NASCAR Cup Series NASCAR Cup Series Championship
Phoenix Raceway The Purse: $10,053,801
Sunday, November 7 TV: NBC, 1:30 p.m. ET Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Distance: 312 miles (312 Laps); Stage 1 (Ends on Lap 75), Stage 2 (Ends on Lap 190), Final Stage (Ends on Lap 312)
NASCAR Xfinity Series NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship
Phoenix Raceway The Purse: $1,622,583
Saturday, November 6 8 p.m. ET TV: NBCSN, 7:30 p.m. ET Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Distance: 200 miles (200 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on lap 200)
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Lucas Oil 150
Phoenix Raceway The Purse: $908,369
Friday, November 5 8 p.m. ET TV: FS1, 7 p.m. ET Radio: MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio. Distance: 150 miles (150 laps); Stage 1 (Ends on lap 45), Stage 2 (Ends on lap 90), Final Stage (Ends on lap 150)
ARCA Menards Series West Arizona Lottery 100
Saturday, November 6 3 p.m. ET Live TV: Trackpass on NBC Sports Gold, 3 p.m. ET Tape-delayed TV: NBCSN, Thursday, November 11, 5 p.m. ET Radio: MRN, SiriusXM (XM Channel 391, online channel 981)
Distance: 100 miles (100 Laps)
NASCAR Cup Series
Spotlight turns to Phoenix Raceway for Championship Weekend
The anticipation and intensity that has been building over the last 35 races of the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season will culminate this Sunday (Nov. 7) in the Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway (3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Four drivers have scratched and clawed their way into the series’ Championship 4 Round. Two are former Cup champions – Martin Truex Jr. (2017) and Chase Elliott (2020) – and the other two – Kyle Larson and Denny Hamlin – are hoping to etch their name on the NASCAR Cup Series champions list.
It was announced in March of 2019 that the NASCAR Cup Series would be moving its Playoffs’ Championship Race from Homestead-Miami Speedway, where it had resided since the inception of the Playoffs in 2004, to Phoenix Raceway for the first time in 2020. Prior to the 2020 season, Homestead-Miami Speedway hosted the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs season finale for 16 seasons (from 2004-2019). Phoenix Raceway is just the second track to host the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race in the Playoffs.
2021 marks just the second year the NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race will be held at Phoenix Raceway in Phoenix, Arizona (2020-2021). Since the inception of the Playoffs in the NASCAR Cup Series in 2004, Phoenix Raceway has occupied three different positions on the postseason schedule. In 2004, Phoenix Raceway hosted the eighth race in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs – the event was won by NASCAR Hall of Famer Dale Earnhardt Jr. Then from 2005 – 2019 (15 seasons), Phoenix Raceway has hosted the penultimate race (ninth) in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs.
A total of 10 different drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff races at Phoenix Raceway. Kevin Harvick leads the NASCAR Cup Series in Playoff race wins at Phoenix Raceway with four victories (2006, 2012, 2013 and 2014). Last season, Chase Elliott secured his first NASCAR Cup Series title by winning the season finale at Phoenix Raceway (Nov. 8, 2020).
Four non-Playoff drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Phoenix Raceway:
In 2005, Kyle Busch won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Phoenix Raceway and was ranked 19th in the point standings at the time of the win.
In 2011, Kasey Kahne won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Phoenix Raceway and was ranked 14th in the point standings at the time of the win.
In 2015, Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Phoenix Raceway and was seventh in point standings at the time of the win. Earnhardt Jr. had made the Playoffs in 2015 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.
In 2017, Matt Kenseth won the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Phoenix Raceway and was seventh in points at the time of the win. Kenseth had made the Playoffs in 2017 but was eliminated in the Round of 12.
The worst finish in a NASCAR Cup Series Playoff race at Phoenix Raceway by a driver that went on to win the title the same season was 38th by Jimmie Johnson in 2016. In 2016, Phoenix occupied the penultimate event of the season.
In total, Phoenix Raceway had hosted 50 NASCAR Cup Series races producing 25 different pole winners and 26 different race winners. Of the 26 NASCAR Cup Series Phoenix race winners, 10 are active this weekend and three are Championship 4 drivers. Stewart-Haas Racing’s Kevin Harvick leads the series in wins at Phoenix with nine victories.
A closer look at the Cup season finale in the Playoffs
When it comes time to put up or shut up, there is no bigger stage in NASCAR than the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs’ Championship Race. Below is a look at the performances in the season finale during the Playoff Era (2004-2021).
A total of 12 different drivers have won the NASCAR Cup Series championship race (2004-2020). Greg Biffle leads the NASCAR Cup Series in championship race wins with three victories (2004, 2005, 2006 – all at Homestead-Miami Speedway).
NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs Season Finale Race Winners
Playoff Race Winners
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Sunday, November 20, 2005
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Sunday, November 18, 2007
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Sunday, November 21, 2010
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Sunday, November 18, 2012
Sunday, November 17, 2013
Sunday, November 16, 2014
Sunday, November 22, 2015
Sunday, November 20, 2016
Martin Truex Jr
Sunday, November 19, 2017
Sunday, November 18, 2018
Sunday, November 17, 2019
Sunday, November 8, 2020
Eight times the winner of the NASCAR Cup Series season finale race has won the championship during the Playoff Era (2004-Present) – the most of any of the Playoff races:
In 2011, Tony Stewart won from the 15th starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and as a result secured his third-career NASCAR Cup Series championship in the closest points battle in series history – tied with Carl Edwards – Stewart won the title by virtue of the tiebreaker: most wins.
In 2014, Kevin Harvick won from the fifth starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the first year of the elimination-style format of the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs, as a result he won his first series title.
In 2015, Kyle Busch won from the third starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the second year of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs, as a result he won his first series championship.
In 2016, Jimmie Johnson won from the 14th starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the third year of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs, and as a result he tied NASCAR Hall of Famers Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt for the series-most championships with seven each.
In 2017, Martin Truex Jr. won from the second starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the fourth year of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs, and as a result he won his first series championship.
In 2018, Joey Logano won from the fifth starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the fifth year of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs, and as a result he won his first series championship.
In 2019, Kyle Busch won from the fourth starting position at Homestead-Miami Speedway in the sixth year of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs, and as a result he became just the second active driver at the time with multiple titles (20115, 2019) joining seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson.
In 2020, Chase Elliott won from the first starting position at Phoenix Raceway in the seventh year of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs, and as a result he won his first series championship. Worth noting, Elliott was served a pre-race penalty and as a result of serving the penalty he actually started the race from back of the field and still won.
The worst finish in a championship race by the eventual series champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway was 15th (three times): Tony Stewart in 2005, Jimmie Johnson in 2008 and Brad Keselowski in 2012.
Two non-Playoff drivers have won the Homestead-Miami Speedway season finale Playoff race: Greg Biffle (2004 and 2006) and Denny Hamlin (2013).
Full Championship Weekend at Phoenix
Obviously, the ultimate goal is to crown a champion this weekend in Phoenix but before we do that fans will be treated to a full schedule of action this weekend, making it feel like it was back in 2019.
The NASCAR Cup Series will hold practice this weekend on Friday, Nov. 5 at 4:05 – 4:55 p.m. ET.
The series will then set the starting lineup by good ole pole qualifying on Saturday, Nov. 6 at 7 p.m. ET.
Last season’s starting lineup for the championship race at Phoenix was set by Metric Qualifying and as a result Chase Elliott earned the first starting position. This season he will have to earn it on the 1-mile track.
By The Numbers: Phoenix Raceway / Season Finale
0.10 – Since the advent of electronic scoring (1993), the closest margin of victory in the NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix Raceway is the Spring race of 2016 (March 13, 2016) when Kevin Harvick beat Carl Edwards to the line by 0.010 seconds – which is tied with Atlanta (3/12/2000), Daytona (2/21/2016), and Rockingham (2/22/2004) for the eighth closest finish in series history.
