(Photo: Nigel Kinrade Photography)

Truckin’ Thursdays: Variety of Tracks Left Could Shake Up Playoffs

Frontstretch’s Truck Series content is presented by American Trucks

The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series’ regular season is halfway complete — eight races down, eight races to go until the start of the playoffs.

Austin Hill and Johnny Sauter are the only two Truck Series regulars to have won a race this season. Although they have not mathematically clinched a berth in the playoffs, it is but a mere formality.

So six playoff berths remain. To make things unpredictable, the second half of the regular season features a variety of different race tracks.

The next race for the series is the SpeedyCash.com 400 at Texas Motor Speedway. It is the second race at Texas this season, but is the only track the series revisits in the regular season. Kyle Busch won the first Truck Series race at Texas Motor Speedway but cannot compete in any more races this season.

Following the race at Texas, the series races at Iowa Speedway. It is the second race of the Triple Truck Challenge, which Monster Energy NASCAR Cup and NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers are ineligible to compete in. The 0.875-mile short track in Newton, Iowa, produces good races, and the financial incentive of the Triple Truck Challenge may motivate part-time teams to compete in the M&M’s 200.

The state of Illinois then hosts the series for back-to-back races. On Saturday, June 22, the series will race at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway (formerly known as Gateway Motorsports Park). The 1.25-mile track in Madison, Ill., only hosts the Truck Series, so be sure to tune in to watch the Gateway 200. The race itself consists of 160 laps, with the first two stages ending at laps 35 and 70, respectively.

Traveling 250 miles northeast, the series heads to Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. where the 1.5-mile track hosts a four-day NASCAR race weekend, beginning with the ARCA Menards Series race on Thursday, June 27, and culminating with the Cup Series race on Sunday, June 30. That Friday will be when the Truck Series competes in the Camping World 225 at the track. Of the former Truck Series winners at Chicagoland, only Sauter and Brett Moffitt are expected to compete.

The series only races twice in July. On Thursday, July 11, the drivers will race 150 laps at Kentucky Speedway, where hometown driver Ben Rhodes won last season. Kyle Busch Motorsports has dominated at Kentucky Speedway, winning four of the eight Truck Series races there.

Next is seemingly the quickest race on the schedule, which takes place at Pocono Raceway. The 2.5-mile Tricky Triangle hosts a 150-mile race, which is only 60 laps. The first and second stage end at laps 15 and 30, respectively. Factor in the stage-ending cautions and there are approximately only 50 green flag laps.

The penultimate race on the NGOTS regular season schedule is the Eldora Dirt Derby at Eldora Speedway. This is the only dirt track on any of the three major NASCAR series. Tony Stewart owns the Rossburg, Ohio track, and it has always been an exciting race. Every year, a series regulars fail to qualify for the feature.

Oh yes, there are qualifying races, a last chance race and the feature event. The entry list for the race on the 0.5-mile dirt track is unique, typically featuring a Cup Series driver, the Truck Series regulars and some dirt ringers. Frontstretch‘s Underdog House will likely have plenty of material from the Dirt Derby. Under the lights on Thursday, August 1, I’m looking forward to this race. You should be too.

Finally, the Truck Series concludes its regular season schedule in Brooklyn, Mich., where Michigan International Speedway hosts the Corrigan Oil 200. The fast 2-mile track will feature aggressive driving. The drivers who are above the playoff cutline will attempt to race wisely so as to make the playoffs. On the contrary, the drivers below the playoff cutline will be racing hard, trying to earn stage points and ultimately end up in victory lane. This mix makes for an exciting race with some possible carnage.

Not to be forgotten, those drivers who are already in the playoffs still want to win the two stages and the race. For them, there are seven playoff points on the line, which can help determine which drivers advance throughout the playoffs.

We’ll find out which eight drivers will compete in the Truck Series playoffs on Saturday, August 10.

The second half of the Truck Series regular season features a variety of different race tracks over the course of the summer. Admittedly, there are three races on 1.5-mile tracks, but the Truck Series races are often the most enjoyable. Iowa is a short track, NASCAR only visits Gateway once a year and Pocono is so unique with its configuration, there’s nothing comparable.

The two races to wrap up the regular season will garner good races, possibly memorable ones. Eldora is arguably the highlight of the Truck Series schedule. Finally, Michigan has never hosted the Truck Series regular-season finale before, so the intensity level will be the highest ever for the track.

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About Mark Kristl

Mark Kristl
Mark joined Frontstretch at the beginning of the 2019 NASCAR season. He is an Eagle Scout & a proud University of Dayton alum. He also writes about NASCAR for Beyond the Flag.

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