Playoff Pressure Cooker: Talladega Superspeedway to help decide Championship 4

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Just when the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff teams thought is couldn’t get any wilder or more unpredictable, they now must contend with the 2.66-mile behemoth that is Talladega Superspeedway in the Chevrolet Silverado 250 (1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) leading off a NASCAR doubleheader Saturday with the NASCAR Xfinity Series race the Sparks 300 at Talladega (4:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) following. 

Last weekend, ThorSport Racing put on a clinic taking the top four spots at Las Vegas Motor Speedway led by first-time winner Christian Eckes. It was the second consecutive race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series with a first-time winner (Chandler Smith won at Bristol two weeks ago). With Eckes taking the checkered flag at Las Vegas none of the eight Playoff driver secured their spot in the Championship 4 Round. The highest finishing Playoff driver at Las Vegas last weekend was Eckes’ ThorSport teammate Ben Rhodes, who finished runner-up. 

Talladega Superspeedway has participated in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs since its inception into the series in 2016. The 2021 season marks the first time Talladega has hosed the fifth race in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs and becomes the third different track to occupy the spot; joining Texas Motor Speedway (2016-2018, 2020) and Martinsville Speedway (2019). This is the third different spot on the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs schedule Talladega Superspeedway has resided; from 2016-2018 and in 2020 the track hosted the third race of the postseason – the elimination race of the first round – then in 2019 Talladega hosted the fourth race on the Playoff schedule and this season the 2.66-mile track is setting the stage for the fifth race of the Playoffs.

Interestingly, five different drivers have won the five previous NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff races at Talladega Superspeedway and none of them were Playoff drivers at the time of their victories. Will we see a sixth different non-Playoff driver win this weekend at Talladega?

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series – Talladega Superspeedway Playoff Race Winners

TrackRace WinnerOrganizationDate
TalladegaRaphael LessardKyle Busch MotorsportsSaturday, October 3, 2020
TalladegaSpencer BoydYoung’s MotorsportsSaturday, October 12, 2019
TalladegaTimothy PetersGMS RacingSaturday, October 13, 2018
TalladegaParker KligermanHenderson MotorsportsSaturday, October 14, 2017
TalladegaGrant EnfingerGMS RacingSaturday, October 22, 2016

In total, Talladega Superspeedway has hosted 15 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races from 2006 -2020. The first series race at Talladega was held on October 7, 2006 and was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Mark Martin driving for Roush Fenway Racing. The 15 Camping World Truck races at Talladega have produced 14 different pole winners and 10 different race winners. Timothy Peters leads the series in wins at Talladega with three victories (2014, 2015, 2018). The most recent winner is Raphael Lessard (2020), but he is not entered for Saturday’s event.

Four of the 10 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Talladega winners are active this weekend, led by Parker Kligerman with two wins (2012, 2017) and followed by Spencer Boyd (2019), Grant Enfinger (2016) and Johnny Sauter (2013) each with one. 

This weekend’s Chevrolet Silverado 250 will be broken up into three stages. The first two stages are 20 laps each and the final stage is 54 laps. The starting lineup for this weekend’s race was decided by Metric Qualifying and as a result Ben Rhodes will start on the pole and Todd Gilliland will join him on the front row.  

Clinch Scenarios: No one is locked into Championship 4 Round yet

Time is of the essence for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ eight-Playoff challengers with just two races left to decide which four will advance to the next round and have a shot at the title. With Christian Eckes stealing the spotlight last weekend at Las Vegas, none of the Playoff drivers have secured a spot in the Championship 4 Round. 

Already Clinched

No drivers have clinched a spot in the four-driver field of the next round.

Can Clinch Via Points

If there is a repeat winner or a win by a driver who cannot advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being 56 points above the 4th winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from Ben Rhodes, John Hunter Nemechek or Stewart Friesen.

  • Ben Rhodes: Could only clinch with help
  • John Hunter Nemechek: Could only clinch with help
  • Stewart Friesen: Could only clinch with help

If there is a new winner from Matt Crafton or another winless driver lower in the standings but still eligible to advance to the next round, the following drivers could clinch by being 56 points above the 3rd winless driver in the standings.

