NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to take on Martinsville and decide the Championship 4

Sheldon Creed Zane Smith
Jeff Curry
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After a three-week break in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series schedule, the competitors return to action in the United Rentals 200 this Saturday at Martinsville Speedway (1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) to decide which four drivers will advance to the Championship 4 Round and have a shot at the title.

MARTINSVILLE: Weekend schedule | Camping World Truck Series Playoff page

Five-race winner John Hunter Nemechek holds a 1-point advantage over two-race winner Ben Rhodes atop the standings, with three-time series champion Matt Crafton and defending series champion Sheldon Creed rounding out the current top four in the standings. Stewart Friesen in fifth, the first spot outside the Championship 4 Round cutoff, is only five points behind Creed.

The remaining three playoff drivers, Chandler Smith (sixth), Carson Hocevar (seventh) and Zane Smith (eighth) – are separated by only six points – however, they are 34, 37 and 40 points behind the Championship 4 elimination line. They most likely will need a win to maintain championship eligibility when the title is settled next Friday night at Phoenix Raceway. That trio has combined for only two previous Martinsville starts.

Grant Enfinger is the defending race winner, claiming the trophy by .803-seconds over Rhodes last year. Current playoff drivers Zane Smith (third place), Crafton (fifth), Friesen (sixth) and Creed (eighth) all had top-10 finishes in that race. Nemechek did not compete in the race last year, nor did Chandler Smith. Hocevar placed 13th.

Crafton, who won at Martinsville in 2014 and 2015, is the only multi-time winner at the track among the playoff contingent. Nemechek won in 2018. Todd Gilliland, a 2019 winner here, joins Enfinger and four-time Martinsville winner Johnny Sauter as the only drivers in the field with previous wins at the 0.526-mile, paperclip-shaped short track.

Among the current top four driver in the playoff standings, Rhodes and Crafton share the best average finish at Martinsville – 10.8. Rhodes is still looking for his first win there but has finished inside the top five in three of his last four races, including a pair of runner-up showings (2019 and 2020). Crafton has the pair of wins plus four runner-up showings, but he’s scored only two top-10 finishes in the last five races at Martinsville.

Rhodes, driver of the No. 99 ThorSport Racing Toyota, has 14 top-10 finishes in 2021 – second only to Nemechek’s 15 top-10s among the drivers remaining in the playoffs. He’s had three in the five playoff races to this point, including a ninth at the Bristol and a runner-up at Las Vegas. That’s the only time in the last 10 races, however, that Rhodes has put together back-to-back top-10 finishes.

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Crafton, driver of the No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota, has upped his game in the playoffs with four top-10 finishes in the five races, including a runner-up at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway and a third-place showing at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

There is no doubt, however, their competition for Saturday afternoon’s trophy will come from Nemechek, who leads the series in wins (five), top fives (12) and top 10s (15). He’s scored three top-five finishes in the playoffs and two finishes of 20th or worse.

Nemechek is a former winner at Martinsville. However, in his last five races there, three times he has finished 28th or worse and he has the worst average finish (14.3) among the eight playoff eligible. The driver of the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota was seventh in his last Martinsville start in 2019.

Creed, a three-race winner in 2021, started the playoffs off with back-to-back wins (at Gateway and Darlington Raceway) but hasn’t had a top 10 since. He picked up his first top-10 finish at Martinsville last fall leading 65 laps and finishing eighth. His average finish there is 13.8.

Of the four drivers still eligible and hoping to race their way into the Championship 4 round, the veteran Stewart Friesen has the most Martinsville starts (seven). He’s finished among the top-10 in the last three races, but his best career showing is fifth (2019). He is another that has been especially fast during this playoff portion of the season, with four top-10 finishes in five playoff races including a best of third at Darlington. However, he has led only one lap (at Las Vegas) in his No. 52 Halmar Friesen Toyota during the playoffs and only 15 laps this season.

Among the young drivers still in the title hunt, Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Chandler Smith, 19, will be making his first start at Martinsville. He has a pair of top-10 finishes in the five playoff races including his first career victory at Bristol Motor Speedway three races ago.

Hocevar, 18, driver of the No. 42 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet, finished 13th in his only Martinsville start last year and led five laps. He has a pair of top-10 showings in the playoffs but has finished 22nd (Las Vegas) and 25th (Talladega Superspeedway) in the two races leading up to Martinsville.

Zane Smith, 22, had an impressive third-place finish and led 20 laps last year in his Martinsville debut. As with Hocevar, he comes into this cutoff race hoping to rebound from a pair of rough recent finishes. He was 29th at Las Vegas and 33rd at Talladega. He has two top-10 playoff efforts and three 29th or worse.