Even with an influx of young guns dominating the Camping World Truck Series Chase Grid, three mainstays prepare to battle for the championship title.
An exciting CWTS event at Chicagoland Speedway ended with Johnny Sauter and Timothy Peters finishing within the top 10, while an early accident relegated Matt Crafton to 27th. However, none of that matters now as all three prepare to chase the series title. NASCAR arranged the Chase field by wins, placing Crafton in second. Sauter earned a fifth-place seeding, while Peters starts the championship battle in eighth.
Experience is critical in racing, and these three have it; the trio holds 36 full-time CWTS season between them, with 34 victories as added bonuses. Their stats impress, but it will take more to overthrow the youngsters; with their independent organizations and advanced age, these three are suddenly the underdogs.
The Chase format – and tracks within that format –favor young drivers; New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, and Martinsville Speedway require aggressive racing, something this young crop does very well. William Byron and Christopher Bell‘s driving styles are nearly identical to team owner Kyle Busch’s. John Hunter Nemechek is kind of tough, too – ask Cole Custer for some clarification. They are all willing to take necessary risks and put their trucks where the veterans wouldn’t dare.
Although that is true, the three elder statesmen are some of the toughest in NASCAR competition. You won’t see Sauter ease up for a competitor, whether it be the second lap or the 202nd. Crafton and Peters aren’t complacent, either. With their extensive résumés comes a low tolerance for uncalculated moves. Their equipment may not include Sprint Cup Series-affiliated engines, yet they still compete for victories on a regular basis. That shows not only their teams’ strength but also the individual drivers’ ability to wheel their truck through the field.
Battling older drivers sounds easy – until you realize they’re all tough as nails and will probably put you in the wall for the win. That will most likely happen on more than one occasion during the final seven races; victories are crucial to advancing in this championship format and offer a sense of security. Talladega and Martinsville could quickly derail someone’s title run with their unpredictable nature. Good thing Crafton, Sauter, and Peters run well at these venues. The No. 88 can find victory lane at Martinsville or Texas Motor Speedway. Sauter mirrors the same strengths. Peters is a force everywhere, but Talladega is circled on his calendar. Add in the fact he hasn’t won in 2016, and you have a driver with a gnawing hunger. The most foreboding tracks are where these three flourish – and that helps their Chase chances.
Crafton, Sauter, and Peters represent the older, independent crowd; ThorSport Racing, GMS Racing, and Red Horse Racing lack Cup Series ties, a rarity in the championship field. Their Chase presence is noteworthy, yes, but can it be fruitful with a bunch of college-aged kids breathing down their necks? The young crowd’s aggression combats the veterans’ experience, but the No. 88, No. 21, and No. 17 will rise to the front in no time. They can be just as fierce and hungry for wins.
Although it may be easy to pick a young gun for the championship, there’s no question that Crafton, Sauter, and Peters won’t make it easy for him.
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