The NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series returns to competition for a much-anticipated NASCAR Doubleheader on Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway. The Vet Tix Camping World 200 (1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) opens an afternoon of racing capped off by the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at 4:30 p.m. ET. The championship standings are close and there is plenty of opportunity for some of the drivers to begin separating themselves among the competition.
Austin Hill holds a 17-point advantage over Johnny Sauter and Zane Smith atop the championship standings. Ben Rhodes is fourth, 21 points back, followed by 2018 series champion Brett Moffitt 22 points off the pace. Sheldon Creed is sixth, 30 points back. The only NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series fulltime championship competitor to win this year, Grant Enfinger (Daytona), is seventh, 39 points off the pace.
This is the Georgia native Hill’s home track and with three top-10 finishes in the season’s opening three races he would love to earn his first top five – or better yet, first victory – in his family’s backyard. His average finish of 6.0 in 2020 is a career high mark and the driver of the No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota has scored points in five of six possible stages so far. Not only does he lead the championship standings, through three races, his 106.5 driver rating is the top mark as is his 351 of 375 laps run among the top-15. He finished ninth at Charlotte last weekend and has a streak of eight consecutive top-10 finishes at 1.5-mile tracks such as Atlanta.
“Racing at home is always special and with as good as we’ve been on the intermediates and to start the year, we definitely have a good opportunity in front of us this weekend,” Hill said, adding, “We’ve done a good job so far this year at getting stage points and being consistent each week. We just need to put the entire afternoon together to contend for a win an Atlanta would be the perfect place to do it.”
Defending race winner Kyle Busch and last week’s Charlotte Truck race winner Chase Elliott are both entered this weekend too. Busch leads all drivers with five Atlanta victories and is the only competitor to score back-to-back wins here (2007-08). He led 92 of the 130 laps to beat Sauter last year by .932-second. Rhodes was the only other driver to lead double-digit laps in 2019 – holding the point for 20 laps midway through the race and finishing fifth.
Noticeably absent from the top of the championship leader board through three races in 2020 is defending series champ Matt Crafton, one of only three drivers entered this weekend with a past Atlanta trophy. Crafton, who dominated the 2015 race leading 85 of 130 laps, is currently ranked 11th with only a single top five this season (fourth place at Las Vegas in March). He is coming off a tough 35th-place finish at Charlotte last week, where he led his first laps (six) of the year in the No. 88 ThorSport Ford.
Moffitt won at Atlanta in his 2018 championship season, leading only the two laps of an overtime restart. He scored his first top-10 of the year last week at Charlotte – leading a pair of laps and finishing fourth. He has two top-five finishes at Atlanta, answering his 2018 victory with a fourth place here last year.
Enfinger, who won the 2019 regular season championship and led the standings for 15 of the opening 18 races, crashed out at Las Vegas in March and rallied to a 12th-place finish last weekend in Charlotte. His single stage victory is the only stage win among fulltime truck drivers this season. He has four top-10 finishes in four starts at Atlanta, including his best effort of third last year.
Another preseason title favorite, Stewart Friesen, who joined Crafton, Moffitt and Ross Chastain in the Championship Four last season, is off to a bit of a slower start. The 36-year old Canadian has only one top 10 – a ninth place at Las Vegas and finished 30th last week at Charlotte. His only laps led are a 13-lap run up front at Daytona, where started 28th and finished 21st.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!