1 – Number of NASCAR Cup Series championship races Phoenix Raceway has hosted (2020).
3 – Number of 2021 Championship 4 drivers with a former win at Phoenix Raceway – Denny Hamlin, Martin Truex Jr. and Chase Elliott.
6 – Number of wins from the pole or first starting position at Phoenix Raceway – most recent was Chase Elliott’s win in the championship race last season.
8 – Number of times the winner of the NASCAR Cup Series championship season finale race has won the title during the Playoff Era (2004-Present); including the last seven seasons in the elimination-style format of the Playoffs – Tony Stewart, 2011; Kevin Harvick, 2014; Kyle Busch, 2015; Jimmie Johnson, 2016; Martin Truex Jr., 2017; Joey Logano, 2018; Kyle Busch, 2019; and Chase Elliott (2020) – Note: All the wins listed were at Homestead-Miami Speedway except for Elliott’s last season.
10 – Number of former NASCAR Cup Series Phoenix race winners entered in this weekend’s season finale –
Active Race Winners
2018, 2016, 2015, 2014 sweep, 2013, 2012, 2007 sweep
2019, 2018, 2005
Martin Truex Jr
7 – Number of former NASCAR Cup Series champions entered in this year’s season finale race at Phoenix:
No. of Titles
Active Champions (7)
Martin Truex Jr.
9 – The degrees of banking in Turns 3 and 4 of Phoenix Raceway.
11 – The degrees of banking in Turns 1 and 2 of Phoenix Raceway.
12 – The most cautions in a single NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix Raceway; has happened twice – most recently earlier this season (03/08/2020).
15 – The worst finish by the eventual series champion in the season finale race (at Homestead-Miami Speedway) – it happened three times: Tony Stewart in 2005, Jimmie Johnson in 2008 and Brad Keselowski in 2012.
17 – Total number of NASCAR Cup Series Playoff races held at Phoenix Raceway (2004-2020).
20 – The age of the youngest NASCAR Cup Series race winner at Phoenix Raceway: Kyle Busch (November 13, 2005 – 20 years, 6 months, 11 days).
25 – Number of different NASCAR Cup Series Busch pole winners at Phoenix Raceway; led by Kyle Busch and Kevin Harvick with four each.
26 – Number of different NASCAR Cup Series winners at Phoenix Raceway; led by Kevin Harvick with nine victories.
28 – The greatest number of lead changes in a single race at Phoenix Raceway (Feb. 27, 2011) – earlier this season the NASCAR Cup Series race at Phoenix produced 22 lead changes.
29 – The lowest starting position by a race winner at Phoenix Raceway (Ricky Rudd, 1995).
37 – Most NASCAR Cup Series Phoenix Raceway starts; led by Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Ryan Newman with 37 each.
50 – Total number of NASCAR Cup Series races held at Phoenix Raceway.
93 – Number of different drivers that have led at least one lap in the NASCAR Cup Series at Phoenix Raceway.
312 – Number of laps scheduled for this weekend’s Season Finale 500 at Phoenix Raceway.
Season Finale Title-Clinching Performances
Sunday’s NASCAR Cup Series Championship Race at Phoenix Raceway (3 p.m. ET on NBC, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) will mark the conclusion of the 2021 season. Below is a look at how the last 11 NASCAR Cup Series season finales (2010-2020) have turned out:
2010 – Jimmie Johnson Tracks Down Denny Hamlin For Fifth Straight Title
Denny Hamlin held a comfortable 15-point lead on Jimmie Johnson for the championship heading into the season finale. However, Hamlin could not close out the title. Hamlin damaged his Toyota with an early-race spin and finished 14th as a result. Kevin Harvick, who was third in points entering the race, finished third. Johnson placed runner-up to take home his fifth consecutive championship.
2011 – Tony Stewart Wins Third Championship In Epic Race
Trailing leader Carl Edwards by three points entering the 2011 season finale, Tony Stewart virtually needed a win to capture the title – especially considering that Edwards ultimately finished runner-up in the race.
Stewart drove to the front from the back of the field twice and edged out Edwards to get to Victory Lane.
The pair finished the season tied in points, but Stewart held the tiebreaker over Edwards of most wins during the season (five to one). It was the first title for Stewart-Haas Racing in the NASCAR Cup Series.
2012 – Brad Keselowski Fends Off Jimmie Johnson For First Championship
Brad Keselowski entered the 2012 season finale 20 points ahead of second-place Jimmie Johnson in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoff standings.
Keselowski, who won two Playoff races to help put himself in championship-clinching position, didn’t produce his best performance with a 15th-place showing at Homestead-Miami.
But problems in the pits for Johnson caused the five-time champion to finish 36th and helped Keselowski secure his first championship, as well as the first title for Team Penske.
2013 – Jimmie Johnson Closes In On Earnhardt And Petty With Sixth Title
After building up his points lead on the strength of six wins, 16 top fives and 23 top 10s, Jimmie Johnson needed to finish 23rd to capture his sixth NASCAR Cup Series championship.
Following an incident on a restart just shy of the 200-lap mark, Johnson ended up 23rd when it all sorted itself out.
By the end of the race, he worked his way up to finish ninth, earning Hendrick Motorsports a record 11th championship.
2014 – Harvick Rides To Two ‘Do Or Die’ Victories To Earn First Series Title
Kevin Harvick started the penultimate race of the 2014 season needing a win to get into the Championship 4 race at Phoenix. He dominated the contest, leading 264 laps to earn the victory and a spot in the Championship 4. After playing mind games throughout Homestead week with the rest of the field, Harvick held off runner-up Ryan Newman to earn his first career NASCAR Cup Series title and the second for Stewart-Haas Racing.
2015 – Kyle Busch Overcomes Injury For Improbable Comeback
Just ninth months after breaking his right leg and fracturing his left foot, Kyle Busch edged out defending champion Kevin Harvick for the Homestead race win and his first NASCAR Cup Series championship. Busch missed the first 11 races of the season after sustaining his injuries in a crash in the season-opening NASCAR Xfinity race at Daytona. He came back to win five races in the NASCAR Cup Series that year and cement his name in NASCAR history.
2016 – Johnson Ties Series Record With Seventh Championship
Jimmie Johnson proved once again to not count him out in the NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs. He won his way into the Round of 8 with a victory at Charlotte, then took the checkered flag at Martinsville to punch his ticket to Homestead. He provided a walk-off win at Homestead to capture his seventh championship, tying NASCAR Hall of Famers Dale Earnhardt and Richard Petty for the NASCAR Cup Series record.
2017 – Martin Truex Jr. Earns First Championship
Driving for the Denver-based Furniture Row Racing, Truex turned a career-best season into a championship for the ages. His victory in the Homestead finale was a personal best eighth on the year. He led the final 34 laps and held off a hard charging Kyle Busch by .681-seconds to earn the trophy hoist. It was an emotional victory with team owner, Barney Visser recovering from a recent heart attack back in Denver and Truex’s longtime girlfriend Sherry Pollex trackside after a year of major medical obstacles.
2018 – Joey Logano Wins First Championship
After qualifying for the Championship 4 in the Round of 8 opening race at Martinsville Speedway, the 28-year old Logano headed to Homestead-Miami largely considered the “underdog” to 2018’s “Big 3” – Kyle Busch, Martin Truex Jr. and Kevin Harvick. The threesome (Busch, 9, Harvick, 8 and Truex, 4) won 21 of the first 35 races in 2018. However, the Team Penske driver grabbed his opportunity and took it to the Big 3, winning the season finale by a sizable 1.7-seconds over Truex, Harvick and Busch and taking his career first NASCAR Cup Series championship trophy – Team Penske’s second.
