We preview the NASCAR Cup and Xfinity Series at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, and the Trucks visit IRP
NASCAR Cup Series
Next Race: Verizon 200 at the Brickyard
The Place: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course
The Date: Sunday, August 13
The Time: 2:30 p.m. ET
The Purse: $9,158,803
TV: NBC, 2 p.m. ET
Radio: IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 199.998 miles (82 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 15),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 35), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 82)
With just three races left in the regular season the tensions are high for many of the competitors not locked into the Playoffs as the NASCAR Cup Series returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course for the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard on Sunday, August 13 at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC, IMS Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) has existed since 1909, and is considered the original “Speedway”, the first racing facility to incorporate the word into its name. With a permanent seating capacity for more than 250,000-plus people and infield seating that raises capacity to an approximate 400,000, it is considered the largest and highest-capacity sporting facility in history. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course was completed in 2000 and it incorporates part of the famous four-turn oval. The original length upon completion of the road course measured 2.605-miles. In 2008, and again in 2014, the road course layout was modified to improve competition. This weekend’s event will compete on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile paved version of the road course.
The first NASCAR Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (oval) was August 6, 1994. Hendrick Motorsport’s driver Jeff Gordon (Chevrolet) won the inaugural event at the 2.5-mile speedway. The NASCAR Cup Series made its historical debut on the 14-Turn, 2.439-mile asphalt paved road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2021 with 40 competitors battling it out for 200 miles (82 laps). It was Kaulig Racing’s road course ace, A.J. Allmendinger, who knabbed the checkered flag in the inaugural event, by passing Joe Gibbs Racing’s Denny Hamlin and leading just the final two laps en route to the victory.
Then last season’s race on the Indianapolis Road Course was just as exciting as the first, with nine lead changes and Tyler Reddick, then driving for Richard Childress Racing, taking the victory by 1.065-second over Austin Cindric in Overtime.
This weekend’s Verizon 200 at the Brickyard is scheduled for 82 total laps and will be broken up into three stages. The first stage will be 15 laps, the second will be 20 laps and the final stage will be 47 laps. All the on-track NASCAR Cup Series activity will begin with practice directly followed by Busch Light Pole Qualifying on Saturday from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. ET. Both events will be streamed on the NBC Sports App (Peacock).
Playoff Streaks In Jeopardy: Several drivers need to win to get into the postseason
Looking at the NASCAR Cup Series 2023 Playoff standings outlook, several big names are below the cut line and with just three races left in the regular season the pressure to earn a spot in the postseason is mounting.
Rolling into this weekend at Indianapolis, three former NASCAR Cup Series champions – Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski and Chase Elliott, another eight former Playoff drivers – Michael McDowell, Daniel Suarez, Alex Bowman, Austin Cindric, Aric Almirola, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon and Chase Briscoe, plus another three former Cup Series winners – Bubba Wallace, A.J. Allmendinger, and Justin Haley make up the 20-driver field of eligible competitors still looking for a spot in the NASCAR Cup Series 2023 Playoffs.
|2023 NASCAR Cup Series Driver Playoff Outlook Following Race No. 23|
|Rank||Drivers||Points||Starts||Wins||Stages||Playoff Pts||Points From Cutoff|
|1||William Byron||703||23||4||7||22||In On Wins|
|2||Martin Truex Jr.||799||23||3||5||20|
|12||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||530||23||1||0||5|
|16||Ty Gibbs #||486||23||0||0||0||3|
|Note: Must compete in every race of the season to be eligible for the Playoffs or be granted a waiver by NASCAR (*).|
The four drivers currently occupying the four open transfer spots on points in the Playoff outlook are Kevin Harvick (+180 points), Brad Keselowski (+168), Bubba Wallace (+58) and rookie Ty Gibbs (+3). Harvick has made 16 appearances in the Playoffs (tied with Denny Hamlin for series-most), including the last 13 postseasons consecutively – the longest active streak of consecutive appearances.
Front Row Motorsports’ Michael McDowell dropped out of the 16th spot and into 17th place in the Playoff standings outlook following his 24th-place finish at Michigan, and now sits three points back from Joe Gibbs Racing’s rookie Ty Gibbs.
