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Trucks

Todd Gilliland Looking at “Couple Different Things” for 2020

With Kyle Busch Motorsports finalizing their pair of full-time entries for 2020, it gave confirmation that Todd Gilliland will not return to the organization for another season.

The second generation racer alluded to this fact last weekend at ISM Raceway when discussing his future plans. 

“We have a couple different things,” he said at ISM Raceway. “We’re hoping to have things locked down pretty soon to be able to announce. Right now we’re just staying focused on what’s in front of us. We’ll take it one week at a time and be the best race car driver I can be.”

Gilliland has not performed as well as he has hoped this year driving in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series, failing to make the playoffs with just six top-five’s and 13 top-10’s in 22 races. 

However, there has been recent success as he was able to score his first career series victory at Martinsville Speedway a couple weeks ago. He admits feeling relief right upon crossing the finish line. 

“Afterwards you just feel like you belong,” he adds. “It’s something I was really lucky to be able to do was win early in the ARCA Series in my first race and then my first race here at Phoenix in the K&N Series, just makes things so much easier. Puts you in the talks every single week. Just being a winner in every series makes things easier.”

Following a championship in the K&N Pro Series, it’s easy to understand that he felt this season would have gone much better right from the start.

“Still to this day, I don’t feel like it should have been this hard,” he commented. “Even from the beginning of my truck races, I ran almost better than I had been. I started out running pretty competitive and then went downhill slowly. I really don’t know. Communication, people and obviously KBM has really great people. Me and Marcus (Richmond, crew chief) really didn’t gel together. Communication is key in every business.”

The lack of success earlier this year brought forth many critics, including Kyle Busch making comments to the media about Gilliland’s lack of success. After all, Christopher Bell and Erik Jones were both able to win titles quickly in his equipment with Busch winning all five races he entered.

Everything came to a head when Gilliland shouted over the radio upon crossing the finish line that, “Kyle Busch should stay in the f***ing motorhome.” The young driver has since apologized to his team owner for the comments, saying that they talked on the phone middle of the week and got “everything smoothed out.” 

“I feel like obviously he wasn’t happy,” Gilliland said. “I wouldn’t be either, but at the same time a part of him understood just the frustration and I’m sure he didn’t want me to be back here, but luckily we talked things out and I’m happy to still be in this No. 4 JBL Toyota Tundra.”

As the options are considered for 2020, one option that stands out would be having Gilliland driving for his father David Gilliland‘s team. 

“I wouldn’t even really call it falling back on, I think it’s always a good option,” Todd Gilliland said. “He’s always been there for me and at this point, they’ve built a really good race team. That’s always something to look at, but there’s a bunch of other really great race teams out there. Just always have to keep your options open. Just try to get the best results possible.”

Gilliland could also see his father’s team expanding in the future, knowing that David “would do anything he could get his hands on.”

“He has five trucks here this weekend and a K&N car. That’s literally everyone in the shop,” he commented. “It’s pretty cool to see how fast they are growing, but you also see sometimes that people get ahead of themselves. I’m hoping that’s not the case with them. It’s really cool the people they’ve brought in and brought together to be able to expand and be competitive at this level so far.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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News

Dramatic pass in wild race gives Todd Gilliland first NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series win

MARTINSVILLE, Va. – In an extraordinarily wild NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series race that saw four of six Playoff drivers have major issues, 19-year-old Todd Gilliland muscled his way past Ross Chastain on Lap 191 and held on to win for the first time in 46 career starts.

Just as extraordinarily, a series of wild wrecks that produced 12 cautions for 80 laps did little to affect the Playoff standings, with the Championship 4 drivers still to be settled two weekends hence at ISM Raceway in Phoenix.

After the 11th caution, Gilliland drove underneath Chastain on the restart lap, with Gilliland’s No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota clearing Chastain’s No. 45 Chevrolet for the top spot. Gilliland led the final 11 laps, though the final caution and into an overtime that took the race one circuit past its scheduled distance of 200 laps.

