<
>

Championship 4 News and Notes - NASCAR Camping World Truck Series

Below is an in-depth look at the four drivers that have qualified for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship 4 and will race for the title at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the Ford EcoBoost 200 on Friday night, Nov. 16 (at 8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio Channel 90).

Noah Gragson (No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota)
Noah Gragson has had an outstanding sophomore season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Although he couldn't clinch as many wins as he would have liked, Gragson was a stage winning machine throughout the season. He won 10 stages, the most of any driver and three of those stage wins were in the Playoffs.

Gragson, 20, was dominant in qualifying this season with six pole awards (Dover Kansas, Chicagoland, Kentucky, Las Vegas, Phoenix), the most of any driver in the series. Gragson started in the top 10 in 18 of the 21 races he ran and finished in the top 10 in 16 of them.

He had a season full of Truck Series career bests including seven top-five finishes and 16 top 10s. Gragson led 591 laps and has an average starting position of 6.0 and average finish of 10.4. Gragson completed 3,174 laps of the scheduled 3,209.

In addition, Gragson raced in three NASCAR Xfinity Series races in 2018 for Joe Gibbs Racing; where he had impressive finishes of second, fourth and seventh.

This weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway marks the first season in his career he has made the NASCR Camping World Truck Series Championship 4. His previous best championship standings finish was 1oth in last season's Playoffs.

Playoffs Recap: Noah Gragson struggled in the first round of the Playoffs after an incident with teammate Todd Gilliland at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, which took a second-place finish away from him and resulted in a ninth. Then at Las Vegas, Gragson's home track, he started from the pole but finished 18th after many issues throughout the race. He then closed out the Round of 8 at Talladega, where he finished 13th but advanced to the next round on his stage wins and points. Gragson's slow start in the Playoffs turned around in the Round of 6. At Martinsville finished seventh after starting in third. Then at Texas Motor Speedway, Gragson started in the front row and was able to grab a 10th-place finish. But it was his strong run last weekend at ISM Raceway, where he started from the pole and finished runner-up after a long and hard-fought battle with fellow Playoff contender Brett Moffitt, that clinched his spot in the Championship 4.

Homestead-Miami Outlook: Noah Gragson has two previous starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His first was in 2016 when he started 10th and finished 15th. His second start was last season, he started in fifth but finished 18th.

Crew Chief Corner: Rudy Fugle is one of the most successful NASCAR Camping World Truck Series crew chiefs and has overseen some of the biggest names in the sport. He's also been crew chief in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and K&N Pro Series East as well.

During his time as a crew chief in the Truck Series, Fugle has led drivers in 121 starts producing 22 series wins, 55 top fives, 90 top 10s and 20 poles. This season, Fugle has one win, 8 top-five finishes and 17 top 10s with driver Noah Gragson.

At Homestead-Miami Speedway, Fugle has four starts in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with two wins, three top fives, four top 10s and one pole. Fugle won in 2013 at Homestead as crew chief for Kyle Busch in the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota. He also won in 2016 with William Byron in the No. 9 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota.

Team Talk: Kyle Busch Motorsports looks to extend its record setting championship pace this weekend in the NASCAR Camping World truck Series. Last season, the team won its fifth-consecutive and sixth all-time owner's championship in the series. The team also won the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver's championship with Erik Jones (2014) and Christopher Bell (2017). This weekend will mark the last time Gragson has a shot at bringing KBM a title, as the youngster will be competing fulltime in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2019 with the No. 1 Chevrolet team for JR Motorsports, replacing veteran driver Elliott Sadler.

Justin Haley (No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet)
As the youngest driver competing in the Championship 4, Justin Haley, 19, has had no problem fitting right in with the others. It's been a whirlwind of a season for the young driver, who scored his first victory this season at Gateway Motorsports Park, which also secured his spot in the Playoffs early on. This is Haley's first appearance in the Playoffs.

From there, Haley just kept getting better. He has had a career-best season with three wins (Gateway, CTMP and Texas), 9 top fives, 17 top 10s and has led a career-high 60 laps. Two of those three wins came during the Playoffs. Haley didn't finish outside of the top 10 in any Playoff races except last weekend at Phoenix where his truck suffered an oil leak.

With 22 starts this season, Haley's average starting position is 10.0 and his average finishing position is 9.0. Haley competed 3,184 laps of the scheduled 3,269.

