Atlanta awaits after two-week break
Trucks are back!
After two weeks off for the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, they are back in action on Saturday afternoon on the 1.54-mile track of Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Vet Tix Camping World 200 (1:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Saturday’s event will be the 19th race for the series at the 1.54-mile track, the first being on March 13, 2004. Bobby Hamilton started 12th in a Dodge and won the inaugural race.
It will also mark the third race of the season for the Gander Trucks.
Grant Enfinger secured the season-opening win at Daytona International Speedway and Kyle Busch returned to the series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and took home another checkered flag to kick off 2020.
Matt Crafton, the 2019 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Champion, will make his 19th start at Atlanta, the most of any active driver in the series. He’s the only driver to have competed in every race since the inaugural one in 2004.
Behind him is Kyle Busch, who will be back behind the wheel of the No. 51 Toyota, with 11 previous starts. Busch has dominated at Atlanta, winning five of the 18 races run at the track. He’s the only driver to have won back-to-back races (2007-2008) and he won the most recent race last season.
Only five drivers in history have won the race at Atlanta from the pole and twice a driver has won from the 18th starting position.
A Toyota has won the last three years and in total has eight victories. Dodge has the one win from the inaugural race and Chevrolet has nine wins.
In 2018, Brett Moffitt won at Atlanta and went on to with the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Championship.
Drivers that won for the first time at Atlanta Motor Speedway and won the championship in the same year:
- Bobby Hamilton – 2004
- Todd Bodine – 2006
- Christopher Bell – 2017
- Brett Moffitt – 2018
Quick facts about Atlanta Motor Speedway for the upcoming race:
- The Hampton, Georgia track is 1.54-miles.
- The race length is 200.2 miles, which is 130 laps. There is 24-degree banking in corners and five-degree banking on straightaways. The frontstretch is 2,332 feet and the backstretch is 1,800 feet.
- Ron Hornaday Jr. still holds the race record from March 18, 2005 at 142.424 mph.
- The closest margin of victory was in 2005 at 0.008 seconds and the greatest margin of victory was in 2015 at 8.752 seconds.
- There have been 12 different pole winners, 13 different race winners and 11 different winning truck owners.
- Five of 18 races have been won from the pole.
Beating Kyle Busch = Winning Bounty
It all started on Twitter when Kevin Harvick tweeted that any full-time NASCAR Cup Series driver who competes in a NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series race and beats Kyle Busch would also win an additional $50,000. Marcus Lemonis, the CEO of Camping World and Gander RV & Outdoors, pushed it even further raising the reward to a total of $100,000.
Busch currently has four more Gander Trucks races on his schedule: Atlanta Motor Speedway, Homestead-Miami Speedway, Texas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway.
GMS Racing announced that Georgia native Chase Elliott will drive the No. 24 Chevrolet for the team, making Atlanta the first race where the bounty comes into play.
If Elliott doesn’t secure the win, Kyle Larson will get a shot at it, also with GMS Racing, at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Elliott will be back behind the wheel of the No. 24 again at Kansas.
Billy Ballew and James Finch have come together to run a truck entry for Erik Jones at Homestead-Miami Speedway in hopes of winning the bounty. Jones is the only one of the three contenders who is a Gander Trucks champion (2015).
However, if Busch is successful at holding off anyone from taking the bounty in these four races, the money will be donated to the Bundle of Joy Foundation.
As a note, any driver taking up the bounty doesn’t have to actually win one of the races, they only have to finish ahead of Busch. If more than one Cup Series driver is competing against Busch in a single race, the highest-finishing driver will get the bounty. A driver is not allowed to wreck Busch for the money, either.
Chase Elliott’s NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Stats
Elliott has 12 starts to his name in the Gander Trucks with two wins, eight top-five finishes, 10 top-10 finishes and three poles. Plus, he led a total of 301 laps and had an average start of 6.3 and average finish of 7.9.
