An unexpected wild-card elimination race changed the tone of the 2020 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series playoff schedule.
Originally, Talladega Superspeedway was supposed to fall in the middle of the Round of 8. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, however, prompted changes to the postseason slate. And now, the Alabama track known for its high speed and high banks is hosting the Round of 10 cutoff event.
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“I wasn’t a big fan of it until I sat there and watched the Cup cutoff race at Daytona (International Speedway),” Gander Trucks playoff driver Grant Enfinger said Tuesday on a Zoom teleconference. “I was on the edge of my seat the entire time, seeing if Jimmie Johnson was going to make it in and what was going to happen.”
That’s when Enfinger finally understood NASCAR’s draw and decision.
“From an entertainment standpoint, from a fan’s standpoint, it is awesome,” Enfinger said. “From a competitor’s standpoint, it’s terrible. This is going to be a stressful race. Even though we’re going in with a bit of a cushion, anything can happen.”
Enfinger sits fourth in the postseason standings, safe by 31 points. He’s comfortable his No. 98 ThorSport Racing Ford team can safely score enough stage points to secure its spot in the next round — and then go for the win.
The only driver locked in is Austin Hill, winner of last weekend’s race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Sam Mayer won the opener at Bristol Motor Speedway but is not a playoff contender due to his part-time status.
Todd Gilliland is sitting in 10th, 19 points below the cutline — the lowest-ranked title-eligible driver. The No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford crew has little choice but to reach Victory Lane if it wants to continue vying for the title.
“If we wreck trying to go for the win, I think we can live with ourselves on that,” Gilliland said. “Whereas, other guys that might be able to let someone in and still make it on points, those guys are going to be looking behind them and worrying about points this whole week. For us, it’s pretty simple. There’s no one behind us. We can only move forward from here if we do our job right.”
Four races remain before the Nov. 6 championship event at Phoenix Raceway, starting with the Chevrolet Silverado 250 (1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Talladega determines the Round of 8, while Martinsville Speedway sets the Championship 4 on Oct. 30. That’s a 2.66-mile superspeedway versus a .526-mile short track.
“I don’t think you can ask for anything more than that,” Gilliland said. “I love it. We’re in the entertainment business, and it’s definitely going to be entertaining.”