Truck Series playoffs expands to ten drivers

by Justin Nguyen

The 2020 NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series playoffs will be a tad more crowded. On Tuesday, NASCAR officials announced the postseason grid will expand from eight championship-eligible drivers to ten.

While the playoffs will still span three rounds with seven total races, the elimination process is tweaked to accommodate the two additions. The opening Round of 10, to be held at World Wide Technology Raceway, Canadian Tire Motorsports Park, and Bristol Motor Speedway, will eliminate two drivers like usual. However, the new Round of 8 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Talladega Superspeedway, and Martinsville Speedway will cut the contender field in half with four drivers gone. Like in the previous system and its parent series, the Championship Round at Phoenix Raceway will come down to four. The regular season will conclude at Michigan International Speedway, as it did in 2019.

The decision was spurred by a rise in competitive teams in the Truck Series. With the formation of new teams like McAnally-Hilgemann Racing and Front Row Motorsports, the arrival of new full-time drivers like Tanner Gray, Ty Majeski, and Zane Smith, and manufacturer switches like Halmar Friesen Racing to Toyota and DGR-Crosley to Ford, the series’ “Silly Season” has seen major moves.

“The way the format was structured in the Gander Truck Series with the Round of 8, Round of 6, Round of 4, we were leaving some excitement on the table,” series managing director Brad Moran stated. “Maybe three or four years ago, not so much, but certainly the last couple of years with the series strengthening to the position it’s in right now, we really felt putting 10 teams into the playoffs for a Round of 10 is just going to make it that much more exciting and interesting, and will put a lot of emphasis on winning races, which is what we try to do.”

In 2019, had the grid increase been implemented, Ben Rhodes and Harrison Burton would have qualified. The two, who were fifth and sixth in traditional points at the time of the Michigan cut-off race but lacked wins, finished the season ninth and tenth.

“[Burton missing the playoffs] has nothing to do with [the change],” Moran clarified. Burton, who is racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in 2020, spent 2019 with premier team Kyle Busch Motorsports, but he and team-mate Todd Gilliland failed to reach the postseason. “Last time I checked, KBM won an owner’s championship this year, so no, that had nothing to do with our thinking.

“(Expansion) has been talked about internally since the beginning of last year, and we just didn’t want to jump the gun on doing it. We have a good solid footing in this series now and the strength of the series is really the deciding factor of why to do this.”

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