It’s GMS Racing vs. Thorsport for the 2020 NASCAR Truck Series championship on Friday night in Phoenix. Three GMS Drivers will take on one Thorsport participant for the title. Who wins out?
Here’s an in depth look at all four.
Sheldon Creed (No. 2 GMS Racing Chevrolet Silverado)
Known for his diversity to drive anything with four wheels, Sheldon Creed, has been successful in just about every racing series he has competed in. Not only is the California native, Creed, an X-Games Gold-Medalist and two-time Stadium Super Trucks Series champion, but he also captured the 2018 ARCA Menards Series championship. Now the 23-year old has chance to add a NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series title to his resume this weekend at Phoenix Raceway in just his second full season.
Despite all the abnormalities to this 2020 season brought on by the pandemic, Sheldon Creed is having a career-year in the Gander Trucks. He kicked off the season posting five top 10s in the first seven races including his first series career victory at Kentucky Speedway to lock himself into the Playoffs for the first time in his career.
Then at the series debut of the Daytona International Speedway Road Course, he flexed his muscles and again reminded his competitors how talented he is grabbing his second victory of the season. He then followed that up with another win at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway and in the process earned enough Playoff points to qualify for the No. 1 seed heading into the postseason. In total Creed ended the Trucks regular season with three wins, six top fives and eight top 10s.
Playoffs Recap: Creed danced his way into the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs with momentum as the No. 1 seed but stumbled out of the gate finishing 13th in the Playoff opener at Richmond Raceway. Creed began to rebound in the next race at Bristol finishing 11th and turned it up at Las Vegas finishing runner-up behind fellow Playoff contender Austin Hill. He then survived the wild card that is Talladega with a 12th-place finish and continued his ascension towards the Championship 4 with a runner-up finish at Kansas the following week. But it wasn’t until two weeks ago when he lassoed his fourth victory of the season at Texas Motor Speedway to secure his chance at a title in the Championship 4 round at Phoenix. Creed concluded the Round of 8 with an eighth-place finish last weekend at Martinsville.
Phoenix Raceway Outlook: The GMS Racing driver Sheldon Creed has made two NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series starts at Phoenix Raceway posting a 10th-place finish in 2018 and in last season’s Playoff race he started third and led 16 laps but finished 12th.
Crew Chief Corner: Veteran crew chief Jeff Stankiewicz took the reins of the No. 2 GMS Racing team fulltime in 2019 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with five races to go. Since then Creed and No. 2 team have won four times and put up 15 top 10s in 27 series starts and have qualified for not only the Playoffs but the Championship 4. Stankiewicz began his Gander Trucks crew chief career in 2011 with Brad Keselowski Racing and driver Parker Kligerman; the duo finished the year 11th in points. Since then Stankiewicz has worked with 17 different drivers in the Gander Trucks and joined GMS Racing in 2014 leading driver Joey Coulter to a top-10 (seventh) finish in the championship standings that year. The 2020 season marks the first time Stankiewicz has made the Playoffs and has advanced to the Championship 4. Stankiewicz has sat atop the pit box for seven series starts at Phoenix with seven different drivers. Of the seven, Spencer Gallagher in 2015 posted the best finish at Phoenix with a sixth. Stankiewicz also led Creed to his 12th-place finish in last season’s Phoenix event.
Team Talk: GMS Racing won the 2016 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series title with Johnny Sauter behind the wheel of the No. 21 Chevrolet. It was the organization’s first, and to date only, NASCAR national series title. GMS Racing has 36 Gander Trucks wins to their credit since joining the series in 2013. They are the only team to have fielded a Gander Trucks Championship 4 driver (Johnny Sauter, 2016-2018; Justin Haley in 2018, Brett Moffitt in 2019 and Sheldon Creed, Brett Moffitt and Zane Smith in 2020) in all five years of the current elimination-style Playoff format.
Grant Enfinger (No. 98 ThorSport Racing Ford F-150)
When ThorSport Racing driver Grant Enfinger looks back on the 2020 season there is no doubt he will smile. The 35-year old, Enfinger, is having best season of his career this year and it all started with kicking off the season opener with a massive win at Daytona International Speedway. Now the talented driver from Fairhope, Alabama is looking to etch his name in the record books with a championship in the Gander Trucks.
Enfinger made a name for himself as an early driver in go karts before moving up to Legends cars and winning over 50 events in the Legends Series all across the Southeast including two Alabama state championships. He then moved up to Super Late Models before trying his hand at the ARCA Menard Series in 2008. In 93 ARCA starts he won the 2015 championship and put up 15 wins, 46 top five and 65 top 10s. Enfinger then made the jump to the Trucks, making just eight series starts for GMS Racing in 2016 but he won at Talladega Superspeedway in just his seventh start that season. The win helped propel Enfinger’s career, in 2017, Enfinger signed a fulltime deal with ThorSport Racing and has been challenging for wins with the team ever since.
