Return to Richmond: Camping World Truck Series ready for short-track showdown

Return to Richmond: Camping World Truck Series ready for short-track showdown

For all but a small handful of NASCAR Camping World Truck Series regulars, competition at this week‘s Richmond Raceway is a new skillset. Among the regular-season championship contenders, only Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter have multiple previous starts at the 0.75-mile track, which is hosting the ToyotaCare 250 Saturday (1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

There was robust competition at Richmond in the Camping World Truck Series for a decade (1995-2005), and the series returned to race there again last year, with Grant Enfinger earning a 1.033-second victory over Crafton, a three-time series champ.

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Enfinger will be in a Toyota Tundra this week, and the make is working on a perfect season with victories in all five races to date — the second time in three years that has happened to start the season.

Championship points leader John Hunter Nemechek, who won his first race with Kyle Busch Motorsports at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March, leads the standings by six points over two-race winner Ben Rhodes. They are the only two full-time championship contenders with wins. NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch (Atlanta Motor Speedway) and Martin Truex Jr. (Bristol Motor Speedway dirt) have won the last two events.

It has been two full weeks since the Trucks last raced — at Bristol — and it‘s fair to say drivers are highly anticipating this week‘s short-track battle.

Beyond Nemechek‘s slim six-point advantage over Rhodes, reigning series champion Sheldon Creed is only 21 points back. Crafton is fourth in the standings, 40 points back, followed by Stewart Friesen (-53) and perennial favorite Austin Hill (-55), who has climbed back into contention after a rough season start.

The series’ all-time winningest driver, Busch (60 career wins), will be making his third start of the season at Richmond and, like most of the field, racing for his first career series win there. Busch, owner-driver of the No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota, has two previous Richmond truck starts, finishing 22nd in 2001 and crashing out (30th place) in 2005.

The odds certainly favor a robust course correction, though. Busch has a record six NASCAR Xfinity Series wins there — three times from pole position. He has another six NASCAR Cup Series victories at Richmond coupled with seven runner-up finishes — 13 of his 30 starts.

While the Kyle Busch Motorsports organization certainly brings momentum to Richmond — its drivers have won the last three races of 2021 — Enfinger‘s ThorSport Racing team proved last year it‘s up for the challenge.

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ThorSport Racing’s trucks swept the race with Enfinger winning, Crafton finishing second and Rhodes coming home third — the trio combining to lead 109 laps, nearly half the 250-lap total.

Defending race winner Enfinger is currently set to run only a partial schedule with ThorSport this season, making a second straight win at Richmond this week all the more crucial.

“We are taking the same truck that we ran there last year — same basic set-up, same tires — so hopefully we can duplicate the result,” Enfinger said. “Obviously things are going to be different with it being a daytime race. I feel like it‘s going to be a little bit slicker out there with hopefully a little bit of sunshine on Saturday. I‘m looking forward to it.”