Parker Kligerman Steals One At Talladega

Parker Kligerman
The massive wreck in Turn 1 that gobbled up a pack of trucks in overtime at Talladega Superspeedway spared a part-time driver with one win on his career resume and a lower-budget team fighting for the final spot in the Round of 6 of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series’ Playoff.

The part-timer, Parker Kligerman, charged to the front past pole winner, series leader and race runner-up Christopher Bell after the final restart and had the lead in Saturday’s Fred’s 250 when trucks started bouncing off each other in Turn 1 on the final lap. That wreck caused a caution that froze the running order and gave Kligerman his first victory since he won at Talladega in 2012.

The real suspense, however, involved John Hunter Nemechek, who steered his already-wrecked truck through two major crashes in the final 25 laps to finish sixth. Nemechek grabbed the final spot in the Round of 6 over Chase Briscoe, who finished 22nd, nine laps down after his team dealt with a valve cover issue early in the race.

“We had a long team meeting last night in the lobby of our hotel, and we sat down and said a prayer that we would make it to the next round,” Nemechek said.

Shortly after the restart of the final stage, it appeared the prayer would not be answered. Nemechek’s No. 8 Chevrolet was damaged heavily in a crash that started when Ben Rhodes turned Clay Greenfield’s Chevrolet in Turn 4 on Lap 54.

Nemechek’s team worked feverishly to repair the damage to the extent possible and kept the No. 8 on the lead lap. With Briscoe locked into a 22nd-place finish, Nemechek had to finish 13th or better after Austin Wayne Self’s spin in Turn 4 caused the sixth caution on Lap 90 and sent the event to overtime. When trucks in the lead pack started wrecking in front of Nemechek after the field took the white flag, spotter Jason Jarrett guided his driver through the melee and gained enough spots to advance comfortably.

For Kligerman, it was a case of right choices at the right time.

“It’s all a blur,” he said. “Each corner you’re making six decisions, and they happened to work. It was just crazy. Every move worked. It’s just sometimes they click. Those last 10 laps, if I went high and separated the back, or if I tried to get the bump and the run, every move just worked. Sometimes they go your way.”

For the first 40 laps, Talladega looked like Johnny Sauter’s personal playground. The defending series champion powered into the lead after the start, pulling GMS Racing teammate Justin Haley with him. Sauter and Haley dropped to the inside lane in front of Bell and ran in lock-step for 20 laps, with Sauter winning the first stage wire-to-wire.

Sauter may have sailed through Stage 1, but calamity struck two other championship contenders. On Lap 8, Briscoe took his No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford to the garage to repair a fluid leak and lost 10 laps in the process. Briscoe’s issues, however, couldn’t compare with those of Kaz Grala, who started the race from the rear because of a last-minute engine change. After working his way Grala was the victim of a chain-reaction wreck of Turn 4 on Lap 19, also involving the trucks of Cody Coughlin, Chris Fontaine, Rhodes and Ryan Truex.

Grala’s No. 33 Chevy nosed into the outside wall and spun into the infield grass, where the heavily damaged Silverado sat until a wrecker towed it to the garage. Grala retired in 29th place, his Playoff over.

“I’m not quite sure what happened,” Grala said after a mandatory visit to the infield care center. “Everything checked up in front of me. I slowed down. I think I was going to miss it, but the truck behind me (Truex’s Toyota) didn’t get slowed down fast enough and turned us up into the wall and ended our day.

“I think that’s the end of our championship hopes, unfortunately. It’s tough to take, because I think we really came alive this latter part of the season. I think we could have been a contender.”

Playoff Notes: Myatt Snider sustained damage in a Lap 70 wreck but rallied to finish a career-best third… Austin Cindric ran fifth behind Grant Enfinger and secured a spot in the Round of 6, joining Bell, Sauter, Nemechek, Rhodes and Matt Crafton.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Ben Rhodes Wins The CWTS Las Vegas 350

Ben Rhodes
Ben Rhodes took the lead on the final restart and held off Christopher Bell to capture his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series career win in Saturday night’s Las Vegas 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Rhodes, who earlier in the season lost what appeared to be a sure victory at Kansas Speedway when a piece of debris punctured his Toyota’s radiator, blocked Bell’s last-gasp effort by going all the way to the track’s apron to take the checkered flag.