2019 – Kyle Busch grabs second title, fifth for JGR
After putting up four wins early in the 2019 NACAR Cup Series season, Kyle Busch went winless for 21 races. He pointed his way into the Championship 4 but when his back was against the wall he answered and won the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway passing Kevin Harvick in the closing laps and the holding off his hard charging Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Martin Truex Jr. by 4.578-seconds to win his second championship. With the feat, Busch became just the second active multiple champion joining Jimmie Johnson (seven titles). The title was also the fifth for Joe Gibbs Racing – Bobby Labonte (2000), Tony Stewart (2002 and 2005) and Kyle Busch (2015 and 2019).
2020 – Chase Elliott comes from the rear to win first title at Phoenix
After putting up just two wins during the 2020 NACAR Cup Series regular season, Chase Elliott stepped up his game in the Playoffs winning at the Charlotte Road Course to advance to the Round of 8 and then winning the penultimate race at Martinsville Speedway to earn his spot in the Championship 4 Round. Elliott and the No. 9 team would head to Phoenix for the season finale only to lose their first starting position to multiple pre-race inspection failures. But the setback didn’t hold Elliott down, instead it made even more hungry for the title. He methodically worked his way through the field taking the lead for the first time in the event on Lap 79 of 312. Elliott would go on to hold off a hard charging Brad Keselowski to win the race by 2.740-seconds. With the feat, Elliott became seventh active champion. The title was also a series leading 13th for Hendrick Motorsports.
Chances a spoiler steals the show this weekend at Phoenix
Since the introduction of the “win and you’re in” elimination-style Playoff format, the eventual champion has won the season finale race (at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Phoenix Raceway) each of the seven previous years (Kevin Harvick, 2014; Kyle Busch, 2015; Jimmie Johnson, 2016; Martin Truex Jr., 2017; Joey Logano, 2018; Kyle Busch, 2019; Chase Elliott, 2020). Still, with Phoenix Raceway hosting the championship event, there is still a chance a driver out of championship contention can win the race.
The name that rises to the top of the list of possible spoilers this weekend, is NASCAR Cup Series Phoenix Raceway wins leader, Kevin Harvick, who has spent a career mastering the 1-mile raceway putting up nine series victories, including four Playoff wins. The Stewart-Haas Racing driver, Harvick, failed to make the Championship 4 this season, and is riding a winless streak that dates back to Bristol in 2020 (42 races ago). So, the Californian would like nothing more than to steal a win this weekend.
Expect Harvick to be in the mix for the lead no matter what this weekend. Phoenix Raceway is his best track. At Phoenix, Harvick leads the series in wins (nine), top fives (18), top 10s (26) laps completed (11,530), laps led (1,662) and average finish (8.8). Plus, he leads the series in key pre-race Loop Data categories with an Average Running Position of 8.290 and a Driver Rating of 110.4.
NASCAR Cup Series, Etc.
ARCA Menards Series ties to NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 – All four of the NASCAR Cup Series Championship 4 contenders have stock car racing roots in the ARCA Menards Series platform, developing their skills in at least one of the series that currently races under the ARCA Menards Series banner.
Kyle Larson was the 2012 champion in what is now the ARCA Menards Series East, racing the full season of 14 races for Rev Racing. He won a pair of races in that series, at Gresham Motorsports Park (Jefferson, Georgia) and New Hampshire Motor Speedway. He also tallied a pair of second-place results amongst eight top-five finishes that year.
He also made three ARCA Menards Series starts, winning at Pocono in 2014 and finishing as runner-up at Daytona in 2013. And recorded a win in his lone start in what is now the ARCA Menards Series West, taking the checkered on the road course at Sonoma in 2014.
Chase Elliott made 12 ARCA Menards Series starts, recording a win at Pocono in 2013 and finishing second at Martinsville in 2012, recording six top-five results total. He also had a win in each of the other two ARCA developmental series – at Iowa in the current East series, and then at Sonoma in 2016 in the current West series.
Martin Truex Jr. raced only in what is now the ARCA Menards Series East but tallied 62 starts in the series between 1999 and 2003. He had five wins (New Hampshire in 2000, Thompson and Stafford in 2001, and Stafford and New Hampshire in 2003). Overall, he had 23 top-five and 32 top-10 finishes in those 62 starts.
Denny Hamlin made two ARCA Menards Series starts – one each in 2004 and 2005. He finished third at Talladega in 2004.
Sunoco Rookie of the Year Update – Stewart-Haas Racing’s Chase Briscoe has mathematically clinched the 2021 Sunoco Rookie of the Year honors but will not be officially awarded until he finishes the season in good standing, per the program guidelines and eligibility. Briscoe is currently 304 points ahead of Anthony Alfredo in second.
Sunoco Rookie of the Year
Rookies Points Awards
Chase Briscoe 653 29
Anthony Alfredo 349 6
Briscoe’s rookie campaign has produced three top-10 finishes in 35 starts. His average starting position in 2021 is 22.2 and his average finish is 19.2. He has led 18 laps and has won 29 Sunoco Rookie of the Race awards.
Cup Manufacturers Championship – Chevrolet has clinched the NASCAR Cup Series Manufacturers Championship this season. The manufacturer mathematically clinched the title following Kyle Larson’s win at Kansas. Chevrolet currently has 18 wins on the 2021 NASCAR Cup Series season.
VelocityMotorsportsNews.com Championship Picks:
- Car 5 Kyle Larson HendrickCars.com Chevrolet
- Car 19 Martin Truex Jr. Auto-Owners Insurance Toyota
- Car 9 Chase Elliott NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet
- Car 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Ground Toyota
NASCAR Xfinity Series
NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship 4 (In Alphabetical Order)
Below is an in-depth look at the four drivers who have qualified for the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship 4 and will race for the title at Phoenix Raceway in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship race on Saturday, Nov. 6 at 8:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
AJ Allmendinger (No. 16 Kaulig Racing Chevrolet)
Allmendinger has made 32 series starts in 2020, gathering five wins (Las Vegas-1, Mid-Ohio, Michigan, Bristol, Charlotte ROVAL). He’s accumulated 18 top fives, 22 top 10s and one pole award in those 32 starts. He’s led a total of 422 laps this season and has maintained an average start of 6.6 and an average finish of 9.5. In addition, Allmendinger has posted solid season-to-date loop data statistics, including a driver rating of 110.1 (second-best), an average running position of 9.158 (fourth-best), a total of 289 fastest laps run (fourth-best), and completed 85.5 percent of his laps (4,108) in the top 15 (fifth-best). Allmendinger also earned the 2021 Regular Season Championship.
Playoff Recap: Allmendinger has had a strong Playoff run this season, having finished outside of the top 10 in only one race (Talladega) in the Playoffs. In the first round, he finished seventh at Las Vegas Motor Speedway but the following week, he finished 39th at Talladega after being involved in an incident. The Round of 12 ended at the Charlotte Roval and Allmendinger took home the victory at the track to advance. He made his first start at the Roval in 2019 and has gone on to win the Playoff event at the road course three consecutive seasons (2019, 2020 and 2021). To open up the next round, Allmendinger finished sixth at Texas, third at Kansas and last weekend, he finished seventh at Martinsville Speedway clinching his spot in the Championship 4. This is the first time in his career that he has advanced to Playoffs’ final round.
Phoenix Raceway Outlook: Allmendinger has three races at Phoenix Raceway under his belt in the Xfinity Series. His first start came in 2007, he started 16th and finished 13th. In 2008, he started 28th and finished 12th. Earlier this season, he made his first start at Phoenix Raceway since 2008 for Kaulig Racing and he started fourth and finished fifth.
Crew Chief Corner: This season marks the first fulltime season as a crew chief for Jason Trinchere. In 2020, he was crew chief for Justin Haley in one race at Kansas Speedway, where they finished fourth. This season, he has been on top of the pit box for AJ Allmendinger and the No. 16 team for 31 of 32 races (Justin Cox was crew chief for Allmendinger at Nashville Superspeedway). In his 32 starts as a crew chief, Trinchere has five wins, 18 top fives, 22 top 10s and one pole. The season’s Playoff run marks the first of Trinchere’s career.
