By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
Every year in sports there are moments that stand out more than others. The 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season was no different. This article is a countdown of the 10 best moments of the 2017 Truck Series season.
- Kyle Busch Begins His Second ‘Bristol Sweep.’
The UNOH 200 at Bristol Motor Speedway marked the beginning of the second sweep of the three National Series in NASCAR history. Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver Kyle Busch dominated the Truck race, leading 109 of the 203 laps. Busch also came from the back after a pit road penalty, passing every single truck to retake the lead in just under 50 laps. This is likely the last opportunity for a driver to sweep all three NASCAR National Series races in a single weekend with the increased restrictions on veteran Cup drivers. It also marked Busch’s 49th Series victory, leaving him two behind the all-time win leader of the Truck Series, Ron Hornaday, Jr.
- Restrictions on Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Drivers.
The 2017 season marked the first in which Premier Series drivers were limited to the number of starts they could make in both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and the Truck Series. Cup Series drivers with five or more years of experience were limited to a maximum of seven starts in Trucks. Busch competed in seven races, winning three (Kansas, Charlotte, and Bristol. The only other Cup Series driver to earn a victory was Chase Elliott at Martinsville. 2017 had the second fewest wins by Cup drivers since the 2013 season. Last year only three races were won by Premier Series drivers.
- The Future of the Sport Shines.
The spotlight shined on many of the drivers that will likely be the future of NASCAR. Harrison Burton, Todd Gilliland, and Mason Diaz each had strong runs in their various starts throughout the year. Members of the NASCAR Next program, both past and present, ran up front, often battling for the victory. This ultimately culminated in the Championship victory for Christopher Bell.
- Ben Rhodes and Ryan Truex Tie for Final Playoff Spot.
With the 2017 season being the first to have Stage Racing and Playoff Points, no one knew what to expect. The battle to make the 2017 Playoff Grid came down to a nail-biter during the final laps of the final regular season race, The House.com 225 at Chicagoland Speedway. Ben Rhodes and Ryan Truex battled all race long, ultimately tying in points. The tie-breaker came down to who had the best finish in the regular season. Rhodes finished second at Pocono Raceway, with Truex finishing third. It was a career-best finish for Rhodes at the time, and tied the career-best for Truex.
- Toyota Dominates the 2017 Truck Series Season.
Although many may not agree with me on this one, it was a good thing that Toyota gives the Truck Series as much support as it does. Toyota Racing is the only manufacturer giving teams direct support in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Toyota accounted for 12 victories in the 23 races. Toyota earned their fifth-straight Manufacturer’s Championship in the Truck Series, and their 10th overall.
- Another Successful Eldora Race.
The 2017 Eldora Dirt Derby once again proved why it is one of the most-exciting races all year long. Truck Series regulars Matt Crafton, Bell, and Stewart Friesen battled often for the lead on the dirt. Both Bell and Friesen have years of experience on dirt, while Crafton went out of his way, buying a dirt modified, to gain experience. Dirt ringers such as Bobby Pierce, Chris Windom, and Max Johnston also made their presence known, giving the regulars some extra competition.
- Close Competition All Year Long.
Although victory lane was dominated by both Christopher Bell and Johnny Sauter, the competition was fierce all-season long. It is this close, rough, and tough racing that the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series has become known for. On multiple occasions, you could through multiple trucks under a blanket with how close they were on track. A prime example of this can be seen at Phoenix Raceway where John Hunter Nemechek, Kaz Grala, Truex and others went six-wide through the dogleg. Although it didn’t work for very long as Jesse Little, Dalton Sargeant, and Truex collided in a major accident, the racing was exciting.
- Darrell Wallace Jr. and Parker Kligerman Return to Victory Lane.
The 2017 season saw two fan favorites return to victory lane in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for the first time in years. Darrell Wallace Jr. fought his way to the front at Michigan International Speedway, in his first Truck race since he won the 2014 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. His No. 99 Maestro’s Classic Beard Wash & Butter Chevrolet Silverado was the class of the field that day, despite the win being encumbered for a rules violation. Later in the season, Parker Kligerman found victory lane at Talladega Superspeedway. It was Kligerman’s first victory since he planted the flag in the infield at Talladega in 2012.
Both drivers also earned the first victory for their respective organizations in the Truck Series. Wallace earned the first victory for MDM Motorsports in the team’s rookie season. Meanwhile Kligerman’s victory was the first for Henderson Motorsports in the Truck Series. It was also the first victory for Henderson Motorsports since Rick Wilson won at Dover International Speedway in the Xfinity Series in 1989.
- First-Time Winners.
In 2017 five drivers found victory lane for the first time in their Truck Series career. Kaz Grala somehow navigated his way through the huge final-lap melee at Daytona to win the season-opener. Later in the season, Austin Cindric punted Grala out of the way in Canada to earn his first career victory and a spot in the 2017 Playoffs. Three races later, Ben Rhodes punched his ticket into the second round of the Playoffs by earning his first career victory at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. In the Martinsville Speedway Playoff race, Noah Gragson played the role of spoiler, by winning the race, climbing the fence, and picking up a ‘Granddaddy Watch.’ Finally, Chase Briscoe sent Brad Keselowski Racing off into the sunset on a high note, scoring a victory in the season-finale, the Ford EcoBoost 200, which was the organization’s final race before shutting down.
- The Most Dominant Driver Wins the Championship.
Christopher Bell drove away with the 2017 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship, plain and simple. Bell scored a series-high five victories, 15 top-fives, 21 top-10s, and five pole positions in 23 races. He was first in laps led (875), average start (4.9), average finish (5.7), and Playoff Points (35). Bell, who has previously said, “that he felt like he needed to win races to prove he belonged in NASCAR,” showed that NASCAR’s new Playoff System and Stage Racing works. The driver who dominates the season is likely the one to win the Championship.