“We had a good run at Michigan and we need a good one at Indianapolis as well,” said Gibbs. “We just need to keep having good finishes and we can get in the Playoffs. We want to win, but we need good finishes if we can’t win.”
Behind McDowell is former road course winners, Trackhouse Racing’s Daniel Suárez in 18th only five points back from Gibbs in the final transfer spot on points, and Kaulig Racing’s A.J. Allmendinger (-24 points), who won at the Indianapolis Road Course in 2021.
But the biggest name below the Playoff cut line and approaching a must win situation, is the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series champion and Hendrick Motorsports’ driver Chase Elliott, currently 55 points back from the postseason cutoff. Elliott’s streak of seven consecutive Playoff appearances is in jeopardy with just three races to go in the regular season. In Elliott’s two starts at the Indianapolis Road Course he has finished fourth (2021) and 16th (2022).
Clinch Scenarios: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course – Race No. 24
Only three races remain in the NASCAR Cup Series 2023 regular season (Indianapolis, Watkins Glen and Daytona) and it’s that time of year we break out the calculators and start hammering the numbers to see who needs what to clinch their spot in the Playoffs on points.
The following 12 drivers have clinched a spot in the 16-driver postseason field: Martin Truex Jr., Denny Hamlin, William Byron, Christopher Bell, Kyle Larson, Ross Chastain, Kyle Busch, Ryan Blaney, Chris Buescher, Joey Logano, Tyler Reddick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Can Clinch Via Points
If there is a repeat winner or a win by a driver who cannot advance to the Playoffs, the following drivers could clinch by being 111 points above the third winless driver in the standings. The same point requirements listed below would hold true if a new win comes from either Kevin Harvick or Brad Keselowski.
- Kevin Harvick: Would clinch with 44 points
- Brad Keselowski: Would clinch with 54 points
Can Clinch Via Win
The following drivers would clinch on their win alone:
- Kevin Harvick, Brad Keselowski, Bubba Wallace, Ty Gibbs, Michael McDowell, Daniel Suarez, AJ Allmendinger, Alex Bowman, Austin Cindric, Chase Elliott, Justin Haley, Aric Almirola, Ryan Preece, Corey LaJoie, Todd Gilliland, Erik Jones, Austin Dillon, Harrison Burton, Chase Briscoe, Ty Dillon
Stacked Field: ‘Road Aces’ from different series join NASCAR at Indianapolis
Looking at this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series entry list, there are some names you don’t often see but are definitely well known in the racing community – Shane van Gisbergen, Mike Rockenfeller, Kamui Kobayashi, Brodie Kostecki, Andy Lally and Jenson Button are entered in the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard on Sunday.
Trackhouse Racing’s Shane van Gisbergen, the 34-year-old from Auckland, New Zealand, became a household name in American motorsports after grabbing the victory at the inaugural Chicago Street Race in his very first NASCAR Cup Series start. Gisbergen with crew chief Darian Grubb will be back this weekend with the Trackhouse Project91 team. Gisbergen is a three-time Australian V8 Supercar Champion.
“This whole NASCAR experience has been a dream come true,” van Gisbergen said recalling the rainy Chicago race. “I can’t wait to get to America then Indy. It will certainly be different than the Chicago Street Course. I’ll need to get up to speed quickly, but we plan a lot of simulator time and I know (No. 91 Crew Chief) Darian (Grubb) will be thoroughly prepared for Indy.”
Also announced this week, two-time Le Mans winner, Mike Rockenfeller will be driving the No. 42 Legacy Motor Club Chevrolet in place of a suspended Noah Gragson. The 38-year-old from Altnau, Switzerland, will be making his third career NASCAR Cup Series start this weekend. In his first two series starts he finished 30th at Watkins Glen and 29th at the Charlotte Roval. Rockenfeller did most of the car development for NASCAR and Hendrick Motorsports on the Garage 56 Project that competed at Le Mans earlier this year.
Much like Trackhouse Racing, 23XI Racing will be fielding a third car this weekend and piloting the No. 67 Toyota will be Kamui Kobayashi from Amagasaki, Japan. The 35-year-old former Formula 1 driver and IMSA Sports Car competitor will be attempting to make his NASCAR Cup Series debut this weekend at Indianapolis. Kobayashi will be working with crew chief Eric Phillips this weekend.
