The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway this weekend to take on the Magic Mile. The UNOH 175 (1 p.m. ET/FS1/MRN) will kick off the series’ 2017 playoffs. With that being said, here are five storylines for this weekend.
The eight drivers vying to win this year’s Truck Series championship get their engines fired for the start of this year’s playoffs. Christopher Bell, Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton, John Hunter Nemechek, Austin Cindric, Kaz Grala, Chase Briscoe and Ben Rhodes will try to compete to be this year’s champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.
But, that means getting off to a good start this weekend in New England.
William Byron won this race last season en route to making the final four at Homestead. These eight drivers can’t afford to get off to a bad start, especially with how tight the points battle is going to be.
No one entered in this weekend’s field has ever won at the Magic Mile. Last year’s winner is in the XFINITY Series. The 2015 winner is Austin Dillon and he’s not racing. The 2014 winner was Cole Custer. He too is in the XFINITY Series. Prior to that, Kyle Busch won in three straight years. He’s not eligible to race.
That means we will see a new winner this weekend.
There’s been 19 Trucks races at New Hampshire, and we’ve seen a different winner in 15 of them. That will grow to 16 in 20 years on Saturday.
Crafton Or Sauter’s Turn?
These are two of the best Truck Series drivers to race in the series. Each have won the last two championships. But, neither have won at New Hampshire. With there being no previous winners in the field this weekend, this could be their chance.
Crafton, has raced in every race there since 2001. Since 2009, he hasn’t finished worse than sixth. In fact, his results are, fourth, fourth, sixth, third, second and third respectively. He’s also had four top six finishes over his last six starts on the season. This could be the weekend Crafton gets his No. 88 Toyota back to victory lane.
Sauter could be right there too. He’s made 18 New Hampshire starts between Trucks, XFINITY and Cup. Only six of those 18 came in the Truck Series, but among those six races are six top 10 finishes. He’s finished worse than fifth just twice and enters this weekend with a ton of momentum. He won the regular season finale last weekend at Chicagoland and has 13 top 10 finishes in his last 15 starts on the season.
Maybe one of them can get to victory lane on Saturday.
Playoff points and stages have completely changed the way these races are run. They can not only make or break who advances to the next round or not, but also can greatly affect the races themselves. That will hold true this weekend. Playoff drivers can’t afford to be outside the top 10 in the first two stages, because that can put them in a big deficit that they may not be able to climb out of.
The races within the race for playoff and stage points will make the racing that much better.