Eight drivers in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will get a brand-new start in their Playoff run when they visit challenging Bristol Motor Speedway on Thursday, Sept. 14, for the nightcap of what promises to be a thrilling doubleheader of racing that also will feature the ARCA Menards Series Bush‘s Beans 200.
The Craftsman Truck Series Round of 8 opens on the famed concrete high banks of Bristol and there‘s several drivers who are chasing the championship crown who could claim that they have the momentum.
The circuit‘s most recent winner, Christian Eckes, is certainly riding high after winning dramatically at Kansas to extend his Playoff run. He will be one of the contenders to watch when the green flag drops at the UNOH 200 presented by Ohio Logistics (9 p.m., FS1 and MRN Radio). The New York native literally stole the win from challengers Corey Heim and Zane Smith, leading the final two laps on the 1.5-mile track in his No. 19 Chevy Silverado.
Eckes‘ third victory of the season eliminated rivals Matt DiBenedetto and Matt Crafton from championship contention and it thrust the McAnally-Hilgemann Racing driver into the second position to start the Round of 8, right behind regular season champ Heim and in front of fellow three-time season winner Grant Enfinger.
“It’s exciting, but you know at the same time the job is not finished,” Eckes said during an interview this week on Sirius XM NASCAR radio. “I came here to win a championship and that’s what I want to do. So we have a lot more work to do to get there, but the job’s not finished.”
The other drivers who have a claim to momentum include the current points leader Heim, a two-time winner who has been solid all season in his No. 11 truck with a class leading 16 top 10 finishes. Heim has been so good in 2023 that he has only finished outside the top 10 twice, at Atlanta in March (34th) and a 15th place finish on the Bristol dirt.
The UNOH 200 defending winner Ty Majeski could also make a strong case for momentum, given the strong performance he put on here last September to take the victory. He has ran well this season at short tracks and posted a dominating performance at the Playoff opener at Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Certainly, no one can discount the current rise of Carson Hocevar. Another three-time winner this season, Hocevar will be dangerous and a strong contender in his No. 42 Niece Motorsports Chevy. Incidentally, Hocevar will be pulling double-duty during the weekend as he will also drive the No. 42 Chevy for the Legacy Motor Club in Saturday night‘s Bass Pro Shops Night Race.
The two past Truck series champions, Zane Smith and Ben Rhodes, will also be tough to beat at Bristol as Playoff contenders, as both have plenty of experience navigating the high banks and have posted strong finishes at the track in the past.
Finally, rookie Nick Sanchez may not have the momentum, but he is still a threat to claim the pole and the victory. He is holding down the eighth position to start the Round of 8 Playoffs, but has had a very fast truck all season long at the controls of his No. 2 Chevy.
Thursday night‘s double-header opens with stock car racing‘s future stars putting on a show in the Bush‘s Beans 200 (6 p.m, FS1, MRN Radio) in the ARCA Menards Series. There are championship scenarios aplenty in this race as Jesse Love could clinch the national title, while talented William Sawalich and top challenger Luke Fenhaus are battling to decide the ARCA East Series crown. Sawalich will also compete in the UNOH 200, driving the No. 1 Truck for the TRICON Garage.
In the national series, Love holds a 129-point lead over second-place Andres Peres De Lara and former Malcom in the Middle star Frankie Muniz is holding down third place in the standings with nine top 10 finishes. Former NCAA Div. 1 baseball player Christian Rose is fourth in the points. The 6-foot-4 West Virginia native, who was an effective relief pitcher for the University of Maryland Eastern Shore before switching to a career in motorsports, has amassed 10 top 10s this season in his No. 32 machine.
In addition to the thrilling action in the Thursday night doubleheader, the Bass Pro Shops Night Race weekend also features Saturday night‘s Cup Playoff race, the Bass Pro Shops Night Race (7:30 p.m., USA Network, PRN Radio), as well as the return of Dale Earnhardt Jr. to Bristol‘s high banks in the Food City 300 NASCAR Xfinity Series race on Friday night, Sept. 15 (7:30 p.m., USA Network and PRN Radio).
Off the track there‘s tons to do during your Bristol visit with lots of activities available in the BMS Fan Zone and BMS Fan Midway. Kenny Wallace and John Roberts will host Trackside Live at the Food City Fan Zone Stage on Saturday at 4 p.m. where drivers and other newsmakers will be interviewed. Country music band Midland will perform the pre-race concert Saturday at 5:30 p.m. to get the fans revved up for the traditional driver introductions, where each driver enters to a favorite song or music. There will be post-race entertainment on Thursday and Friday, as DJ Sterl the Pearl will host the world-famous Foam Party after the Thursday night double-header, and country music singer Tim Dugger will perform after Friday night‘s Food City 300.
To purchase tickets, visit the Bristol Motor Speedway website or call (866) 415-4158.
— Bristol Motor Speedway —