Richard Childress Racing will also field a third car this weekend, joining the RCR fold will be the No. 33 Chevrolet and Australian V8 Supercar driver Brodie Kostecki.
“I am thrilled to be making my NASCAR Cup Series debut at the Brickyard,” Kostecki said. “It’s an honor to compete at such an iconic venue and against some of the biggest names in motorsports. I’m incredibly grateful to RCR for giving me this opportunity, and I’m determined to make the most of it.”
Kostecki, from Perth in Western Australia, is not completely foreign to racing in the states, he made 16 starts in what is now called the ARCA Menards Series East from 2013-14 posting two poles (Iowa, Watkins Glen) and a best finish of fifth (Dover).
One team stacking their roster this weekend is Rick Ware Racing, who has locked in two road aces for Indianapolis in former NASCAR Cup Series Rookie of the Year and IMSA Sports Car winner Andy Lally, and Formula 1 World Champion (2009) Jenson Button.
Button will pilot the Rick Ware Racing No. 15 Chevrolet this weekend at Indianapolis and Lally will jump behind the wheel of the No. 51. Button, from England, also participated in the Garage 56 Project and this weekend will be his third career series start in the Cup Series. In his first two appearances earlier this season, he put up an 18th-place finish at Austin and a 21st at Chicago. Lally will also be making his third start of the season this weekend, in his first two starts he finished 35th (Sonoma) and 26th (Chicago).
Tyler Reddick is ready for another date with ‘The Bricks’
One of the special moments afforded the winner of a NASCAR Cup Series race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the ceremony of ‘kissing the bricks’ at the start/finish line – a tradition started by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Jarrett in 1996. Last year, while driving for Richard Childress Racing, Tyler Reddick won the NASCAR Cup Series race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course and got his first chance at applying the ‘big kiss’ to them rubber ladened, fuel soaked bricks. Now, with his new team 23XI Racing, Reddick returns to Indianapolis looking for his second win of the season and back-to-back victories at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.
This season Reddick is ranked 13th in the driver standings but has secured his spot in the Playoffs with his win Austin. This season the California native has put up one win, six top fives and nine top 10s.
In his two starts at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course he has posted one win and an average finish of 11.0.
Martin Truex Jr. is in high gear with three races to go in the regular season
Joe Gibbs Racing’s Martin Truex Jr. has shifted into high gear late in the regular season and is leaving his competitors in the dust. The current NASCAR Cup Series driver standings point leader, Truex, holds a 57 point advantage over his teammate Denny Hamlin in second, and 96 points up on Hendrick Motorsport’s William Byron in third.
“We are excited,” said Martin Truex Jr. when discussing his recent success. “Every week we feel like we have a shot to win, that is all I can ask for. It’s exciting to come to the track every weekend knowing what these guys are going to bring me. Hopefully, we can keep it up. It would have been nice to get a win at Michigan, but we’ve been really consistent, lots of speed and laps led and that’s gotten us some good finishes. Those 15 bonus points are very important, so that’s what we’ll be focused on the next three weeks. That really helps you come Playoff time. Just excited for what’s ahead with this team.”
In other good news, Truex announced he will be returning to JGR and the No. 19 Toyota team next season, which isn’t surprising after the year he is having. In 26 starts this season, Truex has collected three race wins, five stage wins, nine top fives and 13 top 10s.
Looking to Indianapolis, Truex will look to improve on his first two appearances at the 2.439-mile course where he posted a 21st in 2021 and a 15th in 2022.
Road Course Aces: NASCAR best at road racing
The NASCAR Cup Series drivers will be challenged by the twists and turns of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course this weekend in the Verizon 200 at the Brickyard (Aug. 13 at 2:30 p.m. ET on NBC. Several drivers are still looking for their first win this season, including Hendrick Motorsport’s Chase Elliott who leads all active drivers in road course wins with seven. Elliott is already considered one of the early favorites for this weekend but keep an eye on the two most recent winners on road courses in the series, Shane van Gisbergen (Chicago) and current points leader Martin Truex Jr. (Sonoma), as both will most certainly be in the mix as well.
