Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Hollywood Casino 400
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Sunday, October 21
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
TV: NBC, 1:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 400.5 miles (267 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 80),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 160), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 267)
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Next Race: Kansas Lottery 300
The Place: Kansas Speedway
The Date: Saturday, October 20
The Time: 3 p.m. ET
TV: NBCSN, 2:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 300 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 45),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
Next Race: Texas Roadhouse 200
The Place: Martinsville Speedway
The Date: Saturday, October 27
The Time: 1 p.m. ET
TV: FS1, 12:30 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 105.2 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 50),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 100), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series
Harvick Hunting Playoff Victory
From the earliest weeks of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series season Kevin Harvick established himself as the 2018 championship favorite. He was the first driver to win seven races - two more than his previous season total in 17 years at the Cup level. And with five races remaining, his 25 top-10 and 20 top-five finishes are also well within range of previous personal bests of 28 top-10s and 23 top-fives (2015).
Harvick comes to Kansas Speedway for Sunday's Hollywood Casino 400 (at 2 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) atop the points standings, but behind Round of 12 race winners Chase Elliott and Aric Almirola on the Playoff leaderboard, for the second consecutive week. He holds a 17-point edge over regular season champion Kyle Busch and, more importantly, he is 63-points better than ninth place Brad Keselowski with only the top eight drivers in the standings moving on to the next round of the Playoffs following Kansas.
Yet for all that statistical positivity, Harvick is still vying for his first Playoff win of 2018. He led 46 laps at Talladega on Sunday, but finished 28th, running out of gas in NASCAR Overtime. He led a dominant 286 laps at Dover the week before and finished sixth.
The good news is that Kansas has historically been a good venue for the driver of the No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford.
His three wins on the 1.5-miler ties him with 2019 NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson for most all-time. He's won two of the last four races - splitting the total with fellow Playoff driver Martin Truex Jr. And his most recent win was at the most recent race - this May. His 614 laps led this season at 1.5-milers is tops and his three wins is tied for most with Busch.
And he's done everything but hoist a trophy in the Playoffs.
"It's one thing to dominate a race all day and win - that's great,'' Harvick said. "But, making a last-lap pass, an end-of-the-race pass or winning on a day when you're not supposed to, there is just no better feeling than getting out of the car and looking at those guys. Having the rest of the field asking how was he able to win today.
"Those are the types of moments I love to be a part of. We've been fortunate to experience a lot of those. That's the adrenaline rush that comes with what we do. There is no better feeling than those particular moments."
Making It A Must-Win
As is so often the case, the last handful of laps at Talladega Superspeedway can alter course for drivers and that's exactly what happened last Sunday to all four of the championship hopefuls now on the "outside" of the Playoff cutoff.
Brad Keselowski, his Team Penske teammate Ryan Blaney, Chip Ganassi Racing's Kyle Larson and Hendrick Motorsports driver Alex Bowman - are all ranked ninth-12th, respectively, following 'Dega and need to climb into the top eight of the standings Sunday at Kansas Speedway to sustain their Playoff runs. A victory is the best option for all.
Penske teammates Keselowski and Blaney were running top 10 the majority of the day at Talladega, even combining to lead 26 laps. But a fuel gamble left them short in the overtime race and as a result, the 2012 Monster Energy Series champ Keselowski sits 18-points behind eighth-place Truex. He won at Kansas in 2011 and has top-10 finishes in four of the last seven Kansas races. Blaney is now 22-points behind Truex. He has two top-five finishes in the last three Kansas races, leading 54 laps in the spring visit.
Larson is 26-points behind the cutoff. He has a pair of top-five finishes at Kansas, including a fourth place this spring when he led 101 laps. Bowman is 68-points off the cutoff line and will absolutely need a victory to advance. His best showing at Kansas was seventh in the 2017 Playoff race when he filled in for the then-injured Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Kyle Busch Looking To Bounce Back
The regular season champion Kyle Busch has already scored one win in the Playoffs (at Richmond) but tough outings in two of the past three races since have him wanting to right the ship.
