Saturday’s Vet Tix Camping World 200 Preview (1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN)

Trucks are back (again) and ready for Atlanta

Following the Gander Trucks’ return to racing under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway two weeks ago to welcome the series back after the break from the COVID-19 pandemic, the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series is back in action this Saturday at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the Vet Tix Camping World 200 at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio – the fourth race of the season.

Saturday’s event will be the 19th race for the Gander Trucks at Atlanta Motor Speedway, the first being on March 13, 2004. Bobby Hamilton started 12th in the inaugural event in a Dodge and won the race.

The previous 18 series races have produced 11 different Gander Truck pole winners at Atlanta. Ty Dillon holds the record as the youngest at 20 years, 6 months and 4 days old (2012). The Gander Trucks has also produced 13 different race winners at Atlanta, including John Hunter Nemechek who is entered this weekend and holds the record as the youngest series winner at 18 years, 8 months and 16 days old (2016). Four of the last five Gander Truck race winners (Kyle Busch, Brett Moffitt, John Hunter Nemechek and Matt Crafton) are all entered this weekend.

The 2020 season has been a wild one, Grant Enfinger secured the season-opening win at Daytona International Speedway and Kyle Busch returned to the series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and took home the checkered flag. Then Chase Elliott made his return to the series at Charlotte Motor Speedway, battling for the bounty against Kyle Busch, and won the race.

Matt Crafton, the 2019 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series champion, will make his 19th start at Atlanta, the most of any active driver in the series. He is the only driver to have competed in every race since the inaugural one in 2004.

Behind him is Kyle Busch, who will be back behind the wheel of the No. 51 Toyota, with 11 previous starts. Busch has dominated at Atlanta, winning five of the 18 races run at the track. He’s the only driver to have won back-to-back races (2007-2008) and he won the most recent race last season.

Only five drivers in history have won the race at Atlanta from the pole and twice a driver has won from the 18th starting position.

A Toyota has won the last three years and in total has eight victories. Dodge has the one win from the inaugural race and Chevrolet has nine wins.

In 2018, Moffitt won at Atlanta and went on to win the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Series championship.

Drivers that won for the first time at Atlanta Motor Speedway and won the championship in the same year:

  • Bobby Hamilton – 2004
  • Todd Bodine – 2006
  • Christopher Bell – 2017
  • Brett Moffitt – 2018

Quick facts about Atlanta Motor Speedway for the upcoming race:

  • The Hampton, Georgia track is 1.54-miles.
  • The race length is 200.2 miles, which is 130 laps. There is 24-degree banking in corners and five-degree banking on straightaways. The frontstretch is 2,332 feet and the backstretch is 1,800 feet.
  • Ron Hornaday Jr. still holds the race record from March 18, 2005 at 142.424 mph.
  • The closest margin of victory was in 2005 at 0.008 seconds and the greatest margin of victory was in 2015 at 8.752 seconds.
  • There have been 12 different pole winners, 13 different race winners and 11 different winning truck owners.
  • Five of 18 races have been won from the pole.

Gander Trucks COVID-19 support, programs

Various teams and drivers from the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series have dedicated time and resources to supporting those in the fight against COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic in March and the pause in sports, members of the Gander Trucks have rallied to make a difference. Below are just a few examples of the great work that is being done.

Love’s Travel Stops, a partner for Front Row Motorsports’ Todd Gilliland, is providing bonuses and meals for employees to continue to work during the pandemic. Love’s is offering addition paid sick times for employees, too. They have donated $100,000 to the United Way of Central Oklahoma COVID-19 Response Fund and have supported truck drivers with a $100,000 donation to the St. Christopher Truckers Development and Relief Fund.

Stewart Friesen and Halmar International, a partner in Halmar-Friesen Racing, purchased and donated 32,000 pounds of food for four different food banks in the New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts areas. Friesen will run a paint scheme at Atlanta with the outreach name and logo “Racing to Beat Hunger.”

Jeb Burton, driver for Niece Motorsports, partnered with God’s Pit Crew and Carilion Clinic to package 500 meals and 500 backpacks for children in the Roanoke City Public School system.

To see a more extensive list of the team spotlights and the work that is being done, click here to download a PDF.

Home cooking in Georgia

There’s no place like home and for three drivers making a start in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series this weekend, home is not too far away from the 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway track.

Austin Hill, driver of the No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota, is from Winston, Georgia, approximately one hour away from the Atlanta track. Hill will be making his fifth start at his home track on Saturday.

Last season, Hill started from the pole for the first time at the track. He also got his first top-10 finish of his career at Atlanta, finishing in seventh. Previous statistics show that Atlanta has not always been Hill’s best track, but his performances have continued to get better each year.

