By: Ashley McCubbin
The NASCAR Gander RV & Outdoor Truck Series got their first crack since the COVID-19 break, and it was worth the wait for what they had to offer on Tuesday night.
As we have grown used to with the trucks, the North Carolina Education Lottery 200 was full of action right from the drop of the green flag as both youth and experience battled for supremacy. The restarts would see everybody fan out, three and four-wide at times as they ran side-by-side for positions. Though even through a green-flag run, you did not see things calm down as battles continued to play out all the way around Charlotte Motor Speedway. Several close battles, including a slip sideways and bare scrape of the wall by Ross Chastain, are certain to fill the highlight reel in the days to come.
The ability to pass was on display as Kyle Busch showcased that by driving through the field on multiple occasions as he battled a multitude of issues with his Toyota Tundra. However, it wasn’t enough as he was unable to close in on Chase Elliott at the end of the event, losing out on the victory and bounty cash.
Elliott showed speed from the drop of the green flag in gaining 10 positions before the competition caution at Lap 15, and was able to score the victory in the second stage. However, his inability to fire off on restarts and Busch’s sheer speed had questions filling as to whether he could pull it off. Although it appeared the gap between the pair was slimming down in the final laps, it eventually steadied out through lap traffic.
Considering the past week and the trail of events, a lot of emphasis has been placed on these two drivers. That was only increased going into the night in remembering the bounty set-up by Kevin Harvick and Marcus Lemonis, chairman and CEO of the series sponsor, with $100k to be awarded in the driver’s name to charity.
While the focus was certainly on the ensuing and rightfully so with the pair in the top-two positions, the regulars of the series certainly were able to turn it into a showcase of their talent in front of the new eyeballs. Zane Smith ran up front all night en route to first-ever podium result in third, while Johnny Sauter showed why experience can matter sometimes.
Lemonis jumped on-board in hopes to continue expanding on the publicity of the Truck Series, and rightfully so as they have been known to put on the best shows of all the series at times. Hopefully the new faces tuned in to see the Cup stars will turn around and watch the tailgaters through the rest of the summer.
GMS Racing is certainly one of those teams you want to keep an eye on as you watch more events, beyond Elliott’s victory. The team showed they have a very capable group, and could easily take over the dominant force of the series from Kyle Busch Motorsports and ThorSport Racing if the trend continues. After all, they had all of their trucks within the top-10 at one point in the event, with Smith (third), Brett Moffitt (fourth), and Sheldon Creed (fifth) joining Elliott in the top-five at the checkered.
Trucks and Xfinity has reign supreme thus far in the four straight days of racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway, as both events easily topped what we witnessed with the NASCAR Cup Series Coca-Cola 600.
The explanation as to why that has been the case, though, boils simply down to what Busch had to offer post-race tonight, personally highlighting the Xfinity Series as the most fun out of the three.
“That was the most fun and the cars were really equal and driving all over the place,” he told POPULAR SPEED during the post-race media conference. “Tires were bouncing a little bit so they definitely lacked some downforce, that’s for sure. But you had some recovery if you ran the top and was able to chase down the guy in front of you.
“The Cup car package, you just kind of get boxed into not being able to follow the guy at all. I exited turn two right up behind Ross Chastain last night and didn’t wash out and didn’t have a problem and was able to stay with him versus the Cup cars, you get that close to somebody and you’re going to crash the wall.
“Same with the trucks, the trucks are really, really bad with that aero wake and the frontends of the trucks blowing out from underneath you when you get too close to the car in front of you.”
With the traction compound certainly worked in with an additional 500 miles since Sunday, it’ll be interesting to see what type of racing the Cup Series produces on Wednesday.