Youth movement heading into Canadian Tire Motorsports Park
By Steven Ellis
September 1, 2016
First, it was Chase Elliott winning one of the most memorable truck series race finishes ever. The next year in 2014, Ryan Blaney managed a last second pass on German Quiorga to win by just .049 seconds, one of the closest finishes in the history of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Last year, rising star Erik Jones beat out road course ace Alex Tagliani after the former Indy 500 pole sitter had a gearbox issue on the final lap.
For all three drivers, the spotlight shined at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park on three of the best young names in racing. Recently, the series, which has featured some of the best racing in NASCAR this year, has also seen some talented young stars taking control.
William Byron has a whopping five wins in 2016, and should steal another one before the year is over. Last week, Brett Moffitt made an incredible three-wide pass on the last lap to beat out veteran Timothy Peters to win his very first NASCAR race.
With a youth movement taking center stage in the Sprint Cup Series with the likes of Kyle Larson, Elliott, Blaney and Chris Buescher taking the headlines each week, NASCAR is looking just as good as they did when Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth were making their way into the series.
Byron, for example, has been extremely dominant, and is the favorite heading into the Chase. But right now, there is also a spotlight on many young stars in the Truck Series outside of Byron who are really showing their truth worth on the track.
Very few drivers have been as strong as Brett Moffitt has been as of late. In only four starts this year, the 23-year-old youngster has finished in the top-five in three of them, improving his position every single time.
Moffitt has a lot to prove, especially after getting let go from his development contract from Michael Waltrip Racing after their collapse last season. Moffitt has very little experience on road courses and can be seen almost like a wildcard on Sunday, but his talent and momentum should indicate that he’s ready for the challenge.
Cole Custer may not be having an ideal 2016, especially after so much promise heading into the season. But at tenth in points, just two out of the final spot in the Chase, Custer has a chance to make a big impact at CTMP.
While his results may not show how good he’s actually been, Custer has led 24 laps over the past two years, an impressive stat considering he was not a full-time driver either time. This year, Custer returns to one of his best tracks for a chance to steal a win and put himself in the Chase, a place he really has proven himself to be worthy of, but has yet to achieve.
Daniel Hemric is second points, and one question seems to always surround him: when will he finally pull off a victory? With 11 top-ten finishes in 14 starts this year, he’s been extremely consistent, but finishing off a good run has been tough.
A year ago, Hemric showed great speed with a fourth place finish at CTMP, an effort that really proved that he can be a top contender no matter what track he goes to. With two third-place finishes in a row, and Brad Keselowski Racing power backing him, he’s got a lot of promise and can really be a factor when he hits the road course, but he needs to find just a little extra speed to propel him into the top spot.
The second half of the season has been a good one for Canadian Cameron Hayley, one of just two in the field on Sunday. Hayley looked to be a threat for the victory back in 2015, and created a memorable moment after beating and banging on Alex Tagliani heading to the start-finish line near the middle of the race.
Hayley is on a good stretch of finishes right now, with four top-ten finishes in the past five races. Hayley has had some good runs this year and being on the outside looking in with two races left before the Chase, the time is now for Hayley to make a run for it. Will his home track be what lifts him to glory?
If there’s a darkhorse candidate for the race, it’s surely going to be Gary Klutt. The Pinty’s Series driver has made waves in Canada’s top NASCAR division, winning his very first race at CTMP to start off the 2015 season, of all places.
A strong contender on road courses, Klutt knows the track formerly known as Mosport very well and should make some noise in a Kyle Busch Motorsports truck. He’ll race earlier in the day, with the Pinty’s Series racing in their tenth event Sunday morning.
The knock against him could be that he’s struggled at times this year and making his truck series debut could be tough, but he knows how to race at the track and should be a valid threat from the drop of the green flag.
With no Tagliani or any returning victor in the field, the Chevy Silverado 250 has the potential to be the most wide-open race in the short history of the Trucks visiting the famed Canadian track.
Of course, veterans like Matt Crafton (who is the best active driver at the track), Johnny Sauter or Timothy Peters could make a run for the victory, and likely will. But with so many young talented drivers at the top of their game right now, it’s hard to ignore how strong of a group the series has heading into the Chase.
It’s a good time to be a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series fan.
DISCLAIMER: Opinions expressed are solely those of the writer.