Kansas Speedway has been a very solid venue for the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota team - especially in recent years. He's finished in the top-10 in the last seven races and top-five in five of those, including his victory in the spring of 2016. He finished 10th in the Monster Energy Series' last visit to the track in May - one of only two times he hasn't led laps in the past five races there.
Busch currently sits a seemingly comfortable second in the points standings to Harvick and has a 46-point edge over ninth-place Brad Keselowski as the Round of 8 Playoff field is set following Sunday's race.
Varied In Victory Lane
With Aric Almirola's victory Sunday at Talladega, the Monster Energy Series has had five different winners in five Playoff races. Brad Keselowski (Las Vegas), Kyle Busch (Richmond), Ryan Blaney (Charlotte Road Course), Chase Elliott (Dover) and Almirola have all hoisted trophies. Should a different winner do so Sunday in Kansas, it would mark the first time since the Cup elimination-style Playoffs began in 2014 for such an assortment of winners in the opening two rounds.
There has never been a season in which each of the opening three rounds of the Playoffs has seen three different Playoff contenders win the races. The third round, the Round of 8, begins in two weeks at Martinsville Speedway and also includes races at Texas Motor Speedway and the new-look ISM Raceway in Phoenix.
There's a very legitimate chance that a new Playoff driver will win this week. Current points leader Harvick has been close but is still looking for his first Playoff victory this season. He won at Kansas in May - the second win in the last four Kansas races, book-ending Martin Truex Jr. victories.
Reigning Cup champion Truex has to be considered a heavy favorite at Kansas Speedway, as well. He's won two of the last three races there - including the 2017 Playoff race - and was runner-up to Harvick in May.
So Much Strength At Stewart-Haas Racing
As demonstrated by the strong showing up front last Sunday at Talladega, the Stewart-Haas Racing team is enjoying its best overall Playoff run in years. All four cars are in good shape to advance to the next round and, with a dramatic victory at Talladega, the team's newest driver, Aric Almirola, made the operation a perfect 4-for-4 in terms of earning 2018 trophies.
SHR is poised to be the only Monster Energy Series team to have all its cars advance to the Round of 8. Almirola is "in" automatically by virtue of the Talladega win. Seven-time winner Harvick leads the points standings, Bristol winner Kurt Busch is sixth in the standings with a 30-point edge on ninth place Keselowski. And two-time winner Clint Bowyer, of Emporia, Kansas, is seventh in points, with a 21-point cushion on the field heading to his "home track."
Of the four - only Harvick (three wins) has won at Kansas previously.
In the last 10 Kansas races, every Fall winner has been a member of the championship drive. In fact, only twice in that time frame did a driver not currently in the playoffs (Jeff Gordon in 2014 and Jimmie Johnson in 2015) win at Kansas.
The winners of the last four Playoff races at the track - are all vying for a championship this weekend. Joey Logano won back-to-back in 2014-15, Harvick won in 2016 and Truex won in 2017. All three of them are looking for their first victory of the 2018 Playoffs.
Best Of The Rest
While the top 16 drivers have - or were - thinking championship, the rest of the field still had some valid reasons to finish strong as well. And they have.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr. has had three solid finishes in the five Playoff races, highlighted by a third place at Talladega on Sunday. A.J. Allmendinger, who will not be returning to his No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Chevrolet next year, has had a pair of top 10s as well, including a best of sixth place at Talladega. Daniel Suarez was eighth at Las Vegas and 10th at Dover. Wood Brothers Racing driver Paul Menard has scored a pair of top 10s in the Playoffs as well - 10th at Vegas and ninth at Talladega
And Chip Ganassi Racing's Jamie McMurray came as close as possible to getting a win - finishing runner-up at the Charlotte Road Course.
