Photo via Sarah Crabill/Getty Images
This has been one of the most hectic days of my life. My phone does not use cellular service anymore and I have had to rely on Wi-Fi all day long to even get to ISM Raceway. But I am at the track and it is time to take a look at the first of three semifinal races here that will lock in the four drivers who will compete for a Gander Outdoors Truck Series championship at Homestead next weekend.
Not one of the six remaining truck playoff drivers have locked themselves into Homestead so tonight could get hectic as only Brett Moffitt and Stewart Friesen appear to be locked in on points at 45 and 35 points above the cutline respectively. Tonight will most likely be a battle between Ross Chastain, Austin Hill, Matt Crafton, and Tyler Ankrum for the final two Championship 4 spots.
Hill will have the advantage tonight as he starts on the pole. This will only be his third start at this racetrack but first in competitive equipment. Friesen will join Hill on the front row and he has an average finish of 9.7 in three starts here.
For the other playoff drivers, Chastain will roll-off 14th and does have a top-five finish in one of his two truck starts at Phoenix. Moffitt, who sits on top of points, will start 12th and he is looking to defend his ISM Raceway crown. Crafton starts 10th and sits nine points below the cutline. He has an average finish of 10th in 18 starts at Phoenix. Finally, Ankrum will start 15th and finished 6th in this race last year.
The truck race is the only race here this weekend that is run under the lights. Why NASCAR decided to put down the PJ1 traction compound for this race makes absolutely no sense as temperatures will be fairly mild for Phoenix. The traction compound is also way up towards the wall, which has never been a productive lane on this one-mile track.
With Ross Chastain not being safe for Homestead, he has to be my pick for tonight as he will come out swinging and not looking to make friends tonight. He will pull off every aggressive move in the book to gain positions and solidify his spot in the Championship 4. Chandler Smith is my darkhorse pick for tonight. Although this is first truck race at Phoenix, he looked fast in both practice and qualifying and should be a force to reckon with to upset the playoff drivers tonight.
You can watch tonight’s race on FS1 at 8:30 pm ET. Stages are 45-45-60.