NASCAR Draft Kit: 2020 Truck Series Rankings

NASCAR Draft Kit: 2020 Truck Series Rankings

This article is part of our NASCAR Draft Kit series.

1. Brett Moffitt – No. 23 GMS Racing Chevrolet – The 2018 Truck Series champion was unable to successfully defend his title last year, but he still had a dominant season.  Moffitt racked up four victories and near-carbon copy of 13 Top-5 and 17 Top-10 finishes to his championship season of two years ago.  The GMS Racing star would make the championship 4 round of the playoffs and race for the title at Homestead, but would pull up short finishing fifth-place in the season finale.  With more laps led and a slightly better average finish than 2018, you could make the argument that Moffitt was better last year.  He'll be paired with a new crew chief this season, Chad Norris, but there's little concern with the change.  Moffitt is an elite level talent, and he'll win multiple races and challenge for the championship once again in 2020.

2. Stewart Friesen – No. 52 Halmar Friesen Racing Toyota – The Canadian driver took big steps in 2019, and took this No. 52 HFR team into championship contention in the process.  Friesen won two events and posted career-high marks of 12 Top-5 and 16 Top-10 finishes.  The 36-year-old veteran raced his way deep into the playoffs, but pulled up short of the title finishing 11th-place at Homestead.  It was still a very impressive campaign for the four-season driver.  Friesen will once again pilot the No. 52 truck again this season, but HFR switches from Chevrolet to Toyota.  The team will get trucks from Kyle Busch Motorsports in a cooperative effort with that strong organization.  Trip Bruce will once again call the shots as crew chief, and Friesen will slug it out with all comers looking to win the championship.

3. Austin Hill – No. 16 Hattori Racing Enterprises Toyota – It would take Hill a little time to get some traction with his new race team last season.  After a cold start he would come on strong down the stretch to be one of the hottest drivers of the last eight races of last season.  Hill grabbed three of his four victories in those final eight events, including the win in the season finale at Homestead.  However, it wasn't enough to advance into the final round of the playoffs and Hill would finish fifth in the final driver standings.  His Top 5 and Top 10 totals reflected two cold spells in the first half the year and came in at 7 and 13 respectively.  The 6 DNF's that the team suffered affected those totals too.  Hill returns to this team in 2020 and will once again be paired with crew chief Scott Zipadelli.  The duo should up the ante this season, and display more consistency as they throw their hats in the ring for the championship.

4. Brandon Jones/Chandler Smith/Kyle Busch – No. 51 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota – This was easily the most successful and dominant of the multi-driver teams in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series in 2019.  The team featured Christian Eckes and Brandon Jones mostly, but threw in a dash of Kyle Busch and other drivers for good measure.  It all added up to six victories, 15 Top-5 and 17 Top-10 finishes.  Those would be championship winning numbers were it not for the driver rotation.  Busch was responsible for five of the six wins, and Greg Biffle picked up the other one with a surprising one-off start at Texas.  We should see a similar driver lineup for 2020.  Busch will get the maximum allowed of five starts, Smith should see the bulk of the remaining starts and Jones could equal or better the four starts he had with the team last season.  You can count on this team being strong each weekend, and a threat to win every time Busch races.

5. Grant Enfinger – No. 98 ThorSport Racing Ford – Enfinger posted a career-best season in 2019.  He piloted the No. 98 Ford truck to 10 Top-5 and 18 Top-10 finishes and came up seventh in the final driver standings.  While he didn't win a race like he did in 2018, it was a far more consistent performance with a better average finish and more laps led for the season.  The 34-year-old veteran is not likely to grab many, if any, wins this season.  However, we should continue to see strong qualifying and good racing by Enfinger.  Jeff Hensley is poised to return to this team at crew chief, and he should continue guiding Enfinger to consistent finishes in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.

