The 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs begin Friday — a seven-race battle among 10 title-eligible drivers for the championship. First up is the Round of 10, featuring World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway, Darlington Raceway and Bristol Motor Speedway. Two contenders will then be eliminated before the Round of 8, which will include Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Martinsville Speedway. Afterward, the Championship 4 will be set and take on Phoenix Raceway on Nov. 5 in a straight-up race for the ultimate trophy.
Here are the 10 drivers (and how they qualified) vying for the title: John Hunter Nemechek (regular-season champion; five wins), Austin Hill (two wins), Ben Rhodes (two wins), Todd Gilliland (a win), Sheldon Creed (a win), Zane Smith (points), Matt Crafton (points), Carson Hocevar (points), Stewart Friesen (points) and Chandler Smith (points).
Now, a Round of 10 track-by-track breakdown:
WORLD WIDE TECHNOLOGY RACEWAY AT GATEWAY
(📅 Friday | ⏰ 9 p.m. ET | 📺 FS1 | 📻 MRN, SiriusXM)
Location: Madison, Illinois
Length: 1.25-mile oval
Distance: 160 laps / 200 miles
Previous winner: Sheldon Creed (2020)
Friday will mark the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ only stop at Gateway this year. Sheldon Creed won the 2020 event, and the top-10 finishing order featured an additional three drivers from this year’s group — Austin Hill (third), Stewart Friesen (fifth) and Zane Smith (seventh).
Matt Crafton — a series veteran in his 21st full-time season — has far more Gateway experience than his competitors, though no wins. His top-five and top-10 marks are the best, but John Hunter Nemechek, Todd Gilliland and Friesen still manage to tie Crafton in the top-five category with far fewer attempts. Creed and Nemechek are the only ones with a previous win, and Creed averages the best career finish.
(📅 Sept. 5 | ⏰ 1:30 p.m. ET | 📺 FS1 | 📻 MRN, SiriusXM)
Location: Darlington, South Carolina
Length: 1.366-mile oval
Distance: 147 laps / 200.1 miles
Previous winner: Sheldon Creed (2021)
Darlington happens to be the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ first true return race, the tour having already raced at this track back in May. Sheldon Creed won that race, surely giving him a confidence boost heading back to the “Lady in Black.” Four other playoff drivers finished in the top 10 — Ben Rhodes (second), Carson Hocevar (third), Matt Crafton (fourth) and John Hunter Nemechek (eighth).
Creed’s win ties him with Rhodes for most wins at Darlington, but Rhodes also holds the most top fives and best average finish. Crafton, understandably so, has the most starts, tying Rhodes with his top fives and then boasting the most top 10s.
BRISTOL MOTOR SPEEDWAY
(📅 Sept. 16 | ⏰ 9 p.m. ET | 📺 FS1 | 📻 MRN, SiriusXM)
Location: Bristol, Tennessee
Length: .533-mile oval
Distance: 200 laps / 106.6 miles
2020 winner: Sam Mayer (2020)
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series also raced at Bristol Motor Speedway earlier this season in March but on dirt, making it a completely different track for competitive purposes. NASCAR Cup Series regular Martin Truex Jr. won that event anyway, thus further nixing comparisons here.
None of the current playoff drivers have won at “The Last Great Colosseum” before. That gives it a wild-card feel, at least for the postseason picture. Matt Crafton has the most top-five and top-10 finishes, but those line up with his 18 career starts. Same could be said for Chandler Smith and his best average finish — fewer starts, fewer opportunities to skew the numbers.