NASCAR Xfinity Series
The Bell Is Ringing And Joe Gibbs Racing Is Singing
Joe Gibbs Racing's rising star, Christopher Bell, has won two of the first three races in the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs and in doing so has become one of the favorites in this season's championship run. This weekend, Bell and the NASCAR Xfinity Series return to action at Kansas Speedway for the Kansas Lottery 300 on Saturday, October 20, at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
The JGR standout from Oklahoma has not only wrestled his way into the series standings lead but has etched his name in the history books. Bell's six wins this season is now the all-time Xfinity Series record for wins by a Sunoco rookie surpassing previous rookie record holders Greg Biffle, Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards (with five wins each).
"Since our win at Richmond, the only thing we have been going for is race wins and stage wins. That's all that matters," said Christopher Bell following his second Playoff win of the postseason.
Bell kicked off the postseason with a win at Richmond Raceway, finished fifth in the debut of the Charlotte Road Course and followed all of that up with another victory two weeks ago at Dover International Speedway. Now heading into the Round of 8 with the standings reset Bell has 3,044 points, five up on second place Justin Allgaier and 33-points up on fifth place Elliott Sadler - the first spot outside the Championship 4.
Despite the early Playoff success, Bell's focus is unwavering.
"It all boils down to one run at Homestead-Miami to decide who the champion is," said Bell. "So, I don't think anyone is the clear-cut favorite, and we won't know that till about Lap 100 in Homestead-Miami."
Bell's rookie campaign has been guided by the expertise of veteran crew chief Jason Ratcliff and the duo have managed six wins (Richmond-1, Kentucky, New Hampshire, Iowa-1, Richmond-2, Dover-2), 17 top-fives, 19 top 10s and four poles this season. But Bell has turned it up even more this first round of the Playoffs. In his last three starts, he has two wins, three top fives and an average finish of 2.333. In total he has accumulated 44 Playoff points this season, and 12 of them he scored in the first round of Playoffs.
"To be able to win two out of the three in this round is really cool, and we have added to our bonus points going into the next round," said Bell. "It would be really nice if we could win Kansas and go on the offensive again the entire next round."
Bell's confidence heading to Kansas this weekend should be high, the Sunoco rookie won in his series track debut last season at the 1.5-mile facility after starting fourth and leading just four laps.
Round Of 8: Playoff Contender Outlook
Only eight drivers moved on in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs following the elimination race at Dover International Speedway two weeks ago and with Christopher Bell planted in the series lead the remaining seven Playoff challengers will have their work cut out for them over these next three races to decide who will make the Championship 4.
Justin Allgaier (No. 7 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) resides in second with 3,039 points, only five points behind series standings leader Christopher Bell heading into the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs' Round of 8. The Illinois native has tallied five wins, 16 top fives and 22 top 10s; including 39 Playoff points this season. Allgaier's postseason campaign got off to a slow start though, he finished 32nd at Richmond Raceway due to an incident and then 15th at the Charlotte Road Course, but he rebounded nicely at Dover International Speedway to finish third and move on to the next round. With the 12th-best average finish in the first round of the Playoffs (16.67), Allgaier had to rely on his Playoff points to get him to the Round of 8, a luxury that he might not be afforded this round. Last season, Allgaier ran well in the Round of 8, posting an average finish of 8.667 and he ultimately made the Championship 4. Heading to Kansas this weekend, Allgaier has made seven series starts at the 1.5-mile track gathering two top fives, five top 10s and an average finish of 7.9.
Daniel Hemric (No. 21 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) is third the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings with 3,013 points, just 31 markers back from Christopher Bell in the standings lead and only two points ahead of fifth-place Elliott Sadler heading into the Round of 8. Hemric has yet to break through and win, but the North Carolina native continues to prove he is a title contender. Through 29 races this season, he has collected 13 top fives, 19 top 10s and three poles. His performance (6.67 average finish) during the first round of the Playoffs was second only to Bell's (2.333). Hemric finished third at Richmond, 10th at Charlotte and closed out the Round of 12 with a seventh at Dover last weekend. Hemric will look to build off his success last season in the Round of 8 where he garnered an average finish of 12.3; which was enough to make the Championship 4. Hemric made his series track debut at Kansas last season, he started 10th but finished 18th.
