It’s the last-chance showdown for drivers hoping to make the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoffs.
With one race left in the regular season, seven drivers already have clinched berths — regular-season champion and five-time winner John Hunter Nemechek, Ben Rhodes, Austin Hill, Todd Gilliland, Zane Smith, Matt Crafton and defending series champion Sheldon Creed.
That leaves three spots available entering Saturday’s United Rentals 176 at Watkins Glen International (12:30 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio).
Carson Hocevar, Stewart Friesen and Chandler Smith currently occupy the last three playoff-eligible positions. Given that Smith holds a 40-point lead over Derek Kraus — the first driver out — it’s likely Kraus will have to win the race to advance to the postseason.
The same is true for Tyler Ankrum and 2016 series champion Johnny Sauter, who are 44 and 51 points below the cutoff, respectively.
Smith, on the other hand, simply needs to avoid disaster — and to avoid the whammy of a driver below him in the standings winning the race.
“I think the biggest thing for us going to Watkins Glen is just not beating ourselves,” said Smith, who will start third behind Hill and Gilliland. “We’ve got to finish the race, make sure we are 25th or better, have a solid day on my end and the pit crew’s end and hope everything goes our way.”
Former NASCAR Cup Series driver Paul Menard will drive a fifth truck for ThorSport Racing on Saturday. Though the Truck Series hasn’t competed at Watkins Glen since 2000, Menard has a combined 27 national series starts there — 11 in the Xfinity Series and 16 in Cup.
To win the race, however, Menard will have to overcome a 39th-place starting position.