As NASCAR fans, it is a somewhat exciting and somewhat dreaded weekend. After a rigorous playoff battle among the three national series its time to decide your 2019 series champions. Friday will be a busy day with all three series getting some on-track practice time. After that, it’s all business with qualifying and races falling in order. My fellow writer Darrell gave you his opinion on the cup series finale. My take will be brief on that race, I want to follow the championship weekend of the truck series and Xfinity Series.
We got to see two drivers in Stewart Friesen, and Justin Allgaier wins at ISM and set the final four for each of their respected series. Which after the way each series has gone this year leads me to say this, both of those drivers are somewhat surprising options for championship weekend. Whereas the cup series doesn’t have any surprises each of there four drivers have been solid all season long winning twenty-one out of the thirty-five races. So, here’s who and how this weekend could play out in the truck series.
Truck Series Championship Weekend
What is interesting among the truck series, is that the average age of this final four is roughly thirty-three. The veterans have come out on top, to decide who will be the last one standing. You have two defending champions in the field with Brett Moffitt, and Matt Crafton that know how to close the deal. Then you have the “Watermelon Man” Ross Chastain, and the shocker in my opinion Steward Friesen. Here’s a simple breakdown of each one of these drivers’ seasons so far.
|Champ. Four||Age||Av Start||Laps Led||Av. Finish||Wins|
Matt Crafton No. 88 Ford for ThorSport Racing
The two-time series champion hasn’t got a trip to victory lane this season. Honestly, he hasn’t seen a checkered flag since 2017 at Eldora. Matt could easily go into Homestead and become the first major series driver to win a championship since Austin Dillon’s Xfinity title in 2013 without a regular-season or playoff victory. He has been able to do everything necessary short of a win. He is entering the race with three top tens in the playoffs and only one DNF through 22 races. Solidly locking himself into the championship race. While his stats up against the other three drivers have some glaring issues especially that goose egg in the wins column. Crafton has some maybe subtle confidence in his ability this weekend.
Crafton was quoted saying that to grasp the championship it’s simple. “Just beat the other three guys.” Crafton said Friday night “At the end of the day, just go out there and adjust your truck the best you can…” Only the on-track product will be able to tell, but Matt does have three top-fives in eighteen career starts including his championship-clinching win in 2017. He will be looking to upset the Chevrolet camp being the only Ford in contention and win a third truck series championship.
Stewart Friesen No. 52 Chevrolet for Halmar Racing
What some would say is the underdog of this battle. Stewart has two wins this season which happen to be his and his team’s first two career wins. He has overall been a solid competitor since coming onto the scene full time in 2017. He actually if you noticed has the best average finish this season among the championship four drivers. Stewart and his team just haven’t been able to make that leap. So, to give you an example Stewart has been like the Wildcard NFL playoff team. You know he made it to the playoffs, sometimes he could make it all the way but ultimately falls short. This year, however, appears to be his chance.
This season alone Stewart has only finished outside of the top fifteen three times in twenty-two races. With two of those three poor finishes being due to crashes. What really leads me to believe his chances are good is how last weekend went. He beat the pole sitter to the green flag, which is a big no-no at ISM. He came back strong and was able to hold off Xfinity driver Brandon Jones for the win. Stewart’s got just enough of that underdog motivation on his side that it wouldn’t surprise me in the least to see him hoist the title. Along with that in three starts at Homestead, he has been able to finish better each year jumping from seventh in 2017 to a fourth-place finish in 2018. Consistency sometimes is what it takes to win a truck series championship.
Ross Chastain No.45 Chevrolet for Niece Motorsports
The little team that could it seems like this season right? A driver who was expected to run all year with them but not compete for a title decides to switch after an early-season win at Kansas. Then goes onto win two more races and almost three if not for a post-race disqualification. This driver and team are arguably the fan favorites this year going into Miami. Here are some stats though to back up that title of fan favorite.
Since the start of the playoff’s way back in August at Bristol. Ross has gone onto finish in the top ten every single week except at Talladega. Before that though, here’s one better before he has only finished outside of the top ten twice all season. One of those “finishes” is his disqualification at Iowa. Ross has everything to gain and nothing to lose this week. He has led almost one hundred more laps than the 2018 champion. This team and driver are more than ready for that championship win. So, almost a year after losing his full-time ride with CGR in the Xfinity series. Ross looks to add to the narrative of one the coolest rebound stories in recent NASCAR history and hoist the truck series championship.
Brett Moffitt No. 24 Chevrolet for GMS Racing
The driver a lot of people would say is statistically wise the favorite going into this weekend’s finale. He has the most wins, second-most laps led, and oh not to mention won this race last year to clinch his first championship. Brett Moffitt has had a few championships defining moment this year. The one that sticks out a bit in my mind is how he was able to defend his lead in the final twenty-seven laps at Bristol against fellow contender Ross Chastain, and Chandler Smith to grab his third win of the season.
Regardless of what happens Friday night the decision to give him the ride at GMS over Johnny Sauter was the right one. He brought championship-winning ability, and a fiery competitor to the team and will be back next year. He could potentially go onto win back to back truck series championships for the first time since his fellow competitor Matt Crafton did it back in 2013-14
Ultimately, as much as some may disagree with me the Truck series, and even Xfinity Series races have been overall more interesting races this season. You see a fiery competition among drivers who are either veterans of the circuit or up and coming cup series hopefuls to makes names for themselves. The mechanical packages in each series also lead to some fun racing, and I mean what could be better than trucks sliding around on dirt at Eldora? None the less here’s my final take on the truck series championship race.
This race is inevitably going to stretch out unless there is just an unusual amount of cautions. Ross Chastain had a strong showing earlier this season with his win at Pocono, which much like Homestead is a huge track in regards. Ross and his team will play the strategy game this Friday, with tire wear being always high at Homestead, but ultimately you will see a watermelon smashed in victory lane as Ross Chastain and Niece Motorsports hoist their first truck series championship.
Stay Tuned to Belly Up Sports, for my Xfinity Series, and Cup series predictions tomorrow. These boys are about to give you a show! Want to tell me what you think? Hit me up on Twitter or drop a comment below.