Cole Custer (No. 00 Stewart-Haas Racing Ford) has raced his way to fourth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings with 3,011 points heading into the Round of 8 this weekend. Custer is currently tied in points with Elliott Sadler (3,011) but Custer's second-place finish last weekend at Dover was the tiebreaker (best finish in current round). As a result, Custer holds the coveted final transfer spot to the Championship 4 at this point in time. Custer's 2018 season has seen 12 top fives, 23 top 10s and five poles. During the Round of 12, Custer posted the third-best average finish (8.0) after rallying a 15th-place at Richmond, a seventh at Charlotte and a runner-up at Dover two weeks ago. Last season, Custer fell just a few points short of making the Championship 4, a goal he looks to achieve this season. Unfortunately, Kansas hasn't been kind to Custer. In his two previous starts at the track he has posted an average finish of 27th.
Elliott Sadler (No. 1 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) currently sits fifth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff standings, tied in points with Cole Custer with 3,011, but by virtue of a tiebreaker (Custer holds the better finish in the current round), Sadler falls to the first spot outside the Championship 4 cutoff heading into the Round of 8 this weekend. Though Sadler's dealing with a 68-race winless streak, the veteran from Virginia has been resilient. Thus far in 2018, Sadler has stockpiled 13 top fives, 22 top 10s and a pole. Much like his JRM teammate Justin Allgaier, the Playoff's Round of 12 wasn't the sweetest to Sadler, he finished sixth at Richmond, then 14th at the Charlotte Road Course and 11th last weekend at Dover. Sadler will be looking forward to the Round of 8 starting this weekend, as the veteran posted an average finish of 9.97 and made the Championship 4 last season. Sadler has made eight series starts at Kansas posting three top fives, six top 10s and an average finish of 10.9.
Tyler Reddick (No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet) left Dover two weeks ago sixth in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs with 3,010 points, 34 back from the standings lead and just one point behind Cole Custer in fourth. The California native is having a strong Sunoco rookie season, having accumulated one win, four top fives and 16 top 10s. In the three races to open the 2018 Playoffs, Reddick has put up two top 10s and an average finish of 10.0 (seventh-best). As a rookie, Reddick has only made one start at each of the tracks in the round of 8. Last season at Kansas Speedway, he started on the pole and finished second while running part-time for Chip Ganassi Racing. Then earlier this season, he finished 33rd at Texas and 14th at ISM Raceway.
Matt Tifft (No. 2 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet) made the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs for the second time in his career. Presently, the Ohio native is seventh in the championship standings with 3,003 points, 41 behind the series standings leader Christopher Bell and only eight back from fourth-place Cole Custer - in the final Championship 4 transfer spot. This season the 22-year old has produced five top fives, 15 top 10s and a pole. During the opening round of the Playoffs, Tifft accrued a fifth-place finish at Richmond, a sixth at Charlotte and 15th at Dover two weeks ago. Looking to last season, Tifft fell just short of making the Championship 4, but ran well in the Round of 8, posting an average finish of 9.0. He heads to Kansas this weekend, looking to build on his success in his series track debut last season, where he started eighth and finished eighth.
Austin Cindric (No. 22 Team Penske Ford) grasps intently onto the eighth and final spot of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff's Round of 8 with 3,001 points heading into this weekend at Kansas Speedway. The Sunoco rookie is now 43 points behind the series lead and 10 points back from Cole Custer in fourth - the final Championship 4 transfer spot. This season Cindric has collected four top fives, 10 top 10s and three poles. The North Carolina native has run well in the Round of 12 this season, posting the fourth-best average finish (8.0) after placing 13th at Richmond, third at Charlotte and eighth at Dover. This weekend will pose some challenges for Cindric as it will be his series track debut at Kansas Speedway. Cindric does have some experience at the 1.5-mile speedway though, last season he made a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series start at Kansas, posting a 10th-place finish.