This weekend there are 14 former road course winners entered in this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race at Indianapolis.
|Active Road Course Winners (14)||Total Wins||Sonoma||WGI||Charlotte||Daytona||Indy||COTA||Road America||Chicago|
|Martin Truex Jr||5||4||1||0||0||0||0||0||0|
|Shane van Gisbergen||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1|
The NASCAR Cup Series has competed on three road courses this season so far, with 23XI Racing’s Tyler Reddick winning at Austin (COTA), Truex winning at Sonoma and van Gisbergen at Chicago.
If Chase Elliott were to win this weekend, he would tie NASCAR Hall of Famer Tony Stewart (eight road course wins) for second on the NASCAR Cup Series all-time road course wins list, behind only NASCAR Hall of Famer Jeff Gordon with nine road course victories.
NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.
NASCAR Hauler Parade returns for Brickyard Weekend – Returning for the first time since 2019, the NASCAR Hauler Parade will kick off Brickyard Weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Haulers will drive down Main Street in Speedway in an epic display of color and excitement beginning at 5 p.m. ET Thursday, Aug. 10.
This drive down Main Street signifies the return of NASCAR to Indianapolis and marks the beginning of one of the most highly anticipated weekends in global motorsports – Brickyard Weekend from Aug. 11-13.
“There is no better way to launch Brickyard Weekend than the return of the NASCAR Hauler Parade after a three-year hiatus,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “With four races over a three-day weekend, Brickyard Weekend is packed with family-friendly activities on and off the track.”
NASCAR Xfinity Series
Back for some road course action at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
Next Race: Pennzoil 150 presented by Advance Auto Parts
The Place: Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course
The Date: Saturday, August 12
The Time: 5:30 p.m. ET
The Purse: $1,619,312
TV: USA, 5 p.m. ET
Radio: IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 151.22 miles (62 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 20),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 40), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 62)
The NASCAR Xfinity Series will once again make left and right turns this weekend for the Pennzoil 150 Presented by Advance Auto Parts at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course on Saturday, August 12 at 5:30 p.m. ET (USA Network, the NBC Sports App, IMS Radio and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Indianapolis Motor Speedway has hosted the NASCAR Xfinity Series three times on its road course configuration. Chase Briscoe won the inaugural race in 2020, followed by Austin Cindric in 2021 and AJ Allmendinger in 2022.
Allmendinger is the only previous winner entered in this weekend’s Pennzoil 150 Presented by Advance Auto Parts. Known as the “road course ringer,” it’s no surprise that Allmendinger has already set records on the Indianapolis Road Course. He set the race record last season with a speed of 77.825 mph and has won both poles at the track (qualifying was canceled in the 2020 inaugural race due to the pandemic).
NASCAR Xfinity Series drivers will fire up their engines for practice at 9:35 a.m. ET followed by qualifying at 10:05 a.m. ET on Saturday, August 12 on the NBC Sports App and IMS Radio.
Two chances to kiss the bricks: double duty drivers
Some Cup Series drivers love the Indianapolis bricks so much that they want to give themselves two opportunities to take the checkered flag and kiss the bricks this weekend – AJ Allmendinger, Ty Gibbs and Ross Chastain.
Allmendinger will be piloting the No. 10 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet for his fifth Xfinity Series start of the 2023 season. Three of his four previous starts were on road courses – COTA (first place), Sonoma (runner up), and Road America (ninth). He has made all three starts on the Indianapolis Road Course in the Xfinity Series and has only gotten better time after time. He posted a fourth-place finish in the inaugural race in 2020, a runner up finish in 2021 and then finally snagged the checkered flag in 2022.
The 2022 NASCAR Xfinity Series champion, Ty Gibbs, will be making his seventh Xfinity Series start of the season behind the wheel of the No. 19 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota. Two of his Xfinity Series starts this season were on a road course – COTA (third place) and Sonoma (fourth place). He’s made two starts on the Indianapolis Road Course, posting a 19th-place finish and an eighth-place finish.