Before reveling in the win, Gilliland had a bittersweet moment because the expected victory in KBM equipment had been such a long time coming.

“I wish we had won two years ago, just like everyone else thought we would,” Gilliland said. “I thought we would, too. We went through some growing pains. (Marcus) Richmond was my crew chief, and we got rid of him, and then he came back and was helping us again. He’s really great here at Martinsville.

“I’m just so proud of these guys. Man, this is a long time coming. Hopefully, this will get some momentum rolling and open up some doors for next year.”

In his post-race press conference, Gilliland acknowledged he had no plans set for the 2020 season.

Chastain, who trailed Gilliland at the finish by .879 seconds, leaves the .526-mile short track third in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series standings, 20 points ahead of fifth-place Matt Crafton, who ran 23rd after stalling out and having to change a battery and computer system 81 laps into the race.

On the final two restart, Chastain had to deal with both Gilliland and his KBM teammate Harrison Burton, who spun on the final lap and finished 18th.

“If I can go head-to-head with that team, I can fight them one at a time, but I can’t take two of them,” Chastain said. “They took turns beating my back bumper off, which is fine. I’m good with it.”

Johnny Sauter ran third, followed by Grant Enfinger and Timmy Hill, who scored his first top five in any of NASCAR’s top three series. Playoff driver Stewart Friesen ran sixth after recovering from a spin off Sauter’s nose on Lap 148.

Series leader and defending champion Brett Moffitt wasn’t as fortunate. His No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet suffered damage in a four-car incident on Lap 115 and retired from the race in 29th place after completing 122 laps.

“We’ll just go on and try to win at Phoenix and Homestead,” said Moffitt, who retained the series lead and holds a 445-point margin over Crafton, with the Playoff field to be trimmed to four drivers at Phoenix.

A nine-truck wreck on Lap 123 KO’d Playoff drivers Tyler Ankrum and Austin Hill, who finished 25th and 26th, respectively. Ankrum goes to Phoenix in sixth place, 15 points below the current cut line for the Championship 4. Hill is fourth in the standings, nine points ahead of Crafton, a two-time series champion.

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News

Todd Gilliland Scores Second Career ARCA Menards Series Win in General Tire 200 at Talladega

Todd Gilliland  (No. 4 Frontline Enterprises Toyota) earned his second career ARCA Menards Series victory in Friday’s General Tire 200 at Talladega Superspeedway. Gilliland, who is a full-time driver in the NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series for Kyle Busch Motorsports, took the lead after the first caution period of the race on lap 43 and led to the checkered.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Gilliland said. “We won in our first start at Toledo in 2015 and it seems like we’ve been so close every time we’ve raced in ARCA since then but something would jump up and keep us out of victory lane. We were finally able to get the weight off our shoulders here today. It’s a huge relief and I think it’s exactly what I needed to get my confidence up over on the Truck side too.”

Gilliland held off a last lap charge from second-place finisher Riley Herbst (No. 18 Monster Energy/ORCA Coolers/Terrible Herbst/Advance Auto Parts Toyota) and third-place finisher Brandon Lynn (No. 20 Carolina Excavation & Grading Toyota). Herbst, in just his second ARCA Menards Series start of the season, was not satisfied with second.

“We came here to win so second stinks,” Herbst said with a chuckle afterwards. “We’ve had a pretty rough couple of weeks so this is a great come back. I wanted to get aggressive on the last lap but we have to look at the big picture too. We’re sharing the car this year with Ty Gibbs and he’s had a couple of really good weeks in a row so we want to keep him up in the owner’s points. I might have been able to make a move but I didn’t want to get shuffled out and give away all those points so they asked me to keep it down on the yellow line and that’s what we did.”

Lynn, who started from the General Tire Pole for the first time in his career, was in the same boat.

