The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series gets back on track this weekend for a rare Saturday afternoon race at Pocono Raceway.
The Truck Series last raced at Kentucky a couple of weeks ago, where we saw a first-time winner, Tyler Ankrum, get DGR-Crosley their first-ever Truck Series win. Doing so clinched Ankrum a playoff spot and made things much more interesting regarding the playoff cut line.
With Ankrum’s win, he jumped up to fifth in the playoff points standings. Also moving up in the standings is fan-favorite Ross Chastain who moved up to second in the playoffs and has clinched a spot.
This has created some interesting battles with just three races left in the 2019 Truck Series season. Drivers like Harrison Burton, Ben Rhodes and Todd Gilliland are sitting outside the cut line while seasoned veterans like Matt Crafton and Stewart Friesen sit barely above the cutline.
Brett Moffitt, Ross Chastain, Johnny Sauter and Austin Hill have won this season taking up five spots, leaving only three spots left for drivers like Gilliland, Rhodes, Burton, Crafton and Friesen. Grant Enfinger will likely remain safe. If he continues to be the points leader when the playoffs start, he’ll be locked in due to being the regular-season champion.
With that said, drivers will be pushing the limit in Saturday’s Gander RV 150 at Pocono Raceway. The race is 50 laps, which is the Truck Series’ shortest race of the season.
Here are five drivers that might get it done in Saturday’s race.
Currently, there are 31 Trucks entered on the preliminary entry list
- Stewart Friesen – Someone looking to lock themselves into the playoffs Saturday afternoon is the No. 52 Halmar Racing driver Stewart Friesen. After having a wild day at the track a few weeks back in Kentucky and finishing second, Friesen is looking forward to upping that finish one more spot. In the past four races this season, he has finished second, third twice and fifth. At Pocono, Friesen has two starts with a best finish of fourth in last year’s race and leading four laps, and won Stage 2 after playing some pit strategy. The Canadian will look to clinch himself into the playoffs Saturday and Pocono could be the place to do it with an average finish of 8.0.
- Grant Enfinger – Another driver looking to put a miserable Kentucky in his rearview mirror is the Alabama native Grant Enfinger. Enfinger was taken out in an incident while battling for the lead and was left with a disappointing finish. However, it’s a new week and a new race for the No. 98 ThorSport team who more than likely are even hungrier for a win at this point in the season with the playoffs on the horizon. Enfinger has only two starts at Pocono and for the most part, he has averaged decent results. His best finish came in 2018 when he finished sixth after starting fifth. Enfinger finished fifth and second in both stages, respectively, in last year’s version. Like Friesen, Enfinger could very well get it done Saturday afternoon and finally lock himself into the playoffs.
- Johnny Sauter – Pocono might be the place where Sauter and his No. 13 team get back on track for the 2019 season after having a few difficult races. Sauter has not won since Dover earlier this year and has had up and down finishes since. He finished 22nd at Kansas, 17th at Charlotte, 13th at Texas, 27th at Iowa and 18th at Chicago. After a few difficult races, the Wisconsin native finally earned a top-10 finish, his first since Martinsville in March. In Pocono, Sauter has nine starts with a best finish of second in 2014. Since then, he has finishes of eighth, fifth, eighth and sixth. Sauter has led 16 laps and collected three top fives and six top-10 finishes. The last time he had led any laps was two years ago in the 2017 race. So while Pocono might be “The Tricky Triangle” to Sauter and his No. 13 ThorSport team, he might surprise the field on Saturday by getting win No. 2 of the season.
- Todd Gilliland – Gilliland has one start that came in 2018 when he started second and finished seventh after leading seven laps. With the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports driver being on the playoff bubble, Gilliland just might pull out a last-minute desperation move and lock himself in by winning Saturday’s race. Gilliland is also competing in Friday’s ARCA race competing in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Monster Energy Toyota. With the extra track time, it could make the difference for Gilliland who needs to win. To note, he won Stage 1 in the 2018 race.
- Ross Chastain – A sleeper in Saturday’s race could be Niece Motorsports driver Ross Chastain. Chastain hasn’t competed here since 2013 driving for Brad Keselowski. In two starts, the Florida native has finishes of fifth and 10th and led nine laps in his last outing in 2013. While it won’t be shocking, considering Chastain has won already this season and has finished in the top-10 consistently, you could very well consider his Niece Motorsports team a sleeper pick.
Outside The Playoffs
1. Harrison Burton – Burton has no Truck starts at Pocono, but does have three ARCA starts with finishes of sixth and fourth with one win last year.
2. Ben Rhodes – Rhodes has three starts with a best finish of second in 2017 after starting on the pole. Other finishes include 11th in his two other starts but he has not led any laps.
3. Sheldon Creed – Creed will have a new crew chief this week, as he will be back with his former crew chief who won the ARCA championship last year. The GMS Racing driver has had so-so finishes this year with a best finish of sixth three times. Creed was able to win Stage 1 at Kentucky after starting on the outside pole.
4. Tyler Dippel – Dippel is 11th in regular-season points, but will more than likely need a win in the next three races. He has no starts at Pocono. In 2019, Dippel’s best finish was eighth at Texas in March. He’ll have to get a lucky break in order to be in the playoffs this year.
5. Spencer Boyd – Like his teammate Dippel, Boyd will also have to win at this point in the season as he is currently sitting 14th in the regular-season standings. While Boyd doesn’t have any Truck Series start at Pocono, he does have two Xfinity Series starts earning a best finish of 28th in last year’s race.
Other drivers on the entry list include the No. 0 of Daniel Sasnett for Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing, the No. 8 of Tony Mrakovich for Joe Nemechek, Anthony Alfredo in the No. 15 for DGR-Crosley, Bryan Dauzat in the No. 28 for Jim Rosenblum, Bryant Barnhill in the No. 32 for Josh Reaume, Bayley Currey in the No. 44 for Niece Motorsports, Ray Ciccarelli back on track in his own No. 49 machine, Christian Eckes returns in the famed No. 51 and Joe Nemechek in the No. 87.
Pocono Raceway has hosted nine races since its inception in 2010. Only Kyle Busch has won more than once, in 2015 and 2018. Other winners include Elliott Sadler, Kevin Harvick, Joey Coulter, Ryan Blaney, Austin Dillon, William Byron and Christopher Bell.
Most of those winners have come inside the top five, happening eight times with one winner coming from the top-10 just once, in 2013.
A race winner has come from the pole four times, set by Sadler in 2010, Harvick in 2011, Bryon in 2016 and Busch in 2018. Blaney came from the sixth position to win, the lowest a race winner has ever started at Pocono.
Chevrolet and Toyota are tied with the most wins by a manufacturer with four wins apiece. Ford has only won once in the nine-race stretch.
The Truck Series racers will get on track Friday morning at 10:35 a.m. ET for the first practice, with final practice at 12:35 p.m. ET, both lasting an hour. There will be no live TV coverage.
Qualifying will be seen later in the day after the ARCA race concludes at 6:05 p.m. ET. Truck Series drivers will only get one lap for a position. Qualifying will be live on Fox Sports 1.
The Gander RV 150 is set for Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m ET live on regular FOX and MRN Radio for radio coverage. Stages will be broken up into 15/30/60 laps to make up 150 miles.