Enfinger and Sauter ultimately failed to make the round, while Crafton was still able to move on. ThorSport sent a request in to NASCAR in hopes for NASCAR to include their eliminated trucks in the next round, but their request was denied. In doing so, Crafton is the only driver out of that stable that moves on. The other Playoff drivers are Hill, Ross Chastain, Brett Moffitt, Tyler Ankrum and Stewart Friesen all with championship hopes still in play.
With that in mind, there are 32 trucks entered on the preliminary entry list this week, which means no drivers will miss the field on Saturday morning for qualifying. Talladega provides a unique opportunity for those to have yet find victory lane, not to mention the possibility for an upset winner such as Mike Wallace in 2011 and Parker Kligerman in 2017.
But who has the greatest chance of winning on Saturday? Here’s a look at five drivers who could win on Saturday afternoon in ‘Dega.
- Grant Enfinger- It’s a home race for Grant Enfinger and his No. 98 ThorSport Racing team. Enfinger was born in Fairhope, Alabama, just five hours from the track, but still has a lot of family and friends around the area. With the disappointment of Vegas in the rear view mirror, one can only think the Alabama native is hungry to win at his home track. Enfinger has an up and down track record at Talladega; he has just five starts with a victory here in 2016. However, for his starts with ThorSport, it’s been decent at best. In 2017, Enfinger finished fourth at the 2.66-mile superspeedway while he finished 19th in last years race. He holds an average finish of 11.6 at Talladega, but considering he ran second at Daytona earlier this year he is a formidable enough threat for another superspeedway win on Saturday.
- Stewart Friesen- Friesen isn’t really considered an upset, but he maybe a surprise winner this weekend. The Canadian native has two starts at Talladega with a best finish of sixth in last years race. While he may not be considered a superspeedway raceer, Friesen just may quietly win his way into the Championship Four by winning on Saturday.
- Brennan Poole- Poole is making his first truck start at Talladega this weekend in the No. 30 machine. While he does not have any starts in the Truck Series here, Poole does have some success in other series at this track. His best finish at Talladega was third in the XFINITY Series in 2016, where he originally won the race coming to the line. However, the win was taken away after a video review by NASCAR officials. In the ARCA Series he has a best finish of eighth at Talladega driving for Venturini Motorsports in 2012. Should the opportunity for success arise, Poole might be the one that takes advantage of it.
- Gus Dean- Dean maybe a surprise winner this weekend, but not a surprise to people who followed his ARCA career. Dean won in the ARCA competition at Talladega nearly three years ago. His other starts have fared well, with finishes of sixth in 2017, 12th in 2018, and sixth again in this year’s race back in spring. The Bluffton, South Carolina native has just one superspeedway start in the Truck Series that came back in February at Daytona, where Dean finished 15th due to a crash. Keep an eye on Dean, who is a well-known superspeedway racer.
- Timothy Peters- Peters is back in the Truck Series field this weekend in the No. 87 NEMCO Motorsports entry. The Providence, North Carolina native is the defending race winner. Peters was able to escape the last lap chaos in last year’s event, where he dodged spinning trucks to win his first Truck Series race since 2015. His track record speaks for itself, with three wins, five top fives and six top-10 finishes, and a 9.0 average finish. Two of those wins were back-to-back (2014-15).
Other drivers on the entry list include the return of the No. 7 All Out Motorsports team driven by Korbin Forrister, John Hunter Nemechek in the family owned NEMCO Motorsports No. 8 Chevy, Bryan Dauzat in the No. 28 Chevy, Riley Herbst in the No. 51 Toyota, and Clay Greenfield in his own No. 68 Truck.
Talladega Superspeedway has seen 13 NGOTS races dating back to its first race in 2006. Winners are Mark Martin, Todd Bodine (twice), Kyle Busch (twice), Parker Kligerman (twice), Johnny Sauter, Timothy Peters (three times), Mike Wallace and Grant Enfinger.
The race winner has come from the pole just three times (2006, 2007, 2015). The lowest a race winner has ever started was 26th back in 2014.
Toyota is the winningest manufacturer with nine wins, followed by Chevrolet with three and Ford with one win.
The NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series starts the weekend on Friday afternoon with two practice sessions. The first practice is scheduled at 11:35 a.m./ET and final practice at 2:35 p.m./ET with no live TV coverage.
Qualifying is early Saturday morning at 10:35 a.m./ET live on Fox Sports 1.
The Sugarlands Shine 250 is scheduled for Saturday afternoon shortly after 1:30 p.m./ET live on Fox Sports 1 and MRN Radio. Stages will be 20/20/54 to make up the 94 lap race.