This season marked Haley's second fulltime season behind the wheel in the Truck Series and fourth year all together. He piloted the Braun Motorsports No. 32 for six races total in 2015 and 2016 before landing a spot with GMS Racing in 2017.

Haley's impressive championship run in the Truck Series earned him the opportunity to run three races for GMS Racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series this year at Iowa, Daytona and Watkins Glen. Haley also has experience in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West and East as well as the ARCA Racing Series.

Playoff Recap: Justin Haley couldn't have asked for a better start to Playoff's Round of 8 when he won the opening race at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park on the final lap to automatically secure his spot in the Round of 6. He started eighth and happened to be in the right place at the right time to avoid a last lap crash and win the race. From there, he finished third in Las Vegas and in fourth at Talladega. Haley's Playoff run didn't stutter in the Round of 6, he finished sixth at Martinsville, and followed that up with his second Playoff win at Texas, to secure his spot in the Championship 4. This marked Haley's first trip to the Championship 4. One could argue with their focus already on Homestead, Haley and team were forced to finish early at Phoenix due to an oil leak (28th-place finish).

Homestead-Miami Outlook: This weekend's race at Homestead-Miami Speedway will be Justin Haley's second start at the 1.5-mile track. His first visit was last season where he started in seventh and finished ninth.

Crew Chief Corner: The 2018 season marks Kevin Bellicourt's third year as a crew chief in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. He has 67 starts with three wins, 14 top fives, 35 top 10s and two poles. In 2016, he was crew chief for Ben Rhodes for the full season. In 2017, he was crew chief for Justin Haley for 20 races, Alex Bowman for one race and Scott Lagasse, Jr. for one race.

This year, it's been a full season of Bellicourt and Haley. All Bellicourt's wins have come from this campaign with Haley, as well as nine of his 14 top fives and 17 of the top 10s.

Bellicourt has tallied most of his experience atop the pit box in the Truck Series but has also been involved with the ARCA Racing Series, K&N Pro Series East and West and two races in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Bellicourt and Haley paired together for some of those other races. The two races in the Xfinity Series were with Haley earlier this year, as well as the one race in ARCA.

Bellicourt's two races in the K&N Pro Series West were with William Byron in 2015. His K&N Pro Series East experience began in 2012 with Austin Hill and Harrison Rhodes and then in 2015, he was crew chief for Byron for 14 races.

Bellicourt's first and only run thus far at Homestead-Miami Speedway was in 2016 with Ben Rhodes. The pair started in 11th but finished 20th.

Team Talk: GMS Racing began its NACAR Camping World Truck Series program in 2014 and since has produced 23 series wins, 85 top fives, 174 top 10s, 10 poles and one driver championship (2016). This season marks the third consecutive season GMS Racing has fielded drivers in the Championship 4 - (2016: Johnny Sauter, 2017: Johnny Sauter and 2018 Justin Haley and Johnny Sauter).

Brett Moffitt (No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota)
Brett Moffitt took the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series by storm in 2018, winning five times (Atlanta, Iowa, Chicagoland, Michigan, Phoenix) with 12 top-five finishes in his first fulltime season in the series. Plus, this is Moffitt's first Playoff run and the first for Hattori Racing Enterprises.

Moffitt, who has experience in all three NASCAR national series, showed the most success of his career this season. In 22 starts, 3,214 of 3,269 laps completed and 210 laps led, he has posted an average start of 12.0 and average finish of 9.3. Moffitt finished every race of the season except for the series opener at Daytona where he crashed on lap 72.

This team has fought through adversity the entire season, sometimes not knowing if they would be able to make it to the racetrack over the weekend due to sponsorship struggles. But they were always able to make the best of it with last lap finishes for the win.

Thus far in the 2018 Playoffs, Moffitt has four top-five finishes and started in the top 10 every race except at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park and Martinsville, where he came from the back to finish second and third, respectively.

Playoff Recap: Brett Moffitt opened the 2018 Playoffs with a third-place finish at the Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, his first visit to the track. He went onto Las Vegas and finished just outside of the top 10 in 11th and then finished the Round of at Talladega Superspeedway starting eighth and finishing in 17th. Moffitt's Playoff luck started to change in the Round of 6, he second at Martinsville and then third at Texas Motor Speedway. But put the exclamation point on his run to the Championship 4 with a big win last weekend at ISM Raceway to click his ticket to the final four in Miami.

