It’s almost time for the NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoor Truck Series drivers to hit the track for their season opener at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, February 14 under the lights. The last time we saw the Trucks was the Championship 4 race at Homestead Miami Speedway, where Matt Crafton collected his third Truck Series championship of his career, just one away from tying series legend Ron Hornaday Jr.
However, everything resets at Daytona and we will see if Crafton can continue his momentum from 2019 into 2020 and if he wins his fourth title in the series. Before we get that far though, let’s take a look at this week’s annual Nextera Energy Resources 250 and highlight five drivers that might have a shot at winning Friday night.
Currently, there are 41 drivers entered on the preliminary entry list for 32 spots and many new drivers in new places. We’ll highlight those later.
- Johnny Sauter – After his win at Dover last year, Johnny Sauter went cold for the rest of the year scoring no wins and missed out on advancing to the next round of the Playoffs after a part failure at Las Vegas. Though, with a new year comes a reset for Sauter. 2020 will mark Sauter’s 17th year in the Truck Series and he looks to have a better season and that could start Friday night at Daytona. The Wisconsin native has 11 starts dating back to 2009 with three wins in 2013, 2016, and in 2018. Sauter, however, has one win under the ThorSport name that occurred in 2013. When he returned last year to the stable, Daytona did not fare well for him. A crash on lap 60 hindered his efforts in hopes of starting the year with momentum. In those 11 starts, Sauter has led 139 laps, earned four top-fives and five top-10s with an average finish of 14.3. Sauter also won Stage 2 last year. After a dismal 2019, Sauter hopes to start the year on the right foot in victory lane Friday night.
- Sheldon Creed – His Daytona outing did not fare well last year but when he came back for another superspeedway race at Talladega Superspeedway, Creed finished ninth after starting fifth and leading 20 laps. This year Creed will also have help from a stout GMS Racing stable with teammates Zane Smith, Brett Moffitt and Tyler Ankrum. During his ARCA outings, the GMS driver finished third in 2018. Creed can sometimes be a sleeper in a race and wind up getting a good finish. Don’t be surprised if the California native can get the victory to open up the season.
- Grant Enfinger – While his superspeedway stats may be up and down, Enfinger could snap his winless streak Friday night in Daytona. The Alabama native has five starts going back to 2012 but has made four consecutive starts since 2016. He has a best finish of second that came in last year’s race and in the previous year, Enfinger finished sixth. The finishes have created an average finish of 11.2 with an average start of 9.0. Despite those stats, some of that can be meaningless when it comes to tracks like these. But don’t get caught off guard if the ThorSport driver wins the season opener.
- Austin Hill- Speaking of getting off guard, Austin Hill somewhat shocked the world last year by winning the season opener last year in his first outing with Hattori Racing. The Georgia native was strong by leading 39 laps and finishing second in Stage 1. By winning at Daytona, Hill continued his superspeedways effort by finishing sixth at Talladega last fall. Watch out for Hill and the No. 16 Hattori Truck Friday night.
- Angela Ruch – She might not win the race Friday night but she most certainly can be a spoiler. Angela Ruch is back full-time this year, but with a new entry fielded by Reaume Brothers Racing, as she will pilot the No. 00 Chevrolet. In last years race, she finished eighth after leading for two laps. We’ve heard it for many years and we’ll hear it for years to come, all you have to do is start the race to have a chance to win the race. If Ruch can avoid the wrecks and find herself up front at the end, an opportunity may present itself where she might wind up in victory lane.
As we mentioned above, there are many new drivers in the series along with current series drivers in different places.
Truck Series newcomer Tate Fogleman pilots the No. 02 entry for Youngs Motorsports, Raphael Lessard in the No. 4 for Kyle Busch Motorsports, Korbin Forrister returns with his team in the No. 7 for All Out Motorsports, Christian Eckes in the No. 18 for KBM, Derek Kraus full-time in the No. 19 for Bill McAnally, Zane Smith in the No. 21 for GMS Racing and Brett Moffitt moves to the No. 23 with no owner points.
Tyler Ankrum moves over to GMS Racing in the No. 26 and Bryan Dauzat is back for his annual Daytona race in the No. 28. Jason White will compete in the No. 33 for Reaume Brothers Racing, Todd Gilliland in the No. 38 for Front Row Motorsports, Ross Chastain in the No. 40, Natalie Decker in the No. 44, and Ty Majeski in the No. 45 for Niece Motorsports. Riley Herbst will be in the No. 51 for KBM, Gus Dean in the No. 56 for Hill Motorsports and Todd Peck in the No. 96.
Daytona International Speedway has seen 20 Truck Series races going back to 2000. Drivers Mike Wallace, Joe Ruttman, Robert Pressley, Rick Crawford, Carl Edwards, Bobby Hamilton, Mark Martin, Jack Sprague, Todd Bodine, Timothy Peters, Michael Waltrip, John King, Johnny Sauter, Kyle Busch, Tyler Reddick, Kaz Grala, and Austin Hill have all visited victory lane. Toyota has the most manufacturer wins with nine (2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2019). Ford has five wins, while Dodge and Chevrolet are tied with three wins.
Only four times has a winner come from the pole. The first was in 2001 with Ruttman, 2006 by Martin, 2007 with Sprague and Grala in 2017. The lowest ever a driver has started was 36th back in 2005 by Hamilton.
Superspeedway races are known for upset winners. As for the Truck Series, John King scored that upset in 2012 and to date, it is his only win in NASCAR. Kings’ last race was in 2014 coming at Daytona.
Flashing back to last year’s race, only nine cars finished the race with the rest wrecking out of contention. The race was extended 11 laps into overtime and the event was finally completed on Lap 111. Austin Hill took the win after leading 39 laps. Grant Enfinger, Ross Chastain, Spencer Boyd, Matt Crafton, Josh Reaume, Timothy Peters, Angela Ruch, Austin Wayne Self, and Stewart Friesen completed the top-10.
In Stage 1, Sheldon Creed won the stage followed by Hill, Christian Eckes, Brett Moffitt, Enfinger, Austin Wayne Self, Clay Greenfield, Myatt Snider, Brennan Poole, and Todd Gilliland were the top-10 finishers for Stage 1. In the second stage, Johnny Sauter collected 10 additional points with Friesen, Ben Rhodes, David Gilliland, Spencer Boyd, Enfinger, Snider, Todd Gilliland, Harrison Burton, and Wayne Self completing the top-10 for Stage 2. Eleven cautions slowed the pace for 55 laps with 15 lead changes.
There will be two Truck Series practices tomorrow afternoon. The first practice takes place at 4:05 p.m. ET live on Fox Sports 2 lasting until 4:55 p.m. ET. Final practice is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. – 5:55 ET and will air live on Fox Sports 1. Qualifying is slated for Friday at 3:10 p.m. ET with an impound and one-lap procedure and will be televised live on Fox Sports 1.
The NextEra Energy Resource 250 race will kick off the 2020 season Friday night at 7:30 p.m. ET with coverage on Fox Sports 1 and MRN Radio. The event will see stages of 20/40/100 laps to make up the 250 miles.