“The 20 car is leading the owners points so I didn’t want to do something stupid and cost them a ton of points,” he said. “On the last lap Michael (Self, No. 25 Sinclair Lubricants Toyota) had a head of steam and if I jumped up in front of him it could have been a huge mess. I don’t get a chance to run the ARCA Menards Series very often so it’s great to come out of here with another good finish.”

For Gilliland’s father David, himself a former driver and co-owner of the car his son drove to victory, it was an emotional evening watching the third generation of his family win on one of the sport’s biggest stages.

“I have been around a long time and I’ve done some things right and I’ve made a lot of mistakes,” the elder Gilliland said. “But this is special. After the year he’s had, with all of the ups and downs, it’s great for him to come here and get a win like this. I had some really good runs here and finished second behind my teammate here one time. But watching this was better. Todd is a fighter. He’s a winner. He never gives up and I think this will be the boost he needs for the rest of the year.”

Outside front row starter Ty Majeski (No. 22 Chad Bryant Racing Ford) finished fourth, while Michael Self finished fifth.

Self unofficially assumes the series championship lead by five points over Travis Braden (No. 27 MatrixCare/Consonus Health Care/Liberty Village Ford), who finished in seventh.

The race was slowed just twice by caution flags, the first at lap 41 for an incident involving Thad Moffitt (No. 46 Transportation Impact Chevrolet) and Christian Eckes (No. 15 JBL Audio Toyota) and the second for a hard crash by Tommy Vigh, Jr. (No. 10 Extreme Kleaner/Menards Toyota) at lap 51. A total of 15 laps were run under the caution, holding the average speed to 141.398 miles per hour. Gilliland’s margin of victory at the stripe was 0.149 seconds.

Gus Dean (No. 32 Baker Distributing Chevrolet), Sean Corr (No. 43 The Trans Group/NESCO Chevrolet) and Joe Graf Jr. (No. 77 EAT SLEEP RACE Ford) also led laps throughout the race. Corr led the most laps of the evening, topping the field for 35 circuits and earning the Richmond Water Heaters Halfway Challenge Award.

The next race for the ARCA Menards Series is the General Tire Music City 200 presented by Inspectra Thermal Solutions at Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville on Saturday, May 4. Practice is scheduled for 2:15 pm ET/1:15 pm CT, General Tire Pole Qualifying will follow at 5:15 pm ET/4;15 pm CT, and the green flag will fly on the 200 lap main event at 9 pm ET/8 pm CT. The race will be televised live on MAVTV. ARCA for Me members can access live timing & scoring, live track updates, and live chat for free at ARCARacing.com. New users can register for free with a valid email address at ARCARacing.com/login.

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Trucks

OBSERVATIONS: Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

Although the racing was a little more spread out than you’d expect for the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series, the same result was seen when the checkered flag was flown in the Strat 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Everybody knows the joy that Kyle Busch gets from winning, and the disappointment he feels with defeat – just look at the frustration in several interviews over the years. So it’s no surprise to see him with a big smile in his face as he celebrated with his own team.

While it’s fun to pad his record book with a career 53rd career victory, there’s actually a method to the madness.

Rudy Fugle told Fox Sports 1 that putting Busch behind the wheel of his own trucks is all about improving them to the program stronger so their young drivers can contend for victories and the championship, making reference to Christian Eckes jumping behind the wheel later this year. While many believe they are where they should be, Fugle reference more work needing to be done to get there. The victory was nice, but Busch fought a tight truck through the night and the team was unable to win the title last year with Noah Gragson.

It goes back to last week, and the expectations that Busch has for the program. When he places a driver in the truck, he expects them to perform. Otherwise, there’s a good chance you may be replaced by the next person in line for the job. Just look at what he said in reference to Todd Gilliland last week.

“Todd (Gilliland) we certainly have to work with him and continue to bring him up and get him filled in on what it takes to be fast at these places,” Busch said. “We’ll hopefully be able to get him places because you know his career is on the line. You don’t get very many chances at this and I’m sure that we’ll hopefully be able to get him going better. He should have run two races last year, no question about it, but obviously it just didn’t happen. He’s got to show up this year and make it happen.

