Loose, But Fast: Camping World Truck Series Championship Preview

Brett Moffitt, Championship 4, Johnny Sauter, Justin Haley, NASCAR, Noah Gragson, Truck Series -

Loose, But Fast: Camping World Truck Series Championship Preview

After a grueling ten-months and twenty-three races, the culmination of the NASCAR's Camping World Truck Series season is finally here. This weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway the sanctioning body will crown a new champion in each of its top three national touring series. Four drivers in each series have a shot at the title and will battle each other in their series’ respective Championship Race beginning Friday night with the Camping World Truck Series. This is the last race that Camping World will be the title sponsor of the Truck Series as Gander Outdoors will assume that role in 2019. Here’s an examination of each of the four drivers' chances battling for the CWTS Championship.

Camping World Truck Series – Ford Ecoboost 200

When: Friday, November 16, 2018, 8:00 PM
Length (Stages): 40/80/134
Championship 4: Johnny Sauter, Noah Gragson, Justin Haley, Brett Moffitt

Johnny Sauter - #21 ISM Connect Chevrolet – GMS Racing

  • 2016 Series Champion
  • Season Stats
    • 6 Wins (Daytona, Dover, Charlotte, Texas, Bristol, Martinsville)
    • 14 Top 5s
    • 17 Top 10s
    • 1 Pole
    • 585 Laps Led / 3245 Laps Run (18%)
  • Career @ Homestead in CWTS
    • 11 Races
    • 1 Win (2011)
    • 4 Top 5s
    • 8 Top 10s
    • 64 Laps Led / 1378 Laps Runs (4.6%)
    • Finished 3rd in 2016 & 2017

Since NASCAR implemented the current playoff format in the Camping World Truck Series in 2016, Johnny Sauter has qualified for the Championship Four on both occasions. In 2016, Sauter finished 3rd but was the highest finishing contender and earned his first career NASCAR Championship. Last season, Sauter finished 3rd again; however, fellow title contender Christopher Bell finished ahead of Sauter to take home the title. 

Sauter is clearly the most experienced driver in the Championship Four. Sauter's ten full-time seasons in CWTS are double the other three drivers combined (Gragson 2, Haley 2, Moffitt 1). Furthermore, Haley and Gragson's combined age (19+20 = 39) is still younger than Sauter (40). 

Aside from having the most experience, Johnny Sauter has also been the most dominant driver in the series all season. He and his team jumped out of the gates and won the season's opening race at Daytona then followed it up with wins a Dover, Charlotte, and Texas early in the season. Sauter then took the victory in the regular season finale at Bristol. The veteran punched his ticket to Homestead-Miami with a dominating performance at Martinsville.

It's hard to ignore Johnny Sauter's experience and dominance this season. Barring any antics or incidents, he is the favorite heading into Friday night. I'll put his odds at raising the trophy with his GMS Racing team at 30%.

Noah Gragson - #18 Safelite AutoGlass Toyota - Kyle Busch Motorsports

  • 2nd Full-Time CWTS Season 
    • Finished 10th in 2017
  • Season Stats
    • Missed Pocono (illness)
    • 1 Win (Kansas)
    • 7 Top 5s
    • 16 Top 10s
    • 6 Poles
    • 591 Laps Led / 3174 Laps Run (18.6%)
  • Career @ Homestead
    • Finished 15th in 2nd career race (2016)
    • Finished 18th last season (3 laps down)
    • 0 Laps Led 

Twenty-year-old Noah Gragson has put together a terrific second season in the CWTS. Aside from Sauter, Gragson has posted the most points in the series this season. In fact, heading into Friday night's race Gragson has led more laps (6) than Sauter heading into Homestead. More impressive, Gragson holds that lead with one less race under his belt. Illness caused Gragson to miss the fourteenth race of the season at Pocono Raceway.

