By Seth Eggert, NASCAR Writer
After four races into the 2016 Camping World Truck Series Season, several drivers have already risen to the top as contenders for the championship. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular Clint Bowyer joined the field at Kansas, piloting the No. 24 Georgia Boot Chervolet Silverado to a fifth place finish.
With 12 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. After an exciting, wild, and caution-filled race at Kansas Speedway, the list of contenders and pretenders shuffled a bit.
In The Chase:
John Hunter Nemechek
Nemechek, had a lackluster day at Kansas. After qualifying in the sixth position, Nemechek ran up front early and looked as if he would be a contender for the win. Unfortunately, an incident with John Wes Townley and Parker Kligerman on lap 48 relegated Nemechek to a 28th place finish, 29 laps down. Nemechek’s Chase bid still remains as he is now one of only three drivers eligible for the Truck Series Chase that has won this season.
After an impressive and daring move to take the lead on the final restart, it looked as if Sauter’s luck had final turned around. However, on the final lap, contact with Ben Rhodes sent Sauter and Rhodes spinning into the turn three wall. Sauter limped his beaten and battered truck to a 16th place finish, his best result since winning at Daytona. Sauter now sits 16th in points, well within the Top 30, and eligible for the Truck Series Chase.
Five races. All it took for Byron to score his first career Truck Series win was five starts. Byron started second, lead twice at Kansas for a total of 34 laps, and won after avoiding the last lap accident that wiped out Sauter and Rhodes. This win virtually locks Byron, the 2015 NASCAR K&N Pro Series East Champion, into the Truck Series Chase.
Peters finished eighth at Kansas, scoring his third straight top 10 finish. Peters lead the race late at Kansas before being shuffled back after contact. Four races into the season, Peters now leads to points standings, 15 points ahead of the Chase cut-off.
Truex had another decent run at Kansas, finishing sixth after struggling to find speed in Thursday’s practices as well as qualifying. Truex started from the rear of the field after qualifying 21st and then changing engines. Truex also had a new sponsor on his Toyota Tundra this weekend, Aquastar. Truex currently sits third in the standings, just five points ahead of the Chase cut-off.
Young has consistently and quietly sat inside the Chase cut-off the entire season despite having only one top 10, a sixth place finish at Daytona. Young and his family owned Chevrolet Silverado team plan to run the entire season. Young currently sits fourth in the standings, just one point ahead of the Chase cut-off.
Crafton lead the most laps at Kansas and for a while, looked as if he was going to walk away with the win. After contact with Peters on a late restart shuffled Crafton back, he was able to rally to a second place finish. His experience and consistency has aided his title fights in the past. Crafton once again climbed further up in the standings. Crafton now sits sixth in the standings, on the Chase cut-off.
On the Outside, Looking In:
Kligerman’s top 10 streak has come to an abrupt end. As the race started, it looked as if Kligerman was going to have another solid race. That changed on lap 48 as Nemechek got loose and clipped the No. 05 of John Wes Townley. As Townley struggled to regain control, he drifted down the track, clipping the right rear of Kligerman. The contact turned Kligerman head-on into the outside wall. Kligerman walked away from the accident unscathed. However, he is now unsure if the team will make it to Charlotte in two weeks as the truck he was driving was slated to run there. Kligerman dropped eight spots in the points standings this week to 10th, just six points behind the Chase cut-off.
What looked to be a promising day for Hayley turned sour late. Just after a caution for the No. 66 of Jordan Anderson, Anderson’s truck stalled just before pit road. The caution came just at the end of the count down for the caution clock, and towards the end of the fuel run. Unfortunately for Hayley and others, pit road remained closed so safety crews could move Anderson’s truck. Hayley’s truck coasted to a halt, out of fuel as the field circulated under caution. Hayley was never able to regain the lap he lost, relegating him to a 19th place finish, one lap down. Hayley fell to 11th in the points standings, seven points behind the Chase cut-off.
Custer, like Hayley, also had a promising run going after starting fourth, until he too ran out of fuel under the same caution that Hayley did. To add insult to injury, Custer’s truck sat idle; out of fuel on the apron of turn four as pit road was finally opened. Unlike Hayley however, Custer was able to return to the lead lap and salvaged a seventh place finish. Custer climbed four spots in the standings, to 19th. Custer still has a long road ahead of him if he wants to make the Truck Series Chase and compete for the 2016 Truck Series Championship as he is currently 33 points behind the Chase cut-off.
Image: Jamie Squire/Getty Images