RELATED: Playoff standings
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series isn’t done delivering the drama.
Friday night the playoff field will be set in the Chicagoland 225 (8:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Seven drivers have already clinched their postseason spots with just one more driver getting the opportunity to join them. Meanwhile, Christopher Bell will look to pad his already impressive playoff point bank.
Let’s break it down.
Seven of the eight playoff spots have been filled, six of which came through victories. Bell leads the series with four wins and 24 playoff points. He can add 15 more playoff points to that figure should he also wrap up the regular-season championship.
John Hunter Nemechek’s two wins have him second in the playoff standings. The series’ two most recent champions, Johnny Sauter (2016) and Matt Crafton (2014 – ’15), will also again be in the title fight. Also locked in are three rookies in Austin Cindric, Kaz Grala and Chase Briscoe. Briscoe is the only driver locked in who does not have a victory, but he does have a stage win and critical playoff point.
The driver on the hot seat is series sophomore Ben Rhodes. The ThorSport Racing driver has had an up-and-down year to land on the bubble. But with eight top-10 finishes, including three in the last four races, Rhodes won-t give up the final spot without a fight and 1.5-mile tracks, like Chicago, have been where he’s excelled.
Seven points is all that separates Rhodes from Ryan Truex, the first driver on the outside looking in. The first-ever playoff berth for Hattori Racing Enterprises could come with Truex if he’s able to outrun Rhodes or finally break through with a victory.
A win is most likely the way to go for Grant Enfinger, who is 31 points behind Rhodes, and most certainly for those behind him. Enfinger is 10th in the playoff standings with fellow rookies Noah Gragson (11th) in a 47-point deficit and Justin Haley (12th) behind by 119 points.
Friday night will be all about where Rhodes is and what he has going on. Only seven points to the good, Rhodes cannot afford a mistake or a DNF if he wants to earn a playoff berth. Look for the No. 27 to be in contention and for Rhodes to push with all he’s got.
For Truex, he has nothing to lose and can also afford to push hard. By pressuring Rhodes, it may lead to the opening Truex needs. Or he can go for one last gamble to grab the checkered flag. Unfortunately for Truex, that will be the same mentality for Enfinger, Gragson, Haley and every other driver in the top 20 in points.
The “win and you’re in” stipulation has never meant more than it will this weekend in the Windy City.