Rhodes, who drives for ThorSport Racing, started sixth in the 28-truck field to become the 1.5-mile speedway’s 10th consecutive different winner. He joins Bell to advance to the Round of 6 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs.

“I used every play in my playbook,” said Rhodes of the final laps battle. “I knew if I could keep him close to me, he couldn’t break the (air) bubble.  This is the biggest high of my life.

“So many things have gone wrong and now here I am in Victory Lane.”

Rhodes’ victory came in his 45th series start. His official victory margin over Bell was 0.066 seconds.

Bell, who led three times for 64 laps and dominated much of the 146-lap race in his Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota, blamed himself for coming up short in his quest for a sixth season victory.

“I just didn’t get it done there on the last restart (at Lap 140),” he said. “He’s (Rhodes) been long overdue for that win and he earned it tonight.”

Chase Briscoe finished third in his Brad Keselowski Racing Ford, followed by BKR teammate Austin Cindric, who overcame an early-race accident. Kaz Grala, who started 14th, also battled back from an early incident, was the top-finishing Chevrolet in fifth.

Pole sitter Ryan Truex was unable to lead the opening lap but had put his Toyota in position for a solid top-10 finish. A brush with the wall in the closing laps while battling Briscoe and Grant Enfinger for third sent his Toyota to pit road, where he lost two laps and finished 12th.

Seven different drivers traded the lead 11 times. There were six cautions consuming 32 laps.

Briscoe won the race’s first stage by 1.25 seconds over Johnny Sauter. Sauter clawed his way back to 10th-place finish, a lap behind, after cutting a tire and twice speeding on pit road.

Rhodes claimed Stage 2 by 0.419 seconds over Bell in a preview of the final stage finish.

While both Rhodes and Bell are guaranteed to move into the Round of 6 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs, the final four spots remain up for grabs at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 14. Crafton is best placed, followed by Sauter and Briscoe while Grala and John H. Nemechek are currently below the cutoff point.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Christopher Bell Starts Off The CWTS Playoffs With A Bang

Christopher Bell

In Christopher Bell’s dominating win in Saturday’s UNOH 175 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, the rich got richer!

The top seed in the series Playoffs, Bell won the first two stages of the opening postseason event and took the checkered flag 1.248 seconds ahead of runner-up Ryan Truex to notch his fifth victory of the season.

The win earned Bell automatic advancement into the second round of the Playoffs, gave him an additional seven playoff points to bring his series-leading total to 47 and widened his advantage over the seven drivers chasing him for the title, given that no other Playoff driver finished in the top five at the 1.058-mile track.

With all that said, the victory wasn’t a foregone conclusion for the driver of the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota. Truex powered into the lead past Ben Rhodes after a restart on Lap 132, following a caution called when Kaz Grala knocked the Ford of Austin Cindric sideways in Turn 4 on Lap 126.

Bell patiently stalked Truex for 28 laps, as Truex positioned his no. 16 Toyota to block the line of the series leader. Finally, on Lap 160 of 175, Bell got a strong run off the second corner and buried his Tundra into Turn 3, shooting past Truex into the lead.

“He was doing a really good job of watching his mirror,” Bell said of Truex’s effort. “I knew it was tough to pass all day, but our truck had been so good, we had been able to do it until we got to him.

“I kept trying to work down, and he kept blocking my air down and down and down. Finally, I got one run where I drove up in (Turns) 1 and 2 and then got a big run into 3.”

In fact, Truex was surprised he was able to keep Bell behind him for 28 laps.

“When you’ve got the best truck in the field behind you, it makes it tougher,” Truex said. “I did everything I could to hold him off. I was trying to take his lane and block and everything – I just didn’t have quite the grip he had.

“I didn’t know how this race would shake out. Every restart, I just gave it my all – a lot of three-wide stuff, probably (ticked) a few people off. But we’re trying to win races, and we’re getting closer.”

Bell, who won for the first time at New Hampshire and the seventh time in his career, leaves the Magic Mile with a whopping 40-point lead over second-place Johnny Sauter, the defending series champion. Sauter finished ninth on Saturday after polesitter Noah Gragson spun in Turn 4 on lap 64 and caved in the right side of Sauter’s No. 21 Chevrolet between the front and rear tires.

