Eggert: Truck Contenders, Pretenders after Martinsville

By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer

After three races into the 2016 Camping World Truck Series Season, several drivers have already risen to the top as contenders for the championship. With Kyle Busch’s return to the series and win at Martinsville Speedway, and plans to run more races throughout the year, the window is slowly closing.

With 13 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 few changes have been made to the rankings as a few drivers have fallen off and some new faces are included.

In The Chase:

 John Hunter Nemechek

Nemechek, who punched his ticket into the Chase for the Truck Series at Atlanta had another strong run at Martinsville. Nemechek now sits on top of the Truck Series points standings with two top fives. Nemechek’s runner-up finish to Busch also helps further secure his Chase bid as Busch is not competing for points in the Truck Series.

Johnny Sauter

Since winning at Daytona, Sauter, has not had much luck this season. Sauter finished 28th at Atlanta, and ended up 32nd after a cutting down a tire and pounding the wall just past 40 laps into the 250 lap race. Luckily for Sauter, his Chase bid remains intact as, with having already won, he just needs to remain in the top 30 in points. 

The Hopefuls:

Parker Kligerman

Kligerman finished eighth at Martinsville, his third straight top 10. Kligerman slipped from leading the points going into Martinsville, to second in points, just three points behind Nemechek. Currently, Ricky Benton Racing (RBR) only has enough funding to run the first six races. If RBR can find the funding, Kligerman will almost certainly be one to contend with.

Timothy Peters

Peters finished fifth at Martinsville, scoring his second top five of the season, and his second in as many races. Like Nemechek, Peters has had a blank hood and fenders often this season, but he and his Red Horse Racing (RHR) team are committed to compete all season long. Three races into the season, Peters sits third in the standings, six points behind Nemechek.

Cameron Hayley

After only three races, Hayley sits fifth in the standings with one top-five and two top-10s. In 2016 Hemric scored four top-fives and 13 top-10s throughout the season in the ThorSport Racing No.13 Toyota Tundra. Hayley returned to ThorSport this year, joining veteran Matt Crafton and rookies Rico Abreu and Ben Rhodes. Hayley is knocking on the door for his first career Truck Series win, and will most certainly be a contender throughout the season.

Ryan Truex

Truex had a decent run at Martinsville, finishing 12th after struggling to find speed in Friday’s practices. Truex and his Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota Tundra team are committed to running the entire season and just need the pieces to fall into place to land in victory lane. Truex currently sits sixth in the standings, just one point ahead of the Chase cut-off.

Matt Crafton

Crafton finally has some luck come his way this season as he scored his first top 10 this year. His experience and consistency has aided his title fights in the past. Crafton jumped seven spots in the standings after his seventh place finish in Martinsville. Crafton now sits 11th in the standings, Crafton just 10 points behind the Chase cut-off.

On the Outside, Looking In:

William Byron

Byron, like his teammate Christopher Bell has had a rough start to the 2016 season, getting caught up in a wreck at Daytona and losing an engine at Atlanta. Byron scored the first top five of his Truck Series career at Martinsville, finishing in third after starting seventh. Byron is still relatively new to the Truck Series, with only four races under his belt. Byron and his Kyle Busch Motorsports teammates are strong contenders week-in and week-out to make a trip to victory lane. Byron currently sits 12th in the standings, 14 points below the Chase cut-off.

Tyler Reddick

So far, this season has been one for Reddick to forget. Reddick has now finished 18th, 14th, and 20th in the first three races. Both Reddick and his Brad Keselowski Racing teammate Daniel Hemric struggled all weekend long at Martsinville. This time last year, BKR had scored two wins at Daytona and Martinsville, with both Reddick and Joey Logano respectively. Reddick has slipped back 16th in the standings, now 17 points behind the Chase cut-off.

Cole Custer

Custer still has not had the run he is looking for in 2016. Custer and his JR Motorsports team struggled in the race at Martinsville, despite being fast in Friday’s practices. Custer got caught in a late race accident, relegating the rookie to a 29th place finish. Custer has slipped further behind, now 23rd in the standings, 36 points behind the Chase cut-off.

Image:  Brian Lawdermilk/Getty Images

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Seth Eggert has followed NASCAR his entire life. Seth is currently pursuing a writing career and is majoring in Communications and Journalism. He is an avid iRacer and video gamer. Seth also tutors students at Mitchell Community College in multiple subjects. He has an Associate's Degree in History.

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