NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Trucks Review: Chevrolet Silverado 250

 It was typical Talladega!  That's the best way to describe this weekends truck race.  The only added pressure the trucks had is that it was a playoff cutoff race.  Ten drivers went into Talladega with a shot to win a championship, but only eight of them left with that same chance.  The action was wild.  The race was awesome.  It was everything a fan should expect when you combine the wild nature of Talladega, and the competitive nature of the NASCAR Truck series.

Sheldon Creed led the field to the green flag with Austin Hill right beside him.  Grant Enfinger had trouble early as a tire went down for him on the left rear.  This did not bring out the caution ,though, which put Enfinger multiple laps down as his team fixed the truck.  The first major event of the day happened as a result of those two battling up front with 8 laps to go in the stage.  Hill had a charge to the front and Creed tried to block the #16.  The two made contact which got Creed out of line.  As Creed attempted to blend back in line, a huge wreck ensued behind him which collected his teammate and fellow playoff contender, Zane Smith.  Smith was out of the race which made him the lowest finishing playoff driver of the race.  The race restarted with 2 laps to go in the stage.  Christian Eckes led the field but strong charges from both Creed and Hill proved too much for Eckes to hold.  Austin Hill went on to win Stage 1 with Gilliland, Eckes, Creed, Rhodes, C. Smith, Dean, Ankrum, Moffitt, and Kraus all earning stage points behind him.

Stage 2 restarted with some new faces of front due to the differing pit strategies.  Derek Kraus and Raphael Lessard led the field to green.  The field was able to stay out of trouble throughout the second stage.  This allowed some really good racing between some of the best racers in the Truck series.  The intensity ramped up, as it usually seems to do at Talladega, and with 4 laps to go Gus Dean's #56 truck was sent into the inside wall off of Turn 4 after some contact with Tanner Gray.  The stage ended under caution with Derek Kraus out front.  This gave Kraus the stage win with Sauter, C. Smith, Hill, Moffitt, Rhodes, Gilliland, Creed, Ankrum, and Crafton rounding out the Top 10.  Of the 10 playoff drivers in the field, 8 of them were able to grab stage points in at least one of the two stages.  There was a slight incident on pit road after Stage 2 when Austin Hill got into the rear tire changer of Jordan Anderson's truck as Hill tried to get out of his pit box.  It was later reported that Anderson's tire changer was okay and even continued to pit the truck after the incident.

Stage 3 was a 50 lap shootout to the end for these drivers.  The run was short, however, as on lap 58 Tanner Gray spun out on the backstretch.  Austin Hill riding behind Gray just caught the left rear of Gray's truck and the air turned Gray, an incident all too familiar at Talladega.  Coincidentally, Todd Gilliland appeared to be having an issue at the same time as Gray spun.  Ultimately,  Gilliland had a blown engine which ended his playoff hopes.  In the midst of this, Grant Enfinger found himself in the lucky dog position and got back on the lead lap.  After this, the race went caution free up until 6 laps to go.  During this time, we saw green flag pit stops which were fairly uneventful minus a run-in between Chandler Smith and Robby Lyons on pit road.  Debris brought out the caution with 6 to go.  This bunched the field up once again and allowed for a 3 lap shootout to the end.  Stewart Friesen and Tyler Ankrum led them to the line.  Friesen was up front until getting turned into the wall on the final lap.  Chaos ensued after this which led to NASCAR throwing the caution before the leaders could get back to the line.  This meant that Raphael Lessard picked up his first victory in the NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series. Bayne, C. Smith, Rhodes, Rohrbaugh, Anderson, Moffitt, Crafton, Grala, and Kraus all finished in the Top 10.  Seven playoff drivers finished outside the top 10.  These drivers were Creed (12th), Enfinger (13th), Ankrum (16th), Eckes (18th), Hill (19th), Gilliland (28th), and Z. Smith (33rd).  Lessard showed that being in the right place at the right time was the best strategy at Talladega.  The young Canadian driver for KBM led only one lap in the entire race, but it proved to be the most important.  While Lessard was celebrating, his KBM teammate of Christian Eckes was not as he joined Todd Gilliland as the first two eliminated from the Truck series playoffs.  With the Round of 8 set, the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors playoff grid looks like this:

1. Austin Hill - +12 Points

2. Sheldon Creed - +12 Points

3. Zane Smith - +6 Points

4. Grant Enfinger - +3 Points

5. Brett Moffitt - -3 Points

6. Ben Rhodes - -5 Points

7. Matt Crafton - -10 Points

8. Tyler Ankrum  - -16 Points

The truck series has an off week ahead of them which gives these 8 teams two weeks to prepare the best trucks they can for this final round before Phoenix.  There is no room for error in the next 3 races.  Even Austin Hill and Sheldon Creed only sit 12 points above the cutoff line, a margin that could disappear in an instant.  The 2020 season draws to a close and the battle heats up.  Who will earn the right to duel in the desert for the 2020 Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Championship?