With the Playoff field to be trimmed from eight drivers to six at Talladega two races from now, John Hunter Nemechek and Chase Briscoe fell below the cut line. A rear gear failure sidelined Nemechek for 36 laps, and he finished 20th to drop to eighth in the standings.

Briscoe fought handling problems throughout the afternoon and finished 11th, dropping to seventh in points, three behind Grala, who came home 10th.

Non-Playoff drivers Todd Gilliland, Grant Enfinger and Stewart Friesen ran third fourth and fifth, while playoff contenders Matt Crafton, Rhodes and Cindric finished sixth, seventh and eighth, respectively.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Eliminating Errors In The Playoffs Is Key To Success

Johnny Sauter
The pressure of the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoff produced uncharacteristic errors last Sunday at Chicagoland.

Pit road speeding penalties, loose lug nuts, commitment violations and pit crew snafus thwarted the efforts of those who expect to contend for the championship and those who simply hope to survive the first round.

The eight Playoff drivers in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, who start their championship runs in Saturday’s UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway were playing close attention to the trials and tribulations of the Cup drivers at Chicagoland.

With the last four drivers in the Truck standings separated by four points, those in the most imminent jeopardy of elimination were particularly attuned to the proceedings.

“You can race your way out of this first round a lot more than you can race your way in,” said Austin Cindric, who enters the weekend sixth in the standings. “We only have to beat two other competitors, and I feel like the worst thing you can do is make a mistake, either if it’s on pit road or on the track.

“I think your finishing position is just a critical as your stage points, as we’ve seen throughout the year. Just to be able to run consistently throughout the three (races) of this round I think is going to be the most critical thing you can do.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Christopher Bell Says He Feels No Championship Pressure

Christopher Bell
Christopher Bell rolled through the NASCAR Camping World Trucks Series regular season showing he’s capable of winning races and that he’s championship-worthy.

Now it’s time for Bell to do all of that again in the playoffs – and to prove that he can win the title.

Bell will be the top seed as the eight-driver Camping World Truck Playoffs begin Saturday with the UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He begins his push for the championship with 40 valuable playoff points, many of them accumulated from his four victories at Atlanta, Texas, Kentucky and Pocono.

“Looking ahead, nothing changes for us,” Bell said. “We are going to try and win each and every race in the playoffs. There’s nothing you can do that’s different (from the regular season) except you realize that the penalties are higher if you make a mistake, so you’ve got to try and minimize your mistakes.”

This isn’t Bell’s first postseason experience. He qualified for the playoffs in his rookie season of 2016 – getting in by virtue of a victory at Gateway Motorsports Park – and advanced on points to the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. But his whole outlook of what it takes to perform well in the playoffs – and grabbing a first championship – has changed from a year ago.

“Last year I felt like we were able to capitalize on consistency,” Bell said. “We won in the middle of the season at Gateway, but overall we weren’t consistently competing for wins. We knew if we could knock down top fives or to eights, it would get us to Homestead.

“But this year we’ve seen a different kind of progress. We’re competing for wins a lot more often and we’ve won a lot more races. Hopefully it continues that way and we win our way to Homestead.”

The regular season was nothing short of a success for Bell, who had 10 top fives, 14 top 10s, won three poles and five stages victories, in addition to leading 593-of-2,200 laps (more than a quarter of the laps he ran). He thinks that’s the kind of consistency that should help get him to Homestead again (along with the built-in advantage of those 40 bonus points).

“I think that will translate for us into the Playoffs,” Bell said. “It’s going to be nothing different. Saturday (at New Hampshire) will be just another race. There’s no more added pressure over the next nine races than if we were to go to the GoPro Motorplex (in nearby Mooresville, N.C.) and run go-karts. We’re all racers. The only downside is the mistakes are more costly.”

As confident as Bell is, two upcoming Playoff tracks have him somewhat concerned – Martinsville and Talladega.

“Martinsville is my struggle point,” said Bell, whose best finish in three starts at the Virginia short track is sixth (twice). He remembers leading late at Martinsville when he was taken out by a lapped car.