His first Gander Trucks win came at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in 2013, in only his sixth career start in the series. His second win was in 2017 at Martinsville from the pole.
His first and only start at Atlanta Motor Speedway was in 2017. He started ninth and finished fifth. He’s never run a Gander Trucks race at Kansas, so this season will mark his series track debut.
Kyle Larson’s NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Stats
Kyle Larson has 13 career starts in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Trucks Series with two wins, seven top fives, 10 top 10s and two poles.
His first Gander Trucks win came at Rockingham Speedway in only his fifth start in the series. He later went on to win the Eldora Dirt Derby in 2016 from the seventh starting spot.
He has led 703 laps and has an average start of 7.3 and average finish of 8.5 in the Gander Trucks.
Larson will be making his fourth Gander Trucks start at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His first was in 2012, when he started on the front row but ended up finishing 27th due to a incident. He competed at Homestead again in 2014, starting on the pole and finishing runner-up. And his last start in the series was at Homestead in 2016. He started third and finished fourth.
Erik Jones’ NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Stats
Erik Jones has the most experience in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series of all three Cup drivers pursuing the bounty. He has 42 career starts from 2013-2018 with seven wins, 10 top fives, 35 top 10s and seven poles.
Not to mention, Jones is the 2015 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series champion, too.
Jones’ first win was at Phoenix Raceway in 2013 in only his fifth career Gander Trucks start. His most recent win was in 2015 at Texas Motor Speedway.
He has a Gander Trucks career average start and average finish of 7.0.
Home cooking in Georgia
There’s no place like home and for three drivers making a start in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series this weekend, home is not too far away from the 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway track.
Austin Hill, driver of the No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota, is from Winston, Georgia. Approximately one hour away from the Atlanta track, Hill will be making his fifth start at his home track on Saturday.
Last season, Hill started from the pole for the first time at the track. He also got his first top-10 finish of his career at Atlanta, finishing in seventh. Previous statistics show that Atlanta hasn’t always been Hill’s best track, but his performances have continued to get better each year.
Hill is also the only fulltime driver in the series with home ties to Georgia.
Chase Elliott will be running in the No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet in an effort to win the bounty against Kyle Busch in the Gander Trucks. Elliott is from Dawsonville, Georgia, which is about an hour and a half away from the Atlanta track.
In his only start at Atlanta in the series, he finished fifth after starting ninth. This will be Elliott’s 13th career start in the series.
Spencer Davis, also from Dawsonville, will pilot the No. 11 Spencer Davis Motorsports Toyota at Atlanta.
Davis will be making his 11th career start and second at his home track. He started fourth in 2018 and finished 13th. He has a career-best finish of seventh.
Korbin Forrister is entered to race the No. 7 All Out Motorsports Toyota this weekend. Forrister is another driver that calls Atlanta his home track. He’s from Cedartown, Georgia, which is approximately two hours from the track.
This will be Forrister’s fifth start at the track and 51st career start. His best finish was in 2018, when he started in 21st and finished 16th.
Ryan Truex, Jeb Burton running for Niece Motorsports
Ryan Truex hasn’t run a race yet in 2020 for any of the three series he competes in. But he will be back behind the wheel of a truck this weekend for Niece Motorsports.
Truex hasn’t competed in the Truck Series since 2017 but has 10 top fives, 19 top 10s and two poles to his name. He’ll pilot the No. 40 truck for the team.
Truex has made two starts at Atlanta prior and had a best finish of 13th in 2017.
Jeb Burton will also be running for Niece Motorsports this weekend in the No. 38 truck.
Burton has 55 starts in the series with one win (2013), seven top fives, 21 top 10s and seven poles under his belt. His win was at Texas Motor Speedway in 2013, where he started third.
However, Burton has never made a start at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the series.
Points on points on points
Although the series is only two races into the season for the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Trucks, taking a look at the driver point standings shows us who has been on top of their game since the start of the season.
