NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Preview-ISM Raceway

After 21 races and six races in the Playoffs, it is time for the regular-season finale at ISM Raceway. With just one round to go for the Truck Series, six drivers still have a shot to punch their ticket to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway next Friday night. However, only one driver gets to win the race, while others will have to settle for pointing their way in with a lot of help.

Bur first let’s take a look at the action when the Truck Series last raced a couple of weeks ago at Martinsville Speedway. In the end, Todd Gilliland broke through for his first-ever Truck Series career win. With Gilliland scoring his first win, several playoff drivers had their own troubles in the Hall of Fame 200.

Current playoff series points leader Brett Moffitt had issues of his own. On Lap 124, Moffitt was involved in a big accident on the backstretch. As a result, the GMS Racing driver had to settle for a 29th place finish after leading 80 laps and winning Stage 1. Austin Hill was also involved in this wreck and finished 26th. The big incident also collected rookie playoff driver Tyler Ankrum, which gave the DGR-Crosley driver a 25th place finish. Finally, Matt Crafton had some electrical issues which prevented him from having a strong run and he had a disappointing 23rd place finish.

Only two playoff drivers, Ross Chastain and Stewart Friesen, were able to survive the carnage. Chastain was the highest playoff driver, finishing in the runner-up spot with 68 laps led. On the other hand, Friesen wound up with a sixth-place finish after a quiet day.

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Moving forward, all four spots are still up for grabs heading into IMS Raceway. This means nothing is set in stone, though, should a driver win a stage, it could be beneficial in clinching a spot throughout the race. While nothing is guaranteed, the current top four need to bring their A-game if they want to be the ones heading to Homestead next week racing for the championship.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at who just might pull off the victory in Friday night’s Lucas Oil 150.

There are 34 Trucks on the preliminary entry list for Friday night’s race, meaning two will go home after qualifying is settled.

  1. Johnny Sauter – With two races to go in the 2019 Truck Series season, ThorSport driver Johnny Sauter would like to end it on a high note and Phoenix just might help him do that. The Wisconsin native has competed in every race since his first track start back in 2009. Since then, he’s collected one win (2017), five top-fives and eight top-10 finishes with 16 laps led and one pole. Barring a crash in 2015, Sauter has an average finish of 8.9. The 2019 season hasn’t been the best for Sauter, only collecting four top-fives and nine top-10 finishes compared to a year ago where he had six wins, 14 top-fives and 17 top-10 finishes. By having a good track record at Phoenix, Sauter could very well pull off the victory Friday night.

  2. Brett Moffitt – Moffitt only has one start at Phoenix, which dates back to last year. However, it was the most important start to his career as he wound up winning the race and punched the ticket to the Championship 4. Moffitt led 19 laps en route to victory and won the first stage. While one start at a track with a victory might not mean much, the Grimes, Iowa native could not have been racing this year if it wasn’t due to this victory. He still doesn’t have a spot yet in the Championship 4, but Moffitt is the current points leader over his technical teammate Stewart Friesen by 10 points.

  3. John Hunter Nemechek – Speaking of weird circumstances, it’s been a questionable season for Nemechek who entered back into the Truck Series at Bristol in August. It hasn’t been the best of starts with three of the four starts listed as DNFs. One of those DNFs came at Vegas, where the NEMCO driver didn’t get to start the race and was credited with a last-place finish. Though, with his recent start at Martinsville a few weeks ago, Nemechek broke through with a seventh-place finish. Looking at Phoenix, he has six starts and has competed in every race since 2013, earning a best finish of second twice (2015, 2017). Overall, Nemechek has scored two top-fives and four top-10 finishes with 31 laps led. If anything, Friday night might be a proving ground with the possibility of getting another Truck Series victory, since Martinsville of last year.

  4. Harrison Burton – Like his teammate Gilliland, Burton might continue the winning streak and get his first victory for Kyle Busch Motorsports in Friday night’s race. In just one start, the 19-year-old started third and finished third after leading 46 laps. Burton also gained top-10 finishes in both the stages, winning Stage 1 and finishing eighth in Stage 2. By announcing an Xfinity Series ride with Joe Gibbs Racing in 2020 a couple of weeks ago, Burton would like nothing better than to collect his first win with Kyle Busch Motorsports.