Chastain will be making his fifth Xfinity Series start of the season behind the wheel of the No. 91 Chevrolet for DGM Racing. He’s made one road course Xfinity Series start this season at Sonoma, where he finished 18th. He has made two series starts at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course, posting a sixth-place finish (2020) and a fourth-place finish (2022).
Clinch Scenarios: Xfinity Series Playoff picture taking shape
Things are heating up in the NASCAR Xfinity Series as drivers only have five chances to race their way into the Playoffs that will kick off on Friday, September 15 at Bristol Motor Speedway.
Drivers can secure their spot in the Playoffs by virtue of wins, but they must also finish out the regular season and clinch their spot on points. Let’s take a look at which drivers have mathematically clinched their spot in the postseason as we head into this weekend’s Pennzoil 150 Presented by Advance Auto Parts at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course.
The following three drivers have clinched a spot in the 12-driver postseason field: John Hunter Nemechek, Austin Hill, Cole Custer.
Can Clinch Via Previous Wins
The following driver could clinch on previous wins with a win by John Hunter Nemechek, Austin Hill, Cole Custer, Sam Mayer, Chandler Smith or Sammy Smith:
- Justin Allgaier: Would clinch regardless of finish
The following driver could clinch on previous wins with a win by Josh Berry, Daniel Hemric, Riley Herbst, Sheldon Creed, Parker Kligerman or Jeb Burton:
- Justin Allgaier: Would clinch with 36 points
The following driver could clinch on previous wins with a win by Brandon Jones:
- Justin Allgaier: Would clinch with 11 points
The following driver could clinch on previous wins with a win by Brett Moffitt or a driver lower in the standings:
- Justin Allgaier: Would clinch regardless of finish
Can Clinch Via Win
The following drivers would clinch on their win alone:
- Justin Allgaier, Sam Mayer, Chandler Smith, Sammy Smith, Jeb Burton
Regular Season Champion Update
John Hunter Nemechek (5 Wins, 811 Points, +0 points ahead of second-place Austin Hill) cannot clinch the Regular Season Championship since there are still 300 points and 5 wins available.
John Hunter Nemechek strikes again
Joe Gibbs Racing’s John Hunter Nemechek, who is running his first full-time NASCAR Xfinity Series schedule since the 2019 season, managed to land his car in Victory Lane for the fifth time this season last weekend at Michigan International Speedway. His other wins have come at Auto Club, Martinsville, Atlanta, and New Hampshire.
Nemechek is currently tied with Richard Childress Racing’s Austin Hill on points (811) but owns the tie breaker with his five wins to Hill’s four.
He has done well on a few road courses this season, finishing 10th at Portland and runner-up on the inaugural Chicago Street Race last month.
The Mooresville, N.C. native will look to keep his hot streak alive this weekend as he makes his debut on the Indianapolis Road Course. He has posted five wins, 11 top fives, 16 top 10s and las led 662 laps this season thus far.
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
Conor Daly to run Xfinity Series race at Indianapolis – IndyCar veteran Conor Daly will be making his first Xfinity Series start of the 2023 season this weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Road Course behind the wheel of the No. 44 Alpha Prime Racing Chevrolet.
The Indiana native made his debut in the Xfinity Series in 2018 at Road America. He has since made starts in both the Cup Series and CRAFTSMAN Truck Series. His most recent start was in the Truck Series a few weeks ago at Mid-Ohio where he finished 18th.
The Xfinity Series race at IMS will be his first stock car stint on the road course.
NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series
CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoffs are set for Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park
Next Race: TSport 200
The Place: Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park
The Date: Friday, August 11
The Time: 9 p.m. ET
The Purse: $699,222
TV: FS1, 8 p.m. ET
Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio
Distance: 137.2 miles (200 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 60),
Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 120), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 200)
After a week off, the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoffs are set to get underway this weekend at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park for the TSport 200 (Friday, August 11 at 9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN, and SiriusXM Radio).
The 2023 season will mark the eighth running of the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoffs (2016-2023). Since the inception of the new format in 2016, seven different drivers have hoisted the championship trophy – Johnny Sauter (2016), Christopher Bell (2017), Brett Moffitt (2018), Matt Crafton (2019), Sheldon Creed (2020), Ben Rhodes (2021), and Zane Smith (2022).