2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff Picture & Quick Facts
With the first round of the 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs in the books here are some quick facts about this year's postseason thus far:
• The 2018 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff Round of 12 field consisted of 12 different drivers from nine different organizations:
o JR Motorsports - Justin Allgaier, Elliott Sadler and Tyler Reddick
o Joe Gibbs Racing - Christopher Bell, Brandon Jones
o Richard Childress Racing - Daniel Hemric, Matt Tifft
o JD Motorsports / Chip Ganassi Racing - Ross Chastain
o Stewart-Haas Racing - Cole Custer
o Kaulig Racing - Ryan Truex
o Team Penske / Roush Fenway Racing - Austin Cindric
o Roush Fenway Racing - Ryan Reed
• Three of the 12 NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff drivers in 2018 are Sunoco rookies: Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick and Austin Cindric
• Career Playoff appearances in the NASCAR Xfinity Series:
o Third Playoff appearance: Justin Allgaier, Elliott Sadler, Ryan Reed (2016, 2017 and 2018)
o Second Playoff appearance: Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer, Matt Tifft (2017 and 2018) and Brandon Jones (2016 and 2018)
o First Playoff appearance: Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, Austin Cindric, Ryan Truex, Ross Chastain (2018)
• Appearances in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff's Round of 8:
o Third Round of 8 appearance: Justin Allgaier, Elliott Sadler (2016, 2017 and 2018)
o Second Round of 8 appearance: Daniel Hemric, Cole Custer, Matt Tifft (2017 and 2018)
o First Round of 8 appearance: Christopher Bell, Tyler Reddick, Austin Cindric (2018)
Round of 12 Recap by Track:
• Richmond Raceway - 0.75-mile paved oval - Go Bowling 250
o Pole Winner: Christopher Bell (Joe Gibbs Racing)
o Race Winner: Christopher Bell (Joe Gibbs Racing)
o Lap Leader (Most): Dale Earnhardt Jr. (JR Motorsports) with 96 laps led
o Playoff standings leader following the race: Christopher Bell left Richmond with a 28-point lead over second place Daniel Hemric and a 34-point lead over third place Justin Allgaier.
• Charlotte Motor Speedway Road course - 2.28-mile, 17-turn road course - Drive for the Cure 200
o Pole Winner: Chase Briscoe (Biagi DenBeste Racing)
o Race Winner: Austin Cindric (Team Penske)
o Lap Leader (Most): Chase Briscoe (Biagi DenBeste Racing) with 33 laps led
o Playoff standings leader following the race: Christopher Bell left Charlotte with a 33-point lead over second place Daniel Hemric and a 42-point lead over third place Tyler Reddick.
• Dover International Speedway - 1-mile, concrete oval - Drive for the Cure 200
o Pole Winner: Daniel Hemric (Richard Childress Racing)
o Race Winner: Christopher Bell (Joe Gibbs Racing)
o Lap Leader (Most): Christopher Bell (Joe Gibbs Racing) with 110 laps led
o Playoff standings leader following the race: Christopher Bell left Dover with a five-point lead over second place Justin Allgaier and a 31-point lead over third place Daniel Hamric.
Next Playoff Stop: Kansas Speedway
Nestled just west of Kansas City sits the 1.5-mile paved track - Kansas Speedway - and this weekend the NASCAR Xfinity Series will embark on its third straight year with the famed facility as the fourth race in Playoffs and the first of the Round of 8.
In the inaugural season of the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoffs (2016), Joe Gibbs Racing's Kyle Busch dominated the event at Kansas Speedway, leading 150 of 200 laps. The highest-finishing NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff contender was Elliott Sadler, who finished runner-up. Kyle Busch's JGR teammate, Daniel Suarez, finished third at Kansas that season and later went on to win the 2016 title.