  • Ben Rhodes: Could only clinch with help
  • John Hunter Nemechek: Could only clinch with help

Can Clinch Via Win

All eight drivers can clinch on their win alone this weekend: Ben Rhodes, John Hunter Nemechek, Stewart Friesen, Matt Crafton, Sheldon Creed, Carson Hocevar, Zane Smith and Chandler Smith. 

Playoff Bubble: Only four contenders can move on

The eight-driver NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff field will be cut to four at the end of this round and the postseason contenders only have two races left to secure their spot in the Championship 4. 

A lot can happen in just two weeks in the Camping World Truck Series Playoffs, just ask GMS Racing’s Sheldon Creed. He entered last weekend’s race at Las Vegas ranked second in the Playoff points with two wins in the opening round, but was caught in an incident and finished 36th at the 1.5-mile track. Now the Californian is ranked fifth in the standings five points back from the Championship 4 Round cutoff.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff Outlook Following Las Vegas Motor Speedway
RankDriverPointsRace WinsStage WinsPlayoff PtsPts From Cutoff
1Ben Rhodes (P)3,070211934
2John H. Nemechek (P)3,0645115028
3Stewart Friesen (P)3,0450019
4Matt Crafton (P)3,0410045
5Sheldon Creed (P)3,0363626-5
6Carson Hocevar # (P)3,025002-16
7Zane Smith (P)3,022039-19
8Chandler Smith # (P)3,017116-24
9Todd Gilliland2,1511415Eliminated From The Playoffs
10Austin Hill2,1272121

Camping World Playoff Contenders at Talladega

Experience is at a premium at Talladega Superspeedway and seven of the eight NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff drivers have five or less starts at the 2.66-mile facility. Veteran Matt Crafton is the lone Playoff contender vying for a spot in the Championship 4 Round with more than five starts at the track. Below is a look at the elite eight trying to earn a spot in the next round.

Ben Rhodes (No. 99 ThorSport Racing Toyota) has made five series starts at Talladega posting one top-five finish. His average finish at the 2.66-mile track is 15.8, and his pre-race driver rating is 81.9. 

John H. Nemechek (No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota) has made five series starts at Talladega posting one top-five finish. His average finish at the 2.66-mile track is 21.1, and his pre-race driver rating is 68.7. 

Stewart Friesen (No. 52 Halmar Friesen Racing Toyota) has made four series starts at Talladega posting one top-five and two top-10 finishes. His average finish at the 2.66-mile track is 11.2, and his pre-race driver rating at is 80.6.  

Matt Crafton (No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota) has made 15 series starts at Talladega posting one top-five and six top-10 finishes. His average finish at the 2.66-mile track is 15.7, and his pre-race driver rating at Talladega is 75.0.  

Sheldon Creed (No. 2 GMS Racing Chevrolet) has made two series starts at Talladega posting one top-10 finish. His average finish at the 2.66-mile track is 10.5 (second-best among Playoff drivers). His pre-race driver rating at Talladega is 107.7 (series-best among Playoff drivers).  

Carson Hocevar (No. 42 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet) will be making his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career debut at Talladega Superspeedway this weekend.  

Zane Smith (No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet) has made one series start at Talladega posting a 33rd-place finish. His pre-race driver rating at Talladega is 41.7. 

Chandler Smith (No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota) has made one series start at Talladega posting one top-five finish (third-place). His average finish at the 2.66-mile track is 3.0. His pre-race driver rating at Talladega is 105.6 (second-best among Playoff drivers).  

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.

2022 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule released – This week NASCAR announced the 2022 schedule for the Camping World Truck Series and most the noticeable change will be the return to 23 races from 22 this season. Also, the Camping World Truck Series will renew its beating and banging brand of racing when it returns to the .686-mile Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis for the first time since 2011. The July 29 event will serve as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs opener and offer drivers the first chance to clinch a spot in the Round of 8. The event is part of a jam-packed weekend of racing in the city of Indianapolis, as the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Cup Series will race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.