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As the Camping World Truck Series rolls into Michigan International Speedway this weekend, drivers will mark off one of the three remaining events before the inaugural Chase for the championship begins. Following Ben Kennedy’s victory at Bristol just over a week ago, six drivers have now notched wins and effectively slotted themselves into the Chase field (Christopher Bell, William Byron, Matt Crafton, John Hunter Nemechek, Johnny Sauter).
But that’s where the question marks begin. Three very different tracks sit ahead of the field before the Chase field is finally set. The two-mile, high-speed oval at Michigan is followed by the annual Canadian road trip before the series solidifies the eight Chasers at the mile-and-a-half oval of Chicagoland Speedway. The trio of substantially contrasting venues will present a unique challenge to those already in on points, while opening up an opportunity for those hoping for their last best chance to break through.
Currently, Daniel Hemric and Timothy Peters hold the provisional seventh and eighth spots, though that can change with a simple trip to Victory Lane for a winless driver. Hemric holds a 39-point edge over Cole Custer, the first driver sitting outside the current Chase field, while Peters holds a 29 marker lead. Assuming both drivers match their average finishes – seventh for Hemric and 12th for Peters – neither should take a major hit on the points side of things this weekend.
But with that said, Tyler Reddick, who currently sits 32 markers behind Peters for the final Chase spot after a DNF at Pocono and a ho-hum 14th-place finish at Bristol, finished ninth in this race last year. And while the No. 29 team hasn’t shown anywhere near the strength it did last season, this weekend could mean the breakthrough they’ve been looking for. Though Chevrolet and Toyota have combined to win the last six races at Michigan, Ford won three straight from 2007 through 2009, leaving a very real potential for the manufacturer to snag a win this weekend.
Fast forward to next weekend for the lone road course race on the schedule, and you’ve got to bet that Cameron Hayley and the No. 13 team have that race circled on their calendars. In what has been a trying latter half of the season for ThorSport Racing, which was displaced from its shop after a fire, Hayley has shown some marked improvement on track, even if his results don’t necessarily show it. The Canadian finished 11th in his first race at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park and took home a seventh-place result last season after leading 13 laps.
Beyond that, Chicagoland Speedway closes out the regular season with a standard mile-and-a-half oval. Kyle Busch Motorsports is notably strong, and has been, on this particular type of track in the last couple of years, so it’s not entirely out of the realm of possibility that Byron will enter the Chase with the advantage of six wins to his name.
Victories aside, bad luck for either Hemric or Peters could allow Custer, Reddick or Hayley to capitalize and push the point difference closer and potentially change things up at the back part of the Chase field. Anyone beyond there in the standings, like Spencer Gallagher, Ben Rhodes or Rico Abreu have seen their Chase hopes turn to hinging on finding a way to Victory Lane in the remaining three races.
Of course everything there could change the whole picture if we manage to pick up three more winners between now and when the checkered flag flies at Chicagoland Speedway, but given the dominance of William Byron and the strength Matt Crafton has shown, combined with the expected one-offs in next weekend’s race at Mosport, it’s highly unlikely.
- NASCAR announced earlier this week that children under the age of 12 will be allowed to attend all 2017 XFINITY and Camping World Truck series free of charge, along with the purchase of an adult ticket. The announcement, which came at the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Monday, is aimed at bringing more families to the track.
- Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past week, you’ve likely seen the news that rookie William Byron will defect from Toyota at the end of this season. Signing a multi-year development deal with Hendrick Motorsports, the current point leader and championship favorite will join JR Motorsports in the XFINITY Series next season.
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.
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