Homestead-Miami Outlook: Brett Moffitt has never run a race in his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career at Homestead-Miami Speedway. However, looking back on Moffitt's past performances at 1.5-mile tracks this year he has wins at Chicagoland and Atlanta. Moffitt has run at Homestead in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series back in 2014, finishing 36th and in 2015 finished 31st.

Crew Chief Corner: Scott Zipadelli, crew chief for the No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota with driver Brett Moffitt has seen a lot of success in his career as a crew chief. But, most of that success has come with Moffitt as his driver. He has experience in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Series. In total Zipadelli has nine NASCAR national series wins six in the Truck Series and three in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Zipadelli spent nine years as a crew chief in the NASCAR Xfinity Series where he had 267 starts, three wins (2010, 2014), 34 top fives, 89 top 10s and two poles. He was crew chief for NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Justin Allgaier in 2013 and for Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Larson in 2014, when he got two wins. During his short time in the K&N Pro Series East for one race in 2017 and one race in 2018, he got his first win with Moffitt at Watkins Glen International in August.

Zipadelli's four years as a crew chief in the Truck Series he has led drivers in 90 starts, six wins, 29 top fives, 43 top 10s, three poles and 336 laps led. He has been to Homestead three times in his career and has two top fives and two top 10s.

Team Talk: Hattori Racing Enterprises started their NASCAR Camping World Truck Series program in 2013, with one race run by Brett Moffitt. In 2015, Ross Kenseth ran for Hattori for one race and in 2016, Jesse Little ran two races for the team. In 2016 and 2017, Ryan Truex ran 38 total races for Hattori Racing and had nine top-five finishes, 17 top 10s and two poles. The team finished a career best ninth in the Truck Series championship standings last season. However, 2018 is the first time that the team has been in the Playoffs and in the Championship 4. In total, Hattori Racing has 64 starts in the Truck Series, five wins (all from this season), 21 top fives, 29 top 10s and two poles.

Johnny Sauter (No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet)
It wouldn't be the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs if we didn't have Johnny Sauter in the Championship 4, would it?

The 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion is back to take his crown. This is Sauter's third trip to the Playoffs in its current format and he has been in the Championship 4 every one of those trips, winning it all in 2016.

This is Sauter's 15th year competing in the Camping World Truck Series and his 10th as a full-timer. He has 243 total starts, 23 wins, 102 top fives, 157 top 10s and seven poles. He has led 2,447 laps and has an average start of 9.8 and average finish of 9.6.

Sauter also passed Todd Bodine this season to put himself on the list of top five all-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series winners with 23.

In 2016, Sauter's first trip to the Playoffs and the Championship 4, he had three wins, 12 top-five finishes, 19 top 10s and one pole. He won the season opener at Daytona International Speedway to secure his spot in the Playoffs and then went on to win back-to-back Playoff races at Martinsville and Texas before winning the championship.

Last year, Sauter had four wins with 13 top fives, 19 top 10s and led 455 laps. Sauter won at Dover to secure his spot in the Playoffs and then went on to win at Chicagoland in the regular season. In the Playoffs, Sauter won at Texas and Phoenix before finishing second in the standings when Christopher Bell took home the championship.

If Sauter wins the championship this year, he will join Ron Hornaday Jr., Jack Sprague and Matt Crafton as multi-championship winners in the series.

It appears that Sauter just gets better with time as he accomplished a career-best six wins this season along with 14 top fives, 17 top 10s and one pole. He also led a career-best 585 laps so far. The winning began in the season-opener at Daytona where Sauter started in the front row and ended up winning the race after leading 39 laps. And, as a reminder, the last time Sauter won the season-opener and went to the Championship 4, he won the title. From there, he just kept winning. He won at Dover after starting from second place and won at Charlotte Motor Speedway starting from the pole. Immediately after, he won at Texas to give himself back-to-back victories. He then went on to win at Bristol starting from the fourth position, also where he was crowned the regular season champion.

Playoff Recap: GMS Racing's Johnny Sauter kicked off the postseason's Round of 8 at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park with a sixth-place finish. Then at Las Vegas, he started sixth and finished runner-up and then barely scraped by into the next round with a 22nd-place finish at Talladega. Sauter's championship run got back on track at Martinsville after starting eighth and racing his way to the win securing his spot in Miami. He closed out the Round of 6 with an 11th at Texas and a seventh at ISM Raceway last weekend.

