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Pickup Throwdown: Truck Series Playoff Review

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What’s Happening?

The Truck Series has a couple of weeks off before heading to Kansas Speedway on May 4th. With 7 races down and only 9 to go before the Playoffs, Kansas serves as the halfway point of the 2024 regular season. What is the outlook for the series’ Playoff hopefuls?

  • The Truck Series Playoff system functions similarly to the Cup Series. The Playoff field features 10 drivers, as opposed to 16 in the Cup Series, but, drivers who win races plus the highest points finishers that did not win a race qualify for the Playoffs. However, drivers must attempt to qualify for all regular-season races and declare points for the Truck Series to be eligible.
  • The Playoffs were introduced in the Truck Series in 2016. The system has produced 7 unique Champions, with Ben Rhodes becoming the first repeat Champion under the format in 1984.
  • Fans are still split on the Playoff format, but, the Playoffs are a part of the sport today. It’s the biggest storyline in the sport as the summer stretch begins and rolls on.

Those Locked In

With 9 races left in the regular season, it’s still technically possible for there to be more than 10 winners. However, that has yet to happen in the Playoff era. That means these drivers are all virtually locked in.

Christian Eckes is tied for the series lead (Kyle Busch) with 2 victories. Having multiple wins means Eckes is in the Playoffs even if there are more than 10 winners. Eckes won at Bristol and Martinsville, which are both in the Playoffs, and he won at Phoenix in 2023.

Corey Heim, Nick Sanchez, and Rajah Caruth each have a win apiece, and each driver sits in the top 7 in points. The only chance these drivers could drop out of the Playoffs is if they drop out of the top 10 in points and there are more than 10 winners. Each driver is at least 71 points above 11th in points, so, these drivers will be fine. Each of these drivers drives for some of the top teams in the series, and they all have Championship aspirations.

Good on Points

Every year, there have been a few drivers that have earned their way into the Playoffs on points. While the Playoff cut-line is a moving target given there may be new winners, these drivers should feel pretty safe for right now.

Ty Majeski (+113), Taylor Gray (+87), and Tyler Ankrum (+82) are all over a full race (60 points) ahead of the current Playoff cut line. The line may shift due to new winners, so, these drivers are all looking for wins to lock themselves in for good.

Each of these drivers drives for top equipment that can win races. Majeski finished 2nd at Martinsville, and both Gray and Ankrum have seen teammates earn checkered flags. These drivers all feel fairly safe for now.

Bubble Watch

The Playoff bubble is the most interesting part of every Playoff race. The bubble now sits at 10th place in points, but, that may change if there are any new winners below 10th. These are where the bubble drivers currently sit.

Matt Crafton (+33), Tanner Gray (+9), and Grant Enfinger (+5) are all currently above the cutline, but, they are far from safe. A bad race or two or even a new winner, and the trio could fall below the cut line. Like all drivers, a win is the easiest path into the Playoffs, but, they have a small upper hand for now.

Daniel Dye (-5), Ben Rhodes (-6), Stewart Friesen (-17), Bayley Currey (-24), and Jake Garcia (-24) are all below the cutline for now. Rhodes, the defending Champion, is the biggest name on that list, and Stewart Friesen is a former winner who is still not in a Playoff position. Each of these drivers can work their way back into the Playoffs on points.

Bret Holmes (-36), Chase Purdy (-37), Dean Thompson (-45), Timmy Hill (-48), Ty Dillon (-59), are all within one race of the Playoffs, but, they need a lot to go right to point their way in. Purdy is the one to watch out of this group, given his Spire Motorsports equipment can win races. However, each of these drivers is dangerously close to must-win territory.

Those Who Need Wins

Anyone who is more than one race out of the Playoffs is well inside of must-win territory. No one across any level of NASCAR has made this large of a comeback on points in so little time, so, these drivers are starting to focus on winning races if they want to make the Playoffs.

Layne Riggs (-61), Mason Massey (-68), Spencer Boyd (-76), Lawless Alan (-77), Matt Mills (-96), and Thad Moffitt (-112) all are in must-win territory. Boyd is a former winner in the series at Talladega, but, no superspeedway races are left on the regular season schedule.

Layne Riggs is the driver to watch out for in this group. He has shown some speed at places like COTA, Martinsville, and Texas. Front Row Motorsports is a Championship winning organization, so, they are not going to tolerate being well outside of the Playoffs.

How will the Playoff grid shift as the 2024 season rolls on? It will be interesting to see who ends up making a comeback and who falls out.

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