Then last season, the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff race at Kansas was won Joe Gibbs Racing driver Christopher Bell, who then was on a part-time Xfinity schedule while competing fulltime in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Bell snatched the win from his JGR teammate Erik Jones in the closing laps of the event. The highest-finishing Playoff contender in the event was William Byron (fourth-place finish), who later went on to win the series title that season.
Heading into this weekend's Kansas Lottery 300, here are the Round of 8 Playoff driver's average finishes at Kansas Speedway: Christopher Bell (1.0), Tyler Reddick (2.0), Justin Allgaier (7.9), Matt Tifft (8.0), Elliott Sadler (10.9), Daniel Hemric (18.0), Cole Custer (27.0) and Austin Cindric will be making his series track debut this weekend.
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Owners' Championship Update - The top three owners in the NASCAR Xfinity Series owners' championship are all within 10-points of each other following Dover. Team Penske's No. 22 Ford team currently holds the standings lead, six-points ahead of Chip Ganassi Racing's No. 42 Chevrolet team in second and 10 points up on Joe Gibbs Racing's No. 20 Toyota team. Austin Cindric will be in the No. 22 and John Hunter Nemechek will be strapped into the No. 42 this weekend; both will be making their series track debuts at Kansas Speedway. Ryan Preece will be in the No. 20 this weekend at Kansas. He has one previous start at the 1.5-mile speedway - starting 24th and finishing 32nd.
Notable Mentions - Angela Ruch will in the No. 38 RSS Racing Chevrolet this weekend, working with crew chief Todd Myers. This will be Ruch's second start of the season, her first came at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where she started 40th and finished 30th. ... One of NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt's grandsons, Bobby Earnhardt, nephew of Dale Earnhardt Jr., son of Kerry Earnhardt and brother to Jeffrey Earnhardt will be attempting to make his NASCAR Xfinity Series 2018 season debut this weekend at Kansas. Bobby Earnhardt will be piloting the No. 66 Motorsports Business Management Dodge this weekend.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
And Then There Were Six
Last weekend's race at Talladega Superspeedway was one for the books in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Only two drivers were officially locked into the Round of 6 and they were GMS Racing's Justin Haley and ThorSport Racing's Grant Enfinger.
But, Timothy Peters, a non-Playoff driver, took home the victory in a wild finish at Talladega.
Haley won at the Playoff opener at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Enfinger won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Ben Rhodes and Stewart Friesen didn't make the cut for the Round of 6, leaving Haley, Enfinger, Johnny Sauter, Brett Moffitt, Noah Gragson and Matt Crafton as the remaining Playoff contenders in the hunt for the championship.
This was Rhodes' second appearance in the Playoffs and Friesen's first.
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff contenders will return to action and once again do battle on the historic short track of Martinsville Speedway on Saturday, October 27 for the Texas Roadhouse 200 (at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Winners List at Martinsville
Up next for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs is Martinsville Speedway, a track at which veterans Johnny Sauter and Matt Crafton shine.
Sauter has won at Martinsville three-times in his career and has eight top fives and 11 top 10s in 21 starts. Crafton has made 33 starts at Martinsville, the most of any driver, posting two wins, nine top fives and 19 top 10s.
Noah Gragson's first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win was at this race in 2017, his second appearance in the series at the track. At the time Gragson was not in the Playoffs.
Currently, Sauter is the winningest active driver at Martinsville, but if Crafton can pull off a win next weekend, he will tie him on that list.
Gragson has the opportunity to not only secure his spot in the next round of the Playoffs but to also put his name on the list of multi-race winners at Martinsville.
John Hunter Nemechek, although not a Playoff driver, also has that same chance if he is entered to run next weekend. Nemechek won at Martinsville Speedway earlier this season. Dennis Setzer is the only driver to have ever won back-to-back races.
There are seven multi-race winners at the track in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series history (Kevin Harvick, Sauter, Setzer, Mike Skinner, Crafton, Denny Hamlin and Bubba Wallace).