Chase Elliott will be running in the No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet for the second Gander Trucks race in a row. Elliott is from Dawsonville, Georgia, which is about an hour and a half away from the Atlanta track. In his only start at Atlanta in the series, he finished fifth after starting ninth. This will be Elliott’s 14th career start in the series.

Spencer Davis, also from Dawsonville, will pilot the No. 11 Spencer Davis Motorsports Toyota at Atlanta. Davis will be making his 11th career start and second at his home track. In his series track debut he started fourth and finished 13th in 2018.

Korbin Forrister is entered to race the No. 7 All Out Motorsports Toyota this weekend. Forrister is another driver that calls Atlanta his home track. He’s from Cedartown, Georgia, which is approximately two hours from the track. This will be Forrister’s fifth start at the track and 51st career start. His best finish at Atlanta was in 2018, when he started in 21st and finished 16th.  

All about the points
Although the drivers are only three races into the season for the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Trucks, taking a look at the point standings shows us who has been on top of their game since the start of 2020. The top five in the series standings are separated by just 22 points.

Hattori Racing Enterprises driver Austin Hill leads the driver standings with 120 points, 17 markers up on second-place Johnny Sauter. Hill has one top five and three top 10s in the first three races of the season and has led 37 laps.

Veteran ThorSport Racing driver Sauter is right in Hill’s rearview mirror in second in the Gander Trucks driver standings with 103 points. He also has one top five and three top 10s on the year.

Sunoco Rooke of the Year contender Zane Smith is sitting pretty in third in the standings, tied with Sauter. His third-place performance last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway was a career-best and pushed the driver of the No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet up in the standings. He has one top five and two top 10s so far.

Ben Rhodes sits in fourth in the series driver standings, 21 points back from driver standings lead, with one top-five finish this season and two top 10s.

GMS Racing’s Brett Moffitt, the 2018 series champion, is in fifth in the Gander Trucks driver standings, 22 back from Hill in the standings lead. Moffitt has one top five and one top 10 finish in 2020.

Looking ahead to Atlanta, Hill will have his work cut out for him to hold on to the standings lead, as Rhodes has the best average finish on the 1.54-mile track with a 4.8; followed by Moffitt (5.3), Sheldon Creed (12.0), Sauter (12.1) and Hill (13.8).

Rookie Battle Update: Zane Smith remains out front

We’re only three races into the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series 2020 season, but here’s how the top three drivers in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings are faring thus far.

NGROTS Sunoco Rookie of the Year Standings

Rookies

Points

Awards

Zane Smith

103

2

Christian Eckes

78

0

Derek Kraus

69

1

Ty Majeski

64

0

Raphael Lessard

61

0

Tanner Gray

60

0

Tate Fogleman

45

0

Spencer Davis

30

0

 

GMS Racing’s Zane Smith still stands atop the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings with 58 points; sixth in the Gander Trucks driver points after one top five and two top-10 finishes in three starts this season.

Twenty-five points behind Smith is Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Christian Eckes in second in the rookie points and eighth in the Gander Truck driver standings. And nine points back from Eckes is McAnally Hilgemann Racing’s Derek Kraus in third in the rookie standings and 12th in the series driver standings. 

Smith and Kraus are the first two drivers to win the Sunoco Rookie of the Race awards in 2020.

Smith opened the season strong with an 11th-place finish at Daytona and a sixth-place finish at Las Vegas. Last week marked his career-best finish of third at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He has completed 100% of laps attempted and has earned an average finish of 6.7.

Eckes has had a slow start to the season, finishing 22nd at Daytona and 23rd at Las Vegas. But last week at Charlotte, the driver of the No. 18 Toyota was competing hard for a 14th-place finish.

Kraus has had mixed results, too, in 2020, finishing fourth at Daytona and 22nd at Las Vegas due to an incident on the third lap of the race and was unable to work his way back to the front of the field. He finished 16th at Charlotte.

Looking ahead to Atlanta, the only series rookie that has made a previous Gander Trucks start at Atlanta is Spencer Davis in 2018 – he started fourth and finished 13th. The rest of the class will be making their series track debuts.

Ryan Truex, Jeb Burton running for Niece Motorsports

Ryan Truex hasn’t run a race yet in 2020 for any of the three series he competes in. But he will be back behind the wheel of a truck this weekend for Niece Motorsports.

Truex hasn’t competed in the Gander Trucks since 2017 but has 10 top fives, 19 top 10s and two poles to his name. He’ll pilot the No. 40 truck for the team.

He’s made two starts at Atlanta prior and had a best finish of 13th in 2017.

Jeb Burton will also be running for Niece Motorsports this weekend in the No. 44 truck.

Burton has 55 starts in the series with one win (2013), seven top fives, 21 top 10s and seven poles under his belt. His win was at Texas Motor Speedway in 2013, where he started third.

However, Burton has never made a start at Atlanta Motor Speedway in the series.

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