Team Talk: Kaulig Racing earned its first spot in the NASCAR Xfinity Series Playoff Championship 4 in 2020 with Justin Haley in the No. 11 Chevrolet. Haley finished the season an organizational best third in the series championship standings. Kaulig Racing has qualified for the Playoffs six times. In 2016 and 2017 with Blake Koch, in 2018 with Ryan Truex, in 2019 and 2020 with Justin Haley and in 2021 with all three of its drivers (Haley, AJ Allmendinger and Jeb Burton). Jeb Burton was eliminated in the Round of 12 this year in his first season with the team. Haley was eliminated in the Round of 8 and Almendinger is competing for the championship at Phoenix. Allmendinger was also named the 2021 Regular Season Champion.
Austin Cindric (No. 22 Team Penske Ford)
The 2020 NASCAR Xfinity Series Champion, Austin Cindric, is on the hunt for his second title this weekend at Phoenix Raceway. Cindric, who is coming off another extremely strong season with five wins, will go for back-to-back titles in the series for the final time before transitioning to Wood Brothers Racing next season in the NASCAR Cup Series. Cindric opened the season with a win at Daytona International Speedway, punching his ticket to the Playoffs from the start of the season. He went on to win four more times. If Cindric earns his second title this weekend he will become just the 10th different driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with two or more championships.
Cindric has made 32 series starts in 2021 gathering five wins (Daytona-1, Phoenix-1, Dover, Pocono, Indianapolis Road Course), 21 top fives, and 25 top 10s. He has also led 1,075 laps this season and has managed an average start of 4.3 and an average finish of 8.4. In addition, Cindric has posted great numbers in season-to-date loop data stats, including a driver rating of 116.7 (series-best), an average running position of 7.162 (series-best), a total of 504 fastest laps run (series-best), and completed 89.9 percent of his laps (4,323) in the top 15 (series-best).
Playoff Recap: Cindric had an extremely strong showing every single week during the Playoffs. To kick off the Round of 12, he started first at Las Vegas and finished fourth. The following week at Talladega Superspeedway, he started second and finished eighth. At the Charlotte Road Course, the conclusion of the Round of 12, he started first and finished runner-up to AJ Allmendinger. He clinched a spot in the Round of 8 based on points and his performances each week. At Texas to start the Round of 8, he started second and finished fifth and the following weekend at Kansas Speedway, he started second and finished runner-up. Last weekend at Martinsville, he started first and finished runner-up to Noah Gragson and during Stage 1, he clinched a spot in the Championship 4 based on points.
Phoenix Outlook: Phoenix Raceway is a pretty good track for Cindric, who won the first race at Phoenix this season, and will look to win again this weekend to get back-to-back titles. He made his first start at the track in 2019 and finished 16th. Since then, he’s made six more starts and has never finished outside of the top-10 since his debut. He has two wins (this race in 2020 and earlier this season), four top fives and six top 10s. He has an average start of 5.6 and an average finish of 5.9. As the winner of the last two events at the track, Cindric will head into Saturday’s race with a lot of momentum on his side.
Crew Chief Corner: Brian Wilson, crew chief or the No. 22 Team Penske Ford, joined Team Penske in 2004. He first served as a shock specialist with the team. Since then, he has served as a race engineer on the No. 22 NASCAR Xfinity Series team as well as the No. 2 NASCAR Cup Series team. Wilson played a role in the first two championships. He was the race engineer on the No. 22 team that won the Xfinity Series title in 2010 and was also the race engineer in 2012 on the No. 2 Cup Series team. In 2016, Team Penske announced that Wilson would be the crew chief for the No. 22 Xfinity Series Ford. Since he was named crew chief in 2016, he has 162 starts, 23 wins, 88 top fives and 125 top 10s. If Wilson and Cindric win the title this weekend, Wilson will become the 11th different crew chief to win multiple championships in the Xfinity Series.
Team Talk: Team Penske has won five NASCAR Xfinity Series owner championships (2013-15, 2017, 2020) and two Xfinity Series driver championships with Brad Keselowski (2010) and Austin Cindric (2020). Team Penske make their Xfinity Series debut in 1997 with NASCAR Hall of Fame driver Rusty Wallace. This year marks Team Penske’s 19th year competing in the Xfinity Series. The team has 663 starts, 81 victories, 317 top fives and 462 top 10s.
Noah Gragson (No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet)
The 2021 season started out tough for Noah Gragson, with a 32nd-place finish to open the season at Daytona International Speedway followed by a 28th-place finish and 33rd-place finish in the next two events. However, the driver of the No. 9 JR Motorsports Chevrolet started to rally back from the bad luck soon after. But it wasn’t until the 24th race of the season until Gragson got his first victory of the season and secured his spot in the Playoffs.
This season, Gragson has racked up three wins, including last weekend at Martinsville Speedway in a must-win situation, to secure his spot in the Championship 4. This is the first time in his career that he has advanced to the final round of the Playoffs. This season marks his third full-time season in the Xfinity Series – all with JR Motorsports. In 101 series starts, he has five wins, 41 top fives and 70 top 10s. It was announced a few months ago that Gragson would be back with JR Motorsports in 2022, once again piloting the No. 9 Chevrolet.
This season, Gragson has made 32 starts, racking up three wins (Darlington-2, Richmond, Martinsville-2), 13 top fives and 20 top 10s. He led 360 laps total throughout the season and has held onto an average start of 11.8 and an average finish of 13.4. In addition, Gragson has posted positive numbers in season-to-date loop data stats, including a driver rating of 96.9 (sixth-best), an average running position of 10.717 (seventh-best), a total of 188 fastest laps run (sixth-best), and completed 84.8 percent of his laps (4,078) in the top 15 (sixth-best).
Playoff Recap: It was a long road to get to the Playoffs for Gragson after a very up-and-down season from the start. But, with the win at Darlington Raceway late in the season, he was able to secure his spot with only two races left in the regular season. He kicked off the Round of 12 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, his home track, with a third-place finish but the following weekend at Talladega Superspeedway wasn’t as good to him with a 30th-place finish. Gragson needed a strong showing at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course for the final race of the Round of 12 and he finished sixth, ultimately getting him a spot in the Round of 8 on points.
To kick off the Round of 8, Gragson finished third at Texas Motor Speedway and then unfortunately, due to a crash at Kansas Speedway, he finished 35th, putting him in a must-win situation at Martinsville. Gragson went to Martinsville with a ton of confidence and even said in a pre-race interview with NBC that he was going to win the race. And he did. He started ninth and battled from the front all day for the victory and will now compete at Phoenix for the title for the first time in his career.
Phoenix Outlook: Gragson will make his sixth Xfinity Series start on Saturday at Phoenix Raceway. He made his first start in 2019 and started sixth and finished 11th. Most recently, earlier this season Gragson started 10th and had an engine issue that put him out of the race early and resulted in a 39th-place finish. In this race in 2020, he started sixth and finished runner-up to Austin Cindric, who won the championship that year. Gragson has one top five and three top 10s in his five starts at Phoenix. He has an average start of 8.2 and an average finish of 13.8. Lucky for him, he’s coming off of a ton of momentum from his win at Martinsville and can carry that with him for a better result this weekend.
Crew Chief Corner: In his fifth full-time season as crew chief for JR Motorsports and his third season atop the pit box for Noah Gragson, Dave Elenz heads to the NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship race in Phoenix looking for his third title as a crew chief. In 2017, Elenz helped lead William Byron to JR Motorsports’ second series championship, NXS Rookie of the Year honors and a JRM rookie-record of four wins. From there, in 2018, Elenz led Tyler Reddick to JRM’s second consecutive Xfinity Series championship. Since then, he has been working with Gragson and looking for their first championship as a crew chief/driver duo. Prior to the 2017 season, his first as a full-time crew chief, Elenz worked with multiple driver on JRM’s “All Star” car with multiple drivers, scoring four victories, 19 top fives and 41 top-10 finished in two seasons (2016-16). In total, Elenz now has 227 starts as a crew chief with 15 wins, 77 top fives, 149 top 10s and three pole awards. Elenz is no stranger to the Championship 4 and the pressure that comes with it. If Elenz wins the title this weekend he will move solely into second on the all-time crew chief champions list for the NASCAR Xfinity Series behind series leader Steve Byrd with four titles (1989, ’95, ’96, ’97).
