The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will be under the lights Friday night as Chandler Smith, Zane Smith, Ty Majeski, and Ben Rhodes will race to be crowned the champion of the trucks! The Championship Four were locked up a few weeks ago at Homestead-Miami and Ty Majeski comes in with plenty of momentum for Friday night’s race. It also marks the final race with Camping World as the sponsor as the Truck Series will revert to the Craftsman Truck Series in 2023. There’s a lot of shakeup and changes coming in 2023 for the Truck Series as we’ll be losing some of these drivers to the Xfinity Series next year so we’ll savor Friday’s action and deliver the best NASCAR DFS picks and strategies for Friday night’s championship race in the desert!
One thing that really bothers me about the Truck Series race on Friday is that it’s one of the biggest races of the year (if not, the biggest) and we couldn’t get Thursday’s practice session to be televised or broadcasted over a streaming service. I don’t get it. Are we, as NASCAR DFS players, in the minority of fans who care about practice for the Truck Series? Sure. But for the biggest race of the year you’d think we’d want coverage of Ben Rhodes not getting on the track until there were 20 minutes left in the session. But I’ll digress…
Friday night’s race is set for 150 laps (45-45-60 lap segments) and there won’t be a competition caution since they were given a lengthy practice run on Thursday. The track conditions will be similar to Friday night’s race, but qualifying isn’t until 6:00pm ET Friday night. I will be driving home from work and won’t be home until 8:00pm ET roughly. So as I mentioned on this week’s NASCAR DFS Podcast, I will be in the Discord answering questions up until lock for the few folks still playing NASCAR DFS. I will still post Core Plays in the Discord channel, but just be patient until I can get home and digest the starting order.
My strategies are somewhat similar to last week at Martinsville. Phoenix isn’t really a high variance track. We only saw four cautions for 25 laps in last year’s race and four cautions for 28 laps the year before. I think a two-dominator approach is appropriate for Friday night’s race, but I’ll mix in some solo-dominator lineups as well. If I’m being honest, pricing is pretty tough for Friday’s race and it will be difficult to mix in three dominators, which I don’t think we need to force anyway. But in the last handful of races, there’s been an emphasis on strategy and track position that’s led to the dominator points being more spread out.
LUCAS OIL 150 PRACTICE NOTES
CAMPING WORLD TRUCK SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP DRIVERS
Chandler Smith ($11,000)
Smith has a fantastic resume at Phoenix. In the last three races at this track he has a win and a pair of third place finishes. Ben Rhodes may have won the 2021 Camping World Truck Series Championship, but it was Smith who won the race and the first two stages as well. Smith carries plenty of dominator potential and we saw him dominate Richmond back in August which has a few similar traits to Phoenix. But considering this will be his swan song for the Truck Series as he’s set to move up to Kaulig Racing next year in the Xfinity Series, he’ll be looking to go out in style.
Zane Smith ($10,800)
Zane has had a phenomenal year. He hasn’t won since Kansas way back in May, but in the 22 races this year he’s finished either first (three times) or second (five times). So over one-third of the time he’s either won or finished second. I was a little worried about his dominator potential heading into the Round of 8, but he went on to lead 39 laps at Bristol and 26 at Homestead. He finished fifth in this race a year ago but was the runner-up in 2020 where he led 48 laps. He is my personal pick to win Friday night’s race and be crowned champion.
Ty Majeski ($10,600)
While Zane Smith might be my pick to win the championship, I will be cheering for Ty Majeski to get the win because that would be the ultimate “feel good” story. Majeski’s background is great. Wasn’t getting a full-time offer so he just went into ThorSport’s garage and started working on the trucks and for the organization. Got a couple races here and there and landed a full-time ride in the 66-truck and look at him now, he’s racing for a championship and he’s probably one of the more likable guys in the series. He’s actually been outstanding since the Truck Series playoffs started. In the first 16 races this year he led a total of 35 laps. Over the six playoff races he’s led a total of 271 laps including 40+ in four of the six races. He won both Bristol and Homestead and carries plenty of momentum heading into this race. It has been three years since he last ran Phoenix, but I won’t dwell too much on that.
