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Truckin’ Thursdays: Five Drivers that Need to Turn the Corner

Five races into the Camping World Truck Series season, there are familiar foes atop the season long standings. Four of the potential Chase births have already been clinched. The real question is whether or not there will be more than eight winners that make up the newly anointed Chase.

On the other side of things there are drivers who have put themselves in a hole with bad starts to the year. With 11 races before the Chase kicks off at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Sept., some drivers are racing for the Chase, while others are racing for their job.

Here are five drivers that need to step things up to have any shot at making the Chase.

Tyler Reddick:

Five races into the 2016 season the biggest surprise might be the disappointment out of the No. 29 truck at Brad Keselowski Racing.

Running 10th in the standings, Reddick has just one top-10 finish. At this point last year, the 20-year-old had two victories in the series en route to finishing runner-up in the championship to Erik Jones.

The No. 29 team has led 107 laps thus far, 10 shy of its entire total in 2015. But whenever the team has a solid run going it fades late in the event, or he loses track position with bad calls in the pits. Such was the case at Kansas two weekends ago, when it looked to be Reddick’s race to lose early on, and he came home 13th. It wasn’t until Dover last Friday that that the BKR driver recorded a seventh-place effort.

Is this team in a bad place? No. The only thing that the fourth year driver and team needs to improve on is finishing off good races. Points come out at the end of the race, not the beginning. At the start of just about all five races they have ran toward the top of the leaderboard, but they still need to find a way to close the deal.

In order to have the same amount of top 10s as last season, Reddick will have to post a top-10 finish in the remaining 18 races, something that is highly unlikely due to the stout competition in the Truck Series this year.

Ben Rhodes

(Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)
Ben Rhodes has come close to victory in 2016, but his aggressive moves have hurt more than they’ve helped. (Photo: Nigel Kinrade/NKP)

The second-year Truck Series driver is currently 17th in the overall standings, but has had speed and multiple shots at a victory. At Martinsville, the No. 41 truck sat on the pole and led 42 laps before finishing the 255-lap event in 16th after getting involved in a late race incident.

The next race at Kansas a month later saw a similar pattern. Rhodes restarted second on a green-white-checkered finish and on the last lap was running second when he drove it deep into Turn One, spinning race leader Johnny Sauter, involving himself in an incident. Instead of having a solid “points day,” the team had to settle with an 18th-place result.

Last weekend in Dover he was involved in a crash with a teammate on Lap 62. The crash damaged Rhodes’ car enough to finish deep in the field at 28th.

The speed is in Rhodes’ cars to be competitive and run in the top 10. The rookie driver needs to learn how to put a full race together and start racing for points. A victory would change everything and the speed is sure there to do so, but sometimes taking less chances will yield a better reward. He currently sits third in the Rookie of the Year standings.

Rico Abreu

Sitting 18th in the standings five races into his rookie campaign, Abreu has struggled to get out of the gates since Daytona. He had a top-15 run there before getting caught up in a huge wreck that ended many drivers nights.

Since then, the 24-year-old has just one top-10 finish (10th) at Martinsville. In the last two races he has been caught up in two early wrecks, taking the No. 98 team out of contention for a solid finish. At Dover, the team attempted to mount a comeback, but to was halted late in the event, with the team finishing 22nd.

ThorSport Racing is arguably the best team in the garage, alongside Kyle Busch Motorsports and Brad Keselowski Racing. The rookie Abreu leans heavily on 2014 Truck Series champion Matt Crafton, who is currently leading the points.

Abreu is in one of the best trucks on the circuit. In the past three seasons, led by Sauter, that particular team recorded four victories, 24 top-five finishes and 46 finishes inside the top 10. Though the rookie driver has very little experience on asphalt, the performance needs to improve or else he might have a short stint in NASCAR.

John Wes Townley:

The seventh-year driver has had speed throughout the season, but much like Rhodes, can’t complete a race. At Daytona, his season started off with a bang, literally, as he was involved in a vicious crash finishing 26th.

After shaking the cobwebs off of Daytona the series went to Atlanta, where Townley started second and picked up his solo top-10 finish of the year, seventh. Two races later at Kansas, the veteran  started from pole, but was involved in a crash around the midway point. Last weekend he was involved in another crash.

Through five races, Townley has two DNF’s. The 26-year-old only had two DNF’s in all of 2015 while competing for a championship.

Townley currently sits 20th in the point standings. Without a Chase last season he finished eighth. Although he has sponsorship to compete full-time with his car owner and father, Tony Townley with Athenian Motorsports, the finishes need to better.

Was last season a fluke? Not necessarily. The series veteran often gets criticized for the amount of wrecks that he is in, though not all are of his doing, but in order to prove the critics wrong, Townley needs to better his results and finish a race. He has the speed in his trucks to compete for wins, but like the two drivers from ThorSport Racing, he needs to put a complete race together.

Austin Wayne Self

In a Truck Series that contains many new faces this season, Austin Wayne Self is near the bottom in Rookie of the Year standings and resides 21st in the overall standings. Out of the 20 drivers whom have competed in all five events this season, he sits the lowest in the standings.

What does Self need to improve on?

Finishing. Completing laps gets overshadowed for rookies. Without finishing the race and running all of the laps, what can a rookie truly learn? Not much. The AM Racing team has completed just over 80 percent of the circuits this year and finished 159 laps off pace in Dover with an engine problem.

What really raises an eyebrow is the team receives equipment from Kyle Busch Motorsports. Even if the trucks and resources are an older version of KBM, it still gets supplies from arguably the top team in the series.

Self’s best finish this season was at Martinsville, a race that he failed to qualify for in his No. 22 truck. That afternoon he finished 15th in the No. 44 machine. Going forward one of the main goals has to be to complete all of the laps, maintain track position and come home with solid finishes.

Sitting more than 40 points out of a playoff birth five races in, the team will more than likely need a victory to make the Chase.

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