This Friday night, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series will run its final race of the 2021 season. The trucks will take to the one-mile-long Phoenix Raceway under the lights to determine their season champion. Four drivers will duke it out and whoever finishes the highest among them will take home the trophy. There are no points battles. There are no tricks. NASCAR’s championship format is as simple and straight up as it gets. Whoever crosses the line first out of the four championship contenders will be the 2021 NASCAR Truck Series Champion.
The following article breaks down the four championship competitors and offers up a truck series race prediction to help set the stage for the first of three NASCAR title races on tap for this weekend.
2021 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Championship Contenders and Preview
John Hunter Nemechek | No. 4, Kyle Busch Motorsports
John Hunter Nemechek is one of the best drivers in the NASCAR Truck Series. He was the regular-season points champion, and that buffer certainly helped him advance through the playoffs to reach the Championship 4. The driver of the No. 4 truck for Kyle Busch Motorsports has five wins, 12 top-5s, and 15 top-10s on the year. His best previous finish in the overall Truck Series championship standings is eighth. He achieved that result in both 2016 and 2017.
Nemechek returned to the NASCAR Truck Series on a full-time basis in 2021 after failing to lock in a Cup Series ride. He stated before the season that his goal was to win races and championships. In addition to largely dominating the truck series competition, Nemechek welcomed his first-born child back in the spring. Will his fairy-tale 2021 year continue on Friday? JHN is the NASCAR betting favorite going into championship weekend.
Zane Smith | No. 21, GMS Racing
With his back against the wall and the odds stacked against him in a must-win situation last weekend, Zane Smith got the job done. He won at Martinsville Speedway last Saturday afternoon to clinch his spot in the Championship 4. That victory stands as his lone win of the year so far and also accounts for half of his top-5 finishes on the season. Smith was one of the most consistent NASCAR Truck Series drivers when it came to scoring top-10s though. He accumulated 13 such finishes on the year.
Smith has previous championship experience from a season ago. He came up just short in the finale, losing out to GMS Racing teammate, Sheldon Creed. This year, Smith stands alone as the only GMS truck in the Championship 4.
Matt Crafton | No. 88, ThorSport Racing
To use John Hunter Nemechek’s words, the “old man” in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series is back in the Championship 4. Matt Crafton will be going for his fourth career NASCAR Truck Series title on Friday night. The No. 88 ThorSport Toyota is winless on the year, but Crafton also had zero wins in his 2019 championship-winning season.
Crafton has been Mr. Consistent this year and that has propelled him to making his fourth Championship 4 appearance. The 45-year-old is without a doubt the oldest of the four drivers competing for the 2021 series title. When it comes to experience, Crafton certainly has plenty of it.
Ben Rhodes | No. 99, ThorSport Racing
Ben Rhodes has had the best and most consistent season of his career in the NASCAR Truck Series. He started off strong right out of the gates by winning the season-opener at the famed Daytona International Speedway. He followed that up with a second win the following weekend on the Daytona Road Course. Since then, Rhodes has not recorded any additional wins, but he has maintained a solid position in the points standings. He has amassed seven top-5s and 15 top-10 finishes this season. As a result, he is set to compete in the Championship 4 for the first time ever on Friday night.
Rhodes has not finished higher than fifth in his NASCAR Truck Series career. While this is his first time competing for the series championship, he should benefit from having a veteran teammate in Matt Crafton also prepping for Friday’s showdown.
NASCAR Truck Series Championship Prediction
This is certainly a tough one to pick as all four drivers are deserving and capable of getting the job done with the stakes high at Phoenix Raceway this weekend. After a phenomenal and borderline dominant NASCAR Truck Series campaign in which he even beat his boss, Kyle Busch, in three out of five head-to-head races, look for John Hunter Nemechek to lift the championship trophy for the first time in his career.