6. Matt Crafton – No. 88 ThorSport Racing Ford – Crafton turned in his best performance of last season at Homestead and it was good enough for the veteran driver to capture his third-career truck series championship.  For the most part, the 2019 campaign was a low-profile affair for Crafton.  He logged seven Top-5 and 18 Top-10 finishes, and wasn't really a major threat to win any events.  He had a nine-season low of just 44 laps led for the entire season.  The 43-year-old enters his 20th season at ThorSport Racing.  He's as dependable as a clock at this point in his career.  Crafton is no longer the threat to win races like he did three or four seasons ago, but he can pile up the Top 10s.  We should see more of the same this season.

7. Johnny Sauter – No. 13 ThorSport Racing Ford – The move from GMS Racing to ThorSport Racing did not go well at all for Sauter last year.  In 2018 he stormed to six victories and 17 Top 10s at GMSR, and he reverted to just one victory and 11 Top 10s last season at ThorSport.  It was Sauter's worst campaign since the 2012 season.  He was far from a championship contender and it was clearly a frustrating season for the 2016 truck series champion.  Sauter should return to this team this season, and obviously there's nowhere to go but up from here.  The 41-year-old veteran should modestly increase his Top-5 and Top-10 totals this season, but we don't expect Sauter to return to championship contention any time soon.

8. Ben Rhodes – No. 99 ThorSport Racing Ford – Rhodes is expected to return to the seat of this strong race team.  Last year he nabbed seven Top-5 and 13 Top-10 finishes and wound up a respectable ninth-place in the final driver standings.  While the campaign fell short of victories and championship aspirations, Rhodes did build on his last two seasons of truck series competition.  The 22-year-old youngster is now approaching 100-career truck series starts, which makes him the most seasoned of the young drivers in this racing series.  We expect to see Rhodes get back into victory lane in 2020, and modestly grow his Top-5 and Top-10 totals this campaign.  Rhodes still has a lot of growing to do and he could be the next big star in the making in this division of NASCAR.

9. Christian Eckes – No. 18 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota – The 19-year-old Eckes will be taking on his first full season of truck series competition this year, and he will be one of the top contenders to win Rookie of the Year honors.  After two seasons of part-time racing for Kyle Busch Motorsports, Eckes will get his first full season ride in the No. 18 KBM Toyota Tundra.  The youngster grabbed three poles, three Top-5 and four Top-10 finishes in limited action last season (eight starts), and he's poised to do much more in 2020.  Veteran crew chief Rudy Fugle will lead the way and Eckes will be expected to do some big things.  The 2019 ARCA Series champion has loads of talent, and this spot in the rankings is really the floor as far as potential to perform this season.

10. Ty Majeski – No. 45 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet – Youngster Majeski takes over the truck that veteran, Ross Chastain, raced to so much success last season.  Chastain racked up three victories and 19 Top-10 finishes with this race team.  The potential and bar is set very high.  Unfortunately, Majeski doesn't carry the same level of experience as Chastain.  The 25-year-old driver has just 16-combined starts over the last three seasons in the Xfinity and Truck Series.  His lone truck start came with Niece Motorsports last year and was a respectable 11th-place finish at Phoenix in the team's No. 44 entry.  This team, and crew chief Phil Gould will get the most out of this young driver in 2020, but don't expect anything near the numbers Chastain posted in this same truck last season.

11. Sheldon Creed – No. 2 GMS Racing Chevrolet – Creed returns for a second full-season effort in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.  He will once again race in the No. 2 Chevy Silverado of GMS Racing.  The 22-year-old Californian nabbed four Top-5 and 11 Top-10 finishes in a somewhat uneven rookie campaign in 2019.  Creed did show some improvement though during the second half of the season.  He grabbed a pair of runner-up finishes at Eldora and Michigan during a scintillating summer hot streak.  Creed grabbed four Top-5 and six Top-10 finishes during a six-race string between August and October.  It was a great way to round out the season and point to the future.  Creed will once again be paired with crew chief, Jeff Stankiewicz, and continue the good work that they accomplished last year.

