With much anticipation the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to the Sonoma Raceway road course for the first time since Boris Said raised a trophy in California wine country back in 1998.
The fulltime truck series drivers are excited about the opportunity and there’s a large group of NASCAR Cup Series regulars entered in Saturday’s DoorDash 250 (7:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) too, hoping to get some extra miles in to prepare for Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series race.
Reigning series champion Ben Rhodes holds the championship lead heading into the weekend by 17 points over Chandler Smith. The top six drivers – also Zane Smith, John Hunter Nemechek, Stewart Friesen and Christian Eckes – are only separated by 34 points.
It’s essentially a “home race” for three-time 2022 winner, Californian Zane Smith, who turned 23 on Thursday. He won the series’ only other road course race this year at Austin, Texas. And his nine top-10 finishes in the No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford through the opening 11 races is tops among the title contenders.
And he shows up this week energized by a solid NASCAR Cup Series debut last week in Gateway – where he finished 17th after starting 32nd in the No. 17 RFK Racing Ford; filling in for Chris Buescher who was out with COVID-19.
Smith can certainly expect tough competition from Rhodes who also has a road course win (Daytona Road Course, 2021) and is hoping to regain his title form after an up-and-down last month that includes three top-10s but also two finishes of 25th-place or worse in the No. 99 ThorSport Racing Toyota.
Nemechek, who trails Rhodes by 22 points in the championship, is also a former road course winner, taking a trophy in Bowmanville, Canada back in 2016. He has five other top-five road course finishes including three runner-up showings – the most recent at Austin this Spring. The driver of the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota had a streak of seven top-10 finishes before an uncharacteristic crash/DNF at Gateway, Ill. last week.
Chandler Smith, 19, comes into the summer stretch with some positive momentum. The driver of the No. 18 KBM Toyota has Top-10 finishes in the last four races and led 40 laps last week at Gateway. He finished fifth at Austin in his only road course race in the series.
This weekend will be a new challenge for the current fulltime championship drivers who will be contending for the trophy with a larger-than-normal group of NASCAR Cup Series drivers.
Alex Bowman, Harrison Burton, Austin Dillon, Ross Chastain and Kyle Busch headline a group of eight drivers – also including former Truck Series champion Todd Bodine – who are slated to compete in the Truck race Saturday afternoon. Busch is a two-time Sonoma NASCAR Cup Series race winner.
The four past Camping World Truck Series Sonoma Raceway winners – NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr., Dave Rezendes, Joe Ruttman and Boris Said will serve as grand marshals on Saturday at Sonoma.
TIL NEXT TIME, I AM STILL WORKING ON MY REDNECK!