The NASCAR Camping World Truck Series travels to Gateway Motorsports Park for the third annual Drivin’ for Linemen 200. The race will serve as the only stop of the season at the 1.25-mile oval in east St. Louis. Cole Custer, who will drive the No. 00 this weekend, enters Gateway as the defending race winner.
The entry list features 32 drivers for the third annual event. Some of them include Shane Lee, Caleb Roark, German Quiroga, Austin Wayne Self, Kaz Grala, Justin Hayley, Spencer Boyd, Erik Jones, Jake Griffin, Enrique Contreras and Ryan Truex. No drivers will go home after qualifying.
William Byron is the hottest driver in the Camping World Truck series as they approach the halfway point of their season. Byron captured his first career victory at Kansas Speedway last month and brought the trophy home in the last two races at Texas and Iowa. He is the only driver with three wins through the first eight races.
"I've always believed in that just from watching races on television and seeing how drivers take that focus to the next weekend, but I think it's really a confidence thing,” Byron said about believing in momentum. “It's knowing that you can do it, and knowing when it comes down to a final restart you've got it under control. Last weekend when the caution came out with eight laps to go, I had to be ready for the final restart. Back at Kansas I wouldn't have had that confidence in myself that I could get a good restart and hold on for the win, but now I do. I've learned a lot, but it's also a mental thing and how you approach it."
Having three wins at this point exceeded the team’s expectations going into 2016. "We have exceeded what we thought we'd do, but I don't think we set a goal for a certain number of wins,” continued Byron in a team release. “Based on the last couple of years I didn't know how long it would take to get that first win. I thought maybe it would take 10-15 races, or more just based on how long it's taken other guys. I only had that one race at Phoenix to base it off of and that didn't go great, so I was in a vulnerable position. I just wanted to finish races at first, so to now have the wins allows us to focus on more opportunities and goals and get ready for the Chase which will be so intense."
Erik Jones will join the series this weekend and will mark his first Camping World Truck Series start of the season. Jones will pilot the No. 51 JEGS/Auburn Gear Toyota for Kyle Busch Motorsports on Saturday night.
"It reminds me a little bit of Phoenix in both sets of turns. It's a place I took a liking to after making my first laps there in 2014,” said Jones in a release. “We were really fast there the last two years, just didn't have good endings. It's always tough to pass there, so you need to qualify well and keep good track position if you are going to get a win."
With Gateway having unique corners, fairly similar as Darlington Raceway, Jones finds turns one and two the most challenging. "Things are a little bit tighter down in Turns 1 and 2 and it's more of a finesse corner compared to Turns 3 and 4, where it seems like you can find a way to get through that end no matter what your truck's doing,” continued Jones. “You have to be able to get under somebody off the exit of Turn 2 to be able to pass them down in Turns 3 and 4, so we will work pretty hard on getting our JEGS Tundra to turn the center in Turns 1 and 2 in order to get our truck the best we can to maneuver and pass."
Cody Coughlin was originally scheduled to drive the No. 51 Toyota but pulled out at the last minute because of a conflict in his schedule. Coughlin elected to run the ARCA CRA Super Series and CRA JEGS All-Star Tour. The young driver is looking to become the first driver to win both a CRA Super Series and CRA JEGS All-Star Tour championship.
Cole Custer enters the weekend looking to make it back-to-back victory lane appearances at Gateway on Saturday. Custer led 19 of 160 laps to capture his second career victory in the series last June. Here are his thoughts going into the 200-mile event.
“At Iowa, we made a strategy move to take two tires on the last pit stop, and I have to thank Marcus (Richmond, crew chief) for doing it,” said Custer in a team release. “At the end of the race, I was driving as hard as I could, but I just didn’t have enough to keep the 9 (Byron) behind me. I was pumped with second place. Coming into Gateway, we’re always looking to win. We are just trying to get our stuff better and we know there are a lot of things that we can get better on the Haas Automation Silverado. I think you’re going to see that in the next few weeks.”
The 18-year old driver holds two victories, six top five and 13 top 10 finishes trough 27 Camping World Truck Series starts. He has three poles through those starts with one of those coming at Gateway in 2014.
The Drivin’ for Linemen 300 will air live on FOX Sports 1 at 7:00 p.m. ET. The Motor Racing Network and SiriusXM Channel 90 will have the live radio broadcast.