This weekend, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the final race of Round 8.
Heading into the Baptist Health 200, only one Ty Majeski driver can breathe easy after locking himself into Championship 4 with his first career win at Bristol Motor Speedway. And in a perfect world, ThorSport Racing has the opportunity to put two more of its drivers in the title hunt, although that might be a little difficult.
Defending champion Ben Rhodes sits just three points above the cut line and in a precarious position to defend his title. And if we’re being realistic, Homestead hasn’t exactly been kind to the #99 Toyota driver in the previous five starts.
His only top 10 finish came in 10th place in 2019, although Rhodes holds a 15.8 average with 45 career laps led on the one-and-a-half-mile track.
Unfortunately, the playoffs didn’t go too well for Rhodes, who has two second-place finishes combined with three 13th-or-worse finishes. He also hasn’t led more single-digit laps since World Wide Technology Raceway Park in June. It’s not exactly the championship form needed to go on.
Just behind Rhodes, three points below the cut line, is teammate Christian Eckes. But their results at Homestead couldn’t be more different.
In just two starts on the track, the #98 Toyota driver has a pair of top 10s and a top five. He also has an average start from third place, which gives him some much-needed track position in such a short race. And despite being winless this season, Eckes has just one spot outside the top 10 in the playoffs at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park (16th). If Eckes can’t win the race, he will certainly need some help in the form of some competition trouble, but his past track results put him in good stead heading into the weekend.
Meanwhile, only two drivers enter this event with a mathematical chance of locking themselves in the points. Chandler Smith and Zane Smith, who sit 30 and 18 points above the cut line respectively, can control their fates a little easier than the rest of the playoff drivers.
Chandler Smith only needs to score 29 points, regardless of who wins the race and where the other playoff drivers end up. But he goes into the weekend with a slight handicap as he has never raced at Homestead before. The good news for No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota driver is that his first win this season came at another mile-and-a-half track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Zane Smith’s path is a bit more difficult; he will need to score 41 points to ensure he secures his place in Championship 4, no matter who wins. The bad news is that he only raced 19 laps at Homestead in 2020 before being involved in an accident that took him out of the race. The series did not air in Homestead last season due to logistics related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stewart Friesen sits sixth in the standings and tied with Eckes three points below the cut line. In five starts at Homestead, he has just two top 10 finishes and an average of 13th, far from what he will need to fight for victory and his place in the championship battle. The good news for Friesen is that his only victory this season came at Texas Motor Speedway, another mile and a half track.
Not too far behind Friesen is John Hunter Nemechek, who entered this season heavily favored to win the championship based on last year’s performance. Instead, he now sits five points below the cut line and needs help to make the 4-point championship. The good news for Nemechek fans, however, is that he has a great history on the mile-and-a-half tracks, in general, although an 8.8 average finish and zero wins at Homestead puts the #4 team behind the eight ball. a little.
The eighth and final driver still remaining in the playoffs is Grant Finallyger, who sits 29 points clear under the cut line. There’s almost no way he’ll make it to the next round, even with help. He would essentially need a disaster to hit multiple playoff drivers for that to happen, leaving victory as his only realistic chance to keep his title hopes alive.
The thing to remember about Endinger, however, is that he has a knack for putting himself in the right place at the right time when he needs it most. After all, he entered the playoffs seeded ninth out of 10 drivers and immediately went out to win at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park to lock himself into the round of 8. And now about to be kicked out of the championship battle, Finallyger’s has something to prove.
Another thing Finger has going for him is team leader Jeff Hensley. The duo reunited in July and put together a strong playoff streak that included four consecutive top five finishes before a 29th-place finish at Talladega Superspeedway put them behind the eighth ball. But if there’s one thing you need to remember about Hensley, it’s that he’s not afraid to make untraditional calls from the top of the pit to try and work some magic for his driver.
Obviously, the easiest way to take all the guesswork out of the equation is to simply win the race. But given that there are plenty of other drivers in the field looking to prove themselves, auditioning potential future sponsors with just two races remaining on this year’s schedule, you can bet they won’t settle for pull over to let the playoff drivers have a clear track.
Ultimately I’d be surprised if Chandler Smith and Zane Smith didn’t join Majeski in the 4 championship. season, in general, look for Eckes or Finallyger to pick up a win when they need it most.
- There are currently 37 trucks on the entry list at Homestead for 36 spots. Tyler Hill is back driving for Hill Motorsports while Ryan Preece returns to David Gilliland Racing’s #17 Ford. Meanwhile, NASCAR Mexico driver Max Gutierrez is set to make his fourth start this season with AM Racing. Qualifying for Saturday’s event will take place on Friday, October 21 at 4:30 p.m. ET.
- Earlier this week, Hattori Racing Enterprises announced that it will be parting ways with driver Chase Purdy at the end of this season. He failed to qualify for the season opener at Daytona International Speedway and has only two top 10 finishes in 20 races so far in 2022. As of press time, it is unclear where he could end up racing next season.
— Hattori Racing (@Hattori_Racing) October 18, 2022
Share this article