Ben Rhodes ($9,900)
How appropriate for Ben Rhodes. The driver of the 99-truck is $9,900 and back in the Championship Four for the second straight year as he looks to defend his throne. Rhodes only has one win on the season and it came at Bristol Dirt way back in April. He finished third here last year to claim the championship and is 12-1 to win Friday’s race. I prefer betting on him than getting exposure in DFS. He has really cooled off from the hot start he got off to early in the year where he was top five in five of the first six races on the schedule. Since then, the results have been all over the place. From a DFS perspective I’m hoping there’s PD to justify playing him, but I do expect him to be in contention entering the third stage. I just don’t think he has as much win equity as the other three drivers. It is worth mentioning, he struggled to get his truck fired up at the beginning of Thursday’s 50-minute practice session. He ended up getting in for the last 20 minutes and I don’t think it’s a concern for now but we’ll see how he looks for qualifying on Friday.
REMAINING DRIVER POOL
John Hunter Nemechek ($10,400)
I really didn’t want to mention him. Especially with pricing so restrictive this week and I already mentioned four expensive drivers at the top. JHN was top five in single lap speed and the fastest in the ten-lap average although it doesn’t seem like many contenders stayed out for ten consecutive laps. You have to wonder where this guy’s head is at. It’s his final race with Kyle Busch Motorsports and he isn’t in the running for the championship. I’m guessing he’s likely going to the Xfinity Series next year and landing a ride at Joe Gibbs Racing. That’s a nice promotion. Plus his teammate, Chandler Smith, is racing for the championship so I’m just not sure how likely it is he goes out and runs with every intention of winning the race. His recent form hasn’t been great, but if he’s on the pole somehow then he’s in the running for some early dominator points. I might also upgrade Corey Heim depending on where he qualifies, but stick around the Discord Channel tonight for updates.
Christian Eckes ($9,300)
Eckes has just been a model of consistency over the last few weeks. There’s some win equity here and some dominator potential as well. Overall though, he’s good for a strong finish. He’s finished in the top ten in eight of his last nine races including five straight. He’s finished ninth or better in all three of his races at Phoenix and he’s had good results on the flatter tracks in 2022, highlighted by a runner-up finish at Gateway. Given how stable he’s been of late I actually like the price tag if he can get us 40+ points with a good finish.
Carson Hocevar ($9,100)
Hocevar is an appealing play because he won’t get in any championship driver’s way, but he also doesn’t have a teammate chasing a title that he needs to be courteous to. And as we saw in last year’s race, we can still get a race winner that’s not in the Championship Four. He did make tremendous strides and finished ninth here last year, but this year he’s thrived on the intermediate tracks, but not so much the shorter, more flat tracks. I don’t hate the play from the perspective that he’s also running the ARCA race this weekend to get some extra practice and laps in. That never hurts. He’s not a driver to load up on necessarily, but a good play that has top five upside so hopefully we get some PD as well.
Matt Crafton ($8,900)
Crafton has essentially become Michael Annett this year. He’s just an experienced driver that is normally good for a top ten although this has easily been one of his worst years. Crafton has plenty of experience here with 21 races under his belt. He’s finished in the top 15 on 18 different occasions, including 12 top ten finishes, and six top fives. I don’t think he has the top five upside Friday night and we need to remember he’s not going to race Ben Rhodes or Ty Majeski incredibly hard. But if there’s PD associated with this play, then we’re looking at a good floor.