Despite lacking the experience of Sauter, Gragson and his Kyle Busch Motorsports team may have the best combination of talent, equipment, and crew in the garage. KBM has won two of the past three CWTS Championships (Eric Jones '15, Bell '17). Since 2015, KBM has won 29 of 92 (31.5%) races run over that period. GMS Racing is next closest with 23.

As aforementioned, Gragson has led the most laps this season; however, that hasn't translated into victories. The lone victory for the #18 Toyota Tundra came during the sixth race of the season, a dominating performance at Kansas. Since then, Gragson has led a lap in all but two races and sniffed victory on several occasions but hasn't been able to seal the deal, yet. 

Out of the four remaining drivers, Gragson is likely the most aggressive. He's been known to force the issue and we have to assume that won't change Friday night. If there is any controversy with this race, my bet would be on Gragson to be in the middle of it. However, the goal is to cross the line first and worry about the other stuff after. Gragson will have a truck to win the race, so I'll handicap his odds to win the title at 25%.

Brett Moffitt - #16 AISIN Group Toyota - Hattori Racing Enterprises

  • 1st Full-Time Season in CWTS
    • 60 races across all three series before this season
  • Season Stats
    • 5 Wins (Atlanta, Iowa, Chicago, Michigan, Phoenix)
    • 12 Top 5s
    • 12 Top 10s
    • 210 Laps Led / 3214 Laps Run (6.5%)
  • Career @ Homestead
    • 2 Races in Cup (Best Finish: 31st)

Brett Moffitt has truly been the underdog of NASCAR this season. Moffitt has bounced around from team to team since making his debut in 2012 at the age of 19. In 2015, Moffitt won the Cup Series Rookie of the Year award running 31 of 36 races splitting time between Front Row Motorsports and Michael Waltrip Racing. However, Moffitt never received a full-time ride until this season until Japanese team owner Shigeaki Hattori offered him a ride in his Toyota Tundra this season.

Despite struggling to find sponsorship to race the entire season, Moffitt and his team were able to seize their opportunity. Through the adversity, Moffitt was able to score Hattori Racing Enterprises first ever victory in one of NASCAR top series in their second race together at Atlanta. The #16 Tundra went on to win at Iowa, Chicago, and Michigan before securing his trip to the Championship Four with a win last weekend at ISM Raceway. Moffitt's five wins trail only Sauter's six in 2018.

Though Moffitt hasn't raced in a NASCAR sanctioned event at Homestead-Miami since running a Cup race there in 2015, I don't expect it to damper his chances Friday night. Moffitt and his team have been underdogs all season long and that won't change heading into the Championship Race. When he's needed a win this season, he's gone out and won it. I'll put his odds to lift the trophy by races end at 25%

Justin Haley - #24 Fraternal Order of Eagles - GMS Racing

  • 2nd Full-Time Season in CWTS
  • Season Stats
    • 3 Wins (Gateway, Canadian Tire, Texas)
    • 9 Top 5s
    • 17 Top 10s
    • 60 Laps Led / 3184 Laps Led 
  • Career @ Homestead
    • 1 Start - 2017 (Finished 9th)

At 19 years old, Justin Haley is the youngest driver in the Championship Four. Don't let that fool you. In his second full-time season in CWTS, Haley has proven he's more than capable of performing in top-tier equipment. His 17 top 10s tied teammate Johnny Sauter for most in the series in 2018.

Haley was able to snag victories at Gateway (7 laps led) and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (2 laps led) to punch his ticket into the playoffs. In the playoffs, the #24 took advantage of the leader running out of gas on the final lap at Texas to earn his trip to Homestead.

Though he hasn't led a numerous amount of laps, Haley has consistently found a way to keep his team in the hunt for victories week in and week out. Don't expect that to change Friday night. I don't expect Haley to have a race-dominating truck, but when it comes down to the final few laps, I won't be surprised if Haley is within striking distance to capitalize should his competition have issues. I'll put his odds to win the title at 20%.

We're in for a show Friday night. Tune in and witness history.

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