“There were times last year where Todd wrecked every week and we were like dude you got to just slow down, you’ve got to figure out how to finish. To finish first, first you must finish, right?”

Some people may say it is cruel and certainly Busch was criticized for his comments, but it is the nature of business. Sponsors are only going to pay for those who succeed and money is necessary to pay the bills and perform. 

Thus far, both Harrison Burton and Gilliland have scored top-10’s in the last two races, with Burton running as high as second in the late stages last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Though when the action picks back up for the series at Martinsville Speedway, those aren’t the results that KBM is looking for, but rather checkered flags.

Late race heartbreak could be used to describe the nights for small fries Ross Chastain and Jordan Anderson. Both of them were set for respectable finishes given the equipment they were running until running into mechanical issues late. As a result, Chastain failed to finish in the top-10 for the first time this year, while Anderson placed 21st.

Anderson spoke highly of his program entering the year, banking on experience and the alliance with GMS Racing to bring him further up the grid to a solid top-20, possible top-10 performer. He was able to finish 19th at Atlanta last weekend after getting crashed out at Daytona. 

If you’re looking for an underdog to follow this year, the No. 3 Chevrolet Silverado is exactly that as Anderson is impressing as he enters his second season of doing things on his own, and slowly building his team. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Home Tracks

OBSERVATIONS: Lucas Oil 200 at Daytona International Speedway

The first race of Daytona Speedweeks is officially in the books, and you could say it went as typically as you would predict.

The ARCA Menards Series event at Daytona has been about watching the future stars of NASCAR get behind the wheel of top-notch equipment, and show their experience. Ideally, it gets those entered in the NASCAR Gander Outdoor Truck Series event some extra seat time. They certainly proved their worth on Saturday, with several at the top of the running order.

With a mix of different experience levels thrown together, restrictor plate races for ARCA can either be really exciting, or just plain out boring. Last year’s Lucas Oil 200 featured five straight green-white-checkered restarts due to ARCA’s “no race ends under the yellow flag rule,” prompting a rule change to have only one attempt for 2019 restrictor plate events.  On the flip side, the Talladega race saw them simply cruise to the finish.

As the laps began to trickle down in the Lucas Oil 200, it appeared as though we were going to watch them cruise single-file to the checkered flag as the top-seven rode in line together. With many lacking experience on the superspeedways, combined with drivers just wanting to come out with a car in one piece, you don’t see the big moves like we’ve become used to in other series.

However, an incident further back changed the complexion with a late-race caution.

While Harrison Burton controlled the restart ahead of Christian Eckes, it was Todd Gilliland making the move with Brandon McReynolds. Using his experience in bump drafting, Gilliland was set to push McReynolds up the high line to the front and challenge for the win. It would’ve been interesting to see whether the charge actually worked out, and the high line was viable. However, instead, a bump the wrong way and McReynolds went spinning across the backstretch. As we said – inexperience vs. experience; this was a lesson of how to make sure bumpers are aligned when drafting.

Placing both Burton and Gilliland on the bottom together for the restart was all she wrote, as Gilliland easily pushed Burton out and away from the other challengers. Although a charge was mounted coming off turn four by Gilliland, it proved to not be enough to power by Burton.

Beginning Friday, Burton and Gilliland will begin their full truck series campaign as teammates for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Earning experience with their first laps on the 2.5-mile oval, it should help boost confidence for them to hang with series veterans.

Although the Lucas Oil 150 may not have started off in the most exciting fashion for ARCA, it shouldn’t diminish the future for the series this year. With a couple new tracks to their already diverse schedule, combined with a variety of talent, it’s going to be another great year of competition.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Trucks

TRACKING THE CHANGES: Gander Outdoor Truck Series Silly Season Part 2

From one season to the next, NASCAR is never short of changes as there are always drivers in new rides entering another year of NASCAR competition. The Truck Series is also seeing a change of their own, with the new identity as it will be known as the Gander Outdoor Truck Series, rather than the Camping World Truck Series. 