12. Todd Gilliland – No. 38 Front Row Motorsports Ford – Gilliland and Kyle Busch Motorsports parted ways the end of last season.  His 2019 campaign there fell a bit short of expectations.  However, the 19-year-old driver landed on his feet at Front Row Motorsports.  They are starting up a truck series team in association with DGR-Crosley in 2020.  While optimism is high and expectations are reasonably high, it will be a bit of a transition for Gilliland.  His one win, 14 Top-10 campaign with KBM last season didn't make the cut with that organization.  Gilliland will be challenged to approach those numbers with this new race team.  With just 48 truck series starts to his credit, this driver is still learning the ropes to some degree.  Gilliland has some untapped racing potential, but it remains to be seen if it will emerge this season.

13. Tyler Ankrum – No. 26 GMS Racing Chevrolet – One of the brightest rising stars to race in the truck series this season will be Ankrum.  The 18-year-old prospect had a very successful rookie run in this division of NASCAR last year.  He only started 20 of the 23 events due to age restrictions, but put up impressive numbers in this near-full schedule with DGR-Crosley Racing.  Ankrum snagged his first-career win at Kentucky Speedway in a surprising performance, and he piled up eight Top-10 finishes for the season.  Down the stretch run of last year he suffered a bit of a cool down, but in total it was a great campaign.  Ankrum comes to GMS Racing this year and will be paired with veteran crew chief, Chad Walter.  The potential in this driver-crew chief combination is very intriguing.

14. Zane Smith – No. 21 GMS Racing Chevrolet – Smith takes over the vaunted No. 21 team of GMS Racing this year.  This is the same team that Johnny Sauter piloted to a championship in 2016 and 13 total victories between 2016 and 2018.  The 20-year-old Californian will be paired with crew chief Kevin Manion and set out to capture the Rookie of the Year honors in the truck series.  Smith raced an impressive 10-start schedule with JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series last season.  He earned seven Top 10s in those 10 starts.  Now Smith will continue his NASCAR development with a full-time ride in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.  There's a lot of potential in this driver and team lineup, and Smith could be under-ranked in the middle teens to start the season.

15. Raphael Lessard – No. 4 Kyle Busch Motorsports Toyota – The Canadian is transitioning from part-time to full-time racing in the truck series this season.  Lessard takes over the No. 4 Toyota Tundra that Todd Gilliland piloted last season.  The 18-year-old prospect made five starts last season between a couple different teams, but mainly for Kyle Busch Motorsports.  Lessard earned a pair of Top 10s in those five events and registered a pedestrian 11.2 average finish.  He also impressed with three Top-10 finishes in three starts in the ARCA Series last year.  Lessard is a young, raw talent, and he lacks a lot of seat time that other young drivers bring to this division of NASCAR.  He'll have top flight equipment and support, and that's half the battle to a successful rookie campaign.

16. Tanner Gray – No. 15 DGR Crosley Sports Group Ford – Tyler Ankrum achieved a great deal in this truck last season.  He piloted the team's full-time entry to one win and eight Top-10 finishes in a very successful rookie campaign.  Ankrum is now gone, and departed for GMS Racing in 2020.  DGR Crosley has put youngster Gray in this team this season.  He will be paired with veteran crew chief, Shane Wilson, for a full season run in the truck series.  Gray made just three starts for DGR Crosley in 2019 and earned three Top-20 finishes in those efforts.  He was far more impressive in his K&N Pro Series East and West starts last season, earning one victory and 12 Top-10 finishes in 15 combined starts.  Gray is on the fast track development path, but he still lacks a lot of seat time in trucks.