Harvick, Sauter, Setzer and Skinner all have three wins and Crafton, Hamlin and Wallace each have two.
Playoff Drivers' Paperclip Performances
Below is a look at the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff drivers as the series readies for its next Playoff stop at Martinsville Speedway.
Johnny Sauter has 21 starts at Martinsville with eight top-five finishes and 11 top-10 finishes. He has led 431 laps and has only one DNF. His wins were in 2011, where he also started from the pole, 2013 and 2016. He has not started outside of the top 10 in the last five races. Sauter has completed 4,536 of 4,776 laps.
Brett Moffitt will head to Martinsville for only the third time of his career. He has one top five and two top 10s under his belt. In 2017, he started in 15th and came back to finish in sixth. Earlier this season, he started seventh and finished third.
Noah Gragson has seen success at the track. Gragson has three starts at Martinsville, where he has completed all 700 laps and led 10 of them. He won the Playoff race in 2017 after starting fifth. Earlier this season, he started 11th and finished fifth at Martinsville. Gragson has never finished outside the top-five on the famous short track.
Grant Enfinger has four starts at Martinsville Speedway. His best start and finish came earlier this season when he started third and finished fourth. He has one top five and one top 10. Enfinger has gotten significantly better over time at Martinsville, finishing 20th in 2011, 17th and 12th in 2017 and fourth in 2018.
Justin Haley has five starts at Martinsville with one top-10 finish. Haley's first two starts ended with crashes, but he had his best finish earlier this season (10th).
Matt Crafton has the most starts of any driver at Martinsville with 33. He has two wins, nine top fives and 19 top 10s. In addition, Crafton has completed 7,365 of 7,536 laps attempted and led 385.
2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff Picture: Round of 6
The first round of the 2018 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs came to a close following the weekend's race at Talladega Superspeedway. Talladega has been a cut-off race for the Truck Series for the last two years. Next, the Truck Series will head to Martinsville Speedway for the beginning of the Round of 6.
• The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2018 Playoff field had a total of eight drivers from five different owner organizations at the start:
o Kyle Busch Motorsports - Noah Gragson
o GMS Racing - Johnny Sauter, Justin Haley
o Hattori Racing - Brett Moffitt
o ThorSport Racing, Matt Crafton, Grant Enfinger
o Halmar Friesen Racing - Stewart Friesen
• Now that the Round of 8 is done, the 2018 Playoff field has been cut down to six drivers and only four different owner organizations:
o KBM, GMS, Hattori and ThorSport
o Halmar Friesen Racing is no longer a Playoff contender
• Five drivers have made their appearance in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs for the first time:
o First Playoff appearance: Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, Brett Moffitt, Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen (2018)
o Second Playoff appearance: Ben Rhodes (2017 and 2018)
Rhodes' second Playoff appearance has come to a close as well as Friesen's first appearance
• Two current Playoff contenders have won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship before:
o Matt Crafton (2013 and 2014)
o Johnny Sauter (2016)
Round of 8 Recap:
• Canadian Tire Motorsport Park - 2.459 mile, 10-turn road course - Chevrolet Silverado 250
o Pole Winner: Ben Rhodes (ThorSport Racing)
o Race Winner: Justin Haley (GMS Racing)
o Lap Leader (Most): Noah Gragson (KBM) with 35 laps led
o Playoff standings leader following the race: Johnny Sauter left Canadian Tire Motorsport Park with a six-point lead over second place Brett Moffitt and an 11-point lead over third place Noah Gragson.
• Las Vegas Motor Speedway -1.5-mile asphalt tri-oval - World of Westgate 200
o Pole Winner: Noah Gragson (KBM)
o Race Winner: Grant Enfinger (ThorSport Racing)
o Lap Leader (Most): Grant Enfinger (ThorSport Racing) with 40 laps led
o Playoff standings leader following the race: Johnny Sauter left Las Vegas with a 17-point lead over second place Noah Gragson and a 22-point lead over third place Brett Moffitt.
