The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers are ready to face off for the championship trophy. Ben Rhodes, John Hunter Nemechek, Matt Crafton, and Zane Smith will battle for the title after a very wild end to the Martinsville elimination race.
Eight drivers entered the October 30 race at Martinsville Speedway eligible for a spot in the championship four, but none had secured their spot with a prior victory or by virtue of points. With no one safe, the drivers took part in a contentious afternoon of racing that featured several wrecks, a multitude of angry comments over the radio, and a questionable move by a non-playoff driver.
The final run to the checkered flag took place during an overtime finish. Corey Heim brought out the caution flag — the 13th of the day — after he sent Dawson Cram spinning. Todd Gilliland lined up on the inside while Stewart Friesen took the outside. They bumped trucks all the way around the track while Smith dove to the inside.
The trucks went three-wide heading toward the white flag, and then a wild wreck unfolded. Friesen accidentally spun Gilliland into the wall while Smith crossed the line and took the white flag before the yellow caution flag waved.
With Smith becoming the surprise winner, he locked himself into the final four for the second consecutive season. Rhodes moved on with enough points, as did Crafton and Nemechek. Chandler Smith, Carson Hocevar, Friesen, and defending champion Sheldon Creed all watched their championship hopes come to an end.
Nemechek’s Day Came to an Early End After a Hook Move
The driver of the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra entered the race at Martinsville in the best position. He had a 36-point cushion above the cutline, one point more than ThorSport driver Ben Rhodes. However, the regular-season champion’s day came to an early end after a fellow driver sent him into the wall.
The incident occurred on Lap 130. Nemechek bumped Austin Wayne Self from behind, getting him loose entering a turn. The driver of the No. 4 dove to the inside to make the pass, but Self hooked him and sent the Toyota into the wall. The collision crumpled the front of the vehicle.
Nemechek spent multiple minutes trying to get the truck fired so he could continue in the race after making repairs. He was unable to achieve this goal, even with some pushes from behind. Nemechek ultimately had to climb from the ruined No. 4 and head to the infield care center, ending his day 39th overall.
“He shouldn’t be out here if he was just going to hook someone in the right rear and turn them into the fence,” Nemechek told FOX Sports reporter Jamie Little after exiting the infield care center. He shouldn’t be out here. NASCAR should definitely take a look at that. It’s playoff contention. I mean, you’ve gotta have respect and obviously, he doesn’t.”
1 Pivotal Championship Race Remains for the 4 Drivers
With the final elimination race complete, there is only one race remaining in the Truck Series season. The drivers will head to Phoenix Raceway on Friday, November 5, for the championship battle.
These drivers will complete 150 laps around the one-mile track as they fight for glory, the trophy, and bonus money. The man who wins the title will walk away with a $140,000 cash bonus.
With Creed falling below the elimination line, he will not have the opportunity to defend his title. Instead, Nemechek, Rhodes, and Smith will all try to secure their first championships. Though Crafton can win his fourth Truck Series title with a strong performance at Phoenix.