The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series returns on-track this weekend at the “Paperclip” known as Martinsville Speedway. It’s the continuation of the Round of 6 for the Truck Series drivers that began a couple of weeks ago at Talladega Superspeedway and, which also featured an exciting race.
Flashing back, the Truck Series raced at Talladega to begin the Round of 6. In what looked liked it was a going to be a Johnny Sauter victory, it was found that he had accidentally forced Spencer Boyd below the yellow line which is out of bounds. In this case, Boyd was determined the winner and Sauter who had originally won, wound up a disappointing 14th place finish after being dominant late.
Talladega saw some troubles arise for the playoff drivers as well. Ross Chastain was leading before he went down to make a block and ended up being in a wreck, which sees the Niece Motorsports driver two points below the cut line should the Championship 4 start now. Still, the Florida native can point his way in if he ends up winning a couple of stages between now and ISM Raceway next month in November.
Looking ahead to this weekend, no driver can’t afford a bad break with the points being so tight. Here are five drivers to keep an eye on in Saturday’s NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 at Martinsville Speedway.
There are currently 32 Trucks on the preliminary entry list with 32 spots available which means all of the drivers will make the field no matter what happens during their qualifying run on Saturday.
- Johnny Sauter – With the Talladega disappointment behind him, Sauter will be as hungry as ever to win this weekend at Martinsville and he very well could do so. The Wisconsin native has 23 starts, four wins, nine top-fives and 13 top-10 finishes with an average finish of 11.8. In the last five fall races, Sauter won in 2018, finished third in 2017, won in 2016, placed ninth in 2015 and seventh in 2014. With the Playoffs not on his mind anymore, the ThorSport driver has nothing to lose and can play any strategy he wants when it comes race time on Saturday.
- Brett Moffitt – The current NASCAR Truck Series championship Playoffs points leader would also be hard to count out of a victory this weekend. While Moffitt might be in a play it safe mode, if the opportunity arises you can expect him to be at the front. In all four of his starts dating back to 2017 in his first start at the track for Red Horse Racing, Moffitt has finished inside the top five every race since the spring of 2018. The Grimes, Iowa native also finished runner up last fall after starting 17th. Be sure to keep an eye on the No. 24 GMS Racing team as they try to lock themselves into the Championship 4 this weekend.
- Christian Eckes – Fresh off his 2019 ARCA Menards Series championship, Christian Eckes will be back in a racecar once again this weekend. But this time, it will be in the famed No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra. The New York native only has one start but it came with a top-10 finish back in spring of this year when Eckes finished ninth driving for Busch. One start may not be much to base his hopes on but Eckes has earned two top-fives and three top-10 finishes along with two poles in just six starts this year in the Truck Series. Don’t be surprised if the New York native wheels the No. 51 Toyota into victory lane Saturday afternoon.
- Matt Crafton – Martinsville might be an equalizer for Crafton and his No. 88 ThorSport team who have been lacking in victories over the past two years. The ThorSport driver is currently the last driver in the Championship 4 by just one point over rookie Tyler Ankrum. However, the experience Crafton has might play into his favor as well. The California native has the most starts of any active driver of 35, dating back to 2001. Since then, Crafton has earned two wins, nine top-fives and 29 top-10 finishes with an average finish of 10.6. This weekend might be the weekend we can look back on if Crafton and his team can pull something out of the hat and score the victory on Saturday.
- John Hunter Nemechek – Nemechek has been hot and cold at Martinsville in his 11 starts. It’s either been a crash or a top-five finish for the NEMCO Motorsports driver. There is some light for Nemechek, however, as he has four top-five and top-10 finishes with a victory here in the spring of 2018 after leading 31 laps. If the team can keep out of trouble and not get caught up in an incident, you could easily find Nemechek in the top five.
- Stewart Friesen – Friesen currently sits second in the Playoff standings, just 22 points above the cut line. The Halmar Racing driver has five starts with a best finish of fifth after starting on the pole back in the spring and leading 18 laps. Other finishes include 11th, 20th, sixth and 25th.
- Austin Hill – Hill sits third in the standings and is 12 points above the cut line. He has eight starts at Martinsville with a best finish of ninth which came in last year’s race while driving for Youngs Motorsports. When it comes to his latest ride with Hattori Racing, Hill started ninth and finished 16th after leading five laps back in the spring.
- Tyler Ankrum – Ankrum and his No. 17 DGR-Crosley team will be looking to improve from his previous two starts at Martinsville, with finishes of 18th and 19th. He sits just one point below the cut line in the fifth position.
- Ross Chastain – Chastain is last in the Playoff standings and is currently facing elimination but is just two points below the cut line. The Niece Motorsports driver has amassed seven starts with a best finish of fourth earlier this year when Chastain led 53 laps and won Stage 2.
New on the entry list this week includes rookie Sam Mayer competing in the No. 21 GMS Racing entry, Danny Bohn in the No. 30 On Point Motorsports Toyota, Dawson Cram in the No. 34 Reaume Brothers Racing machine, Jeb Burton in the No. 44 Niece Motorsports Truck, Ray Ciccarelli in his own No. 49 and Timmy Hill with their Hill Motorsports No. 56 Chevrolet. The No. 0 of Jennifer Jo Cobb, the No. 15 of DGR-CROSLEY and the No. 33 of Josh Reaume entries have yet to be announced.
Martinsville Speedway has seen 41 races since the Truck Series first season back in 1995. Since then, there has been a long list of drivers who have gone to victory lane. The list includes Joe Ruttman, Mike Skinner, Rich Bickle, Jay Sauter, Jimmy Hensley, Bobby Hamilton, Scott Riggs, Dennis Setzer, Jon Wood, Rick Crawford, Jamie McMurray, Bobby Labonte, Ricky Craven, David Starr, Jack Sprague, Johnny Benson, Kevin Harvick, Timothy Peters, Johnny Sauter, Ron Hornaday, Denny Hamlin, Bubba Wallace, Joey Logano, Matt Crafton, Kyle Busch, Chase Elliott, Noah Gragson and John Hunter Nemechek.
Toyota has the most manufacturer wins with 16, followed by Chevrolet with 15 while Ford and Dodge are tied with five wins apiece.
Truck Series drivers will get on-track Friday afternoon with two practice sessions. The first practice session is at 12:05 p.m. ET and their final practice takes place at 2:05 p.m. ET with no live TV coverage. Qualifying is set for Saturday morning at 10:05 a.m. ET live on Fox Sports 1.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame 200 is slated to get underway shortly after 1:30 p.m. ET live on Fox Sports 1 and MRN Radio. Stages are 50/50/100 laps to make up the 200 lap race.
- Brett Moffitt, +45
- Stewart Friesen, +22
- Austin Hill, +12
- Matt Crafton, +1
Below the cut line
- Tyler Ankrum, -1
- Ross Chastain, -2