Analyzing The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2018 Playoffs

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs will begin this weekend at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. It will be the first time a road course has ever started the Playoffs for the Truck Series.

This will be the third time the Playoffs take center stage for the Truck Series since the first year it was implemented in 2016. Eight drivers over seven races will round out the Playoffs for the remaining 2018 schedule.

These seven races consist of the opener at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, then heading off to Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and Talladega Superspeedway concluding the Round of 8.


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Then the Round of 6 begins with three consecutive races in a row beginning at Martinsville on October 27th. This round goes to Texas Motor Speedway on November 2, and with the finale at ISM Raceway on Friday, November 9th.

After all is said and done, and four drivers advance on to compete for the championship that will be held at the season finale in Southern Florida at Homestead-Miami Speedway slated for November 16th.

However, let’s take a look at the eight drivers who will be running for the championship and who might have a shot to be in the final four at Homestead.

The eight drivers competing for the 2018 Truck Series championship are Johnny Sauter, Brett Moffitt, Noah Gragson, Ben Rhodes, Stewart Friesen, Grant Enfinger, Justin Haley, and Matt Crafton.

  1. Johnny Sauter- Sauter will be competing in his third consecutive playoff since the first one in 2016. He has 42 bonus points and is seeded No. 1 in the playoff standings. You could say his 2018 season is almost relative to his 2016 championship season. It’s obvious that Sauter has the most experience in these situations. In his 2016 championship season, the Playoffs began at New Hampshire. Throughout the eight races that year, Sauter finished 10th, seventh at Las Vegas and seventh at Talladega. After solid finishes in the first couple of races, his time came as he won two consecutive races at Martinsville and Texas. With his win at Texas, he punched his ticket for his first Championship 4. While current Cup regular, William Byron may have won the finale, Sauter was the one who pulled through by being the highest finisher by finishing third and clinching his first ever title. In 2017, Sauter was the regular season champion and was crowned after winning the race at Chicago. He won two races again at Texas and Phoenix, allowing him to get a Championship 4 spot for the second consecutive year in a row. Sauter came up one spot short in hopes of securing his second championship to Christopher Bell who finished second. Sauter is on pace currently almost having a year comparable to 2016. This year so far, he has collected five wins, twelve top fives and 13 top-10 finishes. His wins at Daytona, Dover, Texas and Bristol locked him into the Playoffs for a third consecutive year. He was also the regular season champion. If everything goes according to plan and his season continues the way it has, it would be to no surprise to see him in Championship 4 again in 2018.
  2. Brett Moffitt – Moffitt and the No. 16 Hattori Racing team will be competing in their first ever playoff. Their wins at Atlanta, Iowa, and Michigan put them in the Playoffs this year. It didn’t come without struggle though, as the team fought hard to secure sponsorship for the remaining races. They were almost done earlier in the summer as they didn’t have sponsorship for the following week. And with that, the Hattori team wouldn’t be competing in the Playoffs because they would not have been granted a waiver. The team is still in search of sponsorship for races at Talladega and Texas. If they can get sponsorship for those races and continue to win, they will have a shot at the championship in Southern Florida. Regardless of what is happening at the moment, Moffitt is the second seed with 27 bonus points. It’ll be interesting to see how the No. 16 team fares in the Playoffs after their best season to date and almost closing earlier in the year.
  3. Noah Gragson – Like Moffitt, Gragson will be competing in his first playoff as well. 2018 has been a so-so year for the No. 18 Safelite Tundra driver. His 2018 season got off to a rocky start. He crashed at Daytona, finished second at Atlanta, 12th at Vegas, fifth at Martinsville, and almost had a shot to win at Dover until he and Sauter made contact in the remaining laps relegating him to a 20th place finish. He finally broke through at Kansas by earning a pole and winning the race. So far, this has been his only race win of the year. Gragson has been close multiple times by finishing second at Iowa in a thriller, fourth at Chicago after starting on the pole, and eighth at Kentucky, starting on the pole there as well. He’s led 475 laps and has an average start of 5.1 with an average finish of 8.3. But he has collected two DNF’s at Daytona and Dover. On the brighter side of things, he has seven stage wins with six top fives and 12 top-10 finishes. He will be seeded third in the standings with 22 bonus points. Gragson did not qualify for the Playoffs last year, but he did earn a win at Martinsville.
