Entering Saturday’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series CRC Brakleen 150 at Pocono Raceway, Tyler Ankrum sat 13th on the playoff grid, 48 points below the cutline.
And despite a fourth-place finish, Ankrum still has work to do if he wants to be part of the playoffs, currently 33 points below the cutline.
The No. 26 team rebounded from a speeding penalty late in the race to finish inside the top five. It’s just Ankrum’s third top five of the season, though he improved his average finish to 17.5 through 13 races this season.
“I don‘t know what happened on pit road, we were caught speeding, that is 100% certain,” Ankrum said post race. “I‘m not too sure if that was of my doing or if my lights were wrong.
“I had a pretty good handling truck. It wasn‘t my best truck, but really good handling truck. Didn‘t have anything for the [Kyle Busch Motorsports] trucks or my teammate. In clean air I had no speed; I was better on restarts when there was a big draft. I had a better handling truck that way.”
Ankrum finished behind the KBM teammates of John Hunter Nemechek and Kyle Busch. Sheldon Creed, who led three laps, finished third.
With just two races remaining in the regular season, Ankrum believes his No. 26 team will likely have to win in order to be a part of the playoffs. In his first two seasons in Trucks, Ankrum made the postseason, first with David Gilliland Racing and last year with GMS Racing.
However, the series ends its regular season with the inaugural race at Knoxville Raceway and Watkins Glen International, the first time the Truck Series will compete at WGI since 2000.
But with two fresh venues to the circuit, that leads to a bit of optimism from Ankrum.
“Unless the dirt race is an absolute, total bleep show, which more than likely it will be and a bunch of guys wreck out,” Ankrum said of believing he will have to win in order to make the postseason. “Anything is possible. Everyone just gets crazier and crazier when it gets down to this.
“Watkins Glen is known for having its fair share of having people getting excited, and so are dirt races because everyone thinks they can win on dirt. We‘re going to go to these next few races open minded and try to haul ass.”
Ankrum believes he can win on dirt, having finished ninth in 2019 at Eldora Speedway. In the inaugural Bristol Motor Speedway dirt race back in March, the No. 26 Chevrolet wrecked early, resulting in a last-place finish.
“There‘s nothing to lose,” Ankrum said. “At this point and time, there‘s no reason for us to not have confidence. If we‘re going to go into these races with, ‘Eh, let‘s get a good run‘ we should just pick up and go home. If we don‘t have the mentality of grip it and rip it, we shouldn‘t.”
The Truck Series will have one off week before practicing at Knoxville on Thursday, July 8. The race will go green at 9 p.m. ET on July 9.