17. Tyler Dippel – No. 02 Young's Motorsports Chevrolet – Dippel made a successful transition from the K&N racing series to the Gander Truck Series last season.  His first full-time drive netted one Top-5 and three Top-10 finishes for Young's Motorsports.  It was a bit of a learning curve along the way, but Dippel improved quite a bit in the second half of last season.  It hasn't been officially announced as of mid-January that the youngster is returning, but it's believed he will be once again in the driver's seat of the No. 02 Chevrolet Silverado.  The young driver should take some additional development steps this season.  However, major growth will be hampered by this team's limitations and a very deep driver pool in the truck series in 2019.

18. Austin Wayne Self – No. 22 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet – The young driver just completed his fourth season in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series.  Self performed admirably in the Niece Motorsports No. 22 Chevrolet.  He nabbed a career-best three Top-10 finishes during the campaign and wound up a respectable 14th-place in the final driver points.  He'll be expected to take additional steps this season.  Self will once again be paired with crew chief, Eddie Troconis.  The two labored at times last year, but finished the season on a good note of consistency.  With Niece putting good trucks in Self's hands, the expectations will rise accordingly.  Niece showed race-winning potential last year with their No. 45 entry and driver Ross Chastain.  That pressure to perform will continue to mount on Self.

19. Multiple Drivers – No. 44 Niece Motorsports Chevrolet – Multiple drivers piloted this team in 2019 and they will likely do so again in 2020.  They accounted for five Top-10 finishes among them, so it wasn't a bad effort at all.  Among a few of the names were: Timothy Peters, Angela Ruch, Reid Wilson, Jeb Burton and Bayley Currey.  Once again, season-long performance will be largely dictated by the team's driver lineup.  We could see some of the same faces in the No. 44 Chevy Silverado that we saw last season.  Teamed with crew chief Cody Efaw, they should pick right up where they left off.  This team has a lot of potential, but the general youth and inexperience of some of the driver lineup limits their ability to contend for wins.

20. Spencer Boyd – No. 20 Young's Motorsports Chevrolet – Boyd shifted his focus to the Cup Series late last season, but he still started a majority of the truck series schedule with 18 starts.  Boyd turned in one of the more surprising wins in the Gander RV & Outdoors truck series last year when he upset the ranks at Talladega in October and grabbed his first-career win.  He also registered two Top-10 finishes for the campaign.  It's not known at the time of this writing whether Boyd is returning to the team, but it is speculated that he will return.  Boyd brings a lot of enthusiasm and potential to the table, so if he returns in a full-time capacity, this team could climb the rankings a bit as a result.

21. Gus Dean – No. 12 Young's Motorsports Chevrolet – Dean returns for a second full season of truck series action in 2020.  The 25-year-old driver had a bit of an up-and-down campaign last year.  Dean collected 10 Top-15 finishes en route to a 15th-place points finish in 2019.  He lacked the speed to challenge for wins and Top-10 finishes.  The hope is to improve the team performance this season.  As Dean showed in the ARCA Series in over 50 starts, he has the ability to lead laps and win races as a driver.  Reducing the team's DNF's is a good place to start.  The six DNF's Dean collected last year were a real hit to the average finish.

22. Sam Mayer/David Gravel – No. 24 GMS Racing Chevrolet – This will be GMS Racing's driver development team.  Mayer and Gravel will split the schedule to some degree in this Chevy Silverado.  Mayer made just three starts for GMS last season and earned just one Top-20 finish in those starts.  The 16-year-old prospect won the K&N Pro Series East championship in 2019.  Mayer grabbed four victories and 11 Top 10s in a dominant performance in that racing series.  Gravel is transitioning from the World of Outlaws into NASCAR.  He's the winner of the 2019 Knoxville Nationals, so he's an ace racing on dirt.  However, Gravel is inexperienced in NASCAR trucks.  The 27-year-old driver will be learning on the job in 2020.  This season will be an uneven affair with some scattered success for these two prospect drivers.

