By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
Only two races into the 2016 Camping World Truck Series Season, several drivers have already risen to the top as contenders for the championship. A lack of Cup drivers in the field has opened the door wide open to more Truck Series regulars, young, up-and-coming drivers looking to prove themselves, and the knowledgeable veterans.
With 14 races left in the regular season, there is still plenty of time for drivers to make it into the first ever Chase for the Camping World Truck Series Championship. A total of eight drivers will qualify for the Chase, meaning that a win will all but guarantee that a driver will participate in the Chsae.
In The Chase:
John Hunter Nemechek
Nemechek, who won at Atlanta Motor Speedway, has most likely punched his ticket into the Chase for the Truck Series. Nemechek ended 2015 strong with three 2nd place finishes in the final four races. Nemechek also had an excellent run at Gateway and won in Chicagoland last year and is going to be a driver to watch this year. Nemechek’s team is still looking for funding, but is committed to run the entire season.
Sauter, who won the season opening race at Daytona International Speedway, also has most likely punched his ticket into the Chase for the Truck Series. Sauter has been a threat week-in and week-out in the past to win. With the speed he and his teammates at GMS Racing have had so far this season, he will be a threat for the title.
Kligerman, who is resurrecting his career, is currently at the top of the Truck Series points standings with one top-five and two top-10 finishes. Kligerman has had excellent runs in the past with Brad Keselowski Racing (BKR) and Red Horse Racing (RHR). If Kligerman and Ricky Benton’s team continue their consistency, Kligerman can be a threat for the title.
After only two races, Hemric sits 2nd in the standings with one top-five and two top-10s. In 2015 Hemric scored four top-fives and 13 top-10s throughout the season in the NTS Motorsports No.14 Chervolet Silverado. This year, Hemric is driving a Ford F-150 for BKR and is bound to be a contender, knocking on the door for his first career victory.
Peters is no stranger to victory lane, winning at short tracks, intermediate tracks, and the superspeedways. Peters has scored at least one victory every year since 2008. If this streak continues, Peters is bound to score a victory and secure himself a spot in the Chase later this year. Two races into the season, Peters sits 4th in the standings, six points behind Kligerman.
Truex had a stellar run at Daytona, finishing 2nd, followed by another excellent run at Atlanta until late-race problems relegated him to a 20th place finish. If Truex and his Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota Tundra team are able to continue their performance, they could easily be a force to reckon with. Truex currently sits sixth in the standings, just two points ahead of the Chase cut-off.
On the Outside, Looking In:
Reddick has not had the best start to 2016, finishing 18th and 14th in the first two races. Last year, Reddick scored two wins last at Daytona and Dover, finishing second in the standings with 14 top-fives and 19 top-10s. Reddick is sitting 14th in the standings, just eight points behind the Chase cut-off.
Crafton, the two-time Champion, is easily a threat for the title yet again. His experience and consistency has aided his title fights in the past. After finishing third in the standings with four poles, six wins, 13 top-fivess, and 18 top-10s in 2015, Crafton is looking for redemption in 2016. Crafton will not be one to ignore in 2016. Currently 18th in the standings, Crafton is only 14 points behind the Chase cut-off.
Bell has had a rough start to the 2016 season, flipping in a wild wreck to end the race at Daytona, and cutting down a tire, crashing hard into the wall at Atlanta while leading with just nine laps to go. Bell scored a win on the dirt of Eldora along with a top-five at Iowa and a top-10 at Texas. Bell is still relatively new to racing pavement in the Truck Series, with only nine races under his belt. Bell and his Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota Tundra team have had the performance and are knocking on the door to becoming a strong contender to make the Chase.
Custer may not have started 2016 with good runs, but do not be fooled. Custer excelled on the short tracks in 2014 and 2015, with only 10 top-10s in 21 starts, and winning twice. The JR Motorsports rookie has already proven that he can win, and is easily a threat to win JRM’s first ever title in the Truck Series. 22nd in the standing, Custer, like Bell is in a 18-point hole behind the Chase cut-off to climb out of.
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