Ten drivers will race their way into the 2024 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Playoffs. Our predictions for which drivers make the cut are in.
The season will come as the 30th for the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series since its beginnings in 1995. Racing action will kick off on Friday, February 16th with the Fresh From Florida 250 at Daytona International Speedway.
A large crop of drivers remain with the same teams as they look to transition appropriately from the 2023 season. However, some new faces will make their appearance including the possession of Championship-caliber trucks. No new tracks are added to the schedule, but North Wilkesboro Speedway and the Milwaukee Mile are back following successful Truck returns last year.
Competition amongst drivers will be as close as ever before. Only ten names will lock themselves into the seven-race Playoffs after 16 Regular Season races.
Here are my predictions for which drivers will make the 2024 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Playoffs.
Last year’s Championship seemed to be a lock for Corey Heim. His dominant performance at Phoenix Raceway, however, would end after getting turned by Carson Hocevar with nearly 30 laps to go. Heim was only one of two full-timers last season to have an average finish inside 10.0 and was the only driver with over 500 laps led. He will likely take the Regular Season Championship again and enter as the arguable favor for the 2024 Title.
2023 did not have the statistics to show for Ty Majeski in comparison to 2022, but the year was incredibly strong. A suspension in August for illegal parts may have been a distraction in closing out the season as he would finish 8th in the final standings. His abilities are unquestionably excellent with his world-class short-track resume. This year, Majeski will score a minimum of three victories en route to a Playoff entry and shot for the Championship.
Not many thought Christian Eckes would have the 2023 season he ended up having. The switch to McAnally-Hilgemann Racing saw four wins including the season finale at Phoenix. This total was three more than he had secured in his first 57 starts with the Craftsman Truck Series. Although the team is expanding a truck and-a-half, Eckes will not lose his competitive drive and will surely find himself in the mix as a weekly threat.
Two-time Champion has a nice ring to it. Ben Rhodes had one of the less competitive runs of his eight-year Truck Series tenure, but he turned the season into another massive showing. The 26-year-old took advantage of late troubles from his competitors en route to his second Title and third consecutive year inside the top two of points (2021 – 1st, 2022 – 2nd). A third Championship for Rhodes would move him to a tie for second all-time in the Series, and he will certainly have his shot.
Last year was a learning year for Nick Sanchez and Rev Racing. After capturing the 2022 ARCA Menards Series Championship, both driver and team expanded to the Series in hopes of finding success. The combination did with four poles and over 300 laps led, but a trip to victory lane never materialized. Learning from prior mistakes, mechanical errors, and overcoming bad luck will see Sanchez near the peak of the 2024 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Playoffs.
With Zane Smith leaving for the Cup Series, the biggest question mark entering this year came with who would fill his seat. In December, Layne Riggs was announced as the replacement for the No. 38 ride at Front Row Motorsports. The rising youthful star finished 7th in his 2022 Truck debut and earned a best finish of 3rd in his sixth and most recent start. Riggs will quickly overcome the rookie challenges as he takes over the Championship-contending seat.
Jake Garcia had an underrated 2023 season. Although he missed Daytona’s season opener and failed to make the Playoffs, glimpses of stardom shined for the 18-year-old including three Top 5’s and a second in the Phoenix finale. Garcia has yet to lead a lap, but his first opportunities will come this year with ThorSport Racing and veteran teammates. I believe he will surely make the Playoffs and will outdrive, at times, members of his camp.
IN BY A FRACTION
One of the most inconsistent drivers in the Cup Series comes with Stewart Friesen. Last season saw his worst points finish (12th) in five seasons starting every race and worst since 2020 (15th). In addition, the year came with the fewest Top 10s since his 19-race season in 2017 and only a total of 13 laps led across only three races. However, Friesen did not lack speed at times with race-winning contention at tracks like Darlington Raceway and Gateway Motorsports Park. This year will hopefully be a rebound with a Playoff birth.
Taylor Gray will enter his first official full-time season with the Craftsman Truck Series. Like Jake Garcia, he would sit out three races to begin 2023 due to age restrictions. In 20 appearances for Tricon Garage, Gray finished all but one event and took three Top 5’s in the final nine races. He has secured numerous victories in the three ARCA Menards Series organizations, and his 2024 will see starts for Joe Gibbs Racing in the Xfinity Series. Expect a growing year and a Playoff run for Gray.