• Talladega Superspeedway - 2.66-mile, asphalt tri-oval - Fr8Auctions 250
o Pole Winner: David Gilliland (KBM)
o Race Winner: Timothy Peters (GMS Racing)
o Lap Leader (Most): Grant Enfinger (ThorSport Racing) with 21 laps le
o Playoff standings leader following the race: Johnny Sauter left Talladega with a 15-point lead over second place Brett Moffitt and a 17-point lead over third place Noah Gragson.
Round of 6 Recap:
• Martinsville Speedway - .526-mile, 'paperclip' shaped oval - Texas Roadhouse 250
Playoff Outlook: Four To Go
There are only four races left in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs before a champion is crowned at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, and each event will pose its own special challenges for the competitors.
Martinsville Speedway is the shortest track on the circuit. It is a 0.52-mile asphalt/concrete oval with 12-degrees of banking in the corners and an 800-foot frontstretch and backstretch.
Texas Motor Speedway is a 1.5-mile asphalt oval with 20-degrees of banking in Turns 1 and 2, and 24-degrees of banking in Turns 3 and 4.
ISM Raceway, the second-to-last track the series will visit, is a 1-mile dogleg oval in Avondale, Arizona. ISM also marks the last cutoff race and has been recently renovated with the start-finish line moved in between Turns 1 and 2.
And lastly, Homestead-Miami Speedway is a 1.5-mile, four-turn oval with 18-20-degrees of progressive banking in the corners. The series will hold its season finale at the famous Miami facility with the highest finisher of the Championship 4 Playoff drivers to be named the 2018 champion.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.
Owner Battle: GMS Racing is currently leading the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner standings following Talladega. GMS' No. 21 has remained in the lead for most of the season and the Playoffs. In second place is Hattori Racing's No. 16, 16-points behind first place. In third place is Kyle Busch Motorsports' No. 18, only 17-points behind the leader. ThorSport Racing is sitting in fourth place with its No. 98 truck, 24-points behind the leader and GMS Racing rounds out the top five with the No. 24. Kyle Busch Motorsports has the most winning trucks at Martinsville Speedway with six.
Who Will be the Winner? Last year, a Playoff driver won four of the seven Playoff races. The other three races were won by drivers not in the Playoffs. So far this season, three of the four races have been won by Playoff drivers. In the last two years, a non-Playoff driver also won the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Manufacturers at Martinsville: There have been 39 races at Martinsville Speedway in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Fifteen of those races have been won by a Toyota, 14 by Chevrolet, five by Ford and five by Dodge. In the last five races, Chevrolet won three times and Toyota won two. Earlier this year, John Hunter Nemechek won in a Chevrolet. Toyota has the longest winning streak of all manufacturers with five wins in a row from 2012 to 2014.
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Quick Facts - Martinsville Speedway
Track Length: .52 Mile
Race Length: 105.2 Miles, 200 Laps
First Race: September 7, 1947
Banking in Corners: 12 degrees
Banking on Straights: 0 degrees
Frontstretch: 800 feet
Backstretch: 800 feet
Most Wins: 3 (4 drivers)
Most Poles: 4 (Jack Sprague)
Most Top Fives: 10 (Ron Hornaday Jr.)
Most Top 10s: 19 (Matt Crafton)
Most Lead Changes: 17 (3/30/14)
Fewest Lead Changes: 1 (10/18/08)
Most Leaders: 8 (3 times, most recently 10/29/11)
Fewest Leaders: 2 (4 times, most recently 3/31/12)
Most Cautions: 16 (2 times, most recently 3/29/08)
Fewest Cautions: 5 (10/29/16)
Most Laps Led by a Race Winners: 248 (3/31/12)
Fewest Laps Led by a Race Winner: 2 (9/25/95)
Most Wins by a Manufacturer: 15 (Toyota)
Closest Margin of Victory: 0.257 seconds (4/9/05)
Greatest Margin of Victory: 4.978 seconds (4/17/99)
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