Saturday’s Fr8Auctions 200 race preview (2:30 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN)

Atlanta field packed with previous winners

Of the six different race winners at Atlanta since the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series returned to the 1.5-mile circuit in 2015 after a two-year break, five are in the field for Saturday’s Fr8Auctions 200 (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

Grant Enfinger (2020), Kyle Busch (2019), Brett Moffitt (2018), John Hunter Nemechek (2016) and Matt Crafton (2015) are all looking to capture the checkered flag once again in Georgia. The only winner from that span not entered in the race is Christopher Bell (2017 winner).

Of those, Busch is the only driver who has won multiple races at Atlanta – five total, in fact. And only Nemechek has won thus far in 2021 (the most recent race in Las Vegas).

Crafton leads both the pack of previous winners and all active Camping World Truck Series drivers overall in top-10 finishes at Atlanta with 10. Busch trails with nine top 10s and leads all with eight top-five results.

Busch also has the most laps led at 516, while Crafton has led 184 at Atlanta. Moffitt (two laps led) may win the award for most efficient use of his time in getting to a win at Atlanta. Nemechek trails him slightly with eight laps led.

Toyota to lead field to green for Saturday’s race

After their one-two finish two weeks ago at Las Vegas, Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyotas will lead the field to the green in Saturday’s Fr8Auctions 200 (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

John Hunter Nemechek starts on the pole while Kyle Busch will start second. And after their dominant performance in Las Vegas, Toyotas will occupy the next two rows, as well. Matt Crafton (ThorSport Racing) and Stewart Friesen (Halmar Friesen Racing) will start in third and fourth, respectively, while Ben Rhodes (ThorSport Racing) and Austin Hill (Hattori Racing Enterprises) will hold down the third row.

Two weeks ago, Toyota Tundra trucks took the top five positions in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and they did it with four different teams.

Kyle Busch Motorsports took the top two positions with Nemechek winning while team namesake Busch finished second. Hattori Racing Enterprises driver Austin Hill was third, Halmar Friesen Racing’s Stewart Friesen finished fourth, and ThorSport Racing’s Matt Crafton finished fifth.

Toyota book-ended the top 10 with Christian Eckes in ninth and Rhodes in 10th – both being ThorSport drivers.

The balance of the top 10 was filled by Chevrolets. Zane Smith and GMS Racing were sixth, Grant Enfinger’s spot start for CR7 Motorsports netted a seventh-place finish, and Parker Kligerman’s first start of the season landed him in eighth with a Henderson Motorsports truck.

Bill Lester joins the field in Atlanta

Bill Lester made his first of two NASCAR Cup Series starts at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2006, and 15 years later he returns to the scene to race the No. 17 Ford for Team DGR this Saturday in the Fr8Auctions 200 (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).

When Lester took the green flag that year, he was the first Black driver to race in the Cup Series in nearly 20 years (since Willie T. Ribbs in 1986). And while he made just two Cup Series starts in his career, he did race in 142 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races between 2000 and 2007, notching a trio of poles, two top fives and seven top 10s.

Part of Lester’s motivation to return to the grid came from the recent publication of his book “Winning in Reverse: Defying the Odds and Achieving Dreams” that he wrote with Jonathan Ingram.

“I talk about getting out of your comfort zone and this will truly be an example of me getting out of my comfort zone,” Lester said. “I could very easily continue to sit on the couch and watch, but here I am going to jump back in the deep end at one of the fastest tracks on the circuit.”

Lester will start 31st this weekend.

John Hunter Nemechek’s gamble on himself pays off in Vegas

In the off-season, John Hunter Nemechek surprised many in NASCAR when he announced he was returning to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series following his first full-time year of NASCAR Cup Series competition. His reason for pairing up with Kyle Busch Motorsports for the 2021 season was clear – he wanted to win.

Mission accomplished.

Two weeks ago, Nemechek led his truck owner across the line to win his first of the season at Las Vegas, and his seventh overall in the series. It was his first Camping World Truck Series victory since the spring Martinsville race in 2018.

The win also marked the first for Nemechek for a team other than NEMCO Motorsports – owned by his dad, Joe. But the Vegas celebration still had a strong family connection as the Nemecheks became the first father-son pairing to win at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (Joe won the Xfinity Series race in 2003.)

With the series heading to Atlanta Motor Speedway this Saturday, March 20, for the Fr8Auctions 200 (2:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), Nemechek has to feel confident that he can continue winning. His first two career wins came on 1.5-mile tracks – including a 2016 victory at Atlanta in the second race of the season.

The win at Vegas brought an additional early-season accolade to Nemechek – he took over the series points lead from Ben Rhodes and now holds a 14-point advantage over the driver who won the first two races of the season.

Smith, Hocevar continue to lead Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings

Not much changed atop the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings following the third race of the year at Las Vegas Motor Speedway two weeks ago. Chandler Smith continues to lead Carson Hocevar by a significant points total after the trio of opening races in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season.

Smith was the highest-finishing Sunoco Rookie contender for the second week in a row after finishing 19th in Vegas. Hocevar was 24th in the race.

However, a slight shake-up occurred further down in the standings, as Chase Purdy and Kris Wright moved up past Hailie Deegan into third and fourth, respectively. This comes on the heels of a 23rd-place finish by Purdy, while Wright crossed the line 25th. Deegan recorded a 28th-place result.

The standings might not stay that way long, however, as the three drivers all sit within four points of each in the standings.

Sunoco Rookie of the Year
Chandler Smith902
Carson Hocevar681
Chase Purdy390
Kris Wright370
Halie Deegan350
Tim Viens00

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