  5. Stewart Friesen – Phoenix might provide a victory opportunity for playoff driver Stewart Friesen who currently sits second just 10 points behind his technical teammate Moffitt. In three starts, the Canadian has one top-five and top-10 finish at ISM, earning a best finish of fifth in last year’s race. On top of those finishes, Friesen has an average finish of 9.7.

Playoff drivers

Ross Chastain – Chastain has two starts at Phoenix, but the last one came six years ago for the defunct Brad Keselowski Racing team. In that race, the now Niece Motorsports driver started on the pole, led 63 laps and finished second. Chastain’s other finish was a DNF in 2012, finishing 33rd. The Florida native will have to use all the practice time he will get Friday morning in preparation for Friday night’s race.

Austin Hill – Hill has two starts here at ISM, with a best finish of 23rd two years ago, though that was with his former team Young’s Motorsports. Even with the 23rd place finish, Hill has two DNFs in two of his starts. If this happens again, the Hattori Racing driver would be missing the Championship 4.

Matt Crafton – Crafton currently is below the cut line as far as points go. However, his Phoenix starts have been up and down and are somewhat mind-boggling. The California native has no wins and a finish of second just once that occurred in 2014. Since then, it’s been crash or finish in the top-10. In 2015, he had a DNF, finishing 23rd, third in 2016, a DNF again in 2017, finishing 21st and he finished 11th in last year’s race. If Crafton wants to compete for another championship, he will have to eliminate mistakes and avoid any catastrophic failures.

Tyler Ankrum – Ankrum has just one start which came in 2018. The DGR-Crosley driver finished sixth after starting 15th. If everything goes to plan, Ankrum just might be the one that surprises us all by heading to the Championship 4 as a rookie.

Other drivers entered in the field include Dylan Lupton in the No. 5 DGR-Crosley Toyota, Tanner Gray in the No. 7 for DGR-Crosley, Anthony Alfredo in the No. 15 for DGR-Crosley, Derek Kraus in the No. 19 for Bill McAnally, Colby Howard making his Truck Series debut for the No. 20 of Young’s Motorsports, Danny Bohn continues his ride with the No. 30 of On Point Motorsports, Carson Ware attempts to make his Truck debut for Reaume Brothers Racing, while Kyle Plott also hopes to do the same with the same entry in the No. 34.

Ty Majeski is back in the field, competing with Niece Motorsports in the No. 44. Rookie sensation Chandler Smith is back in the field for Kyle Busch Motorsports for the first time since Bristol in August. Kansas Xfinity Series winner, Brandon Jones, is slated to make his last Truck Series start of the season driving the No. 51 KBM entry. Portage, Michigan native Carson Hocevar hopes to make his second Truck start for the No. 56 of Hill Motorsports. Rounding out the entry list is the return of Jesse Little and the No. 97 team owned Ford. Little attempts his first start since Bristol in August.

ISM Raceway has hosted 28 Truck Series races since its first race back in 1995. The list of winners is stacked with names like Mike Skinner, Jack Sprague, Joe Ruttman, Ron Hornaday Jr., Mike Bliss, Greg Biffle, Kevin Harvick, David Starr, Todd Bodine, Johnny Benson Jr., Kyle Busch, Clint Bowyer, Brian Scott, Erik Jones, Timothy Peters, Daniel Suarez, Johnny Sauter and Brett Moffitt.

On the manufacturer’s side, Chevrolet has the most career victories with 15, Toyota with nine wins, Ford with three wins and Dodge has one win.

For stage wins, Christopher Bell swept the stages in 2017 before heading to Homestead the week after and winning his first NASCAR championship. In 2018, it was Moffit and Harrison Burton who collected the stage wins.

The Truck Series drivers get on-track early Friday morning with first practice slated for 8:05 a.m Pacific time. The final practice is set for 9:35 a.m. Pacific time with no live TV coverage. Fox Sports 1 picks up qualifying Friday afternoon at 5:00 p.m. ET/3:05 p.m. Pacific time.

The Lucas Oil 150 is scheduled to get underway shortly after 8:30 p.m. ET/6:30 p.m. Pacific time live on Fox Sports 1 and MRN Radio. Stages are 40/40/70 to make up the 150 lap race.

Playoff standings

  1. Brett Moffitt
  2. Stewart Friesen, -10
  3. Ross Chastain, -25
  4. Austin Hill, -36
    Below the cut line
  5. Matt Crafton, -45
  6. Tyler Ankrum, -51

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