On Sept. 19, 1998, Ric Carelli won the first truck race at Gateway Motorsports Park — the Ram Tough 200. Since then, only Ted Musgrave has been able to win twice on the 1.25-mile track, taking the checkered flag in both 2001 and 2005.
Saturday night, 28 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series drivers will attempt to make a little Gateway history of their own when they compete in the Drivin’ for Linemen 200.
Truck Series points leader Johnny Sauter and Christopher Bell, the defending champion at Gateway, headline the field, which includes Matt Crafton, Chase Briscoe and Ben Rhodes. The five drivers are separated at the top of the standings by just 90 points through seven events.
Sauter, who leads Bell by 40 points after an eighth-place finish last week, is in the midst of another solid season. The 2016 series champion has five top-five finishes in seven races and won the championship in Dover, Del., just two weeks ago.
Sauter placed fourth at the Drivin’ for Linemen 200 last year.
“I’ve always enjoyed racing at Gateway. It’s certainly not an easy track, but we’ve been able to run well and have some success there,” Sauter said this week. “But with as close as the points are, every race is important. Having a win takes a little bit of pressure off of our team, but with that being said, I’d feel even more comfortable with a few more before we reach the playoffs.”
Practice sessions Saturday are from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. with qualifying starting at 4:45 p.m. Also scheduled is the ARCA Midwest Tour Illinois Lottery 40, which begins at 6 p.m. The Drivin’ For Linemen 200 will start at 7:30 p.m.
Having a win takes a little bit of pressure off of our team, but with that being said, I’d feel even more comfortable with a few more before we reach the playoffs.
Johnny Sauter, Camping World Truck Series points leader
Crafton, a two-time series champion (2014 and 2015) with 13 career wins to his credit, will be making his 14th stop at Gateway, the most of any driver entered in the race. He has one top-five finish and eight top 10s.
Crafton led for 11 laps in 2014 but blew a right front tire and finished 26th.
Like Sauter, Crafton enjoys competing in southern Illinois.
“It’s a great short track with a lot of speed. We had a really, really strong truck there, and had the tire problem in 2014, which was unfortunate,” Crafton said.
“Gateway reminds me of the old Phoenix, very similar. The corners are very different. The corners of 1 and 2 are definitely a little tighter than the old Phoenix, but it has banking, and it’s a tighter corner.”
Battle for Rookie of the Year honors
Second at Texas Motor Speedway last week, Briscoe is now second in the battle for the Sunoco Rookie of the Year honor. ThorSport Racing driver Grant Enfinger took the lead in the point standings for the first time this season with a third-place finish at Texas.
Kaz Grala, Noah Gragson and Austin Cindric round out the top five in rookie of the year standings. Other top rookies to watch Saturday are Wendell Chavous, Stewart Friesen and Justin Haley.
Tickets still available
General admission tickets start at $36. General admission for kids ages 15 and younger is free.
At a glance
Here’s the schedule for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series event at Gateway Motorsports Park.
- 8:30 a.m.: Spectator parking lots open.
- 9 a.m.: Spectator gates open.
- 9 a.m.: Climbin’ for Linemen competition begins (infield).
- 9:30-10:25 a.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Drivin’ for Linemen 200 practice.
- 11:30 a.m. to 12:25 p.m.: Final NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Drivin’ for Linemen 200 practice.
- 1:30-2:30 p.m.: Illinois Lottery 40 ARCA Midwest Tour practice and qualifying.
- 2-2:45 p.m.: NASCAR driver autograph session (infield).
- 2:30-4:30 p.m.: Free concert by The Band Steele on the midway.
- 4:45 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Drivin’ for Linemen 200 qualifying.
- 5:45 p.m.: ARCA Midwest Tour Illinois Lottery 40 driver introductions.
- 6:10 p.m.: ARCA Midwest Tour Illinois Lottery 40 (40 laps, 50 miles, timed event).
- 7 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Drivin’ for Linemen 200 driver introductions.
- 7:30 p.m.: NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Drivin’ for Linemen 200 (160 laps, 200 miles).
(Schedule is subject to change)