Column: NASCAR Truck Series’ Back In The Lone Star State; Stewart Friesen Looking To Defend
Column By: HOLLY CAIN / NASCAR – FORT WORTH, TX – Texas continues to be the competitive center for the NASCAR CRAFTSMAN Truck Series.
Reigning series champion Zane Smith earned a thrilling victory last Saturday to make it two-in-a-row for him at the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) road course in Austin with the series moving a couple hours north to Texas Motor Speedway for Saturday’s SpeedyCar.com 250 (5:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
The COTA victory puts Smith atop the championship standings by a slim 2-points over one of his 2022 championship challengers Ty Majeski. The top six drivers are separated by a mere 35 points as the series heads to the always-dramatic 1.5-mile Texas high-banks.
It’s veteran Matt Crafton, ranked sixth in the standings, that will have the eye of many. After a rough 2022 season filled with disappointment and unfulfilled expectations, Crafton has had a solid start to 2023 and must be considered a favorite heading to Texas.
Crafton, driver of the No. 88 ThorSport Racing Ford, holds some of the series’ most important records at Texas from pole positions (5), top-five finishes (17), top-10 finishes (30), lead lap finishes (32) and laps completed (6,453). The all-time winningest driver is Todd Bodine with six victories – but Crafton is the only multi-time winner (2014-15) in this weekend’s field.
Defending winner Stewart Friesen, driver of the No. 52 Halmar-Friesen Racing Toyota, is the only other Texas winner entered this week. He’s had top-10 finishes in half his 10 starts at the 1.5-mile track.
There are certainly other drivers expected to give these two a run for the trophy, however. Another veteran, Grant Enfinger, driver of the No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet, has proven to be particularly good on the Texas Motor Speedway with seven top-10 finishes in 10 starts – including a pair of top-five efforts. He was 11th in last year’s race.
Beyond the veterans such as Crafton, Friesen and Enfinger, rookie Nick Sanchez, driver of the No. 2 Rev Racing Chevrolet is a very respectable 12th-place in standings heading to Texas with two top-10 finishes in the four races to date.
The points leader Smith is certainly no slouch at 1.5-mile tracks either, with five top-five finishes in seven of the 1.5-mile track races in 2022. He was third at Texas.
The CRAFTSMAN Truck Series has practice Saturday at 10:35 a.m. ET followed by qualifying at 11:05 am. ET.