Team Talk: JR Motorsports got their first NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship in 2014 with Chase Elliott and followed that up with back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018 with William Byron and Tyler Reddick, totaling three championships for the organization. JR Motorsports has been competing in the series for 17 years and has 1,449 starts, 58 total wins, 398 top fives, 818 top 10s and 18 poles in those starts. In 2017, the organization made NXS history by becoming the first team to claim the top three spots in the championship standings after locking four teams in the Round of 12. The trend marked the fourth consecutive season (2014-17) that the team places at least two cars in the top four in the final standings. The team is also the only Xfinity Series team to produce rookie champions (Elliott-2014, Byron-2017, Reddick-2018).
Daniel Hemric (No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota)
Daniel Hemric has still never won a NASCAR national series race in his career but is competing for the championship this weekend in hopes of getting that first win in the same day he takes home his first championship title.
This season marks Hemric’s fourth full-time season in the Xfinity Series. He was fulltime from 2017-2018 before making the jump to the Cup Series. However, after his first full-time season in the Cup Series in 2019, he made his way back to the Xfinity Series to fight for a title and the first win. In 2020, he competed in 21 races on part-time schedule for JR Motorsports and this season, he has run all 32 races for Joe Gibbs Racing. It was announced a few weeks ago that Hemric will join Kaulig Racing in 2022, making the jump from Toyota to Chevrolet, in hopes of adding onto his resume.
Hemric has made 32 series starts in 2021 gathering 14 top fives and 20 top 10s. He has led 615 laps this season and has managed an average start of 6.6 and an average finish of 11.1. Hemric has been so close to that first win in so many races this season but has just come up short. In addition, Hemric has posted really good season-to-date loop data stats, including a driver rating of 104.5 (fourth-best), an average running position of 8.318 (second-best), a total of 358 fastest laps run (second-most), and completed 89.2 percent of his laps (4,287) in the top 15 (third-best).
Playoff Recap: Hemric secured his spot in the Playoffs based off of points and had a strong showing week after week in the postseason. In the first race of the Round of 12 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, he started seventh and finished fifth and then he went to Talladega Superspeedway the following weekend, stayed out of trouble, and finished fourth. At the Charlotte Motor Speedway Road Course to finish out the Round of 12, he started third and finished third and made his way into the Round of 8. The Round of 8 kicked off at Texas Motor Speedway and Hemric finished runner-up. Kansas Speedway was up next and Hemric started from the first position and finished 15th – his worst finish in the Playoffs all season long. At Martinsville, a win would have obviously been the first choice but his third-place finish and managing to stay out of all the on-track incidents, locked him in on points into the Championship 4 Round. This is the third time in his career that he has advanced to the final round of the Playoffs (2017, 2018, 2021). He finished a career-best second in the 2018 Xfinity Series final standings.
Phoenix Outlook: Saturday will mark Hemric’s eighth Xfinity Series start at Phoenix Raceway. In his seven starts, he has two top fives and four top 10s and an average start of 12.7 and an average finish of 14.0. His first start came in 2017 and he finished seventh. Most recently, he started from the pole earlier this season at Phoenix but finished 23rd. In this race in 2020, he started 18th and finished 25th.
Crew Chief Corner: Dave Rogers is in his eighth year as a crew chief in the NASCAR Xfinity Series and his first season with Daniel Hemric. He has 193 career starts as a crew chief in the series with 20 wins, 69 top fives, 119 top 10s and 24 poles. Rogers hasn’t won a championship yet but has been crew chief for Cup Series champions Tony Stewart, Kyle Busch and Joey Logano as well as a handful of races for Cup Series driver Denny Hamlin, who is fighting for the series title this weekend as well. Prior to being a crew chief, Rogers worked as the technical director for JGR’s Xfinity operations.
Team Talk: Joe Gibbs Racing is a two-time NASCAR Xfinity Series driver champion with Kyle Busch in 2009 and Daniel Suarez in 2016. The team has a combined 10 national series owner championships (five Cup Series in 2000, 2002, 2015, 2019 and five Xfinity Series in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2016). Joe Gibbs Racing now has five Xfinity Series Championship 4 round appearances and in 2018, Christopher Bell set the Xfinity Series single season wins record for a rookie with seven victories. JGR started in 1997 at Charlotte Motor Speedway with NASCAR Hall of Famer Bobby Labonte. JGR has 1,874 Xfinity Series starts and 184 wins, 642 top fives, 1,055 top 10 and 168 poles.
NASCAR Xfinity Series, Etc.
ARCA Menards Series ties to NASCAR Xfinity Series Championship 4 – Three of the four Championship 4 contenders have stock car racing roots in the ARCA Menards Series platform, developing their skills in at least one of the series that currently races under the ARCA Menards Series banner.
Noah Gragson recorded two top fives in 10 starts in the ARCA Menards Series and tallied a total of seven wins between what is now the ARCA Menards Series West and the ARCA Menards Series East.
He won five West races, including one in the state of Arizona at Tucson Speedway in 2015. He had a pair of wins in the East, at Stafford and Martinsville in 2016.
Austin Cindric has one win in eight ARCA Menards Series starts, recorded at Kentucky in 2016. He was perfect in his performance in the East, winning both races he entered in 2016 – at Virginia International Raceway and Watkins Glen International.
Daniel Hemric made one ARCA Menards Series start (finishing 12th at Daytona in 2015), one start in the West (finishing runner-up at Sonoma in 2019), and three East starts in 2016 (finishing in the top 10 in all three races, placing fifth at Greenville).
Sunoco Rookie of the Year finale – Joe Gibbs Racing’s Ty Gibbs has mathematically clinched the NASCAR Xfinity Series 2021 Sunoco Rookie of the Year title. He has earned 10 awards and 662 points. Up until recently, he and Josh Berry, who sits second in the standings, were in a close battle for the title but Gibbs has extended his lead to 123 points. In 18 starts, he has four wins, nine top fives and 10 top 10s, which are very impressive numbers for a rookie. He won in his first-ever career start at the Daytona Road Course in February.
Xfinity Owner championship update – The No. 54 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota isn’t in the driver Championship 4 but is competing for the owner championship title. Along with the No. 54 is the JR Motorsports No. 9, Team Penske No. 22 and the Kaulig Racing No. 16. As a result, this means that there is a chance that the owner champion and driver champion are not unified.
Xfinity Manufacturers Championship – Chevrolet, on the strength of 16 wins, has captured the 2021 Bill France Performance Cup, its series leading 22nd manufacturers title, and fifth in a row.
Chevrolet is currently leading the OEM championship standings with 1,190 points. Toyota is in second with 11 wins and 1,141 points and Ford wraps up the standings in third with five wins and 1,064 points.
In total, four different manufacturers have won the title in the NASCAR Xfinity Series.
NXS Manufacturer Champions
No. of Manufacturers Championships
VelocityMotorsportsNews.com Championship Picks:
- Car 16 AJ Allmendinger Hyperice Chevrolet
- Car 22 Austin Cindric Carquest Auto Parts Ford
- Car 9 Noah Gragson Bass Pro Shops/TrueTimber BRCC Chevrolet
- Car 18 Daniel Hemric Poppy Bank Toyota
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship 4 (In Alphabetical Order)
Below is an in-depth look at the four drivers who have qualified for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship 4 and will race for the title at Phoenix Raceway in the Lucas Oil 150 on Friday night, Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio.
Matt Crafton (No. 88 ThorSport Racing Toyota)
After missing the Championship 4 last season for the second time since the elimination-style Playoffs were introduced to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2016, Matt Crafton is back to contend for the title in Phoenix and in the process has set a new series record in Championship 4 appearances at four (2016, ’17, ’19 and ’21).