Then there’s Talladega, which will be the third and final race of the playoffs’ first round and where Bell finished sixth in 2016.

“Talladega’s such a wild card,” Bell said.

Bell said there will be no major changes for the playoffs made to his No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota truck. None are necessary.

“We haven’t done any experimenting,” he said. “Every time we go to the race track, we have fantastic trucks, so there’s no need. Kyle (Busch) has done some experimenting with our fourth truck, so luckily for me I haven’t been the guinea pig. This truck can compete for wins and has winning speed and has winning speed almost every time.

Bell laughed.

“Now that looks bad for me as the driver, because I didn’t win every race.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

CWTS Rookies Make Their Presence Felt In The 2017 Playoffs

Austin Cindric
The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is known as a place where young drivers can develop. That’s been the case this season, with three rookies advancing to the playoffs. Two others — Ben Rhodes and top-seeded Christopher Bell — are in their second seasons on the circuit.

There’s no doubt the rookies — Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric and Kaz Grala — are hoping for the best. But there’s also a “let’s-not-mess-this-up” kind of attitude that might serve them well.

“We’ve never been to these (playoff) tracks before,” said Cindric, who qualified for the postseason by finishing sixth in points. “We haven’t been through the cutoff rounds. There are no rookie tires any more. We’ve just got to act like we belong and live to see another day.”

Said Grala, whose victory in the season opener at Daytona International Speedway qualified as one of the surprises of NASCAR’s year so far: “There’s stress there because you don’t want to make mistakes. You make a mistake (in the playoffs) and the whole season could be taken away. There’s added pressure in the back of your mind. ‘If I make this pass, I can stay in the playoffs. Or maybe not, it’s better not to screw it up.’ A veteran gets used to that.”

Grala seems comfortable with what has so far been a one-hit wonder kind of a season. He actually said he’s looking forward to racing at Talladega (the first round’s final race), which is run on NASCAR’s biggest and fastest track.

“I hope I don’t lose my (superspeedway) luck,” he said.

How young are Grala and Cindric? Both graduated from high school last spring, well after the Trucks season began. Grala said he will enroll at Georgia Tech in January.

“I have no idea how I’m going to balance that with my racing schedule,” said Grala, 18. “I’ve got to start to figure it out.”

Cindric, 19, said finishing up high school while also racing was tough.

“I was lucky my teachers were flexible,” he said. “I had to make sure my mom didn’t kick me around if I didn’t make good grades.”

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

John Hunter Embraces Championship Opportunity

John Hunter Nemechek
Nothing comes easily for John Hunter Nemechek.

Nemechek doesn’t feel fortunate just to be one of eight drivers in this season’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series playoffs, which startSaturday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He’s glad he’s racing at all!

Earlier this season, funding was threatening to dry up — again — for Nemechek and his No. 8 NEMCO Motorsports Chevy. That’s been a continuing problem for Nemechek’s Mooresville, N.C.-based team, which has struggled financially in each of the five years that he’s raced in the Camping World Truck Series.

Nemechek hasn’t let the consistent lack of sponsorship affect his performance on the track. Entering this season, he had three career victories and advanced to the playoffs in 2016.

But after seven races this season, Nemechek had funding for only a few more events, including the following week at Gateway Motorsports Park. After that — who knew what would happen.

Nemechek, however, had other things in mind. He won at Gateway, then again the following week at Iowa. Those two ultra-timely results helped convince sponsors — chiefly Fire Alarm Services — to re-up with Nemechek. That helped him complete the regular season and on into the playoffs, except for two races in the postseason he hopes will soon be filled.

“Winning those two races were definitely emotional, not knowing how many races we were going to get the rest of the year,” said the third-seeded Nemechek at NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs Media Day. “We had to find some sponsorship or we were done.”

For now, Nemechek just hopes his results will continue to attract much-needed dollars to help keep the team afloat.

“We set the bar high for what we do on and off the track,” he said. “I try and focus on driving, not funding. We do the best we can do to have winning equipment. We want to run up front and win races and stay locked in during the playoffs.”

But as for sponsorship, Nemechek said: “We definitely need something. It stinks, but we’re doing everything we can.”

Surely some comapny will be foresightful enough to jump onboard with Nemco!

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

The 2017 CWTS Playoffs Class

Christopher Bell
Following the TheHouse.com 225 at Chicagoland Speedway, the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs class is set.

Among the eight championship-contending drivers this year, Christopher Bell, Johnny Sauter, Matt Crafton and John Hunter Nemechek will be making their second consecutive Playoffs appearances as all four drivers were a part of the 2016 postseason class.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year contenders Chase Briscoe, Austin Cindric and Kaz Grala – as well as second-year driver Ben Rhodes – will be making their first career Playoff appearances.

Below is the updated 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs standings grid heading into the post-season action.

 

Rank Driver Playoff Points
1 Christopher Bell 40
2 Johnny Sauter 25
3 John Hunter Nemechek 14
4 Matt Crafton 14
5 Chase Briscoe 9
6 Austin Cindric 7
7 Ben Rhodes 7
8 Kaz Grala 5

 

Christopher Bell Clinches 2017 Regular Season Championship At Chicagoland

Kyle Busch Motorsports driver Christopher Bell topped off his 2017 regular season like he wants to end his 2017 post-season…as champion.

Bell was crowned the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regular season champion when he scored his 10th top-five finish of the season at Chicagoland Speedway. For the regular season, Bell has four wins and 14 top 10s, with 593 laps led.

He heads into the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs with 40 playoff points and as the top driver seed.

Bell was excited about capturing the regular season title, but knows there is more work to be done to win the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship.

“This is really cool. To win the regular season championship is a huge testament to Kyle Busch Motorsports and everyone on this No. 4 team. For us, it’s huge to have all of the bonus points going into the playoffs.”

You can listen to the rest of the post-race audio here.

Sauter Primed For Another Title Run

Reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter appears ready for another strong post-season run in 2017.

Sauter was already in Playoffs mode at Chicago as he won the TheHouse.com 225 and heads into the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs as the No. 2 overall seed with 25 playoff points.

In last season’s Playoffs, Sauter was as strong as they come during the playoff stretch.

Beginning with New Hampshire Motor Speedway and ending at Homestead-Miami Speedway last season, Sauter finished top-10 or better in every Playoffs race and won two races, including Martinsville and Texas.

The Rhodes To The 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs

ThorSport Racing driver Ben Rhodes finally saw his hard work pay off this season when he scored the final NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs berth at Chicagoland Speedway.

Rhodes has had a very strong 2017 campaign – collecting five top fives and nine top 10s, with 123 laps led in the regular season.

He moves forward in the Playoffs ranked seventh with seven total playoff points.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs By Round

The 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs begin this week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway with the UNOH 175 (Saturday at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

The UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway kicks off the Round of 8.

Below is a look at the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs rounds and which tracks line up per round.

ROUND OF 8

UNOH 175 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway

(Saturday, September 23 at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Las Vegas 350 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway

(Saturday, September 30 at 8 p.m. on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Fred’s Pharmacy 250 at Talladega Super Speedway

(Saturday, October 14 at 1 p.m. ET on FOX, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

ROUND OF 6

Texas Roadhouse 200 at Martinsville Speedway

(Saturday, October 28 at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

JAG Metals 350 at Texas Motor Speedway

(Friday, November 3 at 8 p.m. on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Lucas Oil 150 at Phoenix International Raceway

(Friday, November 10 at 8:30 p.m. on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

CHAMPIONSHIP 4

Ford EcoBoost 200 at Homestead-Miami Speedway

(Friday, November 17 at 8 p.m. on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

 Crafton Top of The Class At New Hampshire

As the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series begins its 2017 Playoffs at New Hampshire, back-to-back champion (2013 and 2014) Matt Crafton is seeking his third title in a five-year span.

Crafton has been strong at New Hampshire – especially over the last three seasons. He’s finished top-three or better in every race he’s competed in since 2014 and hasn’t finished outside the top-six at New Hampshire since 2008.

Crafton leads the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in races at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (14) as well as top 10s (nine), laps completed (2,607) and lead lap finishes (11).

Crafton will look to start his 2017 Playoffs campaign with another top-three at New Hampshire.

 TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Christopher Bell Wraps Up Regular Season Championship At Chicagoland

Christopher Bell
The top-seeded Christopher Bell clinched the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series 2017 Regular Season Championship. Bell locked up the top spot in the 16-race regular season, besting 2016 Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Sauter in the standings.

Bell has four wins on the season and earned 25 playoff points over the course of the regular season. He will add the 15 playoff point bonus for the regular-season title to his total when the postseason starts at New Hampshire Motor Speedway next weekend, giving him 40 playoff points to add to the reset total of 2,000.

Below is the eight-driver field for the seven-race playoff:

Christopher Bell, No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota: 2,040 points
Johnny Sauter, No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet: 2,025 points
John Hunter Nemechek, No. 8 NEMCO Motorsports Chevrolet: 2,014 points
Matt Crafton, No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota: 2,014 points
Chase Briscoe, No. 29 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford: 2,009 points
Austin Cindric, No. 19 Brad Keselowski Racing Ford: 2,007 points
Ben Rhodes, No. 27 ThorSport Racing Toyota: 2,007 points
Kaz Grala, No. 33 GMS Racing Chevrolet: 2,005 points

Now it is time to “let the big dog eat”!

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!

Johnny Sauter Gets Momentum Building Win At Chicagoland

Johnny Sauter
Johnny Sauter served notice that he’s ready to make a spirited defense of his 2016 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship.

Ben Rhodes was happy just to squeak into the final NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff berth—by the skin of his teeth.

Sauter passed regular-season champion Christopher Bell for the lead on Lap 123 of 150 and drove away to win Friday Night’s TheHouse.com 225 by 2.005 seconds over Chase Briscoe, who passed Bell for second on Lap 136.

The race within a race between Rhodes and polesitter Ryan Truex was much closer. Fighting for the final position in the playoffs, Truex won the first 35-lap stage and finished fourth behind Bell at the checkered flag. Rhodes came home sixth and snagged the last Playoff berth on a tiebreaker.

With the Playoff spot decided by best regular-season finish, Rhodes won on the strength of his second-place run at Pocono Raceway, where he beat Truex to the finish line by a quarter of a second.

Sauter won for the first time at Chicagoland Speedway, the second time this season and the 15th time in 214 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts.

“This truck was unbelievable,” said Sauter, who stayed on the track during a caution late in the first stage and had to battle back through the field. “We had a great truck yesterday (in practice). I was worried with the Cup guys and the XFINITY guys here the track might change a little bit.

“We elected to try to win that first stage there, and we lost a lot of track position, had to fight to get it back. And then I had a horrible restart and lost a lot of track position again. This is what we needed. This is the momentum, the shot in the arm… This thing was on rails the last run.”

Rhodes edged into the Playoffs despite a performance he considered sub-par. A violation for an uncontrolled tire during a pit stop under caution on Lap 38 sent him to the rear. Later in the race, Rhodes’ No. 27 Toyota developed a left rear tire rub after contact with the No. 88 Tundra of Matt Crafton.

But Rhodes persevered.

“Man, I still can’t believe it,” Rhodes said. “They gave me the hat (for playoff qualifiers), and I’m like, ‘Are you sure this is ours?’ We were tied, and we have the tiebreaker. I can’t believe it. The truck… all night we struggled ever since we unloaded.

“This has definitely our worst performance overall, and it couldn’t have come at a worse week to do it. But I’m glad we’re in, and overall, everything worked out for us.”

Truex expected a close battle for the last Playoff spot and was understandably disappointed to be on the short end of it.

“It’s tough, but it’s racing,” Truex said. “We did everything we could do aside from win. We just didn’t have the speed for the 29 (Briscoe) and the 21 (Sauter). I was good on restarts. I felt like that was my best shot, so I was really, really aggressive on restarts…

“I had a feeling it would come down to this. It’s been so close this whole year.”

Grant Enfinger, whose only path to the Playoff was a victory, came home fifth. Rhodes, John Hunter Nemechek, Noah Gragson, Kaz Grala and Myatt Snider completed the top 10.

Briscoe, Nemechek, Grala, Crafton and Austin Cindric join Sauter, Bell and Rhodes on the Playoff grid.

Check out the unofficial results of TheHouse.com 225.

TIL NEXT TIME, I AM SITLL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!