Wednesday’s UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway will mark 10 races to go in the 2014 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season.
Bristol’s high-banked half-mile always provides a challenge, but with Wednesday’s event coming just four days after the series raced at the two-mile Michigan International Speedway, drivers may find themselves under a little bit more stress.
As the Trucks roll into Thunder Valley, there’s a new man atop the series standings. Saturday’s winner, Johnny Sauter, now holds a nine-point lead over ThorSport Racing teammate and defending series champion Matt Crafton, while the previous points leader, Ryan Blaney, fell to 16 points back after a dismal 21st-place run in the Irish Hills.
From Sauter’s perspective, Bristol is a welcome sight as he aims to win his first Truck Series title.
“Historically, it’s been a good track for me, especially in the trucks, and the new configuration is all about racing – at least I think so because it gives you options to move around,” he said this week. “You have to stay focused because it’s really fast and things happen in a hurry.
“I feel like I’ve always been better the second-half of the season and coming off a win at one of my worst race tracks gives me confidence. [Crew chief Jeff] Hensley has only been with the team for a short time, but he has already made some strides that I feel will keep us moving in the right direction. I’m looking forward to what the second-half of the season has in store.”
But his teammate Crafton has been strong on short tracks this year, earning a win at Martinsville and a third at Iowa. He too is looking forward to Wednesday’s race and the chance to take the points lead for himself.
“We’ve been close to winning there a few times, and with as many second-place finishes as we’ve had this season [three], we’re ready to get back to Victory Lane,” he said. “We’ve been good on short tracks this year, especially winning at Martinsville, so we’re ready to unload a fast Menards Toyota Tundra and stay up front all night, because track position will be key.”
Then there’s Blaney, whose Michigan weekend started wonderfully with the announcement that he’d be driving in Sprint Cup next season for the Wood Brothers but ended poorly with Saturday’s result.
The 21st-place finish ended a streak of seven consecutive Top-10 efforts, which is the longest such streak of the year so far in the Truck Series.
Now he must try to get back on track at Bristol, where he finished third in last year’s Truck race. Blaney is a good shoe on short tracks overall, having earned nine Top-10s in 12 career short track starts.