The three-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion (2013, 2014, 2019) got to Phoenix the hard way – through relentless consistency. Crafton is the only driver in the Championship 4 this season who hasn’t visited Victory Lane yet. In fact, he hasn’t hoisted a trophy since Kansas Speedway in July of 2020 – a string of 37 races without a win. But he’s strung together five top fives and 12 top-10 finishes this season and is the only former series champion among this season’s Championship 4.
During the regular season, Crafton finished on the lead lap in all but three races. And during those 15 races that set the Playoff field, Crafton led a total of 16 laps and posted an average start of 8.2 and an average finish of 12.6; including the six Playoff races, he has an average finish of 11.4 on the season.
To take a look back at Crafton’s championship seasons – he is the only champion to win titles in the original points format and the Playoff format – he had only one win in his first title campaign in 2013, the fourth race of the season at Kansas. He then finished 21st in the season finale at Homestead-Miami but had already mathematically locked-up the title by the start of the event.
In 2014, Crafton won a pair of races en route to the title – but both wins were early in the season, at Martinsville in the second race on the schedule and then at the 1.5-mile Texas Motor Speedway in the sixth race. He then finished ninth at Homestead-Miami to close out the title by 21 points over Ryan Blaney (second in the final standings). The title named Crafton as the only driver in series history to win back-to-back championships, a distinction he still holds today.
Then in 2019, in his fourth attempt at winning the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship in the Playoffs, Crafton achieved his goal. Crafton managed to become the first driver in NASCAR national series history to win a series title without winning a race. In 2019, he posted seven top fives and 18 top 10s. In the season finale of 2019, Crafton led nine laps and finished second to Austin Hill, but was the highest finishing Championship 4 contender and as a result took home the season trophy.
Playoffs Recap: While the 2021 regular season was a bit of a roller coaster for Crafton, he has found a gear in the postseason. After an average finish of 12.6 in the opening 15 races of the season, Crafton has upped his game with an average finish of 6.8 in the six Playoff races thus far.
Crafton has been running towards the front most of the Playoffs this season. In fact, Crafton has posted three top fives and fives top 10s in the six Playoff races this year. His lone finish outside the top-10 was at Talladega Superspeedway (14th). To start the postseason, he put up a runner-up finish at World Wide Technology Raceway then followed it up with a 10th at Darlington and a seventh-place finish at Bristol to advance to the Playoffs Round of 8.
Heading into the penultimate race last weekend at Martinsville Speedway, none of the Championship 4 Round spots had been locked-up. Crafton was third in the Playoff standings going into Martinsville up by 10 points over the Championship 4 cutline. The veteran driver from Tulare, California put up a strong effort and grabbed a fifth-place finish which was enough to secure a spot in the final round of the Playoffs.
Phoenix Raceway Outlook: The elder statesman of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship 4 field, Matt Crafton, has the most experience at this weekend’s finale venue – by a lot. Crafton has raced at Phoenix Raceway 20 times, recording six top-five and 12 top-10 finishes, and he’s completed 98.7% of the laps ran in those 20 events. Last season, in the season finale at Phoenix he started fifth and finished 14th. His best series finish at the 1-mile track is runner-up back in 2014.
Crew Chief Corner: Carl “Junior” Joiner and Matt Crafton have been teamed up together at the track since 2012 and it’s been quite the successful pairing. Together they have won 13 races (all but two of Crafton’s career Camping World Trucks total) and put together 82 top-five and 158 top-10 finishes. Joiner was also atop the pit box for Crafton’s three championships in 2013, 2014, 2019.
At Phoenix Raceway, Joiner has led Crafton in nine races putting up three top fives and four top 10s. The pair have an average finish of 11.7 together at Phoenix.
Team Talk: Matt Crafton and ThorSport Racing go together like peanut butter and jelly. Crafton has raced all but 25 of his 497 career NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races with ThorSport (his lone year away was the 2004 season, in which he raced fulltime for Kevin Harvick Inc.). In addition to longevity with ThorSport Racing, Crafton is also in his 18th consecutive season with sponsor Menards on the hood of his truck. ThorSport Racing is the longest tenured team in the Camping World Trucks and does it all from their Sandusky, Ohio, headquarters. ThorSport Racing made its NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at the Milwaukee Mile with driver Terry Cook in 1996. The organization collected its first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win at Flemington Speedway with driver Terry Cook on August 8, 1998. In 2013, ThorSport Racing became the only team in series history to lead the championship for an entire season; Sauter led the first three races and Crafton led the final 19 races. The organization has qualified for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs 10 times – 2016 (Matt Crafton), 2017 (Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes), 2018 (Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes), 2019 (Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter), 2020 (Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes) and 2021 (Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes). And have earned four appearances in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs Championship 4 Round – 2016, 2017 and 2019 with driver Matt Crafton – and this season it’s the first time the team qualified two of its drivers in the Championship 4 (Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes). And to boot, ThorSport Racing has had 15 consecutive season with at least one victory – the longest consecutive wins streak in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
John Hunter Nemechek (No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota)
During the offseason prior to 2021, John Hunter Nemechek made the announcement that he would be leaving Front Row Motorsports and the NASCAR Cup Series to return to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, only this time it would be with the powerhouse organization of Kyle Busch Motorsports. And to sweeten the deal, Kyle Busch Motorsports named Eric Phillips as Nemechek’s crew chief – winningest crew chief in series history. Nemechek made it clear his intentions from the start, ‘I’m here for wins’ and that’s exactly what they have been doing.
In the first 15 races of the 2021 season, the No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports team had been on another level from the competition putting up a series leading five wins (Las Vegas, Richmond, Charlotte, Texas and Pocono), nine top fives and 12 top 10s. He also won nine stages and accumulated 34 Playoff points during the regular season. As a result, he claimed his first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Regular Season Championship becoming the fifth different driver to accomplish the feat; joining Austin Hill (2020), Grant Enfinger (2019), Johnny Sauter (2018) and Christopher Bell (2017). Of the previous four Regular Season Champions, only Christopher Bell went on to win the overall series title at the end of the Playoffs in 2017.
In total in 2021, Nemechek has led 527 laps (second-most) and leads series in season-to-date Driver Rating (113.5). In 21 series starts this year he has posted five wins, 12 top fives and 15 top 10s – all career high-marks for the Mooresville, North Carolina native.
Playoffs Recap: Unlike John Hunter Nemechek’s regular season, the Playoffs have been a rocky road to the Championship 4 round that ultimately had him relying on his Playoff points to get him into the final round. Nemechek started the postseason with a disappointing 22nd-place finish at World Wide Technology Raceway, but then quickly rebounded with a runner-up finish at Darlington and a third-place finish at Bristol to advance to the Round of 8. Then again, Nemechek stumbled out the gate and finished 33rd at Las Vegas and then answers with a fourth-place finish at Talladega to keep his Championship 4 hopes alive.
Heading into the penultimate race last weekend at Martinsville Speedway, none of the Championship 4 Round spots had been locked-up. Nemechek was the Playoff standings leader going into Martinsville up by 36 points over the Championship 4 round cutline. The veteran driver from Mooresville, North Carolina started from the pole at Martinsville but was caught in an incident with Austin Wayne Self mid-race that sidelined him for the rest of the event. He finished 39th and had to watch as the race played out, but in the end Nemechek had earned enough Playoff points to carry him to the Championship 4 round for the first time in his career.
Phoenix Raceway Outlook: John Hunter Nemechek has made seven NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at Phoenix Raceway posting two top-five and four top-10 finishes; including two runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2017. He also led 31 laps at Phoenix but hasn’t made a series start at the track since 2019.
