The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs field of eight drivers will be cut to six after Saturday’s fred’s 250 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Talladega will serve as an elimination race for the first round of the playoffs for the Truck series.
Four spots remain up for grabs in the Round of Six. Christopher Bell, who is the points leader, and Ben Rhodes, who is second in the points standings, have already clinched spots into the next round with wins. Bell won at New Hampshire on Sept. 23 to advance, and Rhodes clinched a spot by winning at Las Vegas on Sept. 30.
Matt Crafton is in third place going into Saturday’s race. Crafton is 51 points behind the leader. Talladega hasn’t been kind to Crafton over the last few years. Last year, he finished 22nd. In 2015, he finished 24th, and he finished 14th in 2014.
Defending series champion Johnny Sauter is in fourth place, 54 points behind Bell. Sauter enters the fred’s 250 with confidence. In eight starts at Talladega, he has one win, three top-five finishes and five top-10s.
“I think we can play the strategy game a little bit because the GMS trucks, especially as of late, on the superspeedways have just been phenomenally fast,” Sauter said. “Our truck at Daytona this year was the fastest speedway vehicle I’ve ever had in my career. If we can duplicate that or try to, we’ll be in a good position.
“Talladega’s got a little different complexion to the race than Daytona does. (At Talladega), I feel like it’s better to stay in line and be disciplined than be a hero and make moves. It’s definitely a wild card race; things can happen out of your control there.”
Chase Briscoe enters Saturday’s race in fifth place. He is 68 points behind the leader and 10 above the cutoff for the Round of 6. Briscoe has had a strong season with 11 top-10s and seven top fives in 18 races.
Austin Cindric holds the final spot in the Round of Six, at least for now. Going into Saturday’s race, Cindric has an eight-point lead over Kaz Grala and a 14-point advantage over John Hunter Nemechek.
“We know we basically need to win at Talladega if we want to advance to the Round of Six,” Nemechek said. “We’ve prepared for this moment, and I have a lot of faith in our equipment. It won’t be easy, but if anyone is up for the challenge, it’s our team.”
Nemechek said he has gotten advice from from his dad, former NASCAR driver Joe Nemechek, about Talladega.
“Dad and I have had plenty of discussions about Talladega,” he said. “He knows his way around the track and has been instrumental in educating me about drafting. Hopefully, I can use all that he taught me to drive the No. 8 NEMCO Motorsports Chevrolet to victory lane … Saturday.”