By David Morgan, Associate Editor
AVONDALE, Ariz. – The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be the first title fight of the weekend to be settled, as the four remaining drivers in the Playoffs will duke it out Friday night at Phoenix Raceway for the right to hoist the championship trophy when the checkered flag falls.
Eight drivers started the Playoffs with a berth in the championship race in mind, but half of them fell by the wayside, leaving Ty Majeski, Chandler Smith, Zane Smith and defending series champion Ben Rhodes as the four drivers to battle for supremacy in the Lucas Oil 150.
By the Numbers
What: Lucas Oil 150, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race No. 22 of 22
Where: Phoenix Raceway – Avondale, Arizona
When: Friday, November 4
TV/Radio: FOX Sports 1, 10:00 pm ET / MRN and Sirius XM NASCAR Channel 90
Track Size: 1.0-mile oval
Banking: Eight to nine degrees in Turns 1-2, 10 to 11 degrees in Turns 3-4 and frontstretch dogleg
Race Length: 150 laps, 150 miles
Stage Lengths: Stage One/Two – 45 laps each, Final stage – 60 laps
November 2021 Race Winner: Chandler Smith – No. 18 Toyota (Started on pole, 39 laps led)
Tale of the Tape – How the Championship 4 Stacks Up:
Ty Majeski – No. 66 Thorsport Racing Toyota
2022 Stats: Two wins (Bristol, Homestead), 10 top-five finishes, 15 top-10 finishes, three poles, 306 laps led, 9.6 average finish
Phoenix Specific Stats: One start (2019), started fifth, finished 11th
Why Majeski Can Win: There’s something to be said about momentum and Ty Majeski has it in bucketloads heading into Friday’s championship race. After winning in his last two starts, Majeski will be looking to complete the trifecta and deliver another championship to Thorsport Racing.
If coming off two straight wins wasn’t enough, he was fastest in practice on Thursday evening showing that he’s got the speed once again.
What the Driver Says: “I’ve achieved everything that I felt like I needed to this year to prove what I needed to. I feel like the championship would be icing on the cake for a great season. Our confidence level is high coming off winning two of the last three. We feel really good about where we are at.
“I don’t know if the other guys are nervous or not, but we don’t take it as another race, because it is not. I think anyone that says it’s another race, we are just going to do what we do, is lying. We’ve put a lot of preparation into this race, moreso than any other race throughout the season, which is natural.
“It’s the biggest race of the season for everybody, but from a mindset, I’m feeling no pressure. Just happy to be here, taking it all in. Taking in the moment and enjoying it and having fun. Just having a loose mentality. We are ready to go and let it all hang out Friday night.”
Chandler Smith – No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota
2022 Stats: Three wins (Las Vegas, Pocono, Richmond), eight top-five finishes, 15 top-10 finishes, 440 laps led, 9.0 average finish
Phoenix Specific Stats: Three starts, one win (2021), three top-five finishes, 40 laps led, 2.3 average finish
Why Chandler Smith Can Win: Friday will mark a culmination of things for Chandler Smith with his tenure in the Truck Series coming to an end, as well as it being the final race for Kyle Busch Motorsports in its current iteration, so he would love nothing more than to send things out in style. Given that he won this race one year ago, Smith has got the know how to get around Phoenix in a hurry.
What the Driver Says: “Whatever the books are saying I guess are my chances. I don’t know. We are just going and treating it like every other race. It’s just another weekend where we have to go and perform.
“As crazy as this sounds, but it is reality, these trucks – I can’t control what goes on other than I drive race cars. I drive them. I can’t control if bolt gets less loose leaving the race shop and we go into turn one at Phoenix and we stuff it in the fence. I can’t control that and that can dictate the rest of the weekend.
“I know we should have a fast truck, but I wouldn’t say it necessarily – if we get to Phoenix, we are going to win. Definitely not. There are way too many variables in making everything go full circle than just that.”
Zane Smith – No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford
2022 Stats: Three wins (Daytona, Austin, and Kansas), 13 top-five finishes, 18 top-10 finishes, three poles, 415 laps led, 8.0 average finish
Phoenix Specific Stats: Two starts, two top-five finishes, 48 laps led, 3.5 average finish
Why Zane Smith Can Win: Zane Smith may be the lone Ford in a sea of Toyotas fighting for the championship on Friday, but don’t count him or Front Row Motorsports out as being strong title contenders. Smith has won on three different types of tracks this season and with another year with the Bob Jenkins owned team already secure, a championship would be more than enough proof that keeping him in that seat was the right choice.
What the Driver Says: “It’ll definitely be very meaningful,” Smith said of the possibility of winning the championship. “I’ve stood in the parking lot at Phoenix Raceway for the past three years not knowing what I’m going to be doing the next year. Hopefully, I can be standing in the parking lot with the championship trophy. That will make everything a lot better, but the past couple years have definitely scarred, but it’s something I want really bad.
“I’m just really proud of everyone for getting here in the first place. It’s so hard to get here and regardless of the outcome Friday night, we know we’ll be chasing another championship next year and, like I said, I’m just proud of everyone for getting here.”
Ben Rhodes – No. 99 ThorSport Racing Toyota
2022 Stats: One win (Bristol Dirt), seven top-five finishes, 12 top-10 finishes, 263 laps led, 12.1 average finish
Phoenix Specific Stats: Seven starts, no wins, three top-five finishes, four top-10 finishes, 48 laps led, 9.3 average finish.
Why Rhodes Can Repeat as Champion: Of the four championship contenders, Rhodes may be the longshot, but he’s still the defending champion until someone takes it away from him. If last year’s championship win is any indication, Rhodes may just fly under the radar long enough to bank another title.
What the Driver Says: “I’ve told people that I think Ty (Majeski) is the favorite, but I don’t count myself out at all. Our team just performs when it needs to and we’ve done that. I mean, getting here is not a small feat. There’s a lot of really good trucks that are not here today and I think that speaks to the competition of the Truck Series nowadays. It’s pretty tough, really tough actually. I would say just as tough as last year, maybe tougher.
“I think that getting here is a challenge and it’s almost a victory in and of itself. But now that you’re in it, it would be a total defeat not to win the championship. Getting here is one thing, but then not capitalizing on the opportunity would just suck.
“We’re going to do everything we can tomorrow. I’m not going to say, checkers or wreckers, but we’re going to go out and make sure we get the victory. If we don’t, it doesn’t mean the year has been a failure, but it would feel that way to me personally in some ways.”