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|John Hunter Nemechek
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Chandler Smith punched his ticket to the next round by winning the race, holding off Kyle Busch Motorsports teammate John Hunter Nemechek and Grant Enfinger for his first national series victory. (And we had Chandler as our top long-shot pick).
Zane Smith moved on when Austin Hill crashed out and Todd Gilliland faded after the final restart.
The three-race Round of 8 starts with Friday’s Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The race will be contested over 134 laps (201 miles), with stage breaks scheduled after 30 and 60 laps. Hill is the defending winner of this race.
As a five-time winner and the regular-season NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, John Hunter Nemechek transferred easily into the Round of 8 of the Playoff after a third-place finish Sept. 24 at Bristol.
On the negative side, Nemechek hasn’t won a race since June 26 at Pocono, and his current five-event drought is his longest of the season.
We expect that to change when the series ventures to Las Vegas for Friday night’s Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200. Nemechek won the spring race at the track, and though he doesn’t have team owner Kyle Busch to push him this time, the strength of his No. 4 KBM Toyota should prevail.
Understandably, Nemechek is the favorite at the 1.5-mile track at +320, according to PointsBet Sportsbook. It’s true that the No. 2 Chevrolet of Sheldon Creed (+450) has been the dominant truck in the Playoff so far, but Toyotas have won eight of the last nine Truck Series events at Las Vegas.
A Chevrolet hasn’t won at the track since 2015 when John Wes Townley took the checkered flag.
For the vast majority of the Sept. 24 elimination race at Bristol Motor Speedway, Austin Hill appeared likely to advance comfortably to the Round of 8 in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Playoff.
But with 11 laps left, Hill triggered a six-truck crash, suffered his first DNF (did not finish) of the season, and was credited with a 24th-place result that left him below the cut line for the next round.
Hill could assuage some of that disappointment with a victory on Friday night at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a prospect that is hardly remote.
Hill has won the last two fall races at Vegas, and though he’s no longer a Playoff driver, he has to be considered a serious threat. At +900 via PointsBet Sportsbook, Hill isn’t getting the respect he deserves at one of his best race tracks.
ThorSport Racing driver Ben Rhodes won the first race of the season at Daytona International Speedway. A week later, he followed that with a win on the Daytona Road Course.
That auspicious start to the season, however, didn’t lead to more success. Rhodes has gone 16 races without another win. Nevertheless, he advanced on points to the Round of 8 after finishing ninth at Bristol.
To make the Championship 4, Rhodes may have to win one of the next three events, and Las Vegas is the most likely venue for that to happen.
Rhodes triumphed in the Playoff race at Las Vegas in 2017, and his No. 99 Toyota is generally strong on intermediate speedways.
Though our top pick for this race is John Hunter Nemechek, Rhodes is a tempting proposition at +1500.
|Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 Information
|Victoria’s Voice Foundation 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race
|Las Vegas Motor Speedway
|Friday, September 24, 9 p.m. ET
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Award-winning motorsports writer Reid Spencer has served as lead writer for the NASCAR Wire Service for 16 years, having also spent a four-year stint as NASCAR columnist and beat writer for Sporting News. He is currently serving as president of the National Motorsports Press Association. Email: [email protected]More info on Reid Spencer
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