Crew Chief Corner: Veteran crew chief Eric Phillips began his NASCAR national series crew chief career in the NASCAR Cup Series for NEMCO Motorsports in 2002 with driver Ron Fellows at Sonoma Raceway. It wasn’t until 2004 that Phillips would serve atop a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series pit box but did so with driver Travis Kvapil and Bang! Racing owner by Alexander Meshkin. He then worked with several drivers for a few year at Morgan-Dollar Racing before jumping to Randy Moss Motorsports with driver Mike Skinner in 2009. But it wasn’t until 2010 Phillips found his home at Kyle Busch Motorsports and ever since it has been match made in heaven. Phillips has led KBM drivers to 32 of his series leading 42 Camping World Truck victories. In total he has led 10 different drivers to Victory Lane in his series career; including five times for John Hunter Nemechek this season – series-most this season.
When it comes to Phoenix, Nemechek is probably grinning ear-to-ear knowing he has Phillips on the pit box this weekend. Eric Phillips hasn’t competed at Phoenix as a crew chief since 2014 but in his last three starts at the track with three different drivers he has won – Kyle Busch (2012), Brian Scott (2013) and Erik Jones (2014). In total, Phillips has led drivers in 10 series starts at Phoenix posting three wins, five top fives and six top 10s.
Team Talk: Kyle Busch Motorsports was formed by owner/driver Kyle Busch in 2010 and the team made their NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at Daytona that season. In 2010, Kyle Busch Motorsports became the first team since the series debut in 1995 to capture an owner’s championship in its inaugural season, leading the series with eight total wins. In total, Kyle Busch Motorsports is a seven-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner champion; including five consecutive (2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019). In addition, they have collected two NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver championships with driver Erik Jones (2015) and Christopher Bell (2017). KBM drivers have earned spots in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff Championship 4 round four times – 2016 (Christopher Bell), 2017 (Christopher Bell), 2018 (Noah Gragson), 2021 (John Hunter Nemechek). Plus, Kyle Busch Motorsports leads the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in all-time wins with 89 victories (2010-2021).
Ben Rhodes (No. 99 ThorSport Racing Toyota)
Ben Rhodes is looking to become just the 19th different driver in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series history to win the championship and this season is the closest shot to the series title the Louisville, Kentucky native has ever had.
This is the first season in Rhodes’ six full seasons he has made the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship 4, and the first time ThorSport Racing has fielded two drivers in the Champ 4 (Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes). Rhodes made his series debut back in 2014 for Turner Scott Motorsports running four races before moving to ThorSport Racing in 2016. Since joining ThorSport, Rhodes has made 136 starts for the team posting five wins, 39 top fives and 72 top 10s.
Rhodes’ path to the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs in 2021 was set in stone from the drop of the first checkered flag, as the 24-year-old snatched the first two wins of the season in the opening two races at Daytona (oval) and the Daytona Road Course. He ultimately finished the regular season third in the standings after posting two wins, five top fives and 11 top 10s. He also won two stages and earned 19 Playoff points to take into the postseason.
Playoffs Recap: Unlike his regular season effort that locked him into the postseason on wins, Ben Rhodes had to point his way through the 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs to make the Championship 4 round. Rhodes started the Round of 10 off with a strong run at World Wide Technology Raceway (third-place finish) but then finished 34th at Darlington. With his Playoff campaign in the balance, Rhodes answered with a top-10 finish at Bristol (ninth) to move onto the Round of 8. He then put up a runner-up finish at Las Vegas and a 13th-place finish to survive Talladega.
Heading into the penultimate race last weekend at Martinsville Speedway, none of the Championship 4 spots had been locked up. Rhodes was ranked second in the Playoff standings going into Martinsville up by 35 points over the Championship 4 cutline. The rising star from Louisville, Kentucky started from third at Martinsville and raced his way to a seventh-place finish earning enough points to usher him into the Championship 4 for the first time in his career.
Phoenix Raceway Outlook: Rhodes has made six NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts at Phoenix Raceway posting two top fives and three top 10s. His average finish at the track is 10.3. Last season in the season finale at Phoenix he started sixth and finished seventh. His career-best finish at the 1-mile track is fourth in 2019.
Crew Chief Corner: Rich Lushes made his NASCAR national series debut as a crew chief in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series for Hattori Racing Enterprises with driver Ryan Truex at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in 2016 – it was his lone effort that season. Lushes learned the crew chief ropes from competing in the ARCA Menards Series East and West. Lushes joined ThorSport Racing in 2018 as crew chief for Myatt Snider. He led Snider to finish ninth in the final standings after posting three top fives and eight top 10s. In 2021, Lushes joins forces with Ben Rhodes and success has followed the pair ever since winning the first two races of the season to qualify for the Playoffs and then earning a spot in the Championship 4. Lushes is looking to become the 20th different crew chief to win a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series title.
Team Talk: Ben Rhodes joined ThorSport Racing in 2016, his first year in fulltime racing in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and hasn’t looked back since. ThorSport Racing is the longest tenured team in the Camping World Trucks and does it all from their Sandusky, Ohio, headquarters. ThorSport Racing made its NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut at the Milwaukee Mile with driver Terry Cook back in 1996. The organization collected its first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win at Flemington Speedway with driver Terry Cook on August 8, 1998. In 2013, ThorSport Racing became the only team in series history to lead the championship for an entire season; Sauter led the first three races and Crafton led the final 19 races. The organization has qualified for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs 10 times – 2016 (Matt Crafton), 2017 (Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes), 2018 (Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes), 2019 (Matt Crafton, Johnny Sauter), 2020 (Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes) and 2021 (Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes). And have earned four appearances in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs Championship 4 Round – 2016, 2017 and 2019 with driver Matt Crafton – and this season it’s the first time the team qualified two of its drivers in the Championship 4 (Matt Crafton, Ben Rhodes). And to boot, ThorSport Racing has had 15 consecutive seasons with at least one victory – the longest consecutive wins streak in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Zane Smith (No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet)
The shooting star from Huntington Beach, California, Zane Smith, has become one of the most clutch racers in NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff history. Ever since the 22-year-old, Smith, burst onto the series last year as a rookie and raced his way into the Championship 4 by finishing third in the penultimate race at Martinsville Speedway, many thought he was special. But then, when Smith doubled down last weekend at Martinsville Speedway while facing a ‘Win or Go Home’ scenario and the youngster raced his way into the Championship 4 round for the second consecutive season, the GMS Racing driver has proven he’s almost untouchable.
Smith’s 2021 season has been a self-proclaimed rough ride. Through the regular season (first 15 races) Smith didn’t win but did manage to post one top five and 10 top 10s. He ultimately ended the regular season fifth in the standings and qualifying for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs.
Though Smith’s Camping World Truck Series has been short, it has been impressive. In 45 series starts, he posted three wins, 10 top fives, and 27 top 10s. He has qualified for the Playoffs and the Championship 4 round in consecutive seasons and finished a career-best runner-up in the final championship standings last season.
Playoffs Recap: Zane Smith’s adventure to the 2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs Championship 4 Round is one movie scripts are written after. Smith opened the Playoffs Round of 10 with a dreadful 35th-place finish at World Wide Technology Raceway after an issue with a rear gear. He then followed it up with solid top-10 finishes at Darlington (ninth) and Bristol (eighth) to advance to the Round of 8. It was then Smith was hit with some bad luck finishing 29th at Las Vegas and then being caught in an incident at Talladega resulting in a 33rd-place finish. Smith plummeted in the Playoff standings to the basement of the leaderboard – in eighth place a massive 40 points behind the Championship 4 cutline.
Heading into the penultimate race last weekend at Martinsville Speedway, none of the Championship 4 Round spots had been locked up. Smith was facing a ‘Win or Go Home’ scenario as it would be nearly impossible to point his way into the final round. But grit, determination and the belief that he could win willed Smith to his first victory of the season, earning him a spot in the Championship 4 for the second consecutive season.
Phoenix Raceway Outlook: Zane Smith made his NASCAR Camping World Truck Series track debut last season at Phoenix Raceway in the Championship finale. Smith started second at Phoenix last season, led 48 laps and finished runner-up to his teammate Sheldon Creed in a wild final restart.
