Kansas readies for Camping World Truck Series night race

2021 Kansas Truckpreview
Chris Graythen
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The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series resumes competition Saturday night after a week off with the Wise Power 200 (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) under the lights at Kansas Speedway.

KANSAS: Full weekend schedule | New paint schemes

Five drivers in Saturday’s field have earned victories at the 1.5-mile track previously, including three-time series champion Matt Crafton, who has a record three wins (2013, 2015 and 2020) there.

Last year after the pandemic-induced shift in the schedule, the series raced at Kansas three times instead of its usual single stop. Austin Hill and Brett Moffitt joined Crafton with Victory Lane celebrations. Moffitt, however, will not race Saturday. Hill still will, so count him as driver No. 2 with a Kansas win.

Former series champion Johnny Sauter is the third active driver with a series win at Kansas – leading a dominating 101 of the 167 laps to win the 2010 race. Ross Chastain is the fourth, filling in this weekend with Niece Motorsports. And Kyle Busch Motorsport’s namesake driver Kyle Busch is the fifth driver entered who has won at Kansas. The two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion has collected two victories at Kansas in the Truck Series in 2014 and 2017.

Six races into the season, second-generation star John Hunter Nemechek holds a 20-point edge over Ben Rhodes atop the series driver standings. They are both two-time race winners and also the only two full-time Camping World Truck Series drivers with a victory to their credit so far in 2021.

The top three competitors in the Camping World Truck Series driver standings — Nemechek, Rhodes and reigning series champion Sheldon Creed — have never won in a truck at Kansas, although Nemechek earned his only career NASCAR Xfinity Series win at the track in 2018; he has two top-five finishes in three Truck Series starts there as well.

Both Nemechek, who drives the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota, and Rhodes, who steers the No. 99 ThorSport Racing Toyota, have earned five top-10 finishes in the opening six races of 2021. Nemechek has four top-five finishes overall and wins in two of the last four races. Rhodes swept the season-openers at Daytona International Speedway, winning on the oval and then the road course the next week.

Last year’s Kansas victors are again the drivers to watch this weekend – with two of the three needing a 2021 win to insure their spot in the 10-driver playoff field. Hill and Crafton have made good cases to be considered favorites this week. Moffitt announced last week that going forward he has declared for NASCAR Xfinity Series points and will compete for a championship in that series instead of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. That’s why Moffitt is not entered this weekend at Kansas and instead Ross Chastain will pilot the No. 44 for Niece Motorsports on Saturday.

Crafton, driver of the No. 88 ThorSport Toyota, eked out a .324-second victory over Christian Eckes in the second Kansas race last year and finished fourth in the first race.

Hill, driver of the No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota, led the most laps (65 of 134) and cruised to a nearly 3-second win in the last year’s first Kansas race and took top-10 finishes (sixth and third, respectively) in the second two races. Hill, who got off to a rough start to the season, has now earned top-10 finishes in the last four races and moved up 19 positions in the championship standings, to fourth place (74 points behind Nemechek).

Kansas is statistically Hill’s best track. He boasts a 5.2 average finish in five series starts there.

“Kansas has been really good for us and a place where we’ve always had a lot of speed,” Hill said. “It was awesome to get a win there last summer and felt like we were one of the trucks to beat in the playoffs, if we didn’t have damage in the left side door.”

Nemechek will start from the pole position this week with his team owner, Busch, alongside on the front row. Busch is the only active driver who has won in all three NASCAR national series at Kansas – collecting the two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series trophies and also four NASCAR Xfinity Series wins and one NASCAR Cup Series win.

No driver has ever won back-to-back Truck Series races at Kansas.