Homestead-Miami Outlook: Johnny Sauter is the only Playoff driver with some veteran experience at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He has made series 11 starts at the 1.5-mile speedway producing one win (2011), four top fives, and eight top 10s. He has also led 64 laps Homestead and has an average finish of 10.1.

His first run at the South Florida track was in 2003. From 2009-2017, Sauter has run at Homestead every season. His past two appearances resulted in third-place finishes (2016, 2017).

Sauter's first and only win at the 1.5-mile track was in 2011 for Curb Racing, when he started fifth. If Sauter win at Homestead, he will join Kyle Busch as the only two active drivers to have ever won multiple times at the track.

Crew Chief Corner: Joe Shear, Jr. is a very experienced and knowledgeable NASCAR Camping World Truck Series crew chief and he has been with Johnny Sauter for the past three years. Shear, Jr. also worked with Sauter earlier in his career from 2004 to 2013.

The two of them have seen a lot of success together with 20 wins, 78 top fives and 106 top 10s and let's not forget the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver championship.

Shear, Jr. has been a crew chief in the Truck Series for 14 years. Of those 14 years, 10 of them were spent with Sauter either part time or fulltime. This season, Shear, Jr. has 22 starts with six wins, 14 top fives, 17 top 10s and one pole.

Aside from Shear, Jr.'s Truck Series crew chief career, he was also atop the pit box in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series for a brief 10 races with Sauter and Michael Waltrip in 2005 and 2006. In the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Shear, Jr. was a crew chief for five years (1995, 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006) accumulating 96 starts, one win, two top fives, 13 top 10s and one pole. The one win, two top fives, five of the top 10s and the pole were all with Sauter in 2005. Shear, Jr. was also crew chief in 2009 for three races in the K&N Pro Series East and West with driver Brian Ickler where he saw one win, two top fives and two top 10s.

In the Camping World Truck Series, Shear, Jr. has been to Homestead-Miami Speedway eight times. Six of those times were with Sauter (2009-2017). This weekend will mark his seventh start at the track. He has one win, four top fives, seven top 10s and an average finish of 8.4. In 2011, Shear, Jr. won at Homestead with Sauter starting from fifth.

Team Talk: GMS Racing began its NACAR Camping World Truck Series program in 2014 and since has produced 23 series wins, 85 top fives, 174 top 10s, 10 poles and one driver championship (2016). This season marks the third consecutive season GMS Racing has fielded drivers in the Championship 4 - (2016: Johnny Sauter, 2017: Johnny Sauter and 2018 Justin Haley and Johnny Sauter).

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.
Don't Forget About Gilliland: Todd Gilliland's rookie season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has been an impressive one, for sure. The newly 18-year-old has 18 starts this season with four top fives, nine top 10s and one pole. Gilliland came close to getting his first win multiple times this season but suffered heartbreak in each of them due to outstanding issues like running out of fuel. He led a career-best 208 laps this season and has an average start of 6.5 and finish of 12.4. Although he is not in the Playoffs, Gilliland has been a true contender on the track and should only get better next season.

Owners' Championship 4 Battle: For the second straight season the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will see a unified driver and owner championship this weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway. All four team that have qualified for the driver Championship 4 are also the same teams entered in the owner standings Championship 4 and as a result the highest finishing team of the four this weekend will take home the title. The four trucks to watch for are GMS Racing's No. 21 Chevrolet truck led by crew chief Joe Shear Jr. and driven by Johnny Sauter and the No. 24 Chevrolet team led by crew chief Kevin Bellicourt and driven by Justin Haley; plus, Kyle Busch Motorsport's No. 18 Toyota team led by Ryan Fugle and driven by Noah Gragson and last but not least Hattori Racing's No. 16 Toyota team led by crew chief Scott Zipadelli and driven by Brett Moffit.

Manufacturer Championship: Toyota has dominated the manufacturer's championship for the Truck Series with 10 wins. Five of those wins were in the last five years. If a Toyota were to win again this year, it would be the most consecutive championship wins by a manufacturer in history. However, Chevrolet is currently leading the standings with 11 wins and 814 points. Toyota is behind 32-points with eight wins and Ford is in third place 73-points behind with three wins.

--- NASCAR ---