The NASCAR Gander RV and Outdoors Truck Series return to on-track action this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. While you may have looked at this as just another race prior to the 2020 season, all eyes will be watching this Saturday.
Last time out at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch stole the show and went to victory lane in the Truck Series once again. This caused another round of outrage from some NASCAR fans about Busch winning in the lower series.
The outrage got the attention of the 2014 Cup Series champion and future Hall of Famer Kevin Harvick who finally had enough of it. The day after Busch’s win, Harvick took to Twitter and issued what was originally a $50,000 bounty to any full-time Cup driver that can beat Busch. Not only did it get the attention of Harvick but the bounty that Harvick offered also got the attention of the CEO and sponsor of the series, Marcus Lemonis. Lemonis took to Twitter and matched Kevin’s bounty to equal $100,000. Of course, this got the attention of several Cup Series drivers who right away tried putting plans together with Truck Series teams.
While it would have been interesting to see a Cup vs. Truck field at Atlanta this weekend, the realization came into play on how tough it actually would be to get a ride in the Truck Series, as there would be many sponsor and manufacturer conflicts in some instances. However, a couple of Cup drivers were able to get a deal worked out. Those drivers include Chase Elliott who will drive the No. 24 GMS Racing Chevy, Brennan Poole who will pilot his own No. 29 Toyota entry and John Hunter Nemechek in the No. 8 NEMCO Motorsports entry. Whether or not, one of these three can beat Kyle by finishing ahead of him remains to be seen but the bounty will certainly put on a good show.
Before we get to The Bounty, let’s take a look at five other drivers that have shot to win in this weekend’s Vet Tix Camping World 200 at Atlanta.
Currently, there are 38 Trucks on the preliminary entry list, meaning six trucks will go home after qualifying.
- Kyle Busch – Anytime Kyle Busch is in the field, it will be really tough to beat him head-to-head on his good days and that has been the case here at Atlanta for at least nine of 11 starts. In last year’s race, Busch swept both the stages and won in his second straight Truck start of the season after leading 92 laps. In total, the Las Vegas native has an average finish of 6.1 with an average start of 3.4. He has five wins to his credit with eight top fives, nine top-10 finishes and 479 laps led. Busch’s stats at Atlanta are impressive as he won three in a row in 2005, 2007, and 2008. Had he not finished eighth in 2008, Busch could have won five in a row which is really impressive, to say the least. Despite his success at the 1.54-mile speedway in Atlanta, the KBM owner has also faced some adversity at one point or another. In 2017, he started second and finished 26th, three laps down while in 2018, Busch was on the pole but finished 21st after having a wheel come off under a pit stop. It’s rare for Busch to have a problem in the Truck Series, but it’s also rare for anyone to beat him. The KBM owner will be pretty tough to beat on Saturday for the bounty.
- Brett Moffitt – Moffitt has yet to find victory lane this season in the No. 23 GMS Racing Chevy. Though it has not been the start Moffitt has been looking for, that could all change this weekend at a track where he has had limited success. The Iowa native won here back in 2018 after starting 10th and only led two laps after a late-race restart with two to go. To date, that has been Moffitt’s only victory in the Truck Series at Atlanta. In last year’s outing for GMS, he finished fourth after starting third but only registered a fifth-place stage finish in the second stage. Overall, Moffitt has an average finish of 5.3.
- Grant Enfinger – Quite simply put, Atlanta has been one of the best tracks that Grant Enfinger has not won at yet. Since making his first start there in 2016, the Alabama native has had consistent finishes in the top fives and 10s with a best finish of third coming in 2019. He’s managed to lead eight laps and earned an average finish of 6.2. In total, Enfinger has two top-fives and four top-10 finishes. He was able to finish third in Stage 1 and eighth in Stage 2 in the 2019 race. Surprisingly, the ThorSport driver has not won yet at Atlanta, but that could change this weekend.