Earlier this month, POPULAR SPEED released the first edition of Tracking the Changes for the Truck Series Silly Season, detailing the moves for several different drivers across the grid. Since then, there’s been more announcements made. So let’s review where things stand as of January 28, 2019.

NKP

Although Ross Chastain lost his opportunity in the NASCAR XFINITY Series with Chip Ganassi Racing, he will be behind the wheel in 2019. He will be sharing the Niece Motorsports entry with Reid Wilson, with Phil Gould calling the shots on the pit box.

Chastain became a hot topic for Silly Season after visiting victory lane in NASCAR’s second-tier division for Chip Ganassi Racing, and was initially announced to drive the team’s entry full-time in 2019. However, it was announced  that CGR will be shutting down their team due to a lack of funding. The news came following sponsor DC Solar’s offices were raided by the FBI. 

SEE ALSO: Tracking the Changes – XFINITY Series Edition

Meanwhile, Wilson made three starts in the truck series last season, scoring a best finish of 16th at Martinsville Speedway.

Russel LaBounty | NKP

Young’s Motorsports continues expanding their program, announcing that Tyler Dippel will be driving for them full-time in 2019. He placed second in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East standings last year, on top of making five truck series starts with a season-best 13th at Eldora Speedway.

Recall, that will give Young’s Motorsports three trucks full-time in 2019 as they already announced Spencer Boyd and Gus Dean as part of their team.

NIGEL KINRADE NKP

To nobody’s surprise, Todd Gilliland will return to Kyle Busch Motorsports to chase after the championship. Gilliland had a successful rookie campaign in 2018, scoring four top-five’s and 19 top-10’s. 

Gillliland will have a strong teammate in Harrison Burton, who takes over the No. 18 ride full-time that was driven by Noah Gragson, as Gragson moves up to the XFINITY Series with JR Motorsports. 

Barry Cantrell NKP

JJL Motorsports will continue their venture in the truck series, with Jesse Little set to run up to 15 races depending on sponsorship. The team will have a slightly new look, though, in the form of a new crew chief and new personnel. JR Norris has joined the team as crew chief of the team’s No. 97 Ford F150’s this year. Jamie Smith and Josh Frankos also join the team in a truck chief and Lead Mechanic role and will work side-by-side with Norris.

Little was known as the man with the small team that could after scoring six top-10’s in nine races last year. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Trucks

OBSERVATIONS: JAG Metals 350 at Texas Motor Speedway

While the focus may have been on the six drivers that are in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs, this race will be remembered for another reason.

Justin Haley got to reap the rewards of a well-earned win in victory lane, celebrating after running up front all night and making the last lap pass on Todd Gilliland for the win. Ultimately, it puts the championship in GMS Racing’s favor with both of their eligible drivers locked in to the Championship 4. The battle of youth vs. experience is a story in itself.

The night, though, appeared to be set to belong to Gilliland in the form of his first series victory, after he took the lead following the last round of pit stops. However, everything fell apart when his No. 4 Toyota sputtered on the last lap, out of fuel. It’d be understandable to see a team run out of gas if you’re pitting early in a cycle, and trying to conserve enough at the end. However, instead, this was a case of a splash and go being performed too quickly. A couple extra seconds on pit road, and the tables would have turned in his favor.

The last time Gilliland found himself in the lead late in the event was at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, when contact with his teammate Noah Gragson took him out of contention. Who took advantage on that race day? Haley, once again.

Stewart Friesen also had a chance to win the event, as he initially took the top spot with 39 laps to go before the pit cycle began. However, a pit road speeding penalty set him back, resulting in an eighth-place finish. 

Although a lot of “What ifs?” can be asked about this event in conclusion, the racing was solid on-track. There were battles for position throughout the event, sometimes three-wide down the backstretch as drivers looked for a lane to get by their competitor. 