Crew Chief Corner: Veteran crew chief Kevin Manion made his NASCAR national series crew chief debut on a part-time basis in the NASCAR Cup Series with John Andretti (2003) and in the NASCAR Xfinity Series with Dale Earnhardt Jr. (2002). Manion’s biggest success as crew chief came in the NASCAR Xfinity Series when he led Martin Truex Jr. to back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005. He then made the jump with Truex fulltime to the NASCAR Cup Series at Dale Earnhardt Inc. where the pair worked together from 2006-2010. He then worked with Jamie McMurray at Earnhardt Ganassi Racing from 2010-2013. In 2016 he joined Kyle Busch Motorsports and started to crew chief for multiple drivers. Manion has begun to build a reputation for cultivating young talent. In 2019, he led rookie Tyler Ankrum to his first win and first Playoff berth, and last season he did the same with Zane Smith. Manion best finish in the final championship standings in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is second, with Smith last season. Manion has worked with four different drivers at Phoenix Raceway in the Truck Series and led Daniel Suarez to a victory at the track in 2016 and Smith to a runner-up finish last season.
Team Talk: GMS Racing is a two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion (2016, 2020) – won the driver championship in 2016 with Johnny Sauter and the unified driver/owner title in 2020 with Sheldon Creed. From 2013 – 2021, GMS Racing has made more than 600 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series starts leading 13 different drivers to Victory Lane for a total of 41 series wins.
GMS Racing made their NASCAR Camping World Truck Series debut in 2013 at Kansas Speedway with driver Spencer Gallagher in the No. 21 Chevrolet.
GMS Racing is the only organization to have fielded a Camping World Trucks Championship 4 driver in all six years of the current elimination-style Playoff format (Johnny Sauter, 2016-2018; Justin Haley in 2018, Brett Moffitt in 2019; Sheldon Creed, Brett Moffitt and Zane Smith in 2020 and Zane Smith in 2021). Last season, GMS Racing became the first organization since the inception of the elimination-style format of the Playoffs in 2016 that fielded three out of the four Championship 4 contenders in one season (Moffitt, Smith, Creed).
NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, Etc.
ARCA Menards Series ties to Camping World Truck Championship 4 – All four of the Championship 4 contenders have stock car racing roots in the ARCA Menards Series platform, developing their skills in at least one of the series that currently races under the ARCA Menards Series banner.
2014 ARCA Menards Series East champion Ben Rhodes won five races in that season while recording 11 top-five and 13 top-10 finishes in 16 starts. He also ran a pair of East races in 2013, posting top fives in both.
Rhodes also ran two ARCA Menards Series races in 2014.
Zane Smith ran 38 races in the ARCA Menards Series between 2016 and this season, putting up four wins in 2018. Overall, he has 20 top fives and 26 top 10s. He has also run five races in the current ARCA Menards Series West, including three races at Phoenix.
Matt Crafton raced in five ARCA Menards Series races between 2010-1012. He put up two top-five performances in 2010. He also ran one race in the West in 2000, finishing second at Irwindale.
John Hunter Nemechek ran three races total in the East in 2013 and 2014. He had a best finish of 12th at Pensacola in his series debut.
Truck Sunoco Rookie of the Year Update – This season’s Sunoco Rookie of the Year battle will most likely come down to the final lap this weekend at Phoenix Raceway, as Kyle Busch Motorsports’ Chandler Smith currently holds a three-point advantage over second place Niece Motorsports driver Carson Hocevar. Both drivers have made two series starts at Phoenix Raceway in their careers. Smith has posted two top fives and has an average finish of 3.0. While Hocevar has a best finish of 23rd at the 1-mile track with an average finish of 27.5.
Camping World Trucks Owner Championship Update – Three of the four trucks and drivers that made it to the driver Playoff standings Championship 4 are in the owner Playoffs standings Championship 4 this season with the lone exception being Matt Crafton’s No. 88. Instead, Front Row Motorsports’ No. 38 Ford driven by Todd Gilliland has made the owners Playoff Championship 4 Round and will have a shot along with the other three at an owners’ title. Front Row Motorsports and ThorSport Racing are looking for their first owner’s titles in the series. GMS Racing earned their first owner title in the Truck Series last season. Kyle Busch Motorsports leads the series in owner titles with seven NASCAR Camping World Truck Series owner championships; including five consecutive (2010, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2019).
Manufacturers Championship – Toyota has clinched the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Manufacturers title this season. It is the manufacturer’s series leading 12th manufacturers championship.
NCWTS Manufacturer Champions
No. of Manufacturers Championships
Toyota 12 2021
Chevrolet 10 2020
RAM 3 2004
Ford 2 2000
VelocityMotorsportsNews.com Championship Picks:
Truck 4 John Hunter Nemechek Pye-Barker Fire & Safety Toyota
Truck 99 Ben Rhodes Bombardier LearJet 75 Toyota
Truck 21 Zane Smith MRC Construction Chevrolet
Truck 88 Matt Crafton Black Label Bacon/Menards Toyota
ARCA Menards Series West
“Lucky Seven” to contend for ARCA Menards Series West title
Seven drivers are mathematically eligible to win the ARCA Menards Series West championship this Saturday at 3 p.m. ET (Live on Trackpass on NBC Sports Gold, MRN and SiriusXM). And five of them are within six points of each other, meaning fans will need to stick around until the checkered flag flies to see who wins the title.
Defending series champion Jesse Love leads PJ Pedroncelli by one point, Jake Drew is third three points out of the lead, Joey Lest is fourth five points behind, Cole Moore is six points behind in fifth, Trevor Huddleston is sixth 15 points out of the lead, and Todd Souza is seventh 26 points back.
Lest leads all drivers with six top-five finishes in the eight previous races. And Drew leads all drivers with seven top-ten finishes. He also leads with three General Tire Pole Awards.
Field of champions
Saturday’s field will already be a decorated group before the West champion is even crowned. The 2021 ARCA Menards Series champion Ty Gibbs and the ARCA Menards Series East champion Sammy Smith will both be running in the 36-car field.
Gibbs won the ARCA Menards Series title on the strength of 10 wins, including the race at Phoenix early in the season. He also won four races in the East and one in the West this year.
Smith won three races en route to capturing the title in the East. This weekend’s race will mark his debut in the West series, as well as his track debut at Phoenix.
Gibbs can sweep the Valvoline Lap Leader Award if he leads 59 more laps than Jesse Love, 32 more laps than Taylor Gray, and 20 more laps than Dean Thompson. Gibbs won the Valvoline Lap Leader Award in both the ARCA Menards Series and ARCA Menards Series East.
Phoenix ARCA Fun Facts:
The Arizona Lottery 100 is the ninth and final race of the 2021 ARCA Menards Series West season. It will be the 47th time the series has raced at Phoenix Raceway and the 993rd race in series history.
The first West race at Phoenix was in November 1977 and was won by Cale Yarborough. It was his first and only series victory.
Other first time West winners at Phoenix include Richard Petty, Neil Bonnett, Rich Woodland, Jr., Mike Wallace, Burney Lamar, Andrew Myers, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney, Gray Gaulding, Cole Custer, Nick Drake, Todd Gilliland, and Ty Gibbs.
Todd Gilliland and David Gilliland are the only father-son duo to have won West races at Phoenix. The elder Gilliland is the most recent winner of the race, and although not entered as a driver will field cars for Taylor Gray, JP Bergeron, and Jake Garcia.
Ty Gibbs won the March race at Phoenix, a combination race with the ARCA Menards Series. It was his second career West victory along with his win in November 2019.
Greg Pursley holds the track qualifying record at Phoenix, set in 2013, at 26.875 seconds/133.949 miles per hour.
Scott Lynch holds the track race record at Phoenix, set in 2003, at 114.262 miles per hour.
Graphics & Photos Courtesy of NASCAR