The 2022 NASCAR season hits the Father’s Day break this weekend. While the Cup and Xfinity Series are both enjoying a week off, the Camping World Truck Series will be racing Saturday night under the lights at Knoxville Raceway in Iowa. Typically, the Knoxville Raceway truck race is a very difficult race to read for NASCAR DFS. Dirt races in general carry that stigma. It can be a bit difficult to pass given the lack of pit strategy, the flatter nature of the track, and as we’ve seen time and time again in dirt races, there will be chaos. The NASCAR DFS picks today may look a bit thin at first glance. Trust me when I say that it’s not for lack of effort, but there are circumstances surrounding tonight’s race that make it a bit difficult to truly finalize a driver pool.
Let's start with the fact that the Truck Series got some non-televised practice sessions in Friday night. I don’t know why, but all I really had to go off of for practice notes were the results posted by Bob Pockrass…
And here are the heats to determine Saturday’s starting order…
The qualifying heats start at 7:00pm ET and the race starts around 9:15pm ET. There’s roughly a 60-minute window to get all your lineups set. Personally, I’m only playing the Happy Hour contest and calling it a night. I likely will be asleep at 9:30pm ET. I’m a 70-year-old man in a 30-year-old’s body. Sue me.
There will be 150 laps for tonight’s race giving us around 100 dominator points available. We don’t have a ton of previous data to pull from as last year marked the first dirt race in Knoxville for the Truck Series and we’ve only seen Bristol Dirt run twice. We can also look at older data from Eldora, even though it’s been three years since the Truck Series raced there. Similar to road courses it’s understandable to want to target drivers that perform well on this surface or have experience.
It’s probably worth mentioning that these races tend to see plenty of cautions. Last year’s race saw 14 for 80 laps. That’s over half the race run under yellow. Earlier this year at Bristol we had nine cautions for 43 laps and last year’s BrisDirt race had a dozen cautions for 56 laps. You most certainly can target PD tonight and nailing the right dominators that still finish well will be key. We’ve seen drivers gain double-digit spots of positive PD in these races, but I will take a somewhat contrarian position on two or three lineups and build with drivers just in the top 20. So before we know the starting order, here are some drivers to consider for tonight’s race.
John Hunter Nemechek ($10,700) In a limited sample size, JHN has performed well on dirt with the exception being the first Bristol Dirt race. Earlier this year he started 18th and finished third at Bristol with a 102.9 driver rating and last year at Knoxville he started 37th and finished 11th. After starting on the pole for the inaugural Bristol Dirt race in 2021 he was caught up in a wreck. I like him more if he provides PD as pole sitters haven’t truly “dominated” races when the Trucks have run on dirt.
Ben Rhodes ($10,300) Ben Rhodes and Stewart Friesen have had reverse trajectories in dirt races. Rhodes started his career poorly at Eldora. In four races there he only had one top 20 finish. But in the smaller sample size of BrisDirt and Knoxville, he’s kind of turned it around. In the inaugural Knoxville race last year he started 18th and finished 7th. But he also has a win and a runner-up finish at Bristol’s two dirt races so maybe he’s figured this surface out as he ventures into his mid-20’s. Take it with a grain of salt, but he was also top five in speed in Friday night’s second practice session. And while we’re touching on speed you can also consider Chandler Smith for $200 less. He was just behind Carson Hocevar in the final practice session and he was second in this race a year ago.
Stewart Friesen ($9,900) It’s a dirt race which means it’s the Friesen Family Fun Night! Both Stewart and his wife, Jessica Friesen ($5,000), will compete in tonight’s race. I’ll mix in maybe two shares of Jessica because that’s a great price for a $5K driver with dirt experience. But Stewart Friesen’s had a very good year in 2022 and he’s an accomplished dirt racer. In four aces at Eldora he finished first, second, third, and 28th (due to a wreck). I will say though that recent form hasn’t been on his side on clay surfaces. He started P3 earlier this year at Bristol and finished 11th. In last year’s Knoxville race he started 19th and finished 27th. And even last year at Bristol he started 7th and finished 12th. Those aren’t performances that’ll make the optimal lineup. So while he will be a popular option, don’t force him into your lineups. He could be a driver worth being underweight if you want leverage over the field.
Todd Gilliland ($9,700) With the NASCAR Cup Series off this weekend, Gilliland is stepping into the Truck Series at a pretty nice price tag. Gilliland will be in the 17-truck for DGR so there aren’t many concerns about the equipment. He’s a very good dirt racer. He collected 22 dominator points in this race a year ago and grabbed a top five finish. He also finished fourth in the 2021 Truck Series race at Bristol Dirt. Similarly at Eldora he grabbed a top five in his last race there in 2019. He might be my preferred option between him and Friesen but ultimately it’ll come down to the starting order.
Buddy Kofoid ($9,200) I don’t hate Kofoid tonight considering we shouldn’t have too much difficulty finalizing builds, but don’t buy into the equipment narrative too much. Yes, it’s Kyle Busch’s truck but it’s a dirt race so I’m not weighing equipment as much as I normally do (except for Young’s Motorsports). Kofoid’s debut wasn’t great at Bristol earlier in the year after he finished outside the top 20 but he had an average running position of about 13th and he has dirt track experience. He’s been vocal about wanting to break into NASCAR so these dirt races are his opportunity to make some noise.
