Stewart Friesen punched his golden ticket into the 2019 NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs with his first career victory in Thursday night’s Eldora Dirt Derby.
That’s bad news for the rest of the competition with just one race remaining in the regular season.
Six drivers are now locked into the eight-driver postseason before the Corrigan Oil 200 on Aug. 10 at Michigan International Speedway (1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriuxXM NASCAR Radio) — race winners Friesen, Austin Hill, Johnny Sauter, Ross Chastain, Brett Moffitt and Tyler Ankrum.
Although two playoffs spots are technically available, ThorSport Racing’s Grant Enfinger is set to clinch his first Gander Trucks Regular Season Championship by just starting next Saturday’s finale, and currently holds a 52-point lead over Matt Crafton. That gives Enfinger the seventh slot before the race turns one lap old.
What bodes well for Crafton is how it’s mathematically impossible for the No. 88 ThorSport Racing driver to be caught on points, as he’s ahead by 63 points on teammate Ben Rhodes, who sits fifth in the standings. Friesen and Moffitt (third and fourth in the standings, respectively) are already locked into the postseason with race wins.
A run-in with Tyler Dippel in Thursday’s showdown at Eldora Speedway shuffled Rhodes back to a 14th-place finishing position after he showed promise for a top-10 run the majority of the night. Now forced into a must-win scenario to make the playoffs, Rhodes let his frustrations be known after another tough race.
“Daytona we got wrecked, Kentucky we got wrecked, here (Eldora) we got wrecked, engine blew at Chicago, transmission issue at Texas, I mean I can go on with this list,” a frustrated Rhodes said outside his hauler Thursday night. “Things out of our control are taking us out of the playoffs.”
“I’m just sad that people can eliminate you that quick,” he added.
Behind Rhodes in the standings are Harrison Burton, Todd Gilliland and Sheldon Creed, drivers who are all faced with the same situation — win or miss the big dance. With a postseason bid on the line, those drivers will be in desperation mode until the very end Saturday in the Irish Hills.