NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Review: Clean Harbors 200




All three of NASCAR's National Touring series came into the weekend on a level playing field.  All three series were entering their Round of 8.  All three series had the same 4 tracks left in front of them.  Finally, all three series presented an opportunity to 8 drivers to go out and clinch their shot at a championship in Phoenix.  For the Truck series, that's exactly what the 8 remaining playoff drivers set out to do.  Ultimately, only one could lock up a spot in the Championship 4.  However, the playoff battle was not the only story, perhaps not even the biggest story of the day.  This was because rising star Hailie Deegan was set to make her first ever NASCAR Touring series start.  Deegan was driving the #17 Ford F150 for DGR Crosley Racing, a ride which was announced later in the race that she would be driving in the Truck Series in 2021.  The round of 8 was set to begin.

Sheldon Creed continued his dominant performance as he took the lead from Ben Rhodes and Chandler Smith on lap 1 of the race.  That's a lead that Creed wouldn't give up for quite awhile.  Creed went on to lead every lap in Stage 1.  Creed went on to win Stage 1 with C. Smith, Hill, Z. Smith, Crafton, Eckes, Enfinger, Sauter, Moffitt, and Gilliland all receiving stage points.  The calm nature of the first stage did not last into the second stage.  On lap 38, there was a massive wreck on the front stretch which involved Talladega winner, Raphael Lessard, and playoff contender, Tyler Ankrum.  Ankrum was the first and only playoff driver to be out of the race.  Austin Hill and Zane Smith led the field to green after the mess was cleaned up.  It wasn't long until Sheldon Creed found his way back to the front.  Creed went on to win Stage 2 and collect another 10 stage points.  Z. Smith, C. Smith, Eckes, Hill, Crafton, Gilliland, Sauter, Moffitt, and Enfinger all collected stage points in Stage 2.  Ben Rhodes and Tyler Ankrum were the only two playoff drivers to not collect any stage points.

In the final stage of the race, Sheldon Creed appeared to be pulling away with the win.  That was until his GMS teammate, Zane Smith, got into the mix and actually passed Creed for the lead on lap 82.  A couple laps later, Creed lost another spot to Brett Moffitt, another GMS teammate.  Creed slipped back all the way to 8th which was enough to bring him down pit road in an attempt to short pit the guys in front of him.  Todd Gilliland and Hailie Deegan tried a different pit strategy as they attempted to stretch the cycle out as far as they could.  This, ultimately, didn't work and both drivers had to give up the lead which cycled Brett Moffitt and Zane Smith back to the lead.  The two GMS teammates battled hard for the lead.  They battled so hard that Smith ended up spinning after contact with Moffitt with 3 laps to go in the race.  Smith was able to save the truck but the caution came out leading to an overtime finish.  Brett Moffitt was able to pull away in the last couple laps and secure his first win of the season.  The win couldn't come at a more perfect time for Moffitt as the win locked up his spot in the Championship 4.  Moffitt will contend for a championship in Phoenix.  Creed, Hill, Enfinger, C. Smith, Eckes, Peters, Crafton, Kraus, and Bayne all finished in the Top 10 behind Moffitt.  Z. Smith (11th), Rhodes (20th), and Ankrum (34th) were the only playoff drivers to finish outside the Top 10.  After Kansas, the playoff grid looks like this:

1. Brett Moffitt - Advanced

2. Sheldon Creed - +26 Points

3. Austin Hill - +19 Points

4. Zane Smith - +7 Points

5. Grant Enfinger - -7 Points

6. Matt Crafton - -15 Points

7. Ben Rhodes - -33 Points

8. Tyler Ankrum - -56 Points

GMS racing could very well pull off what Joe Gibbs Racing did last year in the Cup Series, placing three drivers in the Championship 4.  One of their drivers, Brett Moffitt, has already clinched his spot.  Sheldon Creed has looked extremely good this season, and throughout the playoffs.  Zane Smith is young, but not to be counted out in the playoffs.  Ben Rhodes and Tyler Ankrum, while not mathematically out on points, look to have a must win situation on their hands.  With two races left to decide the Championship 4, who will punch their ticket to Phoenix and have a shot to fight for the championship?