After a four-week layoff, the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series rolls into Charlotte Motor Speedway with a wide-open battle expected in tonight’s North Carolina Education Lottery 200.
SPEED will televise the race live, starting at 7:30 p.m. ET, with the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Setup.
The first four NCWTS races of the year have produced four different winners so far, and the top six drivers — Timothy Peters, James Buescher, Justin Lofton, Ty Dillon, Nelson Piquet Jr. and Parker Kligerman — are separated by a mere 26 points.
Peters and Buescher, the two points leaders, have been exceptionally stout this season. Peters has finished second twice and fifth twice in the No. 17 Red Horse Racing Toyota to take the points lead.
After finishing 17th in the season-opener at Daytona, Buescher finished third at Martinsville, second at Rockingham and then put the No. 31 Turner Motorsports Chevrolet into victory lane at the most recent Truck Series race at Kansas.
Both men figure to be among the contenders for the victory at the 1.5-mile Charlotte track.
“It feels great being in the position that we are right now,” said Peters. “Heading into our backyard at Charlotte, we're really excited. As the points leader, we need to keep executing each and every week when we get to the track. It all goes back to how I race people, and making sure I know how to race and when to race them. If we take care of that, hopefully it will get us that win. It would be nice to be this week at Charlotte.”
“We have three top-five finishes in a row, and it seems like our 31 team is on a roll,” said Buescher. “But really, everybody at Turner Motorsports, our Truck Series program, I think, is really strong right now.”
According to Buescher, the Turner squad has been busy since the April 21 Kansas race working on their intermediate track program.
“We have done some testing even since Kansas that we feel like is going to improve the mile-and-a-half program even more and for other racetracks as well,” said Buescher. “We found some things we felt like will help our trucks even more and we are taking the same truck to Charlotte that we raced at Kansas. I think our chances are pretty good.”
Buescher has one other factor weighing in his favor: His 6.667 finishing average at Charlotte Motor Speedway is best of anyone entered in the race.
Third-place Lofton, who drives the No. 6 Eddie Sharp Racing Chevrolet, said he’s ready to be back racing.
“I am so glad that these breaks are about over,” said Lofton, who has an impressive average finish of 6.0 in the first four races of the season. “It's always tough to start and stop, especially since we've been running so well. It's our job to keep the momentum on track going, no matter how much time goes by between races.”
And don’t discount some others in the field: Although he’s still looking for his first Truck Series victory, Ty Dillon already has come close, finishing second at Martinsville. In fact, Dillon hasn’t finished worse than ninth in any race so far this season.
By the same token, veterans Todd Bodine and Ron Hornaday Jr. are always threats to win, as are ThorSport Racing teammates Matt Crafton and Johnny Sauter, and Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr. has posted back-to-back-to-back finishes of seventh or better.
So expect the unexpected as the trucks roar back to battle under the lights at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Tom Jensen is the Editor in Chief of SPEED.com, Senior NASCAR Editor at RACER and a contributing Editor for TruckSeries.com. You can follow him online at twitter.com/tomjensen100.