Grant Enfinger ($9,000) I think most people will flock to the recent form of Christian Eckes. Eckes finished 5th at Bristol earlier this year and he finished 6th in the last Eldora race. Eckes is fine, but I might take the discount and (hopefully) some leverage with Enfinger. Enfinger has posted solid results on dirt tracks. He was third here a year ago, 8th and 6th in both Bristol Dirt races, and he had three finishes in the top four at Eldora. Whatever it is, he does very well. I’m hoping the stars aren’t aligned for him to have a big night only to have him wreck. But without knowing where everyone is starting he’s a safe option as the tenth-most expensive option on the slate.
Carson Hocevar ($8,600) I’m digging the depressed price tag. Yes, there are concerns regarding the injury but the team did not bring a backup driver for tonight’s race and he was very fast in practice. Hocevar finished 16th at this race a year ago but he had an average running position of third and he finished third in this year’s Bristol race. It’s not a lot to go off of but he’s having a great year aside from the injury. He’s been flirting with his first career win and it could come tonight.
Brett Moffit ($8,100) Brett Moffitt steps into the 22-truck for Austin Wayne Self who is taking a couple weeks off for the birth of his daughter. Now if we’re being completely honest, Moffitt doesn’t have the greatest resume on dirt tracks. Pretty pathetic actually. He started 10th and finished P24 in the first Bristol Dirt race. Then he finished 38th in last year’s Knoxville race, but he did have an average running position of 14th with a 90.2 driver rating. He did grab a top five at Eldora way back in 2018. So I’m tempering expectations and would love to see him offer a little PD. I know the resume is terrible on this surface but I’m not too worried about taking a gamble here. He’s a former champion in this series so the price tag is pretty damn friendly. I guess this could kind of be considered his home track as well so there’s also that narrative.
Tyler Carpenter ($7,500) It’s going to be incredibly exciting to see how Carpenter fares in his Truck Series debut. (In my best Chris Collinsworth impersonation) Now here’s a guy that doesn’t care who he has to move to get to the front. Carpenter earned his spot as part of Niece Motorsports’ “Win and You’re In” program after winning the 2021 Gateway Dirt Nationals. A lot of other drivers didn’t like how Carpenter had no respect for the rest of the field as he went on to win that event. Personally, I don’t care if he isn’t liked. If he’s in my lineup and making me money, move whoever you need to. Carpenter is no spring chicken. He’s 31 and has plenty of experience running late models on dirt and he’s driving for a good team. I think most people may not try to fit him in their lineups since he’s a bit too expensive but I’m on board.
Dylan Westbrook ($6,300) Here’s another dirt track specialist with plenty of wins under his belt and he’s still just in his early 20’s. Westbrook has run sprint cars across Canada and America and he has three wins in the American Sprint Car Series. He’s also raced Knoxville previously and has a win here. He’ll be in the 3-truck for Jordan Anderson’s team so I can stomach the sub-par equipment given that this is a great price tag for a decorated dirt specialist.
The rest of the value tier is a little difficult to navigate. You have your cheap Niece Motorsports drivers and a few dirt specialists in bad equipment. Obviously, anybody offering PD starting pretty far back has appeal so let’s see how the heats shake out.
Quick Hitting Thoughts On Other Drivers
This is just a section I want to offer quick-hitting thoughts on drivers who may not have a ton of experience on dirt, but the results in the small sample size have been solid.
Ty Majeski ($9,400) I have a very difficult time justifying this price tag. He doesn’t have a ton of experience on dirt, but he had decent speed in practice and he was in contention at Bristol Dirt earlier this year. He finished 21st but had an average running position of 7th and he had the fifth-best driver rating in that race with 21 fastest laps.
Kaz Grala ($8,000) I believe he’s in the 02-truck for Young’s Motorsports. The truck could die mid-race but Grala posted good results in practice Friday night. In the final practice session he was 13th in single lap speed, but third in ten-lap averages. The results on dirt aren’t in his favor. I doubt I’ll have much exposure, but I don’t hate mixing him in one or two builds.
Tanner Gray ($7,700) I might not end up here very much but Gray does have a pair of top 15 finishes at Bristol Dirt.
Hailie Deegan ($7,300) It’s going to depend on where she starts. She finished 21st here last year but started 4th. But she does have a pair of top 20 finishes at Bristol Dirt. Not particularly my favorite play but if she can survive the war of attrition there’s some upside.
Chase Purdy ($7,100) Small sample size, but he has a pair of top 20 finishes at Bristol Dirt. However, he did finish 33rd here last year.
Spencer Boyd ($6,200) He’s not worth the price tag, but he has a pair of top 25 finishes at Bristol Dirt. The equipment is always a concern. And by that I mean it’s the kind of equipment we’ve seen just fail to fire up. At this price tag you need a lot of PD here.
Devon Rouse ($5,600) Far from great equipment but he did score a top 20 here last year in similar equipment. But do try to remember, there were 14 cautions for 80 laps…
Given that there is a short window to finalize lineups, there will not be any Example Lineups for tonight’s race. I will be in the NASCAR DFS Discord Channel answering questions and then likely passing out on the couch once they go green.
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