Derek Kraus ($8,500)
Kraus essentially becomes a very interesting play since he’ll have to go to the rear. Sounds like he junked the ride in practice and the team immediately got to work prepping the backup ride. In four races at Phoenix, Kraus has finished in the top 15 twice, with a top ten mixed in there as well. On the flatter tracks in 2022, he’s been good enough for top 15 consideration. But assuming they can qualify the truck on Friday, the qualifying spot will dictate whether he’s more of a Cash or Tournament play. He finished 7th at Gateway, 14th at Martinsville, 14th at IRP, and 12th at Richmond which are all flatter tracks to some degree.
Layne Riggs ($8,100)
This is a BOLD price tag by DraftKings. He was $6,500 at IRP and then $6,900 at Richmond. $8,100 is steep for a driver entering his third race. So if you can fit him in, we could be seeing a leverage play purely from the pricing perspective. However, if he goes out and qualifies poorly then he might be ultra chalky, but I think he qualifies in the top 15. Remember, he has a flat track background running late model cars and he’s back in the 62-truck which is similar equipment to Stewart Friesen. He finished 7th at IRP and finished 19th at Richmond after qualifying P4. He only ran 23 laps in practice but posted a top ten lap on his final lap and the team seemed content with the setup after that lap and called it a night.
The $7K Range
This is somewhat of a blanket statement, but I won’t know how I feel on any of these drivers until we know the qualifying order. For the most part, nobody’s results on flatter tracks really stand out. We also have a lot of variance in this range. I don’t hate Johnny Sauter, but I strongly dislike the equipment since he isn’t with ThorSport tonight. Tanner Gray posted the sixth-fastest single lap but it came in his second lap on the track. The rest of the group includes Colby Howard, Taylor Gray, Chase Purdy, and Hailie Deegan. Again, I want to see where they qualify and see who emerges as chalk and who could be leverage for us in Tournaments. So I won’t be writing any of these drivers up in depth, but we can touch on them in Discord Friday night as we finalize our lineups.
Rajah Caruth ($6,800)
Caruth is a play that just jumps off the page when looking at the practice results. He posted a top 15 single lap, but wasn’t terribly far off the page on drivers like Chandler Smith, Ty Majeski, and John Hunter Nemechek in the longer ten-lap run. Caruth was impressive in last week’s Xfinity series race at Martinsville where he finished 12th. Keep in mind he’s still very young, but it sounds like he’s willing to learn and take criticism especially after his dust up with Jeb Burton last week. Either way, there’s some risk but we have upside if he stays clean.
Austin Wayne Self ($6,700)
The value range will be tough to navigate this weekend, especially for the Truck Series. Again, be in the Discord tonight for late updates based on qualifying. But we do have AWS at just $6,700 who is good for a top 20 here. The tough part about Self is that he hasn’t run a full-time schedule so there may be some rust. He does have three top 20 finishes in six races here. We can’t assume he’s an automatic safe play especially with a pretty low floor. He becomes a better play the further back he starts.
Jack Wood ($5,900)
I honestly can’t believe I’m putting this kid in the Playbook. He’s always live for a wreck and that’s the frustrating part with Jack Wood. He drives for one of the better teams in the series, but just doesn’t have as much talent. Which is a shame because on the flatter tracks last year we saw some potential. He finished 11th at Nashville, 10th at Gateway, and he was 20th in last year’s championship race at Phoenix. He’s the ultimate GPP play. I can’t stress enough how bad he has been this year though. He’s wrecked in one-third of the races this year. I’d say if he starts outside the top 30 then you’re kind of hoping he can finish in the top 25.
Jake Garcia ($5,800)
I like the price on Garcia and the background he brings to the table running midgets and late models on flatter tracks. He’ll be in comparable equipment to Derek Kraus and Colby Howard and the practice speeds looked pretty strong. He was top 20 in single lap speed and wasn’t awful in the longer run. The big issue we might take with Garcia is that he’s gone backward when he has run this year, but it’s because he has qualified really well. I like the play if he qualifies outside the top 25, but I can stomach him if he starts just inside the top 20 as well.
NASCAR DFS Core Plays
The Core Plays will be posted in the NASCAR DFS Discord around 9:30pm ET Friday night.
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