Late silly season broke on Wednesday the 7th that Rajah Caruth would be joining Spire Motorsports full-time for 2024. His first year of Truck competition came last season with a now-defunct GMS Racing. A rough first half of last season ended with improved consistency and three Top 10s in the final seven races. Now, at a new home with an ascending organization, expect Caruth to have a breakout season amongst his competitors. The 21-year-old takes my final spot for the 2024 Playoffs.
Can the fourth time be the charm for Chase Purdy? He has driven a full-time season for GMS Racing, Hattori Racing Enterprises, and Kyle Busch Motorsports in the past three years, and each company closed its doors at the conclusion of 2023. Spire Motorsports made massive changes in the off-season including personnel upgrades, the purchasing of KBM, and his signing for 2024. I believe he falls short of Caruth for the final Playoff spot.
Niece Motorsports has signed Bayley Currey for his first full-time season in Trucks. A part-time schedule last year saw mixed results with three Top 5’s and seven finishes outside the Top 10. A bulk of Currey’s NASCAR tenure has occurred in the Xfinity Series where he competed for lesser-funded teams including Mike Harmon Racing and JD Motorsports. Unfortunately, if not enough stage points are earned in early events, Currey will miss out on making the 2024 Playoffs.
Last year, Grant Enfinger looked to have the Series Championship locked up for GMS Racing. However, Corey Heim took revenge by wrecking Carson Hoecevar, and he would fall short of the Title by one spot after restarting mishaps out of his control. The Truck Series veteran and 2015 ARCA Menards Champion saw no finishes worse than 20th and took home three checkered flags. Enfinger moves to Codie Rohrbaugh’s CR7 Motorsports team, and though the team will have their best season yet, I believe the group will fall short of the Playoff cutoff.
Matt Crafton nears what will likely be the final years of his Truck Series career. The 2013, 2014, and 2019 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Champion has not missed a race in 544 starts dating back to his debut at Auto Club Speedway in October of 2000. Unfortunately, he has secured four Top 5’s in the past two years and has been winless since Kansas Speedway in the summer of 2020. This will be the first year Crafton is absent from the Playoffs.
Rackley WAR let Matt DiBenedetto go with three races to go last season. In a surprising move to fans, Ty Dillon was announced as their driver for 2024. This marks his full-time Truck return after seasons competing weekly in the Cup Series and Xfinity Series. Although he saw opportunities at both Championships in 2012 and 2013, his new team does not have the consistency to hang regularly with the competition.
Virginia native Matt Mills gets his first full-time NASCAR season as he replaces Carson Hocevar at Niece Motorsports. Although he captured his best Truck Series finish of fifth at Richmond Raceway last year, not enough has been seen to know where his ceiling is. Until proven otherwise, I do not have Mills making it in.
Highs and lows have marred 2018 K&N Pro Series East Champion Tyler Ankrum from reaching his full potential. Despite contesting in the 2019 and 2020 Truck Series Playoffs, he has missed three consecutive Playoffs including 17th in the 2023 standings. McAnally-Hilgemann Racing’s quick expansion has me worried for those not in the primary seat, and because of that, I am hesitant to put Ankrum above the cut.
Like Tyler Ankrum, Daniel Dye joins the McAnally-Hilgemann Racing camp as a full-time entry for 2024. For similar reasons, putting Dye into the Top 10 seems premature until we see how their three-truck operation runs. Last year’s tenure at GMS Racing, despite the team closing, saw a lone Top 10 at Talladega Superspeedway and an 18th-point finish.
Tanner Gray will make his fifth full-time season driving for David Gilliland and Tricon Garage. There are moments of Top 5 competitiveness every year, but they are intertwined with frequent runs in the teens. Until Gray finds more consistency to his craft, he will come up short of the Playoffs.
FINAL FOUR & CHAMPION
Heim, Majeski, Riggs, Sanchez
Corey Heim will further the consistency and dominance he had last year. Majeski will return to form with a clean slate after a rough close to 2023. A big name of either Christian Eckes or Ben Rhodes will be absent from the playoffs, but I think they both will come short of this year’s Final Four. Nick Sanchez and Rev Racing will step up their performance after strong debuts in Trucks last year. Additionally, for an upset pick, I believe Layne Riggs finds his footing in the second half of the Regular Season en route to a Playoff birth and a strong run to battle for the Title.
My pick to win the 2024 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series Championship will be Ty Majeski.
Be sure to watch the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series opener at Daytona International Speedway on Friday, February 16th. Stay tuned here at LWOS Motorsports for NASCAR news, results, updates, and more.