This season, Enfinger has carried the ThorSport Racing banner winning a career-best three races in the regular season (Daytona, Atlanta and Richmond) and one more during the Playoffs (Martinsville) to lock himself in the Championship 4 for the first time in his career.
In total, Enfinger finished the regular season with three wins, six top five and 11 top 10s and was ranked as the fourth seed entering the Playoffs.
Playoffs Recap: Enfinger’s postseason started off strong with consecutive top 10s in the first two events at Bristol and Las Vegas. He then managed a 13th-place finish in a wild Talladega race and rebounded at Kansas with a fourth-place finish. But Enfinger’s Championship 4 hopes took a turn for the worst at Texas when he suffered engine issues relegating him to a 32nd-place finish. As a result, Enfinger dropped to sixth in the Playoff standings 35 points behind the Championship 4 cutoff heading into a must-win situation at Martinsville. And win he did, Enfinger put on a masterful display of short track skill and strategy to grab the checker flag at the 0.526-mile short track and guarantee his spot in the Championship 4 for the first time in his career. His previous best finish in the final championship standings was fifth in 2018.
Phoenix Raceway Outlook: Enfinger has made three NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series starts at Phoenix Raceway posting two top-five finishes (fourth in 2018 and fifth in 2019). He also led 10 laps at Phoenix in 2018.
Crew Chief Corner: Veteran crew chief Jeff Hensley began his crew chief career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for his family-owned team Hensley Racing. From 1987 to 2001, Jeff Hensley worked as crew chief for the team and in 1990, Hensley led driver Chuck Bown to the series title. In 2004, Hensley joined with Bill Davis Racing in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series back and driver Bill Lester. Since then Hensley has worked with 17 different drivers through the years in the series but has been full time with Grant Enfinger since 2017. Prior to working with Enfinger, Hensley’s best season was with Mike Skinner in 2007, the pair finished the season runner-up in the points to NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. after posting five wins and 17 top fives. This season Hensley has an opportunity to become the third different crew chief to win a Xfinity and Gander Trucks titles joining Danny Stockman Jr. (Xfinity 2013, Truck 2011) and Randy Goss (Xfinity 2002, Truck 2000).
Team Talk: ThorSport Racing is the longest tenured team in the Gander Trucks and does it all from their Sandusky, Ohio, headquarters. The organization has a pair of Gander Truck titles to their credit – with driver Matt Crafton in 2013 and 2014. With over 1,000 entries in the series dating back to 1995, ThorSport Racing has won 36 times in the Gander Trucks. If ThorSport Racing were to win the title this season they would break the tie with Hendrick Motorsports for the most NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series driver titles with three each. ThorSport would become the first organization in the Gander Trucks with four driver championships.
Brett Moffitt (No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet Silverado)
Brett Moffitt is looking to become just the fifth driver in series history to win multiple NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series championships; joining NASCAR Hall of Famer Ron Hornaday Jr. (four titles: 1996, 1998, 2007, 2009), Matt Crafton (three titles: 2014, 2013, 2019), Jack Sprague (three title: 1997, 1999, 2001) and Todd Bodine (2006, 2010).
Moffitt won the 2018 Gander Trucks championship with the “little team that could,” Hattori Racing Enterprises, in a Toyota with Scott Zipadelli as his crew chief. This year he’s in a Chevrolet with the multi-truck GMS Racing outfit and has Chad Norris atop his pit box.
Moffitt’s road to the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs in 2020 was not an easy one. He didn’t win a race in the regular season and had to point his way into the Playoffs posting seven top fives in the first 16 races of the year. He finished the regular season second in the standings and his five stage wins garnered enough Playoff points to seed him fifth entering the postseason.
In addition to his Gander Trucks accomplishments, the 28-year old was the 2015 Sunoco Rookie of the Year in the NASCAR Cup Series.
Playoffs Recap: Much like his regular season effort, Brett Moffitt had to point his way through the first round of the Playoffs posting a runner-up finish at Bristol, a 15th at Las Vegas and a seventh at Talladega. It wasn’t until the 20th race in the season and fourth race in the Playoffs that Moffitt finally found Victory Lane and did so at Kansas Speedway. The win catapulted Moffitt into the Championship 4 round for the third time in career (2018-2020).
Phoenix Raceway Outlook: Moffitt has made two series starts at Phoenix Raceway posting a win in series debut at the Track in 2018 en route to his first career title and he also finished 10th in last season’s Phoenix Playoff race. He led just 19 laps in his 2018 victory at one-mile track.