A solid day by Brett Moffitt, combined with Gragson rebounding after stage two contact for a top-10, now have both drivers sitting pretty, 18 points above the cut-off line. Grant Enfinger and Matt Crafton will need to make something happen at ISM Raceway to keep their playoff hopes alive.

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Trucks

OBSERVATIONS: Chevrolet Silverado 250

Canadian Tire Motorsports Park has produced a thrilling finish each season, and the 2018 edition of the Chevrolet Silverado 250 was no different with a pair of Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates clashing.

It will debated for the weeks to come until the next NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway as to whom is at fault for the contact. Did Noah Gragson dive in a hole that wasn’t there? Did Todd Gilliland throw a block on his teammate? Regardless, though, the outcome is the same and that falls on the shoulders of Gragson.

Gragson is one of the eight drivers in the playoffs this season, and just cost himself seven points falling from second to ninth with the spin. If he misses the Round of 6 by that margin, he will look back on this day with regret. Sure, it’s win and you’re win to the next round, but being smart and scoring as many points as possible is just as important to move forward. He had already gotten 20 points via winning stages, and running ahead of all his playoff contenders would have lent him a nice gap moving to the next two races. 

Furthermore, it’s one thing to get into a fellow driver, but it’s another to get into a fellow teammate. The other competitor you can just avoid and apologize without much fault, but now you have to face Gilliland on Monday at the shop, along with the crew members from both teams. Everybody on both teams poured everything into preparing two fast Toyota Tundras as they were clearly the class of the field, to see all of their hard work go up in flames in a split second.

Should we also mention that their third teammate Harrison Burton spun in the chaos as well? Oh to be a fly on the wall for the competition meeting in hearing what Kyle Busch has to say. 

The real winner out of this deal is Justin Haley, as he scored the victory to lock himself into the next round of the playoffs. Not originally discussed with the likes of Gragson, Johnny Sauter and Brett Moffitt as someone likely to move forward, he will be able to breath easy going into the next two races. That’s really important when you consider Talladega Superspeedway is one of those. With no finishes outside of the top-10 including a pair of wins in the late eight races, you may want to keep a closer watch on the driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet Silverado.

Outside of the debatable last-lap maneuver, the racing was great as always on the road course with battles for position throughout the day, which NASCAR on FOX did the duty of showing correctly. Who knew you could go three-wide down the frontstretch, eh? 

That said, it is worth admitting that there were times the production of the event could be less than desired. Who goes to commercial when there’s six laps to go under green flag conditions?

Okay, so maybe we can let that incident go as technical glitches are bound to happen here and there. But it’s hard to do so when they were other problems during the broadcast, like way too many commercial breaks and failing to come back in time to catch a late-race restart. Normally NASCAR on FOX does a good job at producing the truck races, so hopefully this is fixed for the final stretch.

The other side is thanks to NASCAR.com for airing a live stream of the event via their website for Canadians who may not get Fox Sports 1. With only a few cable providers carrying the specialty channel under the name FOX Sports Racing, the majority of fans often get left out north of the border in seeing some of the best action in NASCAR. Often, they have to illegally stream the event.

Hopefully seeing the numbers from the event will finally encourage TSN to carry all three of NASCAR’s premiere series, and not just the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR XFINITY Series alongside the NASCAR Pinty’s Series. That, or maybe we can get the rest of the cable providers to jump on-board in carrying the channel. Comwave, you’re next!

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Trucks

OBSERVATIONS: UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway

In previous years, the UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway was a must-see attraction for fans. Now, though, it seems that the half-mile has lost it’s sparkle. In all honesty, Thursday night’s race was just average.

The first two stages of the event left you looking for some action, waiting to see battles for position, but instead stuck sitting on the edge of your seat hoping the second groove came in so it would happen. All in the process, you had John Hunter Nemechek cruising away from the field which does nothing to add to the event.

