Adaptability will determine who survives and thrives in the playoffs.
The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series kicked off its 2019 postseason at Bristol Motor Speedway last week. Brett Moffitt won and became the first driver to solidify his Round of 6 berth. Now the circuit heads to Canadian Tire Motorsport Park, a 2.459-mile road course with 10 turns that‘s much different than the recent 0.533-mile oval.
“Well, it was pretty crazy (Thursday),” Tyler Ankrum said, who is currently eighth in the standings. “So I think it set the tone that it‘s only going to get crazier. We‘ll see for these next two races. Then, you know, what happens happen.”
The Chevrolet Silverado 250 is Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET (FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
With where the championship standings fall right now, Ankrum (eighth, 2,030 points) is the bottom-ranked playoff driver. He and Austin Hill (seventh, 2,040 points) are below the cutline, which Johnny Sauter has set in sixth at 2,043 points. Moffitt is in first and holds 2,081 points.
Three races make up each playoff round, the third being an elimination race. The current Round of 8 consists of Bristol (done), Canadian Tire (next) and Las Vegas Motor Speedway (Sept. 13 at 9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), which is a 1.5-miler. None of the tracks are alike.
“It‘s just a beast in itself,” Hill said. “You got a half mile — a half mile that‘s super fast like Bristol is, too — and then you go to a road course you only run once a year. I didn‘t have the privilege of doing any other road-course races, so that‘s going to be interesting. To be able to go to Las Vegas then is going to be really good for us.”
Justin Haley, who‘s now in the Xfinity Series, won the race at Canadian Tire last year.
The Gander Trucks as a whole has not run a road course this season.
“Oh, I‘m looking forward to it,” said Matt Crafton, who‘s fifth (2,053 points) in the standings and has an average finish of 8.7 in six starts at Canadian Tire. “I love road racing.”
Other drivers in the playoffs not already mentioned are Ross Chastain (second, 2,065 points), Stewart Friesen (third, 2,057 points) and Grant Enfinger (fourth, 2,053 points). That makes eight total. Two drivers will be cut from the field after Las Vegas.
Only four get to compete for the championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 15.
“Can‘t slow down,” Chastain said. “You‘ll get runover.”
The Round of 6 will start at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 12. After the 2.66-mile-long oval, the Truck Series will go to 0.526-mile Martinsville Speedway. The last stop before the finale, ISM Raceway, is a mile.
The lack of similarities between the Round of 6 tracks mirrors that of the Round of 8.
“It‘s the same thing once you get to Round 2,” Ankrum said. “So you have to be able to adapt really well.”