Crew Chief Corner: Chad Norris began his crew chief career in the NASCAR Xfinity Series at Roush Fenway Racing with driver Matt Kenseth on a part-time schedule in 2005. From 2005 to 2012 Norris would crew chief on a part-time basis but in 2013 he named crew chief for Travis Pastrana at RFR and then worked with Trevor Bayne in 2014, Ryan Reed and Bubba Wallace in 2015. Then he made the move to Chip Ganassi Racing and worked with driver Brennan Poole for the 2016, 2017 seasons. Last season he moved to lone GMS Racing Xfinity entry with driver John Hunter Nemechek. The 2020 season marks his first full season of competition in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series. Working with Moffitt this season the duo have produced one win, 10 top fives and 15 top 10s.
Team Talk: GMS Racing won the 2016 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series title with Johnny Sauter behind the wheel of the No. 21 Chevrolet. It was the organization’s first, and to date only, NASCAR national series title. GMS Racing has 36 Gander Trucks wins to their credit since joining the series in 2013. They are the only team to have fielded a Gander Trucks Championship 4 drivers in all five years of the current elimination-style Playoff format (Johnny Sauter, 2016-2018; Justin Haley in 2018, Brett Moffitt in 2019 and Sheldon Creed, Brett Moffitt and Zane Smith in 2020).
Zane Smith (No. 21 GMS Racing Silverado)
The rising star from Huntington Beach, California, Zane Smith, has the chance to become just the second rookie in series history to win the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series title; joining Erik Jones (2015).
Smith is just the third different Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate to make the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs Championship 4 round; joining Christopher Bell (2016), and Austin Cindric (2017). Both Cindric and Bell are tied for the best championship finish by a Gander Trucks rookie in the Playoff Era (2016-Present) – they both finished third in points.
Smith’s 2020 season has been a self-proclaimed dream fulfiller. The 21-year old GMS Racing driver has been lights out this season putting up two wins (Michigan, Dover) six top fives and 12 top 10s. He ultimately ended the regular season fourth in the standings, but his five stage wins were enough to seed him second in the points heading into the postseason.
Also, with his advancement into the Championship 4, Smith has clinched the 2020 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors for the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.
Playoffs Recap: Smith’s path in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Playoffs to the Championship 4 has been a rocky one. His first round of the Playoffs saw a 16th-place finish at Bristol, a seventh at Las Vegas and a 33rd at Talladega barely making it through to the next round. In the Round of 8 everything turned around for Smith, he finished 11th at Kansas and then followed it up with consecutive third-place finishes at Texas and Martinsville to point his way into the Championship 4.
Phoenix Raceway Outlook: Smith will be making his series track debut this weekend at Phoenix Raceway.
Crew Chief Corner: Veteran crew chief Kevin Manion made his crew chief debut on a part-time basis in the NASCAR Cup Series with John Andretti and in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Dale Earnhardt Jr. Manion biggest success as crew chief came in the NASCAR Xfinity Series when he led Martin Truex Jr. to back-to-back titles 2004 and 2005. He then made the jump with Truex fulltime to the NASCAR Cup Series at Dale Earnhardt Inc. where the pair worked together from 2006-2010. He then worked with Jamie McMurray at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing from 2010-2013. In 2016 he joined Kyle Busch Motorsports and started crew chief for multiple drivers. Manion has begun to build a reputation for cultivating young talent. Last season, he led rookie Tyler Ankrum to his first win and first Playoff berth, and this season he has done the same with Zane Smith. Manion best finish in the final championship standings in the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series is eighth, with Ankrum last season. Manion has worked with three different drivers at Phoenix in the Truck Series and led Daniel Suarez to a victory at the track in 2016.
Team Talk: GMS Racing won the 2016 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series title with Johnny Sauter behind the wheel of the No. 21 Chevrolet. It was the organization’s first, and to date only, NASCAR national series title. GMS Racing has 36 Gander Truck wins to their credit since joining the series in 2013. They are the only team to have fielded a Gander Trucks Championship 4 driver in all five years of the current elimination-style Playoff format (Johnny Sauter, 2016-2018; Justin Haley in 2018, Brett Moffitt in 2019 and Sheldon Creed, Brett Moffitt and Zane Smith in 2020). This is the first time since the inception of the elimination-style format in the Playoffs in 2016 that an organization has fielded three out of the four Championship 4 contenders in one season (Moffitt, Smith, Creed).
NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series, Etc.
Sunoco Rookie of the Year finale – With his advancement to the Championship 4, GMS Racing’s Zane Smith has clinched the 2020 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors. Smith enters this weekend’s event at Phoenix having put up two wins, six top fives and 12 top 10s. Smith has a chance this weekend to become just the second rookie in series history to win the title joining Erik Jones, who accomplished the feat in 2015.
Gander Trucks Owner championship update – The four trucks and drivers that made it to the driver Playoff standings Championship 4 are the same in the owner Playoff standings this season; guaranteeing a unified driver and owner championship this year.
Manufacturers championship – The Gander Trucks manufacturers championship is very close and will be decided this weekend in Phoenix. Chevrolet is currently leading the OEM championship standings with nine wins and 787 points. Toyota is in second with seven wins and 780 points. Ford is sitting in third with six wins and 770 points.