Saturday’s XPEL 225 (1 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN) race preview

Truckin’ in Austin

The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series heads to Texas for the fifth race of the season, the XPEL 225 this Saturday, March 26 at 1 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio at the Circuit of The Americas (COTA). The race will be the first of a double-header Saturday that features the NASCAR Xfinity Series race at 4:30 p.m. ET.  

Last year, Front Row Motorsports’ driver Todd Gilliland grabbed the victory in the No. 38 Ford in the inaugural NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race at the Circuit of The Americas. Fast forward to this year, Zane Smith (who had two top-10 finishes in road courses last year) is behind the wheel of the No. 38 Ford and hopes to bring home back-to-back wins for the Front Row Motorsports team.

Smith had a good 2021 season, posting one win, three top fives and 14 top 10s. He kept the momentum going with a 2022 season-opening win in Daytona but didn’t quite get the result he was looking for in the following race in Las Vegas. He was disqualified and bumped to last but that didn’t stop him from rebounding in last weekend’s race at Atlanta by posting a fifth-place finish.

Watch for Smith to be upfront this weekend too. In his series track debut last season on the 3.41-mile road course, Smith started 15th and raced his way up to an eighth-place finish.

Truck Series Road Course Ringers

Last season, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers put their skills to the test at three road courses producing three different winners – Daytona Road Course (Ben Rhodes), Circuit of The Americas (Todd Gilliland) and Watkins Glen International (Austin Hill). This season, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be tasked with competing on three road courses, but COTA is the only one returning from last season. Sonoma Raceway, who hasn’t hosted the Truck Series since 1998, and Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, who will be hosting the series for the first time, are the other two road courses on the schedule in 2022.

With Gilliland now competing in the NASCAR Cup Series and Hill in his rookie season in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, Rhodes is the only active Truck road course winner set to compete this weekend in Austin for the XPEL 225.

ThorSport Racing’s driver and 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, Ben Rhodes is still looking for his first win of the 2022 season. Last year at this time, he had already won twice taking the first two races of the season in Daytona. Now, the Kentucky native finds himself fifth in points after posting two fives this season. Watch for Rhodes to be a contender this weekend as he finished 10th in last season event. 

Some of Rhodes’ biggest competition this weekend will come from the Kyle Busch Motorsports stable. KBM drivers have won the last two races – Chandler Smith (Las Vegas) and Corey Heim (Atlanta). John Hunter Nemechek, driver of the No. 4 KBM Toyota will be one to watch as well. In 2021, he finished in third at the Daytona road course, just behind Rhodes and Sheldon Creed. At COTA, he had a 12th-place finishand in the last road course race of the season at Watkins Glen, he came in second, losing only to Austin Hill.

Joining Nemechek and Smith this weekend will be team owner/driver and two-time NASCAR Cup Series champion Kyle Busch, who will be making his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series track debut on Saturday at COTA – his first on a road course in the series. Although Busch hasn’t competed on a road course in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, he does hold the record for wins in the series (61) and has eight road course wins under his belt (four in the NASCAR Cup Series and four in the NASCAR Xfinity Series).

Chandler Smith leading the way

In his fourth season in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Kyle Busch Motorsport’s Chandler Smith is sitting atop of the point standings after a first-place finish in Las Vegas and a close battle with rookie teammate Corey Heim in Atlanta last weekend that resulted in Smith finishing fourth – the first time in his career he has led the points for more than one race. Now, the Georgia native heads to the Circuit of The Americas looking for another good run to help him hold on to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series point standings lead.

Smith will have his work cut out for him this weekend at COTA as he finished 33rd in last season’s race. He currently holds a 13-point lead over second place Tanner Gray and 17 points up on third place Ty Majeski.

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.

Close competition for Sunoco Rookie of the Year Contenders Going into the fourth race of the season the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rookie standings have tightened with Corey Heim’s win last weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway he has jumped to the lead by 12 points over second place Jack Wood.

Heim will not be competing this weekend at COTA. It will be Thompson and Perkins series track debuts this weekend. Jack Wood (28th-place finish) and Lawless Alan (23rd) competed in last season’s race.

Sunoco Rookie Standings Following Atlanta:

Corey Heim- 52 points

Jack Wood- 40 points

Dean Thompson- 34 points

Lawless Alan- 34 points

Blaine Perkins- 16 points

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