  4. Ben Rhodes – With his win at Kentucky, Rhodes solidified a playoff spot. He’s had an up and down 2018 season. He started off the season by finishing fourth at Daytona and Atlanta. Rhodes earned a pole at Martinsville but finished 12th. His struggles began at Kansas by finishing 18th, 16th at Texas, 17th at Iowa and 19th at Gateway, with the Playoffs being a little uncertain for the No. 41 ThorSport team. They collected a second place finish at Chicago and finally won at Kentucky in his home state. This won’t be his first Playoffs as he competed in the Playoffs last year. In one of the rounds, Rhodes won his first ever race at Las Vegas, advancing forward, but he suffered a crash at Talladega. Despite his win at Vegas, he couldn’t continue on to compete in the Championship 4 with a couple of bad finishes. In the end, Rhodes finished fifth in the standings. He’ll be seeded fourth with 14 playoff points to carry into the first round.
  5. Stewart Friesen – Friesen is having his best season to date after running off and on for the first few years. This is his first full-time season competing in the No. 52 Halmar team with having a technical alliance with GMS Racing. He’s been close multiple times this year to earn his first ever win. Friesen finished third at Kansas and second at Texas after starting on the pole and leading 13 laps. He struggled a little bit mid-summer, finishing 13th at Gateway and 19th at Chicago. Since then, however, he’s rebounded to finish in the top-five four times including a  second at Bristol, where he almost won the race. It’ll be the first time Friesen competes in the Playoffs and the first time competing in the Truck Series at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park. He is seeded fifth with 12 playoff points.
  6. Grant Enfinger – Enfinger could be a sleeper in the playoff run. He’s been steadily quiet but consistent this year. The No. 98 team collected four top fives and 12 top-10 finishes. He’s had an average start of 7.7 and an average finish of 8.2. His best finish this year came at Eldora by finishing second, just .038 seconds behind of his first ever win. Enfinger has had some stage wins this year, especially at Michigan. At Bristol, he locked up his playoff spot during the second stage. In 2016, he won at Talladega which was in the Playoffs but he was was not a playoff contender. He missed out on the Playoffs last year but competed in the whole season. His best finishes came at New Hampshire and Talladega where he finished fourth. At Homestead last year, he finished eighth, ending the season in 11th place in the standings. Enfinger and the No. 98 team are slated as the sixth seed with 11 playoff points.
  7. Justin Haley- Like Enfinger, Haley and the No. 24 GMS Racing team have also been quiet this year. With a win at Gateway, his first ever career win, he locked himself into the Playoffs. His season started out with a second place at Daytona but he had a couple of disappointing finishes at Atlanta and Vegas. He got right back on track with his win at Gateway and since then, Haley has collected five top-10 finishes. For 2018, the No. 24 team has collected five top fives and 12 top-10 finishes, along with an average start of 10.1 and an average finish of 9.6. With Martinsville and Texas being in the Playoffs, Haley finished 10th and third, respectively. As the regular season came to an end at Bristol, he finished sixth. In 2017, he finished 13th at New Hampshire, had engine issues at Vegas and finished 21st, collected a 16th at Talladega, an 11th at Martinsville, won the pole at Texas and finished fifth, finished 14th at Phoenix and ninth at Homestead. The No. 24 team is seeded seventh in the standings with nine playoff points. Haley can be seen as a dark horse and could punch his way into the Championship 4.
  8. Matt Crafton – 2018 has been an uncharacteristic season for the No. 88 Menards ThorSport driver, almost similar to his 2012 season. This will be Crafton’s third consecutive playoff appearance since the inaugural year in 2016. Through the first two Playoffs, he qualified for the Championship 4 with his best finish of second in the standings in 2016. He was the second highest finisher to 2016 champion, Johnny Sauter. In 2016, Crafton won at Dover and Charlotte to lock himself in. In the 2016 playoff rounds, Crafton finished third at New Hampshire, eighth at Vegas, 22nd at Talladega, 17th at Martinsville, second at Texas, third at Phoenix, then finished seventh at Homestead in the championship race. In 2017, he won at Eldora just a few races prior to the Playoffs. Crafton finished fourth in the standings. He had finishes of sixth at New Hampshire, seventh at Vegas, ninth at Talladega, second at Martinsville, ninth at Texas, 21st at Phoenix and sixth at Homestead to finish fourth in the championship standings. In 2018 though, Crafton has had an up and down year. Stat wise, he collected five top fives and nine top-10 finishes, along with two DNFs and 53 laps led. Crafton also has had an average start of 9.4 and an average finish of 11.4. His season got off to a disappointing start by finishing 19th at Daytona, brake issues which saw him finish 29th at Vegas, and at Martinsville, he finished 15th. Despite those finishes, his season started to turn around a little at Dover, where Crafton finished second. He went on to finish sixth at Kansas, 11th at Charlotte, fifth at Texas, but then had problems at Iowa and Gateway. But he had solid finishes at Kentucky, Eldora, Pocono, Michigan and Bristol. Things did seem a little uncertain about making the Playoffs this year, but Crafton and the No. 88 team pulled through with an eighth-place finish at Bristol and locked themselves in for a third consecutive year. He will be seeded in the eighth position with just three playoff points but believes the team will break through anytime.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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