The structure of the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoffs will remain the same as years past: a seven-race, three round elimination format. The CRAFTSMAN Truck Series will cap off their season in conjunction with the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix Raceway for the Championship 4 Finale.
Characteristics of the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoff format include:
- The number of championship drivers in contention for the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series championship will decrease after every three Playoff races, from 10 to start in the Playoffs; eight after race No. 3; and four after race No. 6.
- The first three races of the Playoffs (17-19) will be known as the Round of 10; races 20-22 will be known as the Round of 8; and race No. 23 will be the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Championship (Championship 4 Round).
- A win by a championship-eligible driver in any Playoff race automatically clinches the winning driver a spot in the next round.
- Four drivers will enter the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Championship with a chance at the title, with the highest finisher among those four capturing the championship.
NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoff Structure:
- Round of 10: Races 17-19 will be at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park, Milwaukee Mile, and Kansas Speedway. If a driver in the Playoffs wins a race in this round, the driver automatically advances to the Round of 8. The remaining available positions (1-8) that have not been filled by wins will be filled on points. Each advancing Playoff contender will then have their points reset to 3,000, plus any Playoff points awarded to that point are added.
- Round of 8: Races 20-22 will be at Bristol Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. Likewise, if a driver in the top eight in points wins a race in this round, the driver automatically advances to the Championship 4. The remaining available positions (1-4) that have not been filled by wins will be filled on points. Each advancing Playoff contender will then have their points reset to 4,000.
- Each eliminated driver will return to the Playoff-start base of 2,000 (plus any awarded Playoff points), with their accumulated points starting with race No. 17 added. This will allow all drivers not in contention for the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series title to continue to race for the best possible season-long standing, with final positions fifth-through-10th still up for grabs.
The 2023 10-driver NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoff Field:
- Corey Heim – TRICON Garage – No. 11 Toyota – 2,030 points
- Zane Smith – Front Row Motorsports – No. 38 Ford – 2,022 points
- Carson Hocevar – Niece Motorsports – No. 42 Chevrolet – 2,021 points
- Christian Eckes – McAnally-Hilgemann Racing – No. 19 Chevrolet – 2,019 points
- Grant Enfinger – GMS Racing – No. 23 Chevrolet – 2,017 points
- Ty Majeski – ThorSport Racing – No. 98 Ford – 2,014 points
- Ben Rhodes – ThorSport Racing – No. 99 Ford – 2,013 points
- Nick Sanchez – Rev Racing – No. 2 Chevrolet – 2,005 points
- Matt DiBenedetto – Rackley W.A.R. – No. 25 Chevrolet – 2,002 points
- Matt Crafton – ThorSport Racing – No. 88 Ford – 2,002 points
The return to historic Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park
For the second time since 2011, the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series is returning to Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park next weekend. The track will play host to a Playoff race for only the second time in CRAFTSMAN Truck Series history. Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park is the fifth track to open the Playoffs, along with New Hampshire Motor Speedway (2016, 2017), Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (2018), Bristol Motor Speedway (2019, 2020), and World Wide Technology Raceway (2021).
This historic track houses a 0.68-mile paved oval located in Clermont, Indiana, but the original intent was to design a 15-turn, 2.5-mile road course. In 1995, the inaugural CRAFTSMAN Truck Series race at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park was won by Mike Skinner, piloting the No. 3 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet. Skinner went on to win the series championship that same year.
Since the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series’ inception in 1995, the famed oval has hosted 18 series races. In that span, there have been 13 different pole winners and 13 different race winners. NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. leads the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series in wins with four victories (1997, 2007, 2009, 2010).
Through the 18 previous events at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park in the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series, only twice has the winner come from a starting position outside of the top-five. In 2011, Timothy Peters started in 16th and Johnny Benson Jr. started eighth in 2008. The pole winner has gone on to win five of the eighteen races. In addition, the winner has started on the front row eight separate times. Pole Qualifying will surely be key for the 10 drivers who will begin their Playoff run for the 2023 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series championship this weekend.
