Championship weekend is here and the appetizer to NASCAR’s Final Four is the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season finale on Friday night at the Phoenix Raceway. For the third consecutive year, the Lucas Oil 150 (10 p.m. ET, FS1, MRN) will serve as the championship clincher with four drivers entering the Arizona desert with title dreams in mind.
The question is, who takes home the hardware on Friday night?
After a week to get their trucks ready for Championship Weekend, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers are gearing up for the season finale.
Phoenix Raceway has hosted 31 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races producing 21 different race winners and just as many pole winners. Seven of the 31 series races have been won from the pole or first starting position, most recently by Chandler Smith in 2021.
Kevin Harvick holds the race record at 108.014 mph, a feat he accomplished in 2002, and also has the most wins under his belt (four). Ron Hornady Jr. has the most top fives (10) and top 10s (13) while three-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton sits with the most lead lap finishes (18) and laps completed (3,097).
The 2022 season will mark the third time (2020-2022) that Phoenix Raceway has hosted the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship Race (Lucas Oil 150). From 2016 to 2019, the Playoffs’ season finale was held at Homestead-Miami Speedway before it was moved to Phoenix in 2020. Since the inception of the Playoffs in 2016 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, two of the six winners of the Championship Race have also claimed the championship that season – Brett Moffitt (2018) and Sheldon Creed (2020).
|Track||Championship Race Winners||Date||Race No.|
|Homestead||William Byron||Friday, November 18, 2016||23|
|Homestead||Chase Briscoe||Friday, November 17, 2017||23|
|Homestead||Brett Moffitt||Friday, November 16, 2018||23|
|Homestead||Austin Hill||Friday, November 15, 2019||23|
|Phoenix||Sheldon Creed||Friday, November 6, 2020||23|
|Phoenix||Chandler Smith||Friday, November 5, 2021||22|
The top 3 seeds are each still alive but it may be the 7th seed who’s the favorite. Ty Majeski won 2 of the 3 Round of 8 races in his No. 66 Toyota and has 6 top 8’s in the last 7 races overall.
Can Majeski buck that trend?
He’s joined in the final round by the defending series champion and teammate Ben Rhodes. He’s looking to become the first defending series champion to go back-to-back since Matt Crafton in 2013 and 2014. Rhodes is back in the final round for the second time of his career on the heels of a quiet season to which he won just once. He also has just two top 5’s in the last 16 races, both runner-ups. 1 of those 2 was this round but it was at Talladega, a place that doesn’t translate over at all to Phoenix.
A third Toyota driver in Chandler Smith is here and to me, could be the sleeper of this all. KBM hasn’t won a championship since Christopher Bell in 2017, but even with Smith being out the door and off to Kaulig Racing in the Xfinity Series next year, he can easily win this race and take home the title.
While he’s kind of backing his way into the final round with finishes of 9th, 14th and 10th in the Round of 8 and has just 2 top 5 finishes in the last 10 races, however, both top 5’s are wins with his last coming 4 races ago in Richmond. That track is similar to Phoenix to which who won Phoenix last year?
“I feel like last year, the last three quarters of last year, we showed what we were going to have in store for this year,” Chandler said. “We were really good at the end of last year—started getting wins and running up front every single week and were the truck to beat almost every other week—where the year before we were hit-or-miss.
“We ended up getting our stuff together, we were more consistent, winning races and I told the guys next year we are out for blood—we’re going to go get them next year. And look, we’re sitting here talking about running for a championship, and it has just been an amazing experience.”
Speaking of Smith’s, the top driver on the season has been Zane Smith. He started off with a win in the season opener at Daytona and like Rhodes last year who won Daytona and the championship, this Smith is hoping to do the same.
The regular season champion finished 2nd to Majeski in both of Majeski’s wins last round and has 5 runner-up finishes in the last 11 races overall. He’s not won in the last 14 races though. The thing is, it’s not like that matters a whole lot since he’s been in the Championship 4 in each of the last 3 years now.
The No. 1 seed won the title just two of the six years but one came here in 2020 via Sheldon Creed.
Also, it’s not like you have to win Friday night’s race at Phoenix to take home the championship either. Last year was the third time in the last five years that a Championship 4 member didn’t win the season finale.
Rhodes led the way among the Championship 4 drivers all night last year with the exception of a few laps. He was fifth and third respectively in the two stages and was out front under green flag conditions among the four title contenders all the way until Lap 110 when Zane Smith passed him on track for the third spot.
Smith, would pull away to a 2+ second lead and looked like the new favorite to earn his first career title, but his No. 21 Chevrolet in 2021 struggled to turn and when he caught lapped traffic with 10 to go, it allowed Rhodes to close back in. Rhodes, used his bumper a bit with eight to go to move Smith out of the way and he never looked back.
Each are back for a second round.
Rhodes crossed the finish line in third last November to net his first career Truck Series championship as well as giving ThorSport not only their fourth title, the first three via Matt Crafton, but their first career owners championship as well. He was the 19th different driver to win a championship in the series.
So who wins on Friday night?
- 19 straight Phoenix Truck races were won via a top 10 starter. The last one to do so not from the top 10 was Greg Biffle in 2001. That’s the only time it’s happened since 1995.
- The last 4 winners each started in the top 5 (5th, 2nd, 3rd, 1st)
- Ford hasn’t won at Phoenix since Biffle in 2001
- Chevrolet has won 3 of the last 5 including 2 of the last 3
- The eventual winner scored stage points in every stage run
- Stage 1 finishes: 6th, 1st, 9th, 2nd, 1st (3 of the last 4 finished in the top 2)
- Stage 2 finishes: 6th, 7th, 4th, 3rd, 1st (last 3 4th or better)
- Under the stage format, the driver to lead the most laps failed to win all 5 races
- Sauter led only the final 5 laps of the 2017 race
- Moffitt led 19 total laps (16 in Stage 1) but just the final 3 laps
- Friesen led the final 44 laps of the race for his only laps led
- Creed led 27 total laps, including just the final 2
- Smith led 39 laps, including the final 18
Who Wins The Race?
- 18 C Smith – 3rd, 3rd, 1st are his 3 Phoenix finishes. He also just won at Richmond too.
- 38 ZSmith – 2nd and 5th are his 2 Phoenix finishes. 2 of his last 3 finishes on the year were runner-ups including 5 of the last 11 at that. He and Chandler combined to win 3 of the first 4 races of the season.
- 52 Friesen – 5 straight top 6 Phoenix finishes (6th, 5th, 1st, 6th, 2nd) as well as 2 top 7’s over his last 3 starts on the season.
- 66 Majeksi – 11th last year but he’s been hot on the season.
- 99 Rhodes – 4 top 7’s in 7 Phoenix starts including 3 straight (4th, 7th, 3rd).
- 4 Nemechek – 5 top 7’s in his last 7 Phoenix starts and 4 top 10’s in his last 7 on the year.
- 98 Eckes – 3 top 10’s in 3 Phoenix starts (9th, 4th, 6th) to go along with 8 top 10’s over his last 9 starts on the season too.