The second half of the race, though, gave you something to chomp on when the leaders got hung up in lap traffic, having to dodge left and right at times to figure out the best way through. Combine with Nemechek’s late motor issues, along with a late-charge from Stewart Frisen, and this event will probably stick around in your memory longer than it should’ve based on the beginning.

While you may question where Bristol’s magic was lost – and how much you want to scream about the reconfiguration that took place a couple years ago still, there’s is no denying Johnny Sauter‘s form right now. He drove a flawless race, and took advantage of Nemechek’s slip-up at the right time. Combined with four victories before this week, and he has to be entering the playoffs as the favorite. If he can survive the wild car first round – which he admits being afraid about, then it may be GMS Racing celebrating at year-end once again.

Nemechek should also snag a win before this year is over, too. This marks the second time this season a late-race mechanical failure has lost him the event. Anybody recall Chicagoland Speedway when he dominated until the last lap and lost to Brett Moffitt?

Frisen is also knocking on the door of that win, almost kicking it open as he was chasing Sauter down at the end and maybe five more laps you would’vs seen a different winner. It’s been a common sight as he has finished second three times this year now.

Shout-out to Todd Gilliland for the late charge through the field to finish fifth after a mid-race spin. Just imagine if he hadn’t made that mistake. We may have seen his first career win, and watched Matt Crafton miss the playoffs. 

After left with the feeling of being let down, there’s hope going into the first round of the playoffs. Canadian Tire Motorsports Park has become the home of dramatics since joining the schedule, Las Vegas Motor Speedway produced a memorable event in the spring, and Talladega Superspeedway is always unpredictable. 

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

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Trucks

Playoff Picture – Camping World Truck Series

When the checkered flag flies at the end of Thursday’s Camping World Truck Series UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway, it will mark the beginning of the playoffs. However, the regular season isn’t over yet, with a lot of drivers still having a lot to fight for.

Johnny Sauter

Sauter currently owns a 56-point advantage over Noah Gragson, meaning he is your 2018 regular season champion. That will translate into an additional 15 playoff points, boasting another department where the veteran already leads.

Nonetheless, a victory, or at the very least a stage win would be still significant for the No. 23 team as it would give them even more of an edge.

Noah Gragson

As noted above, Gragson cannot take the points lead from Sauter. So with one championship out of the picture, and only one win and 12 playoff points,increasing those numbers would help his chances at a different title.

Brett Moffitt 

Hot off a win, a repeat performance could allow him to enter the playoffs with the most playoff points. Other than that, Moffitt sits pretty heading into this week.

Justin Haley, Ben Rhodes

Haley and Rhodes are both locked in virtue of wins and have nothing to lose. For the two young drivers, Thursday should be all about winning stages and the race.

Grant Enfinger, Stewart Friesen

Both own a significant points advantage over Matt Crafton and zero wins. While Friesen (+39 over Crafton) doesn’t hold quite the safety net Enfinger does (+53), it would still take a lot to put him in any danger of missing the post-season. Their biggest concern should be getting their first win of 2018. 

Matt Crafton

Out of the top-eight drivers, Crafton is in the most danger. Fortunately for the two-time champion, no one outside the cutoff can pass him in points. The only thing that would kick him out would be a new winner (excluding Friesen and Enfinger).

Also worth noting, the 42-year-old has never won a race at Bristol.

Spoilers

So, who could knock out Crafton? The obvious would be Todd Gilliland.

While Gilliland has yet to be victorious, he drives for one of the best teams in the sport, Kyle Busch Motorsports. His team has also been heading in the right direction, with four finishes of seventh or better in the last six races.

His last visit to the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” also resulted in a K&N Pro Series East win earlier this year.

Other possibilities?

A look into Bristol history shows that last first-time winner came in 2016 when Ben Kennedy won with GMS Racing, a team that has been one of the best this season. An organization that also has two drivers, Cody Coughlin and Dalton Sargeant, looking for their first wins.

EMAIL MITCHELL AT mitchell.breuer@popularspeed.com

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