Post contributed by: Tyler Cadd
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The 2023 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Playoffs are set to begin this Friday at Indianapolis Raceway Park. While this has already been a historic season for Rackley W.A.R., the job is not finished. Owner Willie Allen recently expressed on Sirius XM that surviving the 1st Round is crucial because the second round includes tracks that are well-suited for driver Matt DiBenedetto, such as Bristol and Talladega. Last year, Matt had a great truck at Bristol, which Allen mentioned during the radio interview, was “capable” of winning before an issue. We all remember what happened at Talladega in 2022.
Matt enters the Playoffs with 9 Top 10s in the 16 Truck Series contests. That’s a record for the young team that only had one team Top 10 before 2022. The Playoffs bring out the best of the competition, and everyone comes more prepared. Let’s dive into the competitors and tracks that Matt and the 25 team will be battling to reach Round 2.
While anything can happen in the Playoffs, we will focus on the four drivers who enter the 1st Round near the bubble: Ben Rhodes, Nick Sanchez, Matt DiBenedetto, and Matt Crafton. Matt DiBenedetto has the second-best number of Top 10s out of this group with nine, trailing only Ben Rhodes, who has 10.
The first race of the Playoffs will be at the famed IRP. While the other two NASCAR Series will be turning right and left this weekend, the trucks will be battling it out at the bullring that is IRP. Looking back at last year, Matt had a solid run at IRP with a team that has since made a lot more progress in speed. In 2022 at IRP, Matt spent much of the day inside the top 15. He qualified the 25 machine 18th and ultimately brought it home 11th, with no stage points for the race. Based on the team’s short track performance this year, the 25 team should come prepared for IRP. Compared to the four drivers mentioned earlier, Matt has the highest short track average finish this year at 8.6, while the others stack up as follows: Crafton 13.8, Sanchez 15.0, and Rhodes 15.4. If those types of results hold true, the 25 team will be off to a great start.
The second race is the “wild-card” track. The truck series will be returning to the Milwaukee Mile for the first time since 2009. One comparable worth noting for Matt is that the Milwaukee Mile is similar in banking and length to New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where Matt’s last three Cup Series finishes were 5th, 6th, and 11th. Even the 11th place finish doesn’t tell the entire story; Matt spent 99.7% of the race inside the top 15 and led 20 laps overall. Matt was running the fastest laps on the track when the 2021 contest was shortened due to lighting.
The last race of the 1st round is a return to Kansas for the Craftsman Truck Series. Matt and the 25 truck showed signs of speed at times at Kansas earlier this year and spent most of the race inside the top 15. However, Matt was caught up in a caution on lap 80, which ended the 25 team’s day early. While this is the most discouraging result concerning Rackley W.A.R.’s chances of advancing to the 2nd Round with the team’s recent momentum, including just ending a six consecutive Top 10 finish streak, I expect the 25 team will be right in the mix with a strong chance to advance to the 2nd Round.
Be sure to check back after the race this Friday for the race recap!