Scouting the 2023 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoff Roster
The field for the 2023 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoffs is packed with both postseason veterans and several new ones. Eight different teams are represented along with all three of NASCAR’s OEMs (Chevrolet, Ford, and Toyota). Below is a quick look at the contenders in this year’s Playoff grid as the drivers prepare for the first race of the Round of 10 at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.
The 2023 NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Regular Season Champion Corey Heim enters the Playoffs at the No. 1 seed with 2,030 points. The driver of the No. 11 TRICON Garage Toyota’s first year with his new team has gone without a significant hitch securing two wins (Martinsville, Mid-Ohio) to lock him into the playoffs. Despite missing Gateway due to illness, the Marietta, Georgia native leads the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series field with 408 laps led, 13 top- 10 finishes, and five stage wins. This is Heim’s first playoff appearance.
“Our consistency over the past two or three months has been really good,” Heim stated during the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoff Media Day. “Just being able to collect a lot of stage points, top fives and wins along the way. You know, I think as long as we are able to continue that and keep the momentum heading into the playoffs, we’ll be in really good shape.”
Heading into the Playoffs as the No. 2 seed is the reigning NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Champion Zane Smith with 2,022 points. The 24-year-old swept both the regular and postseason titles last year. Like Heim, Smith reached the Playoffs with two wins (Daytona, COTA). The driver of No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford became the first repeat NASCAR winner at COTA and made the Front Row Motorsports team a perfect 3-for-3 in CRAFTSMAN Truck Series races at the famed road course, after taking the reins from Todd Gilliland. With eight top-five finishes, Smith leads the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series field.
“I feel like our race team is there and our speed is there, but I just feel like we need a little bit of luck on our side, which recently we’ve put together some good runs,” Smith said. “I feel like these races in the Playoffs are some great races for us, especially if we are able to get to Phoenix.”
With 2,021 points, Carson Hocevar of Niece Motorsports enters as the No. 3 seed. The third-year driver has been in the Playoffs since his rookie season in 2020. Piloting the No. 42 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet, Hocevar leads the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series with three wins (Texas, Nashville, Richmond). The Michigan native held an impressive streak of five consecutive top-five finishes – the longest of his career – during the stint from Darlington to Nashville.
“I think our season has been really good – most wins of anybody – but also too, I don’t think it’s anything to get all high and mighty about,” Hocevar said. “There’s still areas to improve.”
The driver of the No. 19 McAnally-Hilgermann Racing Chevrolet Christian Eckes heads into the Playoffs at the No. 4 seed with 2,019 points. It didn’t take Eckes long to mesh well with his new team. The 22-year-old raced his way into his third Playoffs after securing two wins (Atlanta, Darlington). The New York native’s four stage wins are tied for second among the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series field.
“I feel like the ceiling is way higher than our regular season,” Eckes said. “I feel like this team can contend. You know obviously, we can win races, but the next big test will be the Playoffs. I’m looking forward to it. I feel like this team has the capability to go do it – like I said – but it’s all just putting it together.”
Postseason veteran and the No. 5 seed, Grant Enfinger, enters the Playoffs two points behind Eckes with 2,017 points. With steady performances week in and week out, the driver of the No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet has only failed to crack the top 15 twice – both before May. With two wins (Kansas, St. Louis) securing his Playoff spot, Enfinger will look to continue his consistency in the postseason and lock into the Playoffs early. He is the only driver in the field that has won at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park (2022).
“I feel like there’s some small mistakes that I’ve been making,” Enfinger said. “But overall, as a team, we’ve made some small mistakes and we’ve got to clean that up – it’s Playoff time. I’m proud of where we’ve been this year and what’s gotten us here, but I do think we’ve got to make some things better for these remaining seven races.”
The No. 6 seed Ty Majeski follows Enfinger into the Playoffs with 2,014 points – three behind the veteran. The driver of the No. 98 ThorSport Racing Ford was the first driver to lock himself into the Playoffs via points. The Wisconsin native has had a knack for high finishes this season. His seven top-five finishes are tied for second among the entire CRAFTSMAN Truck Series field, while his 11 top- 10 finishes rank second.