- Ben Rhodes – Another driver who has had some success at Atlanta is the driver of the No. 99 Carolina Nut Company Ford, Ben Rhodes. Rhodes has four starts dating back to 2016. His best finish was fourth (twice, 2017 and 2018). In those four starts, he’s also led 20 laps which came in last year’s race. All in all, the ThorSport driver has completed all the laps since his first race, which is really remarkable. Rhodes has yet to grab a stage win in this race, but that may very well come this weekend along with a win.
- Ross Chastain – Chastain is back for another race in the Niece Motorsports entry for 2020. At Atlanta, he has three starts in 2012, 2017 and 2019. Chastain’s best finish of those three starts was sixth in last year’s race after starting 21st. He didn’t make a lot of noise, but still got the job done by earning a top-10 finish. Chastain also finished 10th and seventh in both stages in the 2019 race.
As for the bounty hunters, Chase Elliott has one start at Atlanta that came in 2017 driving for GMS. Elliott finished fifth after starting ninth. He also managed to finish eighth in the second stage of that race. For Brennan Poole, his only start was in last year’s race where he finished 13th. John Hunter Nemechek has two starts at Atlanta in the Truck Series. Nemechek won this race in 2016. Though, his last Truck start was three years ago in 2017, where Nemechek was credited with a 29th place finish due to an accident.
There will be a few somewhat new faces in the field this weekend making their start of 2020. T.J. Bell returns to drive the No. 12 Youngs Motorsports Truck, while Danny Bohn is scheduled to pilot the No. 30 of On Point Motorsports, J.J. Yeley will pilot the No. 33 of Reaume Brothers Racing, Ryan Truex will compete in the No. 40 Niece Motorsports entry and Jeb Burton will be in the No. 44 Niece Motorsports Chevy.
A couple of drivers will be making their first at-track debut. Those include Zane Smith, Tate Fogleman, Raphael Lessard, Tanner Gray, Derek Kraus, Tyler Ankrum, Stefan Parsons, Danny Bohn, and Angela Ruch.
Since 2004, Atlanta Motor Speedway has seen 18 Truck Series races. The winners include Bobby Hamilton, Ron Hornaday Jr., Kyle Busch, Todd Bodine, Mike Bliss, Mike Skinner, Ryan Newman, Kevin Harvick, Ty Dillon, Matt Crafton, John Hunter Nemechek, and Brett Moffitt. Kyle Busch has the most wins with five occurring in 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009, and 2019.
As for manufacturers, Chevrolet has nine wins with Toyota directly behind with eight. Toyota has won the last three races. Dodge only has one victory which came in 2004 while Ford has zero wins throughout the 18 race span.
The race winners starting positions have been a mixed bag as well. At least seven times a race winner has come from outside the top-10, while four times a race winner came from the top five and only two times the winner has come from the top-10. The lowest a winner has ever started was 18th (twice) set by Hornaday in 2005 and John Hunter Nemechek in 2016. The winner has started from the pole only five times by drivers Todd Bodine, Mike Skinner, Kyle Busch, Ty Dillon, and previously Christopher Bell in 2017. There have been zero races dating back to 2004 that have not ended under yellow.
As far as stage wins go, Christopher Bell, Noah Gragson, and Busch have been the only stage winners so far since stages were implemented in 2017. Twice the stages have been swept by Bell and Busch, as both went on to victory lane later that day.
The most lead changes that took place was 21 in 2006. The least amount of lead changes were six (twice) in 2015 and 2017. The most cautions occurred in 2007 with nine for 45 laps. The least amount of cautions took place in 2015, where only three caution flags were flown for 13 laps.
The first time the Truck Series drivers will get on-track is slated for 1:35 p.m. ET for their first practice with no live TV. Final practice is scheduled for 4:32 p.m. ET with live coverage on Fox Sports 1. Truck Series qualifying is set for Saturday morning at 10:05 a.m. ET live on Fox Sports 1. The Vet Tix Camping World 200 is set for Saturday afternoon at 1:30 p.m. ET live on Fox Sports 1 and MRN Radio. Stages will be 30/60/40 to make up the 130-lap race.