Gander Outdoor Truck Series

Eberly: ‘Win and You’re In’ Not a Guarantee for Truck Series Chase

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The 2016 season marks the debut of the Chase format in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. The playoff system for the series has a similar look and feel to the format used in the Sprint Cup Series with a few variations. The Truck Series Chase field will be comprised of eight drivers and will consist of a seven-race, three-round format.

When the format was announced by NASCAR back in January, the release stated that a win in the first 16 races all but guarantees a driver entry into the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase, provided that the driver is in the Top 30 in points and has attempted to qualify for each race.

With their wins this season, Johnny Sauter (Daytona), John Hunter Nemechek (Atlanta), William Byron (Kansas) and Matt Crafton (Dover) have all but guaranteed themselves a spot in the 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chase.

However, what if the series sees more than eight different winners?

With five races complete in 2016, five different drivers have visited victory lane, with Kyle Busch’s victory at Martinsville the only win by a non-Chase eligible driver. Eleven races remain until the series locks in their playoff-eligible drivers when the checkered flag falls at Chicagoland Speedway in September.

Charlotte, Texas, Iowa, Gateway, Kentucky, Eldora, Pocono, Bristol, Michigan, Canadian Tire and Chicagoland all present opportunities for a new face to enter victory lane in 2016.

While Busch went to victory lane six times in the first 16 races in 2014 and twice last season, the 2015 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion is competing in fewer Truck events this season. Busch is scheduled to run just three more Truck races (Charlotte, Kentucky, Bristol) while leaving the driving duties of his Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyotas to full-time drivers Byron and Christopher Bell and part-time drivers Daniel Suarez and Cody Coughlin.

What other drivers have the potential to visit victory lane this season?

Timothy Peters has won at least one race since 2009, including Talladega the past two seasons and twice at Iowa (2012 and 2013).

Tyler Reddick has just one top-10 finish this season, but won two races last season en route to finishing second in the championship standings and should be a contender in the No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford.

Christopher Bell has shown speed this season in the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota and sports the third-best Driver Rating in the series. Bell won at Eldora last year and it is more likely than not that he will find a way to victory lane in one of the remaining races prior to the Chase.

Cole Custer won last season at Gateway while running a part-time schedule and looks to earn a Chase spot with a victory in his first full season of Truck Series competition.

Spencer Gallagher, Daniel Hemric, Ben Kennedy and Ryan Truex have all run well this season and are capable of picking up the first Truck Series victory of their career.

Speaking of first series victories, a trio of ThorSport Racing drivers are seeking to accomplish that feat in 2016. Cameron Hayley, in his second full season, finished second at Atlanta and has the fourth best Driver Rating in the series. While it will take some time for Rico Abreu to adjust to the trucks, the 2015 Chili Bowl Champion shouldn’t be overlooked when the series heads to Eldora this summer. And who can forget the move Ben Rhodes tried to make on Satuer two weeks ago at Kansas, demonstrating the rookie driver is more than willing to take a chance with the victory on the line.

The bottom line?

Points in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will still matter this season.

The driver that should be the most worried at this point is Sauter, who sits 13th in the standings. Byron (sixth in the standings) and Nemechek (seventh in the standings) will also look to earn a second victory to secure a spot in the playoffs.

Crafton looks to be a virtual lock, given that he leads the standings and is dominant on the mile-and-a-half tracks.

The point is points will still matter and as the cut-off for the Chase nears, the Truck Series, which already produces some of the best racing around, will become even more intense.

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About Brian Eberly

Brian Eberly (@beberly18) is a Certified Public Accountant and Manager of Field Accounting at a transportation company, but when he isn’t at the office you can most likely find him at a racetrack, watching a race on television, or following the action on social media. Eberly became interested in NASCAR in the nineties when Jeff Gordon was dominating the scene, and became hooked when he attended his first race with his dad in 1999 at Michigan International Speedway. Eberly has been writing about NASCAR since 2012 for various websites. An Illinois native and Northern Illinois University graduate, Eberly travels throughout the Midwest covering racing events in multiple series. When not following racing, he can be found on the golf course (usually trying to find his golf ball) and following the Bears, Blackhawks, Cubs, Bulls, and of course the NIU Huskies.

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