The NASCAR Gander Outdoors Truck Series gets back on track this Friday night in the Lone Star state at Texas Motor Speedway for race number nine of the 2019 season after a couple of weeks off.
Normally, the summer race would be the site of the first of two races of the season with the final race taking place in November and being one in the Playoffs. However, the schedule changed this year by placing the November race in early spring and using the summer race as the final race for the Truck Series at Texas Motor Speedway. It will also be the first of many standalone races for the series as well.
The Truck Series will have a unique twist when they get on track Friday night, as the series will introduce the Triple Truck Challenge over the span of the next three races. Should a driver win at Texas Friday night, Iowa or Gateway, Gander Outdoors will award the driver an additional $50,000 bonus for winning any of these events. If the driver wins two out of three, the title sponsor awards $150,000. Win all three and the driver will earn themselves $500,000. That’s extra motivation for any driver to win throughout the upcoming races.
With that said, there are currently 33 Trucks entered on the preliminary entry list for the SpeedyCash.com 400.
Here are five drivers to keep an eye on Friday night.
- Johnny Sauter – It shouldn’t be a surprise that Sauter tops this list and there’s a reason why. He has a stellar track record at the 1.5-mile track and has always run well. Sauter has only finished outside the top-10 in five races there, while every other finish is either a win or a top-10. He has five wins (sweeping the 2012 season, 2016, 2017 and 2018). With those five wins, Sauter has collected 11 top fives and 17 top-10 finishes along with 368 laps led. He also has four poles with the last coming in the November race. His average start is 8.4 with an average finish of 6.1. Sauter has never had a DNF at Texas and has completed 100% of the laps dating back to his first start in 2005. It would be a mistake to bet against the two-time champion. Only something catastrophic or an ill-handling truck would prevent Sauter from having a great finish. Don’t be surprised if you see the Wisconsin native wheel the No. 13 into victory lane on Friday night.
- Grant Enfinger – Texas could be the site of Enfinger’s first checkered flag of the season. The Thorsport driver has just five starts with a best finish of third coming in his first outing in 2017 with the No. 98 team. Since then, he’s earned three top fives and four top-10 finishes with 16 laps led. In the spring race, Enfinger earned the front row starting position by starting on the pole and wound up fourth after leading eight laps. He won the first stage while finishing seventh in Stage 2. Enfinger only has one finish outside the top-10 that came in the November race last year, finishing 12th. In the summer race last year, he finished fourth after starting eighth and led seven laps. Look for Enfinger and the No. 98 Thorsport team to be a strong contender this weekend.
- Todd Gilliland – Gilliland only has three starts at the 1.5-mile track in the Lone Star state with a best finish of sixth in the summer race last year. The No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports driver even started on the outside pole and led 62 laps. He finished fourth in November and wound up 14th in the previous race in March of this year. At 1.5 mile tracks this year, Gilliland’s best finish came at Kansas last month with a finish of third where he challenged for the win late. Other finishes include ninth at Atlanta, seventh at Las Vegas and seventh at Charlotte. Gilliland has faced a lot of pressure to perform lately and he Triple Truck Challenge just might give him a little extra motivation to win this Friday night.
- Stewart Friesen – Speaking of first-time winners, there could be one this weekend and it might be the No. 52 Halmar Racing driver Stewart Friesen. He has five starts with a best finish of second twice (2018 and March of 2019). His first two outings did not go well with finishes of 22nd and 14th. However, since the summer race, Friesen finished second, eighth and second. The Canada native sat on the pole and led 13 laps last year in the summer race. Those finishes have led to 26 laps led and an average finish of 9.6 at Texas. Friesen has been close multiple times to victory lane, falling short to Kyle Busch in March. Friday night could be redemption for Friesen and the No. 52 Halmar Racing team.
- Greg Biffle – When people see the entry list this week, they’ll see a familiar name making a one-off start and his first race in quite some time. NASCAR fans will see Greg Biffle entered in the famed No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Truck Friday night. It will be his first Truck Series start since 2004 at Homestead where he finished eighth. Before making the jump to the Cup Series, the Washington State native used the Truck Series as a stepping stone to get to the Busch Series and eventually to the Cup Series in 2002. Biffle won the Truck Series championship 19 years ago in 2000. In his championship season, he earned five wins, 18 top fives and 18 top 10 finishes. In 1999, the year before he won the championship, Biffle set the record in the Truck Series by winning nine races, the most in a single season. Only one driver has come close and that was William Byron in 2016 when he earned seven wins that season. At his last Texas start in November of 2000, he finished 25th driving for Jack Roush. However, he won that year as well at Texas. Biffle practiced in Kyle Busch’s truck at Texas earlier this March to adjust to the truck. It will be interesting to see how the 2000 Truck Series champion performs this Friday night.
Cory Roper will be back with his own team this week, driving the No. 04 Roper Racing Ford, Codie Rohrbaugh will be in the No. 9, Trey Hutchens will compete in the No. 14, Anthony Alfredo will pilot the No. 15, Ted Minor will be in the No. 25, Scott Stenzel will drive the No. 34 and Kyle Benjamin will be in the No. 45.
Texas Motor Speedway has hosted 43 Truck Series races dating back to its first year in 1997.
Johnny Sauter has the most wins with five, while former series regular Brendan Gaughan is the only driver to win four in a row and that occurred in the 2002-2003 season.
The list of winners include Kenny Irwin Jr, Tony Raines, Dennis Setzer, Jay Sauter, Greg Biffle, Bryan Reffner, Jack Sprague, Travis Kvapil, Todd Bodine, Clint Bowyer, Ted Musgrave, Ron Hornaday, Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick, Jeb Burton, Ty Dillon, Matt Crafton, Erik Jones, William Byron, Christopher Bell and Justin Haley.
The lowest a race winner has ever come from to win was 22nd set by Todd Bodine in 2004. The race winner has started on the pole five times and includes drivers Jay Sauter, Biffle, Reffner, Bowyer and Bodine, who was the last to do so in 2007.
The Truck Series will be on-track Thursday afternoon with two practice sessions. The first occurs at 2:05 p.m. ET and the final is set for 6 p.m. ET. There will be no live TV coverage for either practice session. Qualifying is scheduled for Friday afternoon at 5:35 p.m. ET with no live TV coverage as well.
The SpeedyCash.com 400 green flag will fly shortly after 9 p.m. ET live on Fox Sports 1 and MRN Radio. The event will see three stages as usual with the first stage ending on Lap 40, the second stage on Lap 80 and the final stage on Lap 167.