Hattori Racing Enterprises driver Austin Hill leads the driver standings with 82 points, nine markers up on second-place Johnny Sauter. Hill has one top five and two top 10s in the first two races of the season and has led 11 laps.
Veteran ThorSport Racing driver Sauter is right in Hill’s rearview mirror in second in the Gander Trucks driver standings with 73 points. He also has one top five and two top 10s on the year.
Ben Rhodes sits in third in the series driver standings, 22 points back from driver standings lead, with one top-five finish this season. Rhodes gained a massive 16 spots in the standings after Vegas, and is now just 13 points behind second-place Sauter.
GMS Racing’s Brett Moffitt, the 2018 series champion, is in fourth in the Gander Trucks driver standings following Las Vegas with 59 points, 23 back from Austin Hill in the standings lead.
Moffitt’s GMS Racing teammate Sheldon Creed rounds out the top five in the standings with two top-10 performances in as many races. He has accumulated 58 points this season, 24 back from Hill and just one back from Moffitt.
Looking ahead to Atlanta, Hill will have his work cut out for him to hold on to the standings lead as of the top five in points, Rhodes has the best average finish on the 1.54-mile track with a 4.8; followed by Moffitt (5.3), Creed (12.0), Sauter (12.1) and Hill (13.8).
Rookie Battle update: Zane Smith out front early
We’re only two races into the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series 2020 season, but here’s how the top three drivers in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings are faring thus far.
|NGROTS Sunoco Rookie of the Year Standings|
GMS Racing’s Zane Smith stands atop the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings with 58 points; sixth in the Gander Trucks driver points after one top-10 finish in two starts this season.
Two points behind Smith is Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Christian Eckes in second in the rookie points and eighth in the Gander Truck driver standings. And seven points back from Eckes is McAnally Hilgemann Racing’s Derek Kraus in third in the rookie standings and 15th in the series driver standings.
Smith and Kraus are the first two drivers to win the Sunoco Rookie of the Race awards in 2020.
Smith opened the season strong with an 11th-place finish at Daytona and a sixth-place finish at Las Vegas. He has completed 100% of laps attempted and has earned an average finish of 8.5.
Eckes has had a slow start to the season, finishing 22nd at Daytona and 23rd at Las Vegas. The driver of the No. 18 Toyota was competing hard with his owner (and teammate) during the race at Las Vegas but ended up suffering from penalties and being involved in an incident late in the race.
Kraus has had mixed results too in 2020, finishing fourth at Daytona and 22nd at Las Vegas due to an incident on the third lap of the race and was unable to work his way back to the front of the field.
Looking ahead to Atlanta, the only series rookie that has made a previous Gander Trucks start at Atlanta is Spencer Davis in 2018 – he started fourth and finished 13th. The rest of the class will be making their series track debuts.
NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, Etc.
Tennessee strong: Clay Greenfield will pilot the No. 68 Clay Greenfield Motorsports truck on Saturday, honoring all of those who suffered loss and devastation in Nashville, Tennessee due to the tornado. The truck says #TennesseeStrong on it and Greenfield is advertising that you can donate by texting “Restore The Dream” to 41444.
T.J. Bell behind the wheel: Young’s Motorsports has signed T.J. Bell Jr. to pilot the No. 12 Chevrolet for the team in Atlanta this weekend. Bell has made 118 starts in his Gander Trucksgoo
career. Most recently, he ran three races for Niece Motorsports last season in the No. 38 Chevrolet. He has a career-best finish of fifth at Auto Club Speedway in 2009.
Women’s History Month Highlight – Jennifer Jo Cobb: As part of Women’s History Month, let’s take a look at Jennifer Jo Cobb who has been competing in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series for 13 years. Cobb, who is from Kansas City, has not only been a driver for all these years but also runs her own team – Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing. This weekend’s attempt at Atlanta Motor Speedway would mark her 191st career start in the series. Cobb’s best finish was in 2011 at Daytona International Speedway in sixth place. Cobb has also made 31 starts in the Xfinity Series.