After a brief hiatus, the stars of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will return to Gateway Motorsports Park in St. Louis, Missouri this Saturday night for the first time since 2010. Since the first Truck Series event at the 1.25-mile oval, back in 1998, the only past winner of the race who is still a series regular is Ron Hornaday, Jr.
It will be interesting to see if the 55-year-old, four-time series champion will have an advantage when he takes the green flag on Saturday night. He’ll be trying to edge out points leader Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter, both of whom have been the class of the non-Kyle Busch field this season. Crafton and the No. 88 Toyota Tundra for ThorSport Racing are coming off of a victory last week at Texas Motor Speedway, their second of 2014 and should be unloading at Gateway for the Drivin’ For Linemen 200 armed with confidence. Crafton, crew chief Carl Joiner and the Menards team should also feel great that their driver has seven top-10 finishes, including one top 5 in 10 Gateway starts. It’s a track record that should make this trip to the shadows of the Midwest’s iconic St. Louis Arch a successful one.
Other than Crafton and the aforementioned Ron Hornaday, Jr., another driver who should feel confident going into this weekend is Timothy Peters. Currently fourth in the series standings, Peters and the No. 17 Toyota Tundra have been quick this season, and the team has had decent finishes on intermediate tracks. So far this year, Peters clocked a fifth at Charlotte, tenth at Dover, and has flashed consistent speed. Peters was involved in an incident on lap 51 last week at Texas Motor Speedway, his first DNF of the season; otherwise, he’d have gone 3-for-3 on top-10 results.
Last week aside, Peters should feel good coming into Gateway. He has two top-10 performances in his two starts for Tom DeLoach and Red Horse Racing at the track, and back in May, Peters visited St. Louis for a promotional tour for the race and GMP, throwing out the first pitch of the game at the city’s beloved Cardinals game that night. The Cards won, 4-3 over their rivals, the Chicago Cubs.
A sign? Maybe… Look for Peters to be strong this weekend.
Anyone Else To Watch?
Here are a few other drivers you should keep an eye on this weekend in “The Lou”:
John Wes Townley
The 24-year-old Townley is still winless in the Truck Series, and so is his single-truck operation, Wauters Motorsports. But things are turning in the right direction for the No. 5 team, growing in step with Townley’s developing maturity. Last week at Texas, Townley finished fifth, his best run of 2014 to pair with a twelfth at Dover, fourth at Charlotte, and eleventh at Kansas. Nelson Piquet, Jr. will fill in for JWT during practice at Gateway, as Townley is pulling double duty; he’s also running the ARCA race at Michigan International Speedway on Friday. It seems like the additional seat time is helping, though as the wrecks are down and Townley is eighth in series points. Can he keep the momentum going? It’ll be interesting considering Saturday will be Townley’s first career Truck Series start at Gateway.
The 2011 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Rookie of the Year, 24-year-old Coulter has moved around within the series starting back in ’11 with Richard Childress Racing. After two years there, Coulter jumped to Kyle Busch Motorsports, running a year before finally settling with tiny GMS Racing for the 2014 season. But these guys are no lightweights compared to their big-dollar competition. Coulter and the No. 21 Chevrolet Silverado finished 12th at Charlotte for the NCEL 200, fifth at Dover, and ninth last weekend at Texas. Steadily improving, could Saturday be the night Coulter breaks through with a new team?
The Mexican-born driver is currently sixth in the Camping World Truck Series standings. Quiroga and the No. 77 Net10 Toyota Tundra team for Red Horse Racing finished ninth and started fourth at two weeks ago at Dover. He also has posted five top-10 finishes in just six races on the 2014 campaign. Quiroga is still searching for his first win outside of NASCAR’s Toyota (Mexico) Series, where he is a three-time champion, but it’s slowly becoming a matter of “when” and not “if.”
Whomever takes the checkered flag at Gateway on Saturday night, one fact is important to remember that all the drivers can share. NASCAR is back in St. Louis, hopefully to stay, and growing our sport is always a very good thing. Now, if we can just get that entry list back up to 36…