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NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series

Friesen, Creed and others look to fight into Championship 4

(PHOTO: Michael Guariglia | The Podium Finish)

After a three-week layoff, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returns to action Saturday with the United Rentals 200 at Martinsville Speedway. Just one race remains in the Round of 8 and zero tickets have been punched to the Championship 4 next weekend at Phoenix Raceway.

John Hunter Nemechek and Ben Rhodes enter Saturday’s race in comfortable positions but are not locked into the Championship 4 next weekend. Nemechek and Rhodes sit 36 and 35 points above the cutline, respectively. Both drivers have success at Martinsville, with Nemechek winning in spring of 2018 and Rhodes placing second twice in the last three races.

“If we don’t beat ourselves and don’t have a mistake or a mechanical failure and don’t get taken out, I definitely think that we’ll be in a spot to advance,” Nemechek said. “It’s definitely close with the 99 behind us, one point I think behind us, and then there is a couple others that are racing their way in and then quite a few that are in a must-win situation. I feel like it is definitely going to be a heated battle, there is going to be a lot of intensity and it’s knowing who to race, how to race them and when to race them to not put yourself in a bad spot”.

Nemechek searches for his sixth truck series victory of the season and his first since Pocono in June. He is, however, riding off momentum from an XFINITY Series victory at Texas Motor Speedway just two weeks ago.

Three-time truck series champion Matt Crafton and reigning series champion Sheldon Creed both sit above the cutline without much breathing room. Crafton’s four top-fives in the playoffs have kept him above the cutline throughout the playoffs, while Creed is on a bit of a downward trajectory. After back-to-back victories to open the playoffs, finishes of 19th, 36th and 12th have pulled Creed from a favorite to on the bubble ahead of Martinsville.

“Everything’s going to be on the line in Martinsville this Saturday,” Creed said. With nobody truly locked into the Championship 4 yet, the aggression level is going to be through the roof. Thankfully, I know that my team has been putting in so much work to make sure that our No. 2 Chevy will be as fast as possible. We know what we need to do to advance, so it’s all on us to make it happen. I’ll be ready to fight as hard as I can to make sure we contend for this championship in Phoenix”.

Crafton and Creed enter Martinsville 10 points and five points above the cutline, respectively.

Below the cutline sits New York native Stewart Friesen in fifth place, but still well within reach. Friesen opened the playoffs with four consecutive finishes of sixth or better, but a wreck at Talladega pushed him to the bottom half of the remaining playoff grid.

“Top-fives pay the bills, but we need to be in the top-fives in stages, if not win a stage to make maximum stage points and have a shot to win,” Friesen said. “The playoffs are all about running up front and winning. We’ve been in the top five. We’ve been close, so hopefully – if we could get a win that would be awesome. I believe in our team. I don’t believe we have an outside shot. I believe we will have a fast enough truck to compete with our competitors in the chase, and nothing is out of the question at this point”.

Stewart Friesen hopes to race for a championship in Phoenix (PHOTO: Landen Ciardullo | The Podium Finish)

While Friesen has an opportunity to race into the Championship 4 on points, the other three drivers below the cutline face must-win situations. Chandler Smith, Carson Hocevar and Zane Smith all have deficits of 34 or more points, meaning the only way to advance would be to win. All three drivers were caught in wrecks at Talladega, resulting in poor finishes. Chandler Smith, of course, won the Round of 10 elimination race at Bristol Motor Speedway in September.

“We just have to go out there and win,” Chandler Smith said. “Every weekend our goal is to go out there and win races, so nothing has really changed. When it comes push to shove, we are definitely going to give the shove probably a little more than give and take. It’s no different than Bristol, we had to win at Bristol. We had a really good Safelite AuotoGlass Toyota Tundra at Bristol and I expect the same at Martinsville”.

“I’m ready to go up to Martinsville,” Zane Smith said. “I’ve been prepared to go into this race on either side of the cutline, either good or bad. Obviously, we all know which side we would rather choose, but we’re on the outside looking in so it’ll be fun to race for the win while battling the pressure the Playoffs bring. I’m hoping to grab a grandfather clock along with a ticket to the Championship 4 race in Phoenix”.

Saturday’s race is set for 200 laps with stage breaks at laps 50 and 100 on the 0.526-mile track nicknamed ‘the paperclip’. Green flag is scheduled for 1:04 p.m. ET with the XFINITY race following later at 6:17 p.m.

Nathan Solomon serves as the managing editor of The Podium Finish. He has been part of the team since 2021 and is accredited by the National Motorsports Press Association. Solomon is a senior in the Jandoli School of Communication at St. Bonaventure University. Contact him at

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