After spending the last two weekends sitting idle, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series gets back on track this Saturday at Martinsville Speedway. Typically a place where survival is part of the game, the Virginia short track usually brings in multiple one-off drivers, attempting to make their place in the sport.
Of course, once the Martinsville race finishes, the series will sit idle once again. This time, it will be for five weekends before finally heading to Dover International Speedway on May 4.
Who should we watch for this weekend as the Truck Series arrives at the famed short track once again?
For the first time this season, Timothy Peters will be behind the wheel. Now, he’s running the No. 92 Ford for Ricky Benton Racing.
— Timothy Peters (@TimothyPeters_) March 13, 2018
Sidelined for much of the 2017 season after Red Horse Racing unexpectedly shuttered its doors following the race at Charlotte Motor Speedway last May, Peters made a trio of starts for the remainder of the year. The first came in the No. 99 Chevrolet that competed for the win before a late-race wreck on the frontstretch. He then ran the No. 02 for Young’s Motorsports at Las Vegas and Homestead, where he finished 11th and 10th, respectively.
“It’s awesome to be going to Martinsville with Ricky and this group of guys,” Peters said in a team release. “I’ve known Ricky for a long time. I’ve raced with them in late models and then trucks and they are true racers. (Crew chief) Mike Hester knows Martinsville, as their finishes have proven, and it is one of my favorite places to race and a track where I have a lot of experience.
“We have a shot at a top-five finish if we can stay out of the usual Martinsville mayhem. You definitely can’t win if you end up behind the wall on lap one, so the driver has to run a smart race.”
In 23 races at Martinsville, Peters has one win (2009), eight top fives and 16 top 10s. But perhaps what’s most impressive is that he’s finished outside the top 10 just twice in his last 15 starts there since the lone victory at the 0.533-mile oval.
— Todd Gilliland (@ToddGilliland_) March 3, 2018
Barred from competing on tracks 1.5 miles or longer, Todd Gilliland spent the first three races of the season sitting on the sidelines. He’ll run at Martinsville this weekend, a track where he finished fifth last fall.
— Todd Gilliland (@ToddGilliland_) March 5, 2018
Gilliland will get to run the race at Dover, too, before sitting out for Kansas Speedway, which falls just days before his 18th birthday. But beginning with Charlotte the week after Kansas, he will run the remainder of the 2018 schedule and looks to make up lost time against his fellow Rookie of the Year contenders.
In six starts last season, Gilliland scored two top fives and three top 10s, including a career-best finish of third at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Despite coming up short in the championship battle last season against 2017 Truck Series champion Christopher Bell, Johnny Sauter has run incredibly well lately. Opening the season with finishes of first, third and second, the driver of the No. 21 Chevrolet already holds a strong 39-point advantage over Brett Moffitt, who sits second in the standings. More importantly, Sauter hasn’t finished outside the top three since Talladega last Fall.
And there’s little reason to expect anything different this weekend.
His last three finishes at Martinsville? First, second and third. Of course, his numbers at the short track are quite impressive too. He has three trips to Victory Lane and has finished outside the top 10 just once in his last 10 races there, and that came in the Spring race in 2016 when he crashed out just 43 laps into the event.
The bottom line is that Sauter is on an incredible hot streak right now, and it wouldn’t be unexpected if the field ended up chasing him this weekend.
This one is interesting for a different reason. Having signed on to run the first four races this season, with sponsorship serving as the deciding factor for additional events, Robby Lyons has already started off this weekend right with a new primary sponsor.
So pumped to have these guys on board this weekend! Ready for some good old short track racing! https://t.co/R94Ppgkbtf
— Robby Lyons (@RLRacing2) March 21, 2018
But the question remains whether this partnership is enough for him to continue behind the wheel of the No. 15 beyond this race, and a solid run this weekend could be a step for convincing a company to come aboard and back his efforts. In three races this season, Lyons scored a best finish of 13th in the season opener at Daytona.
- The last seven races at Martinsville Speedway have each featured a different winner. This weekend could potentially be eight, however, three recent winners in Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton and Noah Gragson look to break that streak.
2014, Fall: Darrell Wallace Jr.
2015, Spring: Joey Logano
2015, Fall: Matt Crafton
2016, Spring: Kyle Busch
2016, Fall: Johnny Sauter
2017, Spring: Chase Elliott
2017, Fall: Noah Gragson
- Myatt Snider has made just one start on a track shorter than 1.5 miles in his young Truck Series career. He ran at the one-mile ISM Raceway in 2016 where he finished 17th. In three races this season, he has a best finish of seventh that came at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
- As of press time, there are 36 entries for Saturday’s Truck Series race at Martinsville. As such, four drivers will be sent home after qualifying, pending any last-minute withdrawals. It will mark the fourth race this season the series has put a full field on the track.