The second race of the NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series’ 2020 playoffs is set for Friday night‘s World of Westgate 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (9 p.m. ET on FS1, MRN and SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) — and it still represents the first opportunity for a playoff driver to score a playoff victory and that all-important automatic pass into the playoffs’ Round of 8.
Sam Mayer, a 17-year-old phenom, beat former series champion Brett Moffitt to the checkered flag by a healthy 4.413 seconds in last Thursday‘s playoff opener. It was a great sign for the future of young NASCAR drivers, but the Bristol Motor Speedway race was not the way many of the 10 playoff drivers had envisioned starting their run to the big trophy.
Eight of the 10 playoff drivers will advance to the next round after races at Las Vegas this week and Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 3.
Only four playoff drivers — Moffitt, Grant Enfinger, Tyler Ankrum and defending series champion Matt Crafton — finished among the top 10 at Bristol last weekend. Regular season champion Austin Hill finished 25th — only the third time all season he has finished worse than 12th. He arrives in Las Vegas teetering on the cutoff line — ranked eighth of the 10 drivers with a two-point edge on ninth-place Christian Eckes and an eight-point gap on 10th-place Todd Gilliland.
Moffitt‘s runner-up effort (he led a race-best 117 of the 200 laps) was enough to move him atop the playoff standings by eight points ahead of Sheldon Creed. Moffitt still has not won a race this season, and Creed has a series-best three wins (as does Enfinger).
Three playoff drivers — Hill, Enfinger and Ben Rhodes — have wins at the 1.5-mile Las Vegas track, and all three are playoff race wins. Rhodes won the first Gander Truck Series race of his career at Las Vegas in 2017. Enfinger won the 2018 race, and Hill is the defending race winner of last season’s event.
Kyle Busch won at the track in March — before the COVID-19 pause in schedule. Hill finished third — best among those currently playoff eligible. Among those contending for the 2020 title, Crafton was fourth in the first Vegas race, Rhodes fifth, Zane Smith was sixth, followed by Gilliland in seventh and Creed in 10th.
Moffitt‘s best work at Las Vegas is runner-up in spring of 2019. The 2018 series champ has three top-10 finishes in five starts — his worst outcome (16th) came this March. Creed has three top-10 finishes in three Las Vegas starts, a fourth place in last year‘s playoff race is best for the driver of the No. 2 GMS Racing Chevrolet. Enfinger boasts that previous win at Vegas, but the driver of the No. 98 ThorSport Ford has finished 31st in the last two races at the track.
Rhodes, the driver of the No. 99 ThorSport Ford, has an impressive Vegas resume. He earned the first win there in 2017 and has five top-10 showings in seven starts — including five of the last six races. He goes into Friday‘s race ranked seventh, however, after a subpar showing at Bristol.
Gilliland, who is eight points behind Hill, has an encouraging record at Las Vegas. His seventh-place finish in March marked his third top 10 in four starts. His best showing there is fifth in last year‘s playoff race.