“I’m excited to be back,” Majeski said. “I think that’s everybody’s goal when we first start the season – first up is making the Playoffs, so I’m just excited to be back with this 98 group. You know, we made a good run last year. I think we’re in a similar position as a race team to make another run and obviously the goal at this point is to make it to Phoenix.”
2021 CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Champion Ben Rhodes enters the Playoffs as the No. 7 seed with 2,013 points. Rhodes is no stranger to the postseason as this is his sixth Playoff appearance. The 26-year-old secured his spot with one win (Charlotte). In sixteen starts this season, the driver of the No. 99 ThorSport Racing Ford has 10 top-10 finishes and 88 laps led.
“Our focus now is simply just advancing in the next round, top-five,” Rhodes said. “My crew chief Brian Ross came up with basically a stat sheet that shows on average where you have to finish in order to make it to the next round. He’s really good at mapping out an overall game plan and living by some math and some stats which is good. I think there’s a lot of stuff that we can do and abide by, but a lot of it is common sense too. A lot of it happens so fast because it’s racing. We all know what the right thing to do is, but can you do it when the time comes down to it?”
Entering as the No. 8 seed with 2,005 points is Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Nick Sanchez. The 2022 ARCA Menards Series Champion has taken the CRAFTSMAN Truck Series by storm as he leads the field with four poles. Although the rookie has not seen Victory Lane yet, there is no doubt about the speed he possesses. The 22-year-old finished inside the top-10 in five of the final six regular season races.
“I think the area that I need to improve on is just execution from start to finish in a race. Usually we qualify amazing – top three most of the time – but I feel like you kind of have to keep that up regardless of how the race plays out or strategy, you have to find a way to be there at the end. I think that’s the emphasis I’m going to put on the next seven races, honestly just hopefully inverting my race, finishing where I started.”
Following closely behind by three points as the No. 9 seed is Matt DiBenedetto (2,002 points). After a rough start to the season, the driver of the No. 25 Rackley W.A.R. Chevrolet raced his way into the Playoffs via points. The California native concluded the 2023 regular season by finishing inside the top-10 in six of his last seven events.
“It’s been so neat to see the progress of the team and I’m proud of it,” DiBenedetto said. “I know we had a little bit of a bumpy start to the season, and we really had to regroup and get together and focus on consistency. Man did our team execute on that. We had six top 10s in a row and dug ourselves out of a little bit of a hole from some mishaps and some failures and little things early in the season, but gosh it’s been nothing but upward trajectory from there at the right time too, coming into the Playoffs.”
Rounding out the 10 CRAFTSMAN Truck Series Playoff contenders is veteran Matt Crafton, who also has 2,002 points. A seventh-place finish in the regular-season finale at Richmond helped the driver of the No. 88 ThorSport Racing Ford sneak his way into the postseason field. With the experience of three prior titles (2013, 2014, 2019), Crafton is very familiar with the high adrenaline that the Playoffs bring.
“It’s always good to have won championships and races before,” Crafton said. “It’s definitely a different pressure when you’re racing for a championship. There’s a lot on your shoulders and a lot on your mind each and every week that we could essentially mess it up and knock ourselves out of the deal. It’s only three races so you have to be very good and very precise with every move you make.”
NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series, Etc.
Shane van Gisbergen to attempt first NASCAR oval debut in Indianapolis – Three-time Australian V8 Supercar champion and winner of the inaugural NASCAR Chicago Street Race, Shane van Gisbergen plans to pilot the No. 41 Worldwide Express Chevrolet for Niece Motorsports at Indianapolis Raceway Park on Friday.
The 200-lap truck race would be the Auckland, New Zealander’s first NASCAR oval experience and will kick off his busy double-duty weekend. After the TSport 200, van Gisbergen will make his return to the Cup Series down the road at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday. In July, the 34-year-old became one of six foreign born drivers to win a NASCAR Cup Series race and the first driver since Johnny Rutherford in 1963 to win his first Cup Series start.
“The weekend will certainly be a challenge,” said van Gisbergen. “I’ve seen the Trucks race on television and know it’s very competitive and that I’ll have a lot to learn on a short track at IRP. I’m used to doing doubleheaders in Supercars, but this will be a little bit different. I’m honored to join Niece Motorsports and thrilled at getting a chance to climb in a truck.”