23. Jordan Anderson – No. 3 Jordan Anderson Racing Chevrolet – With now over 100-career truck series starts to his credit, Anderson has become one of the veteran drivers in this division of NASCAR.  He will return as the owner/driver of his No. 3 Chevy Silverado in 2020.  Anderson earned seven Top-15 finishes vs. just three DNF's last season.  The inability to collect Top 10s is a limiting factor, but Anderson generally races competitively and generally finishes races on or near the lead lap.  It all added up to a 19.5 average finish for the campaign and 16th-place points finish.  Anderson will lean on crew chief Wally Rogers once again to improve this small race team.

24. Josh Reaume/Other Drivers – No. 33 Reaume Brothers Racing Chevrolet – The owner/driver raced the full schedule in 2019 with himself and other drivers.  Reaume made 10 of the 23 starts and nabbed one of the team's two Top-10 finishes.  Among some of the other drivers featured were: Josh Bilicki, Mason Massey, Daniel Sasnett, Ryan Sieg and others.  The conglomerate compiled two Top-10 and five Top-15 finishes vs. eight DNF's.  So despite some good performances, there was a lack of consistency finishing in this race team.  Reaume will field this team once again and aim for better consistency in 2020.  The team returns intact with similar sponsorship and team makeup.

25. Derek Kraus – No. 19 Mcanally-Hilgemann Racing Toyota – This team will be transitioning from part to full-time this season.  They have made a strategic alignment with Hattori Racing that will help them to run the full schedule.  Kraus made just four starts last season in this truck, but did nab a surprising Top 10 at Dover in those limited starts.  Kevin Bellicourt was the crew chief and is expected to return for Kraus' full-season effort.  This young driver was last season's K&N Pro Series West champion with five victories and 13 Top-10 finishes, so the level of talent is obvious.  The headwinds of a relatively new race team will be their biggest limiting factor.

26. Natalie Decker/Other Drivers – No. 54 DGR Crosley Sports Group Ford – As of mid-January this team's plans have not been announced.  Decker raced the majority of the schedule last season with only a few spot starts by other drivers.  It was nothing short of a tough affair for Decker.  Her first full season in the Gander RV & Outdoors Truck Series was a struggle from start to finish.  Nine of her 19 starts ended in DNF's, mostly as a result of crashes.  The Top-20 finishes were few and far between with just six for the season.  The 22.2 average finish led to a 19th-place finish in the final driver standings.  If Decker returns to this team in 2020 they face an uphill battle to help her race more competitively on a weekly basis.

27. Jennifer Jo Cobb – No. 10 Jennifer Jo Cobb Racing Chevrolet – The 46-year-old Kansas native's plans have not been announced for 2020, but it's believed she'll saddle up for another campaign in the truck series.  Cobb now has 12 seasons of experience racing in this division of NASCAR and nearly 200 starts to her credit.  It's an amazing accomplishment for a driver of small race teams.  Cobb earned just four Top-20 finishes last season vs. four DNQ's during the year.  However, when she raced she finished most events, with just two DNF's.  The 22.9 average finish Cobb compiled was actually a career-best mark.  Cobb's limitations are mainly this small race team's limited resources and shoestring budget.

28. Joe Nemechek/Other Drivers – No. 8 Nemco Motorsports Chevrolet – This team was once a fairly competitive team when John Hunter Nemechek raced for them between 2014 and 2018.  However, since that young driver has moved on this team has become more of a start-and-park operation.  The No. 8 Chevy Silverado did earn two Top-10 finishes last season with John Hunter behind the wheel at Martinsville and Angela Ruch behind the wheel at Daytona.  Otherwise the team piled up 15 DNF's among a wide range of drivers.  The elder Nemechek made six total starts with the team, and earned just two Top-20 finishes in those efforts.  This team is likely looking at a similar driver lineup and performance in 2020.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mark Taylor
Taylor is RotoWire's senior NASCAR writer. A nine-time FSWA finalist, Taylor was named the Racing Writer of the Year in 2008, 2009, 2010, 2016 and 2017. He is also a military historian, focused specifically on World War II and the U.S. Navy's efforts in the Pacific.
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