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While much of the NASCAR world is currently focused on Tony Stewart‘s announcement and the impending rainy weekend at Dover International Speedway, the Camping World Truck Series heads west to Las Vegas Motor Speedway for a Saturday night showdown. With a close championship battle, every race counts for Matt Crafton, Erik Jones and Tyler Reddick as just six races remain on the year. While most eyes will focus on that trio as they fight for the top spot (and rightfully so) there will be plenty to watch heading into Saturday’s race.
Travis Pastrana Makes His NASCAR Return
Following a nearly two-year absence from the sport Travis Pastrana is set to make his return to NASCAR this weekend. Piloting the No. 31 GunBroker.com Chevrolet for NTS Motorsports Pastrana will make his first Truck Series start since 2012. In that start at Las Vegas, he finished 15th for ThorSport Racing after spinning early in the event.
“I’m really excited to get back into a NASCAR race,” Pastrana said. “I’ve stayed close with a lot of the drivers and crew from my time in the sport. Every time I have an off weekend, I try to go see a race and ask around if there is an opening because I enjoyed my time racing in this sport so much.
“This great opportunity came up for me to drive with NTS Motorsports in a very competitive truck and with some crew members that I have worked with before. All my friends are almost as excited as I am and we will have about 50 of the Nitro Circus and action sports crew coming out to watch the race. It’s going to be an epic weekend.”
Pastrana is a personality that NASCAR truly needs today so it’s great to see him back in the sport, even if it’s just for a one-off race with NTS right now. Appealing to a younger generation of fans, the X Games gold medalist has the ability to bring a different set of eyes to the sport that may not have normally watched. While a single race won’t create long-lasting fans for the series it can grab the eye of a sponsor that could put the 31-year-old back here for a full-time effort next season. Given the loss of Jones to the Xfinity Series in 2016, Pastrana could be just the right driver to fill that void.
Trucks Could Be Only NASCAR That Runs This Weekend
It may only be Thursday but NASCAR is currently looking at a rough weekend to get much racing done in Dover. After all Hurricane Joaquin is, by several weather models set to bear down on Delaware, bringing several days worth of rain to the entire region. In fact, the current projection from the Weather Channel’s 10-day forecast calls for rain through morning showers on Tuesday so it’s not exactly an ideal situation for anyone involved, especially headed into a Saturday night race next weekend (even if it is at home for the teams in Charlotte).
But given that the Truck Series could be the only series that manages to actually race this weekend, NASCAR would do well to capitalize on an opportunity to really spotlight this division while everyone else sits waiting. There is plenty of young talent in the series, balanced well by the veterans that have been around for years, and the championship battle is quickly shaping up to be one for the ages.
The question is whether NASCAR will actually place some extra emphasis on Trucks or spend the weekend languishing and complaining about the rain affecting the Xfinity and Sprint Cup series. It would certainly be a great chance to really show off the talent that exists in a division that seems like it’s just an afterthought this season.
Brennan Poole Set For Truck Series Debut
Just a week removed from GMS Racing posting its first win with Austin Dillon at New Hampshire Motor Speedway NXS driver Brennan Poole is set to make his Truck Series debut with the organization. Returning to the track he made his NXS debut at earlier this year, Poole has high expectations for Saturday night.
“I am really excited to join GMS Racing this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. GMS Racing has been a great organization to work with,” Poole said when asked about his upcoming event. “They have a great young and talented lineup of drivers that are excelling rapidly and the performance of both the No. 23 and No. 33 teams shows the effort their crews put in at the shop and at the track.
“I’m thrilled to return to Las Vegas [Motor Speedway] where I made my NASCAR debut earlier this year and had a strong top-10 finish. I am confident that GMS Racing will supply me with a powerful DC Solar Chevrolet for my NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut and put on a great show for the large contingent of DC Solar guests and fans.”
Despite having no experience behind the wheel of a truck, Poole is no stranger to success to mile-and-a-half tracks. He has a win (Kentucky) and three top fives on mile-and-a-half speedways in the ARCA Racing Series while finishing ninth in his NXS debut at Las Vegas.
It’s unrealistic to believe Poole will come in and win the race in his first career start, but given the momentum GMS has coming off of their first series win, it’s easy to expect to see him running well inside the top 10. And who knows… if the right calls are made on pit road and luck falls Poole’s way, the organization could just as easily pop off a second win in as many weeks.
Erik Jones Returns as Defending Race Winner
Despite a seventh-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway last weekend, Jones saw his point lead shrink to a mere seven markers over Crafton. This weekend, he returns as the defending race winner with a very real chance to add another victory to his resume, especially given how successful Kyle Busch Motorsports – and Jones – have been on mile-and-a-half tracks.
“Vegas is cool, a special place for me getting my first mile-and-a-half win there. I think it was only my second or third mile-and-a-half I ever ran in any series,” Jones said. “It’s a cool place for me. I’m excited to go back. It’s one of my favorite mile-and-a-half tracks and should put on a good show.”
Interestingly enough, despite having led nearly half of the laps run on mile-and-a-half tracks this year (399 of 898) Jones has yet to make the trip to Victory Lane. That said, he’s fresh off his ninth straight top-10 finish after shaking off the struggles that kept him from Victory Lane earlier this year. So many times, he’s clearly been the dominant truck on intermediates but…
Christopher Bell Returning to the Track
…Teammate Christopher Bell plans to make a trip to Victory Lane difficult for the rookie chasing a championship. After storming to the win at Eldora Speedway in July, a virtual unknown in the NASCAR world stole headlines for days. That victory came in his third start for KBM, though he did run at Kentucky Speedway prior to that, a race where he finished 17th after struggling to learn how aerodynamics affect the trucks.
“I really enjoyed the mile-and-a-half race at Kentucky,” Bell said. “The air moving the trucks around was something really cool to experience and I had a lot of fun being able to move around and find different lines that worked for me to run on the track. I think going to Kentucky helped me way more than winning Eldora did. I’m looking forward to Vegas because the aero will be so important there and I got a taste of that at Kentucky.”
Given that Bell won’t be 21 until later this year, he won’t have the night life of Las Vegas to distract him. Plus, a big difference for the 20-year-old this weekend is that he should actually get some track time prior to the race. Remember, when race weekend at Kentucky came around, there was so much rain that the trucks didn’t even hit the track for the first time until the green flag flew over the race. With some actual practice to adjust the truck to his liking, Bell is a very real threat for a win this weekend, and he’s likely to enjoy the multiple grooves Las Vegas offers, especially in a night race.
About the author
Content Director Beth heads up management of our 30-person staff, acting as Tom’s main assistant with technology and personnel while working as Frontstretch’s Truck Series expert. The author of Truckin’ Thursdays and the coordinator of the site’s pre and post-race coverage, she also runs a periodic charity column that spotlights when NASCAR gives back. A childhood transplant to Texas, Beth is a 15-year writing veteran who has contributed content to BRANDT and Athlon Sports, among other outlets.