It is just a few days before the Camping World Truck Series throws the green flag for the beginning of the 2017 season at Daytona. Keeping with my past, it is time for me to make a few predictions for the 2017 CWTS.
I will start off with an analysis of the 2017 Rookie of The Year crop of drivers. There are five drivers, Chase Briscoe, Cody Coughlin, Grant Enfinger, Noah Gragson and Kaz Grala that will be vying for that award this year. Let’s take a closer look at these drivers resumes.
Last year the 21 year old Chase Briscoe had a very outstanding year. Briscoe ran the full season, 20 races, in the ARCA Series for Cunningham Motorsports, winning the series championship. In 2016 Briscoe won 6 of the 20 scheduled races, he also scored 14 top fives and 20 top tens. That is quite a year to never have finished below 10th place all year! One other state that really sticks out is that Briscoe led 989 of 2689 laps, that is 37% of the time Briscoe was at the head of the pack! This year Briscoe will be driving the No.29 Ford F-150 for Brad Keselowski Racing.
Cody Coughlin, who just turned 21 years old and is the grandson of Jeg Coughlin, Sr. the founder of JEGS High Performance, pulled off something, in 2016, that no other driver has accomplished. Coughlin won two championships simultaneously, the JEGS/CRA All Star Tour Championship and the ARCA CRA Super Series Championship. Cody will be behind the wheel of the Red Horse Racing No.7 Toyota Tundra.
Last year Grant Enfinger, age 31, ran a partial schedule with Gallagher Motorsports, competing in just 8 of 23 races. Even though he competed in just 1/3 of the races, Enfinger scored one victory, 2 top fives and 5 top 10 finishes. Grant has taken over the former ride of Rico Abreau, the ThorSport Racing No.98 Toyota Tundra.
The 18 year old Noah Gragson comes into the CWTS under contract to and driving the Kyle Busch Motorsports No.18 Toyota Tundra. Gragson has only been racing for a little less that 4 years, and over the past two seasons he has formulated a very reputable resume. In 2015 he ran a full 13 race season in the K&N Pro West Series. For 2015 Gragson gathered up two wins, 7 top five finishes and 11 top tens. In 2016 he did something that no other driver ever accomplished, he ran full time in both the K&N Pro West and East Series, that is 27 races! His 2016 resume is quite formidable. His K&N West stats for the 14 races in that series are 2 wins, 8 top five finishes and 13 top tens. Additionally, his East stats were 2 wins, 4 top five finishes and 8 top tens. Added together that is 4 wins, 12 to fives and 21 top ten finishes in 27 races!
Lastly, is Kas Grala, another youngster at just 18 years old is ready to make his name in the racing game. In 2014, at just 15 years of age, Grala ran a full season of the K&N Pro East Series. He was able to log 4 top five and 10 to ten finishes in the 16 race schedule. In 2015, Grala ran the full 14 race schedule racking up 4 top five and 9 top ten finishes. Last year he was able to log 4 top fives and 5 top finishes in 8 races. In 2017 Grala will be piloting the Gallagher Motorsports No.33 Silverado.
It appears that these five ROTY candidates have amassed some very nice credentials over the past two years and choosing a ROTY appears, on the surface, to be a vey difficult process! However, it is time for an honest and well thought out choice.
Of this crop of mostly millenials it is almost a toss up between two drivers, Chase Briscoe and Noah Gragson. But with some deeper thought I am going to predict that, drum role please, Chase Briscoe will be the 2017 CWTS Rookie of The Year winner.
Moving on to the big prize of 2017, the championship, it is just a difficult to try to select who will be hoisting the hardware in November. So here I go.
The two favorites this year have to be the two veteran drivers who have combined to win the last 3 championships, Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter. They have been in the series for more that a decade and know what it takes to prevail over the entire season, as well as to be very consistent week in and week out. The old saying that “you have to lose a championship before you win a championship” rings true for both of these drivers.
Likewise, there is another wily old veteran that should be watched in 2017, the Red Horse Racing driver of the No. 17 Tundra, Timothy Peters. Last year Peters failed to drive into Victory Lane, however, he was able to log 8 top fives and 16 top 10 finishes during the 23 race schedule.
But I will caution you not to take lightly or overlook a young second year driver from the Kyle Busch Motorsports camp, Christopher Bell. Remember Bell is coming off winning the single biggest race in the USAC midget world with over 350 entrants, the 2017 Chill Bowl Nationals in Tulsa, OK, his home state. Last season Bell made it into the Chase as a rookie, with 1 victory, 9 top fives and 17 top ten finishes. Quite remarkable for a 21 year old dirt track racer.
I have been contemplating my CWTS champion pick for the last few weeks and I will say that it is equally difficult to select. Nevertheless, after much thought, soul searching, stat checking, reading of the tea leaves, consulting my Ouija Board and conversing on the phone with my psychic, the deceased Miss Cleo, my pick to hoist the 2017 championship hardware at Homestead is Christopher Bell!
